When a <3K user flags a question as off topic, it is required to specify how the question is off-topic. My choice path goes:

  1. flag
  2. it doesn't belong here, or it is a duplicate...
  3. off-topic because...

And then I am presented with four specific reasons:

  • what project/language to learn next
  • tool recommendation
  • career advice
  • belongs on other site

Sometimes, a question is off-topic in a way not anticipated by these four categories. For 3K-rep users, I understand that the close-voting interface allows for a free-form off-topic reason, but the off-topic flag screen for <3K does not. (Note that I am not suggesting one should be added; I include this information only for completeness.)

How should I flag questions that I consider to be off-topic but don't fit the four categories?

  • I could flag for moderator attention, but that seems suboptimal, since those flags are only visible to diamond mods.
  • I could flag it off-topic and choose a off-topic reason that doesn't apply. Do people reviewing the flag even see (or care) about the off-topic reason?

2 Answers 2


First off, do a little sanity-check: are you sure the question is off-topic? If it's about cats, then that's an easy check; otherwise, review the faq.

Next, do another sanity-check: is it spam? Is it someone trolling for attention? There are specific flags for "spam" and "it is not welcome in our community" that are a heck of a lot more effective than closing for stuff that needs to be removed ASAP - don't waste your time and everyone else's time trying to find the best close reason for "Cheap Gucci Handbags".

Then, see if any of the close reasons are reasonably close. Not just the OT reasons, but also things like "Too Broad" and "Primarily opinion-based". If OT is the best fit, then read the predefined reasons carefully: the OT reasons listed in the dialog represent the most common off-topic questions, so there's a pretty good chance that one of them will fit, but... Keep in mind that there are also a lot of perfectly good questions that touch on the same topics; how the question is asked can matter almost as much as what it asks about. Consider if an edit might be able to transform the question into something more acceptable.

Finally, either pick one of the predefined off-topic reasons, or - if none of them fits - back up and select "other" on the main flagging dialog. If you do the latter, keep in mind that you're asking a moderator to review the post: is it something that really needs a moderator's attention? If you don't feel strongly about it, don't flag. If you do, great! Explain why. Don't just type "off-topic"; provide enough information to help the moderator understand what problems you envision the post causing.

Oh - and to answer your last question: right now, no one1 sees the off-topic reasons you choose when flagging. That may change in the future, but for now they exist primarily for your benefit, to provide examples of the sorts of things that you should consider flagging when you come across them.

1They are recorded, I'm looking at them in aggregate and will probably expose that information to moderators at some point, but the design is in keeping with the whole "training wheels for future close-voters" aspect, not "feedback for askers" since - no offense - a lot of flaggers have really weird ideas about what is on or off-topic.

  • If something is off topic... and say a legal question (we get enough of those and its not one of our predefined ones), you are suggesting that it gets a mod other cause rather than one of the other flag reasons that puts it into the review queue (and someone else will add the appropriate 'other' reason)?
    – user40980
    Commented Aug 12, 2013 at 19:26
  • Can you rephrase that @MichaelT? Not sure what you're asking.
    – Shog9
    Commented Aug 12, 2013 at 19:27
  • 1
    If one sees a question such as Is it legal to make money out of facebook data? - instead of flagging it to enter the review queue, you are suggesting having a mod handle the flag and close it (which generally gets more people up in arms). On the other hand, I certainly do see the value in having the custom mod feedback on something if it is custom off topic - a "no, it really isn't off topic because of XYZ" could make for a better close voter in the future.
    – user40980
    Commented Aug 12, 2013 at 19:33
  • Considering that question was closed in ~6 minutes by a moderator without significant push-back from the community, I don't know that I'd be concerned about flagging for a moderator - using custom flags helps to provide data on which forms of OT aren't being well-handled by the existing reasons. In cases where a question is sufficiently borderline that you aren't sure whether or not it's on-topic, maybe hash that out in the comments (or here on meta) first and then flag if need-be. Anyone can do that - no reason to ask a mod to do it for you.
    – Shog9
    Commented Aug 12, 2013 at 19:39
  • 1
    That was just an example of a legal question that didn't have an exact match close reason. As it was asked on a sunday, a mod steped in to get it closed faster than waiting through the review queue. One need only look through M.P.SE to see people complaining about mods casting votes (before the community could get all 5 votes in). ---- That isn't what I was trying to point out - if this was to be flagged for closing, it would be a mod attention flag for something that is community clear cut (we just are limited to 3 reasons) rather than one of the other reasons.
    – user40980
    Commented Aug 12, 2013 at 19:44
  • There are always going to be topics that are off-topic but without predefined reasons, @MichaelT. Fortunately, there are only a few dozen questions posted every day, so the actual problem is much smaller, and if you have to call in a mod to handle an exception, so be it - that's what they're here for.
    – Shog9
    Commented Aug 12, 2013 at 19:49
  • 1
    I'm just making sure that that is what is intended. In the interest of making flagging into closing with training wheels, would it be reasonable to have the 'other' field in place and have that route to the mod (just as if they have done it on the first flag form) so that when they do "graduate" to close votes, the interface and process remains the same? On the other hand, this answer seems to run counter to meta.stackexchange.com/questions/192765/… -- is there some reconciliation between this answer and Flexo's answer on MSO necessary?
    – user40980
    Commented Aug 12, 2013 at 19:55
  • Only conflicts if you imagine that situation arose from someone writing a detailed description of the problem, @MichaelT. As I wrote above, "Don't just type "off-topic"; provide enough information to help the moderator understand what problems you envision the post causing." Incidentally, this goes double for folks who can vote to close but for whatever reason prefer to flag instead: if you can't be bothered to put any effort in, chances are neither will the person handling the flag.
    – Shog9
    Commented Aug 12, 2013 at 20:07
  • 1
    Oh - and yeah, it might make sense to redirect "other" into mod-flags at some point; still gathering data on how these things are being used though.
    – Shog9
    Commented Aug 12, 2013 at 20:34
  • Don't people see the OT reason tallies during reviews?
    – Alok
    Commented Aug 13, 2013 at 22:51

I tended to use doesn't belong here->off topic->other with an explanation in the free form box when I didn't have 3k.

I would think if it doesn't fit anything else, at least the reason you enter in "other" is likely visible to moderators if no one else. Besides, technically that's what "other" is for, specifically when the listed choices don't fit.

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