To those who vote to close non-theoretical-computer-science questions: Thank you for tidying up the website, but when you do so, could you please choose the precise reason?

Sometimes new users post questions not in theoretical computer science but in other fields of study such as physics and more applied side of computer science. Often many close-voters choose the following reason to close such questions:

Your question does not appear to be a research-level question in theoretical computer science. For more information about the scope, please see help center. Your question might be suitable for Computer Science which has a broader scope.

While it might be technically correct, this reason is very misleading, particularly for those not familiar with theoretical computer science such as the posters of those questions, because the bold part strongly suggests that the problem with the question is that it is not at the research level, whereas the real problem is that it is not a question in or about theoretical computer science. (Moreover, the question might even be a research question in the field which it belongs to.) If you are curious, the message quoted above was proposed to be used when a question was not research-level, so it is an abuse of this reason by all means in my opinion.

When you choose “off-topic” as the reason, you have an option to enter your custom reason instead of choosing one of the canned responses. Please use it instead. Unfortunately, a custom reason works differently from canned responses in that the custom reason is posted as a comment at the time you cast a vote, and I can imagine some circumstances in which you do not want to do this. But usually this should be fine.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The real question IMO is why there is no sensible default close reason for off-topic posts, only the specialized one that you quote. I don't know where this was decided, but I find it odd and quite inconvenient. $\endgroup$ Nov 11, 2014 at 11:07
  • $\begingroup$ @Emil, it was never decided, it was set by SE and we cannot change it ourselves AFAIK. If you think the default off-topic needs to change then you should start a new meta-discussion and propose a new default and if others agree the mods can go ahead and ask SE to update the default close reason. $\endgroup$
    – Kaveh
    Nov 12, 2014 at 8:21
  • $\begingroup$ @Emil Jeřábek: But the whole point of giving a reason is that it gives some specific information. I do not think that a general, catch-all reason for off-topic questions (such as “This question is not a research-level question in theoretical computer science”) is useful to the posters of those questions. $\endgroup$ Nov 15, 2014 at 21:59
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Why not? It works splendidly on Mathoverflow. I see no reason to waste my time with specific information for questions that are not about theoretical computer science, meaning the poster didn't even bother to read the title of the forum where they are posting. And if I wanted to give specific information, I'd want to post it as a regular comment, not to bundle it with the close vote. $\endgroup$ Nov 16, 2014 at 11:34
  • $\begingroup$ this option you cite is exactly the correct option for off topic posts. you are inferring too much out of the boldface emphasis. to realize this, just read the same wording without the boldface. your other idea of adding custom reasons is fine also. the entire se site design is not intended to be much useful or friendly/ informative to people who post off topic posts for any reason, and this elite research site understandably amplifies that effect.. $\endgroup$
    – vzn
    Nov 19, 2014 at 19:46
  • $\begingroup$ @vzn: You are saying that the reason would be correct without the boldface, and I agree. But the reason is shown with the boldface, so your hypothetical argument does not make it correct. $\endgroup$ Nov 19, 2014 at 21:02


You must log in to answer this question.

Browse other questions tagged .