Recently, I've noticed that this site has a lot of questions where the OP gives a long description of a situation that they're in, but when all's said and done they don't tell us exactly what they're looking for help with, and what goal they want to accomplish.

A good example of this is the question Partner going through phone. If you look through the answers, you'll see that they're mostly commiserating with the OP that their partner acted irresponsibly. Which is nice, I guess, but at the end of the day, no one has been given any useful advice about how to improve their interpersonal situation.

Another example is How to respond when told to "check your privilege". The answers there do give suggestions for what the OP should do. But the OP doesn't explain what their goal is when they're responding, so it's impossible to say if the advice is helpful. For example, if their goal is to preserve relationships, then their response might be different if their goal is to express opposition to the phrase.

Several Stacks close these sorts of question. The Workplace, which is the most similar to this Stack, has a close reason that reads:

Questions require a goal that we can address. Rather than explaining the difficulties of your situation, explain what you want to do to make it better. For more information, click here.


Does it make sense to close questions where it is not clear what goal the OP wants to accomplish?

  • 2
    Although I wholeheartedly agree with your suggestion, with the phone question, he has already acted. He's just asking for confirmation whether his actions were justified (and I know my answer suggests what he could say after the situation occurs), which to me is on-topic as it can improve his interpersonal skills in that particular scenario. Commented Aug 19, 2017 at 17:53
  • @BradleyWilson really? As far as I can tell the OP hasn't even explained what they've done other than get into a fight with their partner.
    – user288
    Commented Aug 19, 2017 at 17:56
  • 2
    with him asking "Did I overreact?" is indicating that he feels he has done enough to warrant asking the question, which the answers could suggest further action. With him explaining the confrontation without every little detail, me as the reader understood that he had taken action. Commented Aug 19, 2017 at 17:57
  • @BradleyWilson ok, then the question is, what is the OP's goal? To preserve their relationship? To preserve the relationship but assert their boundaries? To understand their partners point of view?
    – user288
    Commented Aug 19, 2017 at 18:01
  • 2
    What I meant was that his goal was to see if his actions were justifiable, which is what he set out clearly. Whether he does something there on out is up to him. It'll still contribute to his interpersonal skills, regardless. Commented Aug 19, 2017 at 18:03
  • We have no idea what their relationship is like, or what they are looking for in the future. Are there any issues or concerns if it causes a breakup (casual vs. serious relationship)? A better question would be about keeping secrets in general in a (defined) relationship.
    – user3169
    Commented Aug 19, 2017 at 19:01
  • 2
    "Was my outrage justifiable?" seems like a POB question, and more in the sense of "snooping through my phone sucks, amiright?" than good-subjective (and most of the answers read as "you're totally right, that sucks"). For that particular question, there's almost no "interpersonal" context—e.g. is there any particular reason GF might be suspicious? How long were they together before this became an issue? How 'serious' is the relationship, and are they on the same page about that? Without that context, I don't see how any answer is going to meaningfully contribute to his interpersonal skills.
    – 1006a
    Commented Aug 19, 2017 at 22:33
  • @1006a yes, exactly, thank you! The question should be closed, and yesterday.
    – user288
    Commented Aug 19, 2017 at 22:35

2 Answers 2


Questions that don't have a goal which can be addressed should be closed. That is, if the question does not indicate what the OP expects from an answer, there is no way to provide a valid answer. If, on the other hand, the objective is for questions that ask a real, and complete question, yet do not explicitly state their future plans for use of the answers, that does not seem like a close worthy point on its own merit. There is no reason to create a custom close reason, however, for either version, if in fact it is closed. The in-built reason of Unclear what you are asking fits perfectly. Unfortunately, to my reasoning, the two questions you have selected do not fit in a group of questions that don't have a goal that we can address, or are, at best, poor exemplars.

The first question, Partner going through phone, does have a goal that I can identify. The OP explicitly states Am I in the right or in the wrong? Did I overreact? Does a partner have the 'right' to do this? If, by "goal" you are meaning what the OP wants from the relationship and you cannot, or will not, answer the stated question without that knowledge, then I think you're expecting some of the wrong things from this site. The answer to that question should not be motivated by OPs future plans. Either OP was right, or OP was wrong. Either the OP's partner does, or does not, have the right to inspect the phone. Conversely, if the OP had asked how to handle the situation, or what to do next, etc., then knowing OP's future plans would matter, and should be in the question, and without them the question is then "unclear" just as surely as one lacking regional context can be. As a side note, this question is worthy of closure. It is, in essence a poll question, and should be closed as such. While it is clear what the OP is asking, there is no criteria for evaluating answers, which are subjective, opinion-based answers.

For the second question, How to respond when told to "check your privilege", there is a goal, or future plan, given. The OP asks how to politely respond to such events. Obviously not for the two reported encounters, as they are now in the past, but as a guideline for possible future encounters. The OP even explicitly limited it to events involving random strangers. Furthermore, the OP even provided a possible response that had been considered, though not used, and has shown that some research was done beforehand. In my view, a good, on-topic question.

