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I usually find unclear how to choose between the closing reasons "Needs details or clarity" and Needs more focus. Moreover the reasons "Off-topic because..." seem much more frequently used.

Would it be a good idea to merge these closing reasons?

Both excerpts pasted below. Also previously (until some time in 2019) these closing reasons were "unclear what you're asking" and "too broad" which which I had the same request in mind).

Basically an unclear question (missing implicit assumptions etc) is prone to be too broad because of its multiple interpretations. While a too broad question is unclear by lack of details. A suggestion would be to merge to "Needs details, clarity or more focus".

(Side note: I also once made a suggestion to enlarge the scope of the seldom used "primarily opinion-based", to no effect so far.)


  • Needs details or clarity 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. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question.

  • Needs more focus Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question.

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    $\begingroup$ I interpreted "unclear what you're asking" as being a euphemism for "there might be a question here, but what you wrote is spaghetti", whereas "too broad" would be for a clear question that unfortunately requires a review paper to cover (eg, "why are [common, widely studied maths objects] important?") $\endgroup$ – David Roberts Feb 27 at 0:50
  • $\begingroup$ I'll try to find examples illustrating my point when they appear (I'd like to list recent questions recently closed for one of these reasons but it's beyond my skills). $\endgroup$ – YCor Feb 27 at 7:58
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    $\begingroup$ It seems to me that one of the issues is that the old names "unclear what you are asking" and "too broad" were clearer than the new ones "needs detail or clarity" and "needs more focus". $\endgroup$ – Federico Poloni Feb 27 at 12:12
  • $\begingroup$ I agree that the old names were better. Nevertheless, with old names too I already frequently hesitated between the two — of course "too broad" is the obvious choice in such prototypical cases as "What's the connection between geometry and algebra?", but "too broad" can have a broader interpretation :) $\endgroup$ – YCor Feb 27 at 13:09
  • $\begingroup$ This question should probably rather be on meta.stackexchange.com. $\endgroup$ – Fabian Röling Feb 28 at 1:59
  • $\begingroup$ @FabianRöling Possibly, but not by me. I'm only suggesting the merging on MO. I have no idea whether it would be a good idea on other sites (beyond MO I only participate a little to Math SE). On the other hand if the answer is: the closing reasons are common to all SE sites, you're right and then this post is pointless :( $\endgroup$ – YCor Feb 28 at 8:30
  • $\begingroup$ I come from gamingSE and it's the same system there (and probably everywhere). I don't think sites can customise anything in the close menu except for up to 3 custom off-topic reasons. The old descriptions really were better and whenever I'm unsure which of the two to pick, I just think about the old wordings and it's usually clear again. $\endgroup$ – Fabian Röling Feb 28 at 16:52
  • $\begingroup$ @FabianRöling The question is not off-topic here though. $\endgroup$ – Federico Poloni Feb 29 at 7:56
  • $\begingroup$ As far as I can tell, the new posts notices indeed correspond to old close reason, i.e., "unclear what you're asking" was changed to "needs details or clarity" and "too broad" to "needs more focus", see: Do the new top-level close reasons have the same scope as the old ones? The announcement "New Post Notices are live network-wide" also mentions tool for mods to edit the messages accompanying the close reasons: "There are plans for releasing additional functions on the Close as Off Topic Reasons editor ... $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Mar 1 at 7:43
  • $\begingroup$ ... (currently available to site moderators) that will allow moderators to set these different messages for each Off-Topic reason." So when this tool is available, MathOverflow moderators could improve the description of each of the close reason, if the local community sees the need for that. $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Mar 1 at 7:43

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