We will soon see the arrival of the new close reasons (a change being implemented across the StackExchange network). This will raise a few question: here I want to focus specifically the 'unclear what you're asking' closure reason.

The text for this will apparently read

Please clarify your specific problem or add additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it’s hard to tell exactly what you're asking.

It's for each site to determine how to interpret this. I suspect we may want to use this in cases where we need a minimal working example (MWE) or similar (image of the problem, links, ...), and where after the usual comment-and-wait has happened we've not had an appropriate edit. However, there may be other views and indeed other reasons to use this closure reason.

I think it would be good to have agreement on the use of this new reasons. I'd therefore like to ask how people want to use this one.

  • 2
    I suspect both 'too broad' and 'primarily opinion-based' are reasonably clear, while I've asked about 'off-topic' in meta.tex.stackexchange.com/q/3608.
    – Joseph Wright Mod
    Jun 18, 2013 at 21:45
  • 3
    A large number of questions, especially from new users, lack MWE. Usually if prodded in comments they can be cajoled into providing one. Not clear if linking that with a "close" vote will help, although I understand things won't be really closed for a few days, so it depends a lot on the presentation, on how abrupt it appears if questions lacking information get marked for close initially. Jun 18, 2013 at 23:05
  • 1
    @DavidCarlisle I was not suggesting any change in the policy on when to vote to close: giving people time to edit questions following a comment is definitely the way to go. What I want to know is how we handle cases where that doesn't happen, for example during Answer the Unanswered.
    – Joseph Wright Mod
    Jun 19, 2013 at 7:11
  • 3
    Joseph, I assume that neither David nor anybody else is concerned that you will stop giving helpful comments. Nevertheless, the culture on other SE sites may be different and users who have "grown up" there might be used to that. So the "helpful comment first, please" policy should be made very explicit in our agreement on using the new close reason.
    – Daniel
    Jun 19, 2013 at 9:10
  • @Daniel I've edited in a bit more one when I'm imagining this vote might happen
    – Joseph Wright Mod
    Jun 19, 2013 at 16:47
  • Looks good to me.
    – Daniel
    Jun 19, 2013 at 17:36

1 Answer 1


[Answering my own question: hopefully reasonable here!]

Voting to close a question as 'unclear' should take place only after the questionner has been given a chance to improve the question. Based on the existing consensus for the previous set of closing reasons, that means giving people 48 h after the first comment requesting additions/clarification/changes to the question. If there is no improvement and no ongoing attempt at one (for example in comments), then voting to close as 'unclear' may be appropriate.

Cases for voting to close as 'unclear' seem to be:

  • What the question is about is unclear. This is the most 'obvious' use of the close reason, and covers cases where it really is not possible to find out what is wanted. It's likely that some cases where this may apply are due to language barriers: keeping an open mind about the difficulties for non-native English speakers is important.

  • It's not possible to reproduce the issue. This is the 'minimal working example (MWE) required' case, but it's important to remember that an MWE isn't always essential. Voting to close here would be appropriate if the code provided (if any) doesn't reproduce the issue raised or doesn't compile at all.

  • More information/feedback is needed and has not been given. This might be for example the text of an error message, a version number of a package or a screen shot of a problem.

  • 5
    +1 I think the second point is really important. Lately it seems that there's been a slew of "please post a minimal example" comments which are sometimes not really necessary. So "impossible to reproduce" is far better than "no MWE supplied".
    – Alan Munn
    Jun 19, 2013 at 22:28
  • With no other answers and a good voting pattern, I've decided to accept my own statement here. Alternatives still very welcome, if I've not got it right!
    – Joseph Wright Mod
    Jun 24, 2013 at 7:35

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