There is a type of question that is neither off topic, too broad, unclear, nor primarily opinion-based. It's not even too localised. It's just ill-posed, in that it lacks fundamental data to be answered, or it makes assumptions that are invalid. The former problem is ususally fixed by asking for more information, but becomes ill-posed when the requests to clarify are rejected as unnecessary. The latter can't really be fixed within the question itself without un-asking the question.

Two examples came up recently:

The first was closed as off topic, but with a lot of contention. The second was closed as "unclear", but it's currently being voted to reopen because it's not actually unclear, which is actually a fair argument.

After the fact, I feel like neither of these close reasons were actually accurate. Should ill-posed questions be left open? Is it our job then to simply answer them with an explanation about how the question, as it has been asked, is invalid and then attempt to enlighten the asker as best as we can? (That's what the answers on both questions attempted to do.) Or should we be able to close these somehow, and do we need to resurrect some form of "not a real question" to take care of these?

  • 1
    This reminds me quite a bit of this question. It has quite a few similiarities.
    – Frank
    Commented Sep 6, 2013 at 20:08
  • @fbueckert It's sort of similar, yeah. An answer being factually wrong is simpler to deal with I think though, while a question being factually wrong (if that's even a sensible concept) is harder. People who don't understand why the question is bad and also want it to be magically answerable will upvote it though, so the normal response to obviously wrong answers (let it be downvoted into oblivion) might not work for ill-posed questions. Commented Sep 6, 2013 at 20:12
  • 2
    This answer may have some relevance (if you squint).
    – au revoir
    Commented Sep 6, 2013 at 20:13
  • 1
    @JasonBerkan It does shed some light on the problem, yeah. So, if you're taking from that what I'm taking from it, we should treat ill-posed questions just like XY problems: leave them open and answer the actual problem they have (misunderstanding the situation) instead of what they're asking for. Is that what you're thinking? Commented Sep 6, 2013 at 20:15
  • @SevenSidedDie - Yeah, something like that. I'm struggling with grouping these two questions together, though, because the first one was... bad.
    – au revoir
    Commented Sep 6, 2013 at 20:20
  • 1
    @JasonBerkan But possibly leetfan's objections were right, and their attempt to answer it by clearing up the question's misapprehensions was the right way to go. It certainly would have been more helpful than just closing it as a "wrong" question. I'm just not sure if hosting severely confused questions is something we want to do, and whether the work of answering them is within our mandate. (How many people want to answer an ill-posed question when they know they might get heavily downvoted?) Commented Sep 6, 2013 at 20:24

1 Answer 1


There is a type of question that is neither [...] unclear, [...] It's just [...] it lacks fundamental data to be answered

I think questions like this are okay to close as "unclear what you're asking," given that they lack the needed context to give clarity and meaning to the question.

On the other hand, if the reason why you think a question is bad is that...

[...] it makes assumptions that are invalid.

...then I disagree with you in the general case. Take this question, for example. It asks about airsuck in TF2. There's no airsuck in TF2. If that's true (and a few of my scout corpses littered around cp_badlands aren't that sure), it's important to explain that: if I misread the game mechanics like that, chances are others like me have and it's useful then to elaborate on that, even if my underlying assumption that airsuck is a thing that exists in TF2 is wrong.

Your sample question for the invalid assumption category is what "Too Localized" was truly about. "Hey! This website isn't loading for me! Help!" Such outages are usually temporary and, in that specific case, it was just the asker having trouble. It is unfortunate, then, that we cannot close it as such, but Too Localized was never really understood by the unwashed masses of puny, pesky 3kers the userbase and I think it's okay to close those, too, as Unclear what you're asking.

  • 1
    That clarifies my thinking somewhat, yeah. (Tangentially, wouldn't it be nice if difficult-to-use-right close reasons could be reserved for higher rep tiers?) Commented Sep 6, 2013 at 21:29
  • it lacks fundamental data to be answered sounds more like a request for the asker to edit the question than a reason to close. This question can provide an example. When I noticed the bug, I figured it was a software issue. A comment mentioned that it may have been a hardware issue. Lacking system specs would fall under "lakcking fundamental data to answer" but the question can easily have that added in.
    – Batophobia
    Commented Sep 20, 2013 at 17:54

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .