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So, not very long ago a change was made to the format of the banner that appears at the top of closed questions. It no longer shows who closed the post (I disapprove of this change, but this post here is not about that) and it no longer shows a detailed description of the reason for closure, except to the OP and to users with the close vote privilege, which is a small minority of all visitors to the site.

Here's an example. This is what a question closed as "no-repro" looks like to the author of the question:

private feedback for you

Here's what a question closed as "not about Ubuntu" looks like to high rep users:

viewable by the post author and users with the close /reopen votes privilege

And here's what that question looks like in an incognito / private browsing session (i.e. to the vast majority of users):

detailed feedback missing

The text explaining the reason for the closure is missing. There's currently no way for this text to be displayed to everyone.

Personally, I think this is bad, because people who don't have the close voting privilege should still be able to understand why questions are being closed. This will be particularly helpful to keen new users who want to learn how to do moderation tasks, and to visitors thinking of posting questions.

In the future, this might change, but for now, we can make at least a small improvement. You'll notice that there is a part of the close notice that is shown to everyone:

freehand red circle

At the moment, this is the same for all of our site-specific close reasons. It just says the question is off topic.

The point of this post (if you're still reading, thanks :) is to propose short versions of each of the reasons to be used instead of that generic text, so that everyone can at least get some idea of why the question was closed.

I propose that the short version of close reason #1

This is not about an official Ubuntu flavor. Questions about other Linux distributions can be asked on Unix & Linux, those about Windows on Super User, those about Apple products on Ask Different and generic programming questions on Stack Overflow.

be this:

This question is off topic; it's not about an official Ubuntu flavor.

I propose that the short version for close reason #2:

Bug reports and problems specific to development version of Ubuntu should be reported on Launchpad so that developers can see, track and fix these issues.

be this:

This question is off topic; the issue should be reported as a bug.

I propose that the short version for close reason #3:

End of Standard Support or End of Life Release
This question is specific to a release of Ubuntu which has reached its end of standard support or end of life date, and is not related to asking for help to upgrade to a supported release. Such questions are considered unsupported and off-topic on Ask Ubuntu.

be this:

This question is off topic; it's specific to an old unsupported release.

I propose that the short version for close reason #4:

This describes a problem that can't be reproduced, that seemingly went away on its own or was only relevant to a very specific period of time. It's off-topic as it's unlikely to help future readers.

be this:

This question is off topic; it's about a problem that can't be reproduced.

Please post any thoughts on this issue and/or feedback or suggestions to improve the proposed wording in answers or comments.