One extra note. A question shouldn't be judged worthy of closure based on the answers it receives. Sometimes users will ignore what the OP has explicitly requested, or rejected, and post their own "random" thoughts. Even when a cultural context is given some users will try to answer from their own, very different, cultural view. If the OP can be improved in an attempt to stem the flow of off base answers, that's well and good. Closing the question because of the answers, however, just isn't on, in my book.

  • Unfortunately, to my reasoning, the two questions you have selected do not fit in a group of questions that don't have a goal that we can address what is unfortunate in that? ;)
    – Mr. Normal
    Commented Sep 1, 2017 at 15:48
  • @ΈρικΚωνσταντόπουλος It's hard to have a discussion of a problem when the example questions don't fit, or have, that problem.
    – User 27
    Commented Sep 1, 2017 at 16:03
  • I meant it in the sense that we have two good questions instead of two bad ones...nevermind.
    – Mr. Normal
    Commented Sep 1, 2017 at 16:40

"Does it make sense to close these sorts of questions here?"

You have to be even more specific about "these sorts". I see two examples of questions, but both are different. I think I might understand your point, but then again, I do not.

Sometimes a question needs alot of information, only then you are able to answer. Not everyone understands how much info is needed to make someone answer it. Also, it is not fair for those who have difficulties in questioning the correct way.

At the moment questions are being moderated. If it's not clear, they are put ON HOLD. That way the OP can change /edit the question to fit within the rules.

So my answer is:

No. It does not make sense, because every question is different and every individual question is moderated within a short time amount. If it does not fit within the given rules, they will put the question ON HOLD, together with a logical explanation. The OP can decide to change his question and will have a fair chance of recovering it.

Answers are NOT a reason to close down a question. It only helps showing that people understand the OP's question.

Also, I hope SE interpersonal don't narrow down the rules even more about this. If you put so much boundaries on something like a question, it seems like the only audience you are trying to reach are the highly educated. ( I believe also the lower educated are having interpersonal problems. )

  • 2
    "On hold" and "closed" are essentially the same thing. There is no difference between the two other than time.
    – Catija
    Commented Aug 20, 2017 at 20:53
  • 1
    Where does education level prevent someone from adding details to their questions? If we don't have sufficient detail, how can we write useful answers?
    – Catija
    Commented Aug 20, 2017 at 20:55
  • Because asking a question also depends on culture. Culture and education seems to be connected. Some cultures are used to ask questions in another form. Not the american version. I know they are essentially the same thing. But i do read that there are 5 days for you to edit your post, so it could be 'reopened'. That's not really closed, unless they don't normally reopen your question? I think we have to individually look at each specific question, and then base an opinion, instead of already starting to 'close' it. Just afraid that we might label them too quickly.
    – Tomas
    Commented Aug 20, 2017 at 22:02
  • 1
    Even "closed" questions can be reopened. Heck, even deleted questions can be undeleted and reopened. When this question asks "should we close questions" it means "should we put questions on hold". Your culture/education explanation doesn't make sense to me. Perhaps an example? We can't really say "Martians don't have to include details because it's not done in their culture".
    – Catija
    Commented Aug 20, 2017 at 22:05
  • Latin people uses alot of bodylanguage while talking. The 'lower' educated between them, might not recognize that writing does not contain that bodylanguage. We might not understand it, when in 'their' way, it's correct. Perhaps there is just one counter question needed to answer to get the questionairs point? In that case, "On Hold" is okay, with mentioning that he has to rephrase his question. Not so much different than now?
    – Tomas
    Commented Aug 20, 2017 at 22:15
  • 1
    On hold is simply a more polite way of saying 'closed but can possibly be Reopened.' Please look at the 2 moderator flags I raised 24 hours ago for explicit and potentially inflammatory content, @Catija. They are still listed as awaiting review, when I look at my profile page. Is there any other way to contact a moderator rather than post a comment to them on a recently active page? Commented Aug 20, 2017 at 23:59
  • @EnglishStudent Please remember that we are volunteers. I'm currently on vacation and moderation tools are not easy to use on mobile devices. We will handle it when we can. Comments can be deleted without a moderator if enough users find it problematic. Feel free to mention it in chat to see if your fellow users agree.
    – Catija
    Commented Aug 21, 2017 at 0:18
  • I fully understand, @Catija, especially since it's the weekend, but was mainly wondering whether there should be an arrangement by which community moderators could help resolve flags such as inflammatory/explicit/discriminatory comments, because we want them to disappear at the earliest. I am somewhat uncomfortable with raising this particular sensitive topic in chat but I am sure you will deal with it appropriately when you can do so. Commented Aug 21, 2017 at 0:47
  • Clarification: by 'community moderator' I meant network-wide moderators and the right term may be community manager? Please don't feel rushed and you can deal with the matter at your convenience, @Catija. Commented Aug 21, 2017 at 1:00
  • @EnglishStudent The CMs (Community Managers) also see the flag list. You can address them directly using the "contact" link at the bottom of every page.
    – Catija
    Commented Aug 21, 2017 at 1:12

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