According to Robert Cartaino,

The fact that a sample question is too broad or too subjective is a terrible, terrible, terrible reason to vote the question as a "great off-topic example."

Unfortunately, this is not the observed user behavior.

While there's a few proposals where people are voting as Robert says we should - the Theoretical Physics proposal comes to mind - those proposals do not make up the majority. Often, users will vote as off-topic a question that is subjective or argumentative which isn't the intended behavior.

What I propose is to change "not a good example" to "subjective or argumentative" or, if there's enough room for it, "subjective, argumentative, or duplicate."

That's a much clearer categorization and it covers most questions that are meant to be voted "not a good example." Additionally, by using the exact same terms, the voting process on Area51 will more often be reminiscent of the vote-to-close process to users with prior experience with Stack Exchange.

Moreover, having "subjective" a a clear "bad example" category should send the message that this is for objective questions only which can't hurt.

I also propose to change the descriptions of "off-topic" and "not a good example" to:

  • Great off-topic example: This is a great example of a question that could be easily or commonly mistaken to be on-topic. (Click again to undo.)
  • Subjective or argumentative: This question is subjective, argumentative, not a real question, or is too similar to an existing question. (Click again to undo.)

The current descriptions are unclear and don't really tell you what the two categories are for.

4 Answers 4



However it's a little hard to fix it. It's a bad behavior.

Maybe a drop down on vote button to user choose the reason could help. The reason on drop down could shows the vote count for each reason. It works like the close popup but it doesn't close the example question.

I don't know if it solve the problem or if the work would pay off but it's an improve to process.

The possible reason could be the same as the regular questions on sites. Probably off-topic reason should be a separated reason and the reputation would work as usual: +5 for off-topic question and -2 for NAGE.

A warning popping up on every or at least the first votes of an user asking for a reflection if the question is really an off-topic question or a NAGE could help either.

  • 1
    I agree that the fix is to educate the user that NAGE is a vote to indicate the question would likely be closed (for whatever reason). I'm wondering why not just call it "This would be closed"?
    – user50049
    Commented Feb 4, 2011 at 15:00
  • @Tim Post: [OT]Congratulations, I voted in Robert and you. [/OT] I agree but off-topic questions should be closed either.
    – Maniero
    Commented Feb 4, 2011 at 19:35

Not A Good Example isn't just for subjective and argumentative. It's pretty much for every single close reason (including off-topic, actually), as well as questions that simply have no reason to belong. It defines what is "not a good example of a question that would be asked on the site", or more broadly "not a good example of a question that we can use to define what this site is about".

Subjective and argumentative questions, wildly off-topic questions, localized questions, not-real-questions... all of these will be similarly disallowed on the site, but they don't illustrate the scope of the site because the reasons for disallowing them are universal to the entire Stack Exchange Network. As such, subjective questions, even if they might be asked on the site, aren't great off-topic examples because they don't define the scope. They're as helpful to the site definition as a question about Coffee is on the Insects proposal. The reason it's not a good example isn't really as important as the point that it's not helpful towards defining the scope, which is the purpose of the Definition phase.

Because people are using it (and, more importantly, Great Off-Topic Example) improperly, something needs to be fixed. But renaming it to "Subjective, argumentative [or duplicate]" is misleading - the current name is more applicable to its overall purpose - "This Example Question Is Not A Good Example Of What This Site Proposal Is About". It's for that which is universally unacceptable - it doesn't help define the scope. "Great Off-Topic" is just for what is just outside the scope - the other side of the boundaries.

  • I'm aware of all that, and I agree with you on everything you just said, but it's the best compromise that I could think of. The other options are either several characters longer or too generic and thus would fail to convey the meaning effectively. Unless you can think of a better solution, we're just going to have to conclude that unattainable perfection shouldn't stand in the way of tangible improvements.
    – Borror0
    Commented Feb 4, 2011 at 14:47
  • @Borror0 To me, I don't see it addressing the ultimate problem, because what we end up doing is that we don't have anything to mark Coffee questions on an Insects proposal - it's not Subjective, Argumentative, or Duplicate. It'll get marked as Great Off-Topic, and that's wrong. The larger problem seems to be what people's understanding of "Great Off-Topic example" means, and renaming NaGE seems to be going sideways from that.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Feb 4, 2011 at 14:57
  • I don't think I have ever seen something comparable to "a coffee question on an insect proposal" get any significant amount of Great Off-Topic votes (if any). Thus, I don't think it's something to worry about.
    – Borror0
    Commented Feb 4, 2011 at 15:05
  • @Borror0 That's because we can currently properly mark them as "Not A Good Example". You take away our universal "bad example" vote, and what do we have to mark it except that it is Off-Topic, since clearly it would be? I don't think it'll get many off-topic votes, but getting any number of them is really not a good sign at all.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Feb 4, 2011 at 15:08
  • @Grace: If that really happens, there's always the option to flag them or admit the change didn't work. It's not like we can know for sure how it'll be perceived until we test it out. That said, I would like to see the evidence justifying your claim that "That's because we can currently properly mark them as 'Not A Good Example'." In my experience, questions that bad just don't get asked.
    – Borror0
    Commented Feb 4, 2011 at 15:20
  • @Borror0 There's many reasons to mark questions as NaGE. I picked one of the more extreme examples there. The majority of other things are other close reasons - not a real question, too vague, incomplete, overly broad...
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Feb 4, 2011 at 15:38
  • @Grace: I don't deny that you might have a point; I just disagree that you do. We won't find for sure until we try it. Enough about that. How about four options, instead of three: great on-topic, great-off-topic, bad on-topic, and bad off-topic?
    – Borror0
    Commented Feb 4, 2011 at 15:42
  • @Borror0 If it's a bad example, it doesn't matter whether it's on-topic or off-topic, so I don't find that making a distinction is at all useful. It's still just a ba d example question. The reason NaGE gives a penalty, after all, is because bad examples are unproductive towards clearing the Definition Phase since they don't help shape the site's scope.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Feb 4, 2011 at 15:48
  • @Grace: The goal is to great an intuitive user interface.
    – Borror0
    Commented Feb 4, 2011 at 15:52

I was thinking about this the other day. It is a little confusing with how the descriptions are now. In fact I see users who add comments to their question like: "Intended to be off-topic". It makes me think that maybe, the user who posts a question should categorize it as: "On topic", "Off Topic", "Subjective or Argumentative",etc. and then have simple up/down votes for each.

Anyway, I think changing these descriptions would be an easy fix to the problem.


I agree that a lot of people see poor questions, think "that would get closed on this site," and then vote off-topic.

What I think each option means:

  • great on-topic example - would make a great question on the proposed site.
  • great off-topic example - the question would fit better on another SE site (even if said site doesn't yet exist).
  • not a good example - would be closed on any SE site.

I'd like to see the choices changed to something like:

  • great on-topic example
  • inappropriate for this site
  • inappropriate for SE

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