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    @someone exactly - that's the problem I'm talking about and trying to work towards mitigating in this post :)
    – Zanna Mod
    Dec 2 '21 at 10:10
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    Very good suggestions, and I agree on the wording of each. 👍 Dec 2 '21 at 11:18
  • I fully agree. I don't know if this is possible, but in the short description, having a link to the help center might be useful
    – cocomac
    Dec 2 '21 at 17:03
  • @cocomac yes the text can have links - the current text has one in fact - to the Help Center! Perhaps all of my suggestions should be added to the existing text rather than replace it
    – Zanna Mod
    Dec 2 '21 at 17:50
  • @cocomac (sorry for the double ping) I have added the link to the Help Center back into my text for each reason
    – Zanna Mod
    Dec 3 '21 at 4:56
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    @Zanna Thanks, it looks amazing! I don't mind the pings, they are there for a reason, after all
    – cocomac
    Dec 3 '21 at 4:58
  • "old unsupported release"... the question which many might ask is what are the old unsupported releases. Anyway, the help center articles will guide them, but I think it's time we discuss about EoL/EoSS in a different post in the near future. Dec 3 '21 at 12:29
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    @RandomPerson I agree with you. Considering the matter under discussion in this post directly, it would be possible for the short text to link to the Ubuntu release schedule wiki page as the long version does. Do you think that would be worthwhile?
    – Zanna Mod
    Dec 3 '21 at 17:34
  • @Zanna Adding the Ubuntu wiki link would be great. Also, it would be nice if we provide a link regarding Launchpad (like this: askubuntu.com/q/5121). Also, some new users might not know what the official flavours of Ubuntu are. It would be great if we also add a relevant link regarding that. Dec 4 '21 at 6:45
  • "Bugs should be reported to Launchpad:" Often it is indeed Launchpad, but sometimes --particularly with Snaps-- it's elsewhere. Also, many bugs have already been reported, and re-reporting bugs is wasted effort for everybody. I am concerned that the short version (and the current version) mislead and confuse too often.
    – user535733
    Dec 4 '21 at 14:04
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    @RandomPerson the "off-topic" text in the not about Ubuntu reason already links to the on-topic page, which is the same page that lists the official flavors, so I don't think we should link to it twice.
    – Zanna Mod
    Dec 4 '21 at 14:13
  • @user535733 is this a bigger problem? Perhaps we could change it to "should be reported as a bug". Or, perhaps we should stop closing such questions since many bugs are long lived and it would be good if people could find workarounds etc here ;)
    – Zanna Mod
    Dec 4 '21 at 14:15
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    @RandomPerson I have added the link for the releases wiki to the EoL short reason
    – Zanna Mod
    Dec 4 '21 at 14:17
  • @Zanna I think there will be many opinions on "Close: Bug," and no easy solutions. I view the problem as a learning-gap or documentation issue -- we should not need to re-explain to every querant the process of searching for and reporting a bug. The Wiki should be doing that and Tutorials should be doing that. My opinion is that the Ubuntu community seems to lack the documentation for us to link to in the short close blurb.
    – user535733
    Dec 4 '21 at 14:34
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    @RandomPerson the link is already in the long version of the reason. Remember, we're just trying to give people an idea of what's going on - the OP will get the long version with the helpful link that they might need. I don't want to put the same link again in the short version.
    – Zanna Mod
    Dec 8 '21 at 2:42
7

I've been working on these edits across the network off and on for different sites - as such, I'd like to throw some alternatives at y'all based on my experience. Feel free suggest changes or decide the other version is better if you want.

Before I get into that, I will confirm that I've had a discussion internally and, while I don't know when it will happen, the consensus is that we will eventually be showing the full close reason to everyone (again).

Also, I'll take a minute to plug my guide to writing close reasons on Meta Stack Exchange. While I'm OK with making this interim change because I agree that the short form is often not useful or downright wrong - i.e. not all community-specific close reasons are "off topic" at all - I'd love it if y'all could work on improving the full five fields that can be updated.

If you have questions about this, let me know.


1. Not about Ubuntu

Full text:

This is not about an official Ubuntu flavor. Questions about other Linux distributions can be asked on Unix & Linux, those about Windows on Super User, those about Apple products on Ask Different and generic programming questions on Stack Overflow.

Your version:

This question is off topic; it's not about an official Ubuntu flavor.

My recommendation:

This question was closed because it is not about an official Ubuntu flavor. It is not currently accepting answers.

2. Bug reports

Full text:

Bug reports and problems specific to development version of Ubuntu should be reported on Launchpad so that developers can see, track and fix these issues.

Your version:

This question is off topic; the issue should be reported as a bug.

My recommendation:

This question was closed because it should be reported on Launchpad as a bug. It is not currently accepting answers.

3. Unsupported Ubuntu versions

Full text:

End of Standard Support or End of Life Release
This question is specific to a release of Ubuntu which has reached its end of standard support or end of life date, and is not related to asking for help to upgrade to a supported release. Such questions are considered unsupported and off-topic on Ask Ubuntu.

Your version:

This question is off topic; it's specific to an old unsupported release.

My recommendation:

This question was closed because it's about using an unsupported release of Ubuntu. It is not currently accepting answers.

In this one, I thought that "using" might bring the focus to the use of the release as opposed to the upgrading away from it - which seems to be allowed. That said, I'm not sure whether "using" captures the full scope of this close reason. I also said "of Ubuntu" since that's what the link goes to - it doesn't seem to be used for flavors other than real Ubuntu.

