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Last year (2020) saw some changes to the question closure system across the SE network. One of the changes was to introduce audience-specific texts for custom close reasons, so that the OP, close voters, privileged users, and the general public can all get slightly different versions of the same essential explanation of why a question is unsuitable for the site. By default, all versions for existing close reasons are set to the same thing, since there didn't use to be any option to have different versions. Some sites already changed their close reasons by creating separate texts as the system now allows. Currently, here on Literature, we only have one custom close reason, so it's less work for us to customise the texts and we can take the time to discuss it on meta first.

The current text is:

Questions asking for list of works or reading recommendations are off-topic, as they generate opinion-based answers. Try to adapt your question to fit to our Q&A format, or feel free to ask for recommendations in chat or elsewhere.

The following image shows the different boxes that can be filled by mods/CMs with different text. The first two appear in the close/flag dialogue before the post is closed; the last three appear in post notices after the post is closed.

  • The Brief description is the bold header for the close reason.
  • The Usage guidance is what will appear in the close menu, advising people when to use the close reason.
  • The Close description will be shown to everyone in the post notice and should be relatively short.
  • The Post owner guidance appears in the post notice and is how the OP should fix the question (if possible).
  • The Privileged user guidance is informative for the people with close privilege regarding what the close reason is.

enter image description here


Let's get a consensus on what we should put in each box.

We need CM help to edit an existing close reason, so a clear meta consensus is essential, then we can it and get them to help us making the necessary changes. I'm going to post an answer below with my proposed texts; please vote and give feedback or suggested improvements if necessary.

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  • "We need CM help to edit an existing close reason". So we can't simply create the new one and then delete the old one? – Tsundoku Apr 11 at 19:18
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    @Tsundoku We could, but that would mess up all the statistics for the existing close reason - questions closed under the "old" and "new" close reasons wouldn't be categorised together, and I'm not even sure if the questions closed under the "old" reason would display the close reason correctly or not. – Rand al'Thor Apr 11 at 19:26
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    Ah, OK. That's a good reason for contacting a CM instead of the guerilla method I suggested. – Tsundoku Apr 11 at 19:28
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Brief description

The name shown to flaggers/close-voters when seeking an option in the close menu:

Recommendation or open-ended list question

Usage guidance

The description shown to flaggers/close-voters after choosing this close reason:

This question seeks recommendations or an open-ended list of works. Recommendation requests, including open-ended queries such as "are there any stories with these criteria", are off-topic, as they are not scoped clearly enough to accept objectively supported answers of reasonable length for Stack Exchange.

Close description

The text shown to everybody, even non-users, viewing the closed question:

This question was closed for seeking recommendations or an open-ended list. It is currently not accepting answers.

Post owner guidance

The more detailed text shown, under the general close description, to the OP only when viewing their closed question:

Your question asks for recommendations or for an open-ended list of works that meet certain criteria. Questions where many answers could each add examples to an inexhaustible list are unsuitable for this site. If you're seeking a specific work, or the earliest work with some criteria, please edit your post, and add the tag [identification-request] or [history-of-literature] respectively. Otherwise, feel free to ask for recommendations in chat.

Privileged user guidance

The more detailed text shown, under the general close description, to any 3k+ rep user viewing the closed question:

If this question is an identification request or a history-of-literature question in disguise, then please edit and vote to reopen. If the asker has a chance to make it on-topic, for example by asking about the earliest work satisfying certain criteria rather than asking for any or all such works, then please leave a comment guiding them on how to do so.

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  • Important note #1: these texts reflect not only the original consensus that recommendation requests are off-topic but also a later, less strong, consensus that "are there any" questions also count as recommendation requests, and that questions within a single series/universe are clearly enough scoped to be OK (the latter might still be opinion-based, of course, but not falling under the list/rec close reason). If there isn't community agreement on the latter points, I'll change this post. – Rand al'Thor Apr 3 at 13:17
  • Important note #2: the "post owner guidance" text is almost exactly at the limit of 500 characters, so we can't add links (even to Literature Chat) without sacrificing some of the guidance on how to make such questions reopenable. Am I prioritising wrongly? Would it be better to include a "feel free to ask in chat" sentence at the expense of the sentence about identification-requests? Any feedback welcome. – Rand al'Thor Apr 3 at 13:21
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    These are great. The one change I'd suggest is to Usage Guidance: This question seeks recommendations or an open-ended list of works. Recommendation requests, including queries of the form "are there any stories with these criteria", are off-topic, as they are not scoped clearly enough to accept objectively supported answers of reasonable length for Stack Exchange. Just wordsmithing. – verbose Apr 4 at 10:05
  • @verbose Good one, done. – Rand al'Thor Apr 4 at 10:07
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    How's this? "Your question asks for recommendations or for a list of works that meet certain criteria. Unless scoped within a small set of works such as a single series, such questions are too open-ended for our site's format. If you're seeking a specific story, add the identification-request tag. If you're seeking the earliest story with some criteria, add history-of-literature. In either case, please edit your post to clarify. Otherwise, feel free to ask your original question in chat." – verbose Apr 5 at 0:43
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    @verbose Great wordsmithing! I've put your suggestion in (with a few very minor edits). The main thing lost here is that "are there any" questions also count as list/recommendation, but it's probably worth losing that to mention chat. It's unfortunate that the 500-character limit counts plain text rather than rendered text, so we can't link to chat. I've asked a CM whether it's possible to use the [chat] magic link like in comments, but the answer will probably be no. – Rand al'Thor Apr 5 at 5:55
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    Your question asks for recommendations or for a list of works that meet certain criteria. This is too open-ended for our site's format unless scoped to a small set of works such as a single series. If you're seeking a specific work ([identification-request]) or the earliest work with some criteria ([history-of-literature]), please edit your post with the appropriate tag. Otherwise, feel free to ask your original question in [chat](https://chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/1037/the-reading-room). <-- Does this work? – bobble Apr 8 at 1:06
  • It's under 500 plain-text characters, and we could remove the "the-reading-room" part of the link to add some stuff back in. – bobble Apr 8 at 1:06
  • @bobble Thanks, that's brilliant! I really didn't expect it to be possible to cram all that info into 500 characters. Edited to match your version with some more small changes. – Rand al'Thor Apr 8 at 14:23
  • One small suggested revision to @bobble's version: please edit your post, then add the appropriate tag. I worry that otherwise it will be interpreted as edit simply by adding the tag. – verbose Apr 10 at 11:33
  • Related: A Question about "List Questions". – verbose Apr 11 at 8:27

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