The "off-topic" message when a question is closed currently reads as follows:

This question appears to be off-topic because it focuses on programming, debugging, or performing routine operations, or it asks about obtaining datasets. You could try the support links we maintain or the Open Data site instead.

Should the Open Data site be so prominent in this message?

In my experience on Cross Validated, off-topic questions about programming or software recommendations are (currently at least) much more common than off-topic questions about open datasets. So why not mentioning directly stackoverflow and softwarerecs too in this message?

In addition, it's been my experience that there are currently very few active experienced users on opendata.SE, which has an impact on the website moderation. So I'm wondering if we should be more careful about suggesting asking questions on opendata.SE, when they could also be off-topic there.

As a recent example, there is this question that has been asked today on opendata.SE right after being closed on CrossValidated. I don't know what the community at opendata.SE think about it, but I believe the question might be off-topic there too, and could have been a better fit for the software recommendations website.

So, is there some room for improvement of the CrossValidated "off-topic" message?

Per the comment of Sycorax about the difficulty of adding content to the message, an alternative would be to remove any mention of specific websites, and have a message such as:

This question appears to be off-topic because it focuses on programming, debugging, or performing routine operations, or it asks about obtaining datasets. You could try the support links we maintain instead.

  • $\begingroup$ FYI, I notified the opendata community about this question, here: opendata.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/503/… $\endgroup$
    – J-J-J
    Mar 13 at 17:22
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ stats.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/6092/… Stack Exchange won't give us an additional slot for "this is off topic because it's about getting a dataset" so we had to shoehorn it into this closure reason. If you think you have a better "off-topic" message, you can share it. But we only have so many slots, and it's hard to fit all of the reasons into them. $\endgroup$
    – Sycorax Mod
    Mar 13 at 17:32
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Ah, thanks for the context. Then my suggestion, if possible, would be to remove direct mentions of any specific website, and just keep the link "support links we maintain". $\endgroup$
    – J-J-J
    Mar 13 at 17:36
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ It's a valid concern to raise. Previously, the opposite suggestion got a positive reaction in this post, which lead us to today. stats.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/2184/… $\endgroup$
    – Sycorax Mod
    Mar 13 at 17:39
  • $\begingroup$ @Sycorax Didn't see this discussion, thanks again. I suspect this past discussion is the reflection of open data enthusiasm back then, which probably isn't the same today. $\endgroup$
    – J-J-J
    Mar 13 at 17:44
  • $\begingroup$ Well, the question doesn't seem to raise a lot of interest for the moment. That's definitely not a hill I'll die on, so if no one is interested about the issue, I don't mind leaving things as they are. Anyway there's no reason why we can't discuss the problem again later, if at some point it becomes more consequential. $\endgroup$
    – J-J-J
    Mar 14 at 7:05
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    $\begingroup$ We have a strictly limited number of closure reason slots available; we also have a strictly limited number of alternative sites where we could directly migrate a Q within the closure dialog (mods can migrate a Q to any SE site). Lastly, the description we can put for these options is very limited to a small number of characters. It is from balancing these constraints that we have a fixed migration path to Stack Overflow & post a link to Open Data in the description. It is admittedly an out & out kludge. $\endgroup$ Mar 15 at 11:45

1 Answer 1


This limit that the website platform has for close reasons occurs more often in these discussions.

Possibly we can hack this by making a 'read more' link for several of these close reasons and create a wiki page for each of these cases?

The link to off-topic already sort of does this and possibly the information about the open data site and about the support links could be placed there.

For example the message could be something like:

This question appears to be off-topic because it focuses on programming, debugging, or performing routine operations, or it asks about obtaining datasets. Read more on our help page about off-topic posts for information about improving your question or for places where you can ask the question instead.

Then we have only a single link and people will be more easily guided to a more complete help text where they can get more information rather than that they might follow a dead end with one of the two links in the current message.

  • 7
    $\begingroup$ I like this idea. Just to underline what active Meta users already know -- whatever you do can be wrong. Many of the posts we don't want here would also be poor posts somewhere else and encouraging people to go elsewhere is like exporting one country's rubbish (garbage) to another. I am currently seeing a rash of posts on Stack Overflow with broad, multiple point enquiries about how to analyse my data PLUS what is the code for doing that. Naturally, such posts wouldn't fit well here either. $\endgroup$
    – Nick Cox
    Mar 15 at 9:53
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    $\begingroup$ Agreed. For some reason, under "obtaining particular datasets" that help page lists only GIS.SE, not OpenData.SE... I think the vast majority of requests for data are not geographic. So the first step would likely be to edit a link to OpenData.SE into that page. And ideally tighten it up a bit - it currently contains three bullet points and a lot of text that is logically equivalent, so it looks to me like it should either be all bullets or no bullets. Happy the non-mod who can't be told "if you are so smart, go ahead and edit!" $\endgroup$ Mar 15 at 13:22

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