4. Can't be reproduced.

Full text:

This describes a problem that can't be reproduced, that seemingly went away on its own or was only relevant to a very specific period of time. It's off-topic as it's unlikely to help future readers.

Your version:

This question is off topic; it's about a problem that can't be reproduced.

My recommendation:

This question was closed because the problem as described can't be reproduced. It is not currently accepting answers.

General notes:

I've removed "off-topic" from these because it's something that ends up being a thing people can argue about or get hung up on. I find just saying that it's closed and why can be neater.

The "It is not currently accepting answers." is going to be the sort of default we add to all close reasons.

I've omitted the links in these short versions of close reasons because I'm a bit concerned about cases where they're the same link that's going to appear in both the short version and the long version - it means that the asker and high-rep users will see the same link twice, but with different text, which readers tend to assume will be a different link, not two separate cases of the same link. I understand wanting to have the link in the short version but it might make sense to think about whether it should also be in the long version.

This is, again, an argument to refresh these entirely with wording that is more targeted at the people who will be seeing these notices.

Also, if you like the headers I used, I can go ahead and make them the "name" of the close reason, which will make that the quick-reference term used in the close dialogue.

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    Re. the bug part, I think that "reported to Ubuntu" might not be right - Bugs in Ubuntu software should be reported on Launchpad which is the development platform for Ubuntu - most people don't know this (like, ubuntu.com is definitely not the right place, and many people think we are Ubuntu). Bugs in third party software should be reported to whoever is maintaining that software (there's a discussion about this in the comments on this question... I think it's just a bad close reason, myself!)
    – Zanna Mod
    Dec 10 '21 at 12:56
  • I agree with your proposals and I also agree with Zanna's comment. Additionally, I think that links should be added in two close reasons: 1. -> link to official Ubuntu flavors, as on the full text reason; 3. -> link to unsupported releases, as on the full text reason; Dec 10 '21 at 13:58
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    Regarding the links, @BeastOfCaerbannog the other option is that I can update the other fields to remove them or link to a different place so that they aren't linked twice. I actually looked around for discussions here on meta about some of these topics but I couldn't find anything. The meta discussion/decision is often a good target for more information - if y'all do have that, I can use those in one place or the other.
    – Catija StaffMod
    Dec 10 '21 at 14:14
  • @Zanna This is probably a place where I'm not sure about the fine points - which is understandable and why I'm getting feedback. :) I was under the impression that Launchpad was for only official Ubuntu releases - if that's not correct and all of the flavors have places to receive bug reports there, then that makes sense. The other thing is if I just say "should be reported" people might look for a place here on AU to do that reporting - which would be confusing to people - so either something like "to Ubuntu" or something like that seems important if we're not linking anywhere.
    – Catija StaffMod
    Dec 10 '21 at 14:17
  • As to the validity of the close reason - I did read through your discussion and I think you make really good points - I think that helping people work around a bug is more useful than telling them "go report the bug". Answers could be anything from "this seems to be a bug but here's a workaround that should get you what you need" or "unfortunately, this is a bug that's existed for a while and has been reported already. Here's a duplicate that shows some options to avoid this problem."... etc.
    – Catija StaffMod
    Dec 10 '21 at 14:20
  • @Catija I just double-checked each official flavour of Ubuntu, and I can confirm that all of them direct users to report bugs on Launchpad. I agree with Zanna that saying "... should be reported onLaunchpad" is more correct as it informs users about the platform in case they don't know about it. Otherwise, I quite like your recommended wordings, especially the "This question was closed because [...]" instead of "This question is off topic. [...]" parts as they sound more friendly.
    – Dan
    Dec 10 '21 at 15:16
  • Thanks for doing that check, @Dan - it's really helpful. And thanks. :)
    – Catija StaffMod
    Dec 10 '21 at 15:17
  • Bugs reports and especially feature requests for flavors can be made on the flavors' own support forums, but if I understand correctly, all packages in Ubuntu repositories (which includes all official flavors' packages) have project pages on Launchpad and can have bugs reported against them there too. Nonetheless, the situation is complex and I'm not sure what text would be best there. Your objections to my suggested wording are good.
    – Zanna Mod
    Dec 10 '21 at 15:37
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    oops sorry for the duplication! The last 2 comments didn't appear until I posted mine. Anyway I was going to continue... jokerdino tells me that this close reason is meant to only be for questions that are actually attempts to make bug reports (or feature requests), which does happen, and perhaps we do need a close reason for that, but this close reason is (mis)used much more broadly in practice. Qs about bugs are often popular and their answers of longstanding use. Perhaps it's time for a bigger discussion about it and possibly rewording or retiring. I guess that can come later though.
    – Zanna Mod
    Dec 10 '21 at 15:43
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    @Zanna Yeah, the rewording in the close modal could be really valuable - something like "Use this close reason on questions that are attempting to report a bug. Do not use it on questions that are caused by bugs. Those questions should be answered with guidance on how to work around the bug unless they're duplicates of an existing question." Or something like that. :)
    – Catija StaffMod
    Dec 10 '21 at 15:46
4

