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Recently, I've seen several questions marked as "unclear what you are asking" when the question is both confusing and about software. If we mark it "unclear what you're asking" then the OP may try to clarify it, but if it is still just about software, that edit is wasted. So, I've been marking them as "off-topic".

Is there a policy on these?

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    $\begingroup$ That seems a good idea as I regularly see things in the reopen queue where the OP has clarified the request for software part but still left it off-topic. $\endgroup$ – mdewey Jul 26 '17 at 12:18
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I don't know of any official CV policy. My policy, however, is to leave a comment for the OP stating that the question is unclear, typically with some description of the points that need clarifying, and also mention that questions about software are generally off topic here. I then vote to close as unclear.

If the OP edits the question and clarifies it, but it really is just about software, I do not vote to reopen (I may flag for migration to SO, though). I suppose you could say that the edit had been 'wasted' but that's ambiguous to me. On the other hand, the edit may clarify that the question wasn't really about software, or the edit may change the nature of the question to a statistical question. In that case, I vote to reopen.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 Yeah, I don't think an edit is necessarily wasted.even if a question doesn't migrate or reopen, since the user sees something that was wrong with their question with a specific example of how to improve it. That may reduce problems down the line, helping people write better questions is part of how the site works. $\endgroup$ – Glen_b -Reinstate Monica Jul 26 '17 at 23:27
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It depends. My thoughts:

  • If it's not clear whether statistical expertise is needed to answer it (or might otherwise be on topic), we would typically need to clarify first because clarifying that to be the case would make it on topic.

  • If it's about software with no statistical expertise required but it's not a clear question, we can't migrate it. If it is clear, and is otherwise on-topic elsewhere (say at StackOverflow or SuperUser) then we can migrate, so that's a good reason to clarify first. It's better to migrate a question than have it closed here and reposted elsewhere, as long as it's not just going to close at the destination.

  • if it's about software with clearly no statistical expertise required but it's very unlikely to end up migratable, just close it as whichever you think is the biggest problem with the question (closure is intended to be a signal to the poster to improve the question; otherwise we'd just delete all the unsatisfactory questions).

It's not always obvious what's the best close option, but in many cases I'd prefer to clarify first if it's not pretty clear.

On occasion I have reopened questions I thought were at least reasonably likely to require statistical expertise, in order to seek clarification of that. Sometimes that turns out to be the case and sometimes it doesn't.

[We should be careful -- I note that a few users have a tendency to vote to close a question that uses a language tag or contains any code at all. That's not how it's supposed to work. Let's all try to keep in mind that requires statistical expertise to ask or answer is the test for software questions. If someone that knows SAS (say) but not stats couldn't give a full answer to a question relating to SAS because they didn't have the knowledge required, it's probably on topic. If all it would take is a quick check of the help, it's probably off topic.]


In response to mdewey's comment about the reopen queue -- if a question closes as unclear and hits the reopen queue and is now clear but off topic, please reopen, and then vote to close (or better vote to reopen and then flag it). The point about closure is that it's a signal to the poster (and indeed to other readers, including ones who don't have accounts) about how to write suitable questions. If it remains closed as unclear when it's NOT, that's a bad signal -- it doesn't help the poster write a better question next time; they'll be focused on the wrong issue. We need to try to get our questions closed for the "right" reason.

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    $\begingroup$ "if a question closes as unclear and hits the reopen queue and is now clear but off topic, please reopen, and then vote to close" - this is counter-intuitive, but I can see the logic. Of course, reopen voters do not get notification that the post has actually been reopened, which can be inconvenient! (If I see something that upon editing seems clear, but which strikes me as off-topic yet migratable, I must admit I generally vote "leave closed" but raise a flag for the moderators to deal with the migration issue.) $\endgroup$ – Silverfish Jul 27 '17 at 0:05
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    $\begingroup$ (Flag-raising seems to be the only immediate thing you can do in the reopen queue to prevent the problem of the question being open for a while before it gets re-closed. Am I missing something here?) $\endgroup$ – Silverfish Jul 27 '17 at 0:05
  • $\begingroup$ @silverfish Thanks! yes, your alternative has the advantage that the reclose definitely happens, and that it happens reasonably quickly. I'll try to come back and edit that into my answer. $\endgroup$ – Glen_b -Reinstate Monica Jul 27 '17 at 0:08

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