It happens sometimes - especially on Stack Overflow - that a question will receive three close votes for community-specific reasons (i.e., as off-topic), and each voter will choose a different reason. This typically indicates a very low quality and unsalvageable question that has multiple things wrong with it, but sometimes someone just chooses a bad reason, or there is some nuance to the closure reasons.

When this occurs, from what I can tell, the closure dialog will simply report:

This question does not appear to be about [site topic] within the scope defined in the help center.

In other words, this behaviour no longer appears to be reproducible, which may have something to do with changing from 5 votes required to close a question to 3. This feature continues to work on sites which retained the threshold of 5 votes: if two voters picked one community-specific close reason and at least two others picked another, then both will show in the notice. However, this is not possible on sites where the threshold to close is 3 votes, such as Stack Overflow.

This result is not helpful and is usually misleading. Questions like this aren't "off-topic" in the general sense of the word; they just don't meet the site's standards. The dialog should instead explicitly indicate that multiple issues were identified that make the question close-worthy.

This is not a duplicate of Distinguish close votes by reason because that question refers to distinguishing votes for different top-level reasons (duplicate, needs more focus, needs details/clarity, etc.). That feature doesn't exist, and that's a request for that feature to be added. This question, on the other hand, asks for the already-existing functionality of showing multiple close votes to be improved to work better on sites only requiring three votes to close a question.

  • 2
    In order for a specific off-topic sub-reason to show in the notice, at least two votes must be cast for that sub-reason. If there aren't at least two votes for a given sub-reason but the chosen top level reason is off-topic (e.g., three votes for different sub-reasons, two votes for different sub-reasons and one vote for a different top-level reason, or three votes for different top-level reasons where the first one was an off-topic sub-reason), the generic notice will be shown. See meta.stackexchange.com/a/339401/377214 Sep 12, 2023 at 0:25
  • 7
    I think this behavior was implemented back before three-vote closure was on anyone's mind and every site required five votes to close, and you could reasonably expect that 2/5 votes would be for the same sub-reason. However, 3-vote closure flips that on its head, and I'd support a feature request to drop the requirement for a sub-reason to show from 2 votes to 1 vote on sites only requiring three votes to close a question. Sep 12, 2023 at 0:27
  • 2
    I'd also support a feature that just showed all of the reasons on the question. Again, for sites where the max is three, I think screen real estate concerns are pretty minor in the case of closed questions - especially compared to providing as much detail as possible about the closure. Why do we need to pick just one? If multiple reasons apply, the OP could take that information and improve the question (or their next question) in multiple ways, instead of just the tie-breaker.
    – Aaron Bertrand Staff
    Sep 12, 2023 at 11:48
  • 1
    @FranckDernoncourt not really, or at least the discussion needs to be revisited entirely because of the consequences of the shift to 3-vote closure. Sep 14, 2023 at 5:33
  • @FranckDernoncourt Not a duplicate. That one is about adding a new feature, to break out close votes for different top-level reasons. This is about the already-existing feature of breaking out close votes for different community-specific close reasons (which are under the same top-level reason). Sep 14, 2023 at 8:10
  • 1
    @AaronBertrand There's also a bit of an inconsistency in the close reason selection process: if there's a 2-2-1 tie of top-level reasons, then the last vote out of the four that tied is the displayed close reason, but on the other hand, if all voters chose different top-level reasons, then the first vote becomes the displayed close reason. Why is that? Sep 14, 2023 at 23:28
  • 1
    @sonic Sorry, I misunderstood, I thought you meant why is the behavior slightly different (and a single ORDER BY with no fallback for tie-breakers is often a cause). It could very well be intentional, as you suggest, and if so, I really don't know why it would be. If you can point me to an example where there are 3/5 unique reasons (depending on site), I can quickly examine the query.
    – Aaron Bertrand Staff
    Sep 14, 2023 at 23:35
  • 1
    @philipxy The point of having a bolded explanation at the top is so reviewers see it. I've often seen cases where reviewers don't bother to scroll the question and review to leave it closed, and when I later ask them why, they tell me they didn't see it. Sep 14, 2023 at 23:37
  • 1
    @AaronBertrand As far as I remember, someone linked to an MSO post asking about it in deleted comments on my above process answer, since an earlier version of it was inaccurate. Those comments were deleted after I fixed the inaccuracy. I vaguely recall that MSO post linking to an example. I don't think non-mod staff can view deleted comments; you might have to get someone with mod rights. Sep 14, 2023 at 23:41
  • Maybe this one?
    – Aaron Bertrand Staff
    Sep 14, 2023 at 23:46
  • @AaronBertrand Thanks for the link; apologies for the late response. The MSO question links to this question which was (supposedly) closed with three different top-level reason votes and the first reason was chosen. Sep 21, 2023 at 9:37
  • By the way, there's another flaw in the reason selection process: on a 5-vote site, if two users vote for a canned off-topic reason and 3 (or a single mod) vote for a custom reason, the canned reason would be shown, even though in the they either account for a minority of voters or you'd expect the mod's reason to override (as they do with top-level reasons). 3-vote sites are currently immune from this problem, but would no longer be so if my proposed solution of making 1 vote display a canned sub-reason is implemented. That'd need to be resolved first. Sep 21, 2023 at 9:40
  • 1
    Complementary (or alternative) proposal: a close vote should only take effect when sufficiently many votes are cast for a single reason. Also, hide the counts of votes cast for particular reasons from voters, to thwart bandwagon voting. Oct 7, 2023 at 20:06


You must log in to answer this question.