My brain wanted to keep poking at this so I wanted to do a non-Ubuntu user version of the five-field format as an example for one of the close reasons so that y'all can see what it could look like in practice.

Not about Ubuntu

Close/flag modal:

It's important to keep in mind that this is only visible to people casting close votes or flagging to close, so they're likely more informed about these tools - that said, we should still consider flaggers and newer close voters who may not be fluent in them. As such, linking to help center or meta discussions about this can help inform them. I couldn't find a meta discussion about this, though - if there is one, it might be worth adding.

Use this close reason for questions that are not about an official Ubuntu flavor. Consider leaving a comment recommending they ask on the appropriate Stack Exchange site, such as Unix & Linux, Super User, Ask Different, or Stack Overflow.

I'm not sure whether the Ubuntu official list of flavors or the on-topic page is better here - I do like keeping links on site but I'm not sure how often the list is updated on the on topic page. Leaving a comment is valuable for close voters to consider because it might get the user the information that their question is off topic sooner.

Here's kinda what the brief description and usage guidance would look like in the close modal.

Screenshot of the "Not about Ubuntu" proposed close modal text, as quoted above.

Close description

This question was closed because it is not about an official Ubuntu flavor. It is not currently accepting answers.

Kept the link here to the on-topic page because we want to keep viewers on the site rather than sending them to the Ubuntu site.

Post owner guidance:

This is shown with the close description, so it doesn't need to duplicate it - it should be instructions to the asker about why their question was closed and how to improve it.

Your question may be more appropriate on another Stack Exchange site. Ask questions about other Linux distributions on Unix & Linux, Windows on Super User, Apple products on Ask Different and generic programming questions on Stack Overflow. If your question is about an official flavor of Ubuntu, please edit it to make that clear.

Here's what the asker would see as the post notice:

Screenshot of the asker view of the post notice with the close description and post owner guidance quoted above.

Privileged user guidance:

Like the Post owner guidance, this is shown with the Close description, so it can avoid restating the content there.

If you can guide the asker to the correct site, please consider doing so in a comment. If you believe that this question is about an official flavor of Ubuntu, please edit the question to make that clear or leave a comment guiding the user on how to improve their question.

Here's what users with the close privilege would see:

Screenshot of the privileged user view with the close description and privileged user guidance quoted above.

I really love when these close post notices encourage action by the reader - it can help them know what to do next. So often, we say "this is off-topic" and think that's the end of it, so it can feel really helpless to not know what to do now. Comments are the best way reviewers can help since the comment can be customized to the question in a way that we could never do with rote close reasons.

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    this is fantastic - huge improvement! I feel bad that we haven't made use of the new format up to now
    – Zanna Mod
    Dec 10 '21 at 16:35

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