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What is the purpose of closing a question because it needs details or clarity?

Example scenarios

Scenario 1A

The question does not have enough details to be answerable, and it is closed. It receives no answers.

Scenario 1B

The question does not have enough details to be answerable, but it is left open. It receives no answers.

Scenario 2A

The question has barely enough details to be answerable, but most people think it doesn't have enough, and it gets closed. It receives no answers.

Scenario 2B

The question has barely enough details to be answerable. It is left open, even though most people think it is unanswerable. One person, however, knows enough about the topic to answer the question despite the missing details, and the question is answered.

Should we remove the "needs details or clarity" closure reason?

1A and 1B have the same outcome: no answers. 2A and 2B, however, are the types of scenarios where removing the "needs details or clarity" closure reason could help. The way SE is currently set up, the 2A/2B question would likely be closed, resulting in scenario 2A. If that closure reason was removed, it would be left open and receive a useful answer.

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    It replaced "too broad" and performs the same role really
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Sep 6 at 14:41
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    @JourneymanGeek 'Needs more focus' was the replacement for 'too broad'. 'Needs details or clarity' replaced 'unclear'
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Sep 6 at 14:43
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    I don't understand what you are actually trying to say or discuss here, so voted to close as "Needs details or clarity". (No pun or trying to make a point. I really don't see any actual question here) Sep 6 at 14:44
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    "1A and 1B have the same outcome: no answers" no, they aren't the same. 1A would eventually lead to the question being deleted if it's never updated with details. Moreover, the closure is an encouragement to update the answer with details. The nothing in 1B does not encourage any change. And a zero scored, open question with no answers will not be deleted. If we know it cannot be answered, why keep the option for it?
    – VLAZ
    Sep 6 at 15:33
  • Did you check the posts here on Meta that discuss the closure reasons?
    – Joachim
    Sep 6 at 16:46
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    Does this answer your question? How do you answer a question whose premise can be improved? meta.stackexchange.com/q/353001/282094 meta.stackexchange.com/q/340645/282094 - there's probably a better duplicate than the first example. --- Those closure reasons mean that either the OP (or someone else) should add details or clarify what is being asked, failure to do so will result in the question being closed; there will be no more answers after it's closed and it might attract some downvotes.
    – Rob
    Sep 6 at 17:31

3 Answers 3

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Closure for needs details or clarity is there to prompt the question asker to add those missing details and to direct people away from spending time trying to parse the unparseable and spend time elsewhere instead.

We want people who can answer questions to spend their time on answerable questions, not on unanswerable ones.

Not closing would not achieve those aims. Questions would be much less likely to be improved to a state where they can be answered and answerers would answer fewer questions leading to a poorer experience for people who can and do ask good questions.

That's not to say that closing will guarantee any improvement but maybe the question asker will check the help centre and any comments and get there.

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    And also these questions are of no lasting value, as there is no-one with the same "vague" problem that lacks a propper way to replicate the problem, or a correct error message that can be indexed by search engines.
    – Luuklag
    Sep 6 at 19:18
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The purpose is to make sure people don't guess the missing details and provide answers which don't help the author, or any future visitor with similar problems.

In scenario 2B, anyone (including the one person) can ask for the missing details to be added (and guessing is usually fine in comments), the details can be added and the Reopen Votes review queue or visitors with 3k+ reputation can vote to reopen it.

In that case, we end up in a situation where the author did receive an answer (though somewhat later indeed), and we have a much better question. We're not primarily here to quickly help people with problems; we're here to build a library with high quality questions and answers.

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Scenario 3

The question does not have enough details to be answerable, but it is left open.

It receives a whole bunch of texts pretending to be answers, that are based on users' own interpretations of what the question should be.

Including bickering in comments underneath each and every one of those texts, about how the text does or does not answer the question according to other users, sometimes including the writer of the original question.


Leave the close reason. Do not go guessing at details, like the user that wrote a text despite missing details in your "scenario 2B". Leave a comment to clarify if the details you suspect are missing are indeed missing, or if the details are different from what you thought they should be. Vote to close the question until those details are added, and postpone posting your text until after you received the necessary clarification.

Scenario 4 would be a question that does not have enough details, was closed (or received votes to close), was edited, was reopened (or never closed if the edit came before there were enough close votes), and can then receive answers. And that's how it should be.

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