I recently voted to close a question because it was about genetics and biology, not about cooking. Looking through close reasons, I realized that "Question is not about cooking and eating food" was not an available close reason. Seems like it should be?

2 Answers 2


There hasn't ever been one. I see where you're coming from, and I agree that it would be nice having it. But seeing how little trouble it causes and how difficult it would be to have it otherwise, I see little chance of getting it.

The logic behind it

The first menu of closing reasons is network-wide. It's independent of scope, and contains the types of question which no site on the network takes, such as subjective questions.

One of the options is intended to be for out-of-scope questions. It's called "A community-specific reason" which I guess makes more sense from a network developer point of view than a closer's point of view, but is still recognizable.

Within that, each site is granted exactly three slots to use as a kind of "shortcut" to contain its most common off-topic close reasons. For anything else, it's "other". There's also the option to migrate to other sites, but I think that one is visible only to moderators.

The logic behind this is that people whose question gets closed are entitled to a short a situation-specific explanation. So there is not just a "out of scope" close reason, but a space to describe how exactly the question is out of scope. In fact, the three special reasons didn't exist at the beginning, and were added as a later feature, simply as a boilerplate that helps closers save time typing. Anything that doesn't fit the boilerplate needs a rationale, and that's hidden behind the "other" option.

How could this potentially get changed

There are two ways possible.

Replace a boilerplate reason

The first is to sacrifice one of our site-specific reasons and have this one instead. I would see this as counter-productive. While these reasons were intended as boilerplate, in reality, they're perceived as somehow "official". When the question is closed through "other" and the reason is given in a comment, new users tend to argue more that it's impossible that their perfectly food-related question is out of scope. Also, active users who recently got their closing privileges seem to be quicker to pick up on these reasons, probably because they read them more frequently than the help center.

This is why we prefer to keep our most counter-intuitive close reasons for the list. In fact, we'd like to have a fourth slot, because "no food pairing" and "no what can I cook with X" seem to be equally surprising rules, but we can't get it. I wouldn't want to lose the teaching moment here.

Also, I think Jeff's original logic holds here. The question isn't about cooking, but how isn't it about cooking? Being forced to write an explanation, even only a couple of words, makes it both easier for the OP (who sees that somebody at least took the time to understand their question and give them feedback, as opposed to rubber-stamping the reason) and for the wider community, who gets guidance as to where are the borders of our scope.

Programming changes to the closing interface

We could make a feature request for changing the interface. This would affect the closing box throughout the network, so the change has to be site-neutral, but it could have a positive effect on all sites.

An easy change to request would be to rename "other" into something more recognizable such as "out of scope", and maybe put it above the other reasons. This would help users to realize that it's the main option on the submenu, and not an afterthought.

Another would be to have it as a separate option on the submenu. I personally wouldn't like that one, because it would basically duplicate "other" (or, if you want to have it without the comment requirement, it would subvert the positive value of the comment) but maybe there are arguments for it.

My gut feeling is though, that such a request would have slim chances of getting implemented. This box hasn't changed in many years, even though there have been many requests, some of them garnering a lot of support. The product managers seem to have a feeling that it's one of the better working parts of the site, and not worth tinkering to remove minor flaws. Also, the current atmosphere on the network is certainly not conductive - there are fewer devs than before, working under more political pressure, and the community has many grievances about much more pressing features not being worked on.

So, you're free to make the request (I'd suggest looking through main Meta first, to see if there are already open requests for it). From there on, it's SE's decision.

  • So this is the first that any non-mod knew that we only get three options on the submenu. You gotta know what non-mods don't know.
    – FuzzyChef
    Mar 6 at 16:56
  • The main reason to have it is that the current use of "Other" introduces a disparity between asker effort and flagger effort. That is, if someone asks a question that's wildly off-topic (like a question about sports teams or English usage) because they don't even bother to look at the URL, that's the thing that's the most effort to flag since I have to type in a reason. But, if we only get 3 options, there's nothing we can do about it.
    – FuzzyChef
    Mar 6 at 17:10

I can't swear to it, but I'm pretty sure that 'This question is not about cooking' used to be among the close reasons. Now we've got 'a community-specific reason,' which certainly encompasses 'not about cooking.'

It causes me to suspect that the powers that be chose to ensure that those options were consistent across stacks.

I'll look into it

  • The submenu for "A community specific reason" doesn't include it.
    – FuzzyChef
    Mar 5 at 22:23
  • Interestingly though, it is specifically used as an example for "other." maybe that's where I saw it before. At any rate, I agree that it should be one of our boilerplate reasons to close.
    – Jolenealaska Mod
    Mar 5 at 22:27

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