I was just looking at a badly written question that had collected a few close votes. And the close reason given wasn't "badly written" or "duplicate", it was "off topic".

Now, it was clear (since it's a question I get asked all the time), that it was a specific electrical engineering question, and it was clear (since it was correctly tagged with a handful of correct tags), that the subject was not "off topic".

So the probable reason for closure (and as indicated by the one comment), was that the close votes came from people who didn't understand the question. So I had a look at the people who had voted for closure, and none of them seemed to have any history of answering questions related to the tags on the question.

I could be wrong, and it was badly written, but I find it hard to believe that anybody who understood the subject matter at all could have thought it "off topic".

Which leads me to wonder if people could be encouraged to use a little self-discipline, and only vote to close "off-topic" questions if they understand the question, as indicated by previous history posting questions or answers on the topic.

And to make that easier, you could look at the tags where you've posted, and the tags the questioner has used?

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ (1) Please post links to some of the closed questions, which you are referring to. (2) Only the off-topic branch of the close reasons tree has a text box where one can type in other reasons. As a result, all these free-form reasons appear as off-topic closures. I too think that that provides a somewhat inaccurate feedback to the O.P. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 9, 2015 at 5:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ The better question to ask would be: "should I close closeworthy question with an inaccurate/incomplete reason, or should I leave them open because the system has not foreseen someone to create such a gem?" \$\endgroup\$
    – PlasmaHH
    Sep 9, 2015 at 8:04
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ SHOW A LINK TO THE QUESTION (duh!). \$\endgroup\$ Sep 9, 2015 at 11:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you happen to be talking about the following question (I see you did an edit about the same time as this question) personally I know what charge equalization is but it's still very much worded as a use of an electronic device question and not clear if the batteries are ones where it's recommended: electronics.stackexchange.com/questions/188891/… \$\endgroup\$
    – PeterJ
    Sep 9, 2015 at 13:37

3 Answers 3


Tags should never be relied on to add context or other information to a question. Neither should the title, but at least people will have read that. It is legitimate to close questions as unclear when you don't know what they are about after reading the question.

Personally I rarely think of tags, generally don't even notice them, and shouldn't have to. For example, if a question is about CircuitBarf 1.03, then say so in the text. Adding a CircuitBarf tag is NOT sufficient to tell us this important context.


Apparently I didn't address the question head-on enough. Since tags should never be relied on to add information to a question for the purpose of answering it, NO, obviously there is no point expecting people to "use" tags in deciding whether to upvote, downvote, or vote to close.

As Nick points out in a comment below, tags are for filtering searches. I usually don't even notice tags when reading and answering a question, and that should be perfectly fine. If your question got closed because someone didn't notice relevant information that was only in a tag, then it's squarely your fault for not putting the relevant information in the question body.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ While I don't disagree with this it's probably missing the question a bit. I think David is suggesting maybe someone who's never answered Verilog tag question for example shouldn't vote to close them. \$\endgroup\$
    – PeterJ
    Sep 9, 2015 at 12:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Peter: David seemed to imply that people should have known the topic of the question by looking at the tags. Of course without a link to the question it's hard to know. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 9, 2015 at 15:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ Tags are for search and filtering. Everything of importance should be included into the body of the question. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 9, 2015 at 22:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PeterJ was correct. Olin Lathrop was incorrect. Can you suggest a change to the question? \$\endgroup\$
    – david
    Sep 10, 2015 at 6:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ Tags add context and other information to a question. As does the title. The context and other informaiton is certainly useful for search. The question discussed is, not should you "rely" on individual words, but should you "use" available information for "voting to close" \$\endgroup\$
    – david
    Sep 10, 2015 at 6:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree that this is how EE.SE should work. But this is not true across the whole SE network. On Stackoverflow itself, tags are frequently used to provide necessary context (like what programming language is being asked about). So it's likely that users coming here might not realize it if they are familiar with other SE sites. \$\endgroup\$
    – The Photon
    Sep 11, 2015 at 16:35

If you don't know anything about a subject, it's better to just skip over the questions about it. Rolling with PeterJ's Verilog example, I skip Verilog questions most of the time, being from the VHDL camp. However, I'll make exceptions to that rule when a question like

simple verilog task

how to do |insert simple task here| in verilog

pops up, and pile on the close votes. Really lazy, bad questions need to be dispatched quickly, and it doesn't take a domain expert to see them.


Which leads me to wonder if people could be encouraged to use a little self-discipline, and only vote to close "off-topic" questions if they understand the question, as indicated by previous history posting questions or answers on the topic.

Tag privileges are hard to come by. Only gold badge holders for a tag have any special privilege (close as dupe singlehandedly, normally reserved for diamond mods), and afaik that's only Olin (sole gold badge for a tag) for the microcontroller tag on this site (the burden of low voting site-wise). Even then, limiting regular 1 of 5 voting to someone that has knowledge of an arbitrary tag is, frankly, dumb. Close voting takes 3000 rep, not an easy feat, again on a site that doesnt have much voting activity.

If you have 3000 rep on this site, enough for the close vote privilege, then they are expected to know the general rules for off topicness.

Granted, I and a few others have pointed out with much grief the close-vote trigger-happiness (or migrate bs and anti-newbie bias) here, but in this case it is valid. The question in mind was not high quality, and the specific close vote reason in mind, even if it wasnt 100% accurate, was still valid because the question was not good.


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