The SO community is very aggressive about closing duplicate and off-topic questions. This is a good thing overall, but I feel like the experience for new users who ask dup or off-topic questions is unnecessarily hostile. They often get brusque and snarky comments, and then their question is marred with a big gray box telling them that their inferior question was closed.

The subtext is: You aren't smart enough to ask your questions on our big important site.

Obviously SO can't do anything about comments directly. However, it does seem that the wording for questions closed as duplicates or migrated to a different site could be less negative and more helpful to newbies. Suggestions for better wording in the answers.

Edit: I should add that the only categories I'm really concerned about here are duplicates and migrations to a different site. "Subjective and argumentative" and "offensive" deserve to be closed bluntly.

  • 12
    Given the amount of cruft that gets through, I'm convinced we aren't aggressive enough in closing questions. Commented May 10, 2010 at 20:37
  • The problem with this thinking is that if one question is voted out that shouldn't be then this is a failure. This isn't do or die Star Trek the good of the many outweigh the needs of the few.
    – dbasnett
    Commented May 10, 2010 at 21:06
  • @js bangs - agreed.
    – dbasnett
    Commented May 10, 2010 at 23:01
  • See also 'Should there be a SO question closure reason “Cruft”?'
    – whybird
    Commented May 13, 2010 at 2:27

5 Answers 5


My suggestion for friendlier closed boxes:

Duplicates: "We already have an answer for your question: [link]".

Migrated to another site: "We've moved this question to a better place: [link]".

  • 7
    I like the idea of friendlier messages, but for the first one, there is no guarantee the duplicate has an accepted answer, or any answers for that matter. For the second, it makes it sound like you just took my question out back and shot it.
    – Brandon
    Commented May 10, 2010 at 20:26
  • 1
    @brandon: The presence of an accepted answer is utterly immaterial. What matters is the presence of a good answer. Commented May 10, 2010 at 20:31
  • 2
    Hopefully people aren't closing dups and pointing them to a question that doesn't have good answers. Commented May 10, 2010 at 20:34
  • 2
    Moved to a better place? We all know what that means.
    – Rosinante
    Commented May 10, 2010 at 20:45
  • 1
    I like these because they are positive where as the current reasons are neutral and/or borderline negative. And we also must overcome the attitude of forums where asking the same thing asked before gives you 10 posts telling you that you should search first, RTFM, and "we need to do something about the noob problem"
    – Earlz
    Commented May 10, 2010 at 21:25
  • 1
    The wording for duplicates is good, but not quite accurate. Closing as a dupe doesn't guarantee that the original actually has answers, or useful ones anyway. And unfortunately, the kinds of people who presently get angry/hurt at having their questions closed are the same kinds of people who would undoubtedly complain that the "already answered" question didn't answer their question. Hell, I've seen people duplicate their own questions, adamantly insisting to the critics that they had to because their first question was closed as a dupe!
    – Aarobot
    Commented May 10, 2010 at 21:29
  • Whatever text is used: an explicit "here"-link might help? It's ugly, but given some reposts that happen after a question has been "migrated", maybe some simply don't understand they can click some parts of the text migrated to <somehwere> by <some names> <some date>?
    – Arjan
    Commented May 18, 2010 at 21:25
  • "We already have a question about that: [link]" rather than "We already have an answer for your question: [link]" solves the issue whether or not that earlier question has any good answers?
    – Arjan
    Commented May 18, 2010 at 21:27

The subtext is: You aren't smart enough to ask your questions on our big important site.

This says more about the user than it does about us -- certainly ...

  • Closed as off-topic
  • Migrated to another site

... says nothing remotely like that.

Honestly, if the new users are so sensitive that a simple matter of fact message becomes a sweeping condemnation of them as a person, they're probably going to freak out the first time someone downvotes them.

It's ok for the most sensitive 5% of the population to turn themselves away. They're kind of .. high maintenance.. anyway.

(addendum: this is in no way a defense for rudeness from other users, which we don't tolerate. Rudeness should always be flagged for moderator attention. I was merely addressing the system messages themselves, which I, at least, believe to be quite straightforward and matter of fact.)

  • 8
    I love your "don't like it get out" attitude (no sarcasm)
    – juan
    Commented May 10, 2010 at 20:30
  • Uh oh, am I in trouble.
    – dbasnett
    Commented May 10, 2010 at 20:31
  • 1
    Well, I believe my prediction about the difficulty in avoiding complaints from the hypersensitive must have proved somewhat on target.
    – Rosinante
    Commented May 10, 2010 at 20:44
  • 3
    I think the more important thing to address is: "...They often get brusque and snarky comments..."
    – tim
    Commented May 10, 2010 at 21:32
  • 1
    @bmargulies: Those people will always find something to complain about. It's who they are. As Jeff says, they'd probably have a fit over a single downvote. I believe that close reasons (and comments) should be polite, but they also need to be assertive, otherwise people won't properly learn the rules and community standards.
    – Aarobot
    Commented May 10, 2010 at 21:35
  • 1
    I agree with @tim it's more useful to focus on the negative behavior of a few users and let them know that sort of thing is frowned upon here. You should be honest, yes, but civil at all times. Commented May 10, 2010 at 21:43
  • @Aarobot I should have linked to a reference: OUAT Jeff put forward a change in voting rules as intended to reduce the flow of email from sensitive souls, and some of argued that it was a hopeless cause. It's nothing serious.
    – Rosinante
    Commented May 10, 2010 at 23:36

Where does it say "your inferior question"?

I agree with you about the comments, but the system is ok as it is now, I don't think a change is required.

  • It's called subtext or implied text. The actual text does not include that phrase, but it doesn't need to - that's still the message conveyed. Commented May 10, 2010 at 21:27
  • 2
    @joel well, I don't agree that subtext is "there". It's more like looking into a mirror. Commented May 10, 2010 at 22:05

I know that it's not nice but for my experience the SO community it's one of the most, nice and polite community of people that i ever meet. Then... i'm with you, sometimes the answers could be more nice.

The problem it's the "r0x" or "l33t" philosophy that try to close up the community to the new or less skilled people, it's a cultural problem and the downvote it's useless. I think that a polite and friendly behavior should be encouraged by every good member of the community because there are no bad guys, but just bad habits.


At the risk of wandering off topic, I have a different nomination for 'unfriendly.'

  1. User posts subjective question.
  2. More experienced user more or less politely suggests Community Wiki.
  3. Subjectivist comments, 'pay no attention, they cannot force you to make it Wiki.'
  4. Five more experienced users close.

The relevant word here might be 'whipsawn'.

  • You missed 2a. John Saunders comments, "wiki doesn't keep a bad question from being closed". Commented May 11, 2010 at 4:18

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