Beta sites like robotics have three custom close reasons.

We have been using the current custom close reasons for some time, so I think now might be a good time to review them and collect suggestions for revisions or replacements.

Current custom close reasons

The current custom close reasons here, here and here are:

Questions on Electronics, Arduino or Raspberry Pi which are not specific to robotics are off-topic, so please try Electrical Engineering, Arduino or Raspberry Pi. Even questions which are on-topic here may still receive quicker and better answers on their own sites.

Life Questions are off-topic. Questions about choosing how to spend your time (what book to read, which class to take, what robotics project to construct, what career to pursue, etc.) may be about difficult decisions, and they are often important, but they are too specific to your own situation and are unlikely to help future visitors to the site. They would be better off asked in [chat].

Unbounded Design Questions are off-topic because there are many ways to solve any given design problem, so questions that ask for a list of approaches or a subjective recommendation on a method (for how to build something, how to accomplish something, what something is capable of, etc.) are off-topic.

We have also have the following Default Off-Topic Close Reason:

This question does not appear to be about robotics, within the scope defined in the help center. Please read What topics can I ask about here? and What types of questions should I avoid asking?


Although I am happy with the first custom close reason, we might be able to find better options for the other two.

As evidenced by the related copy-pastable comment text, the Unbounded Design Questions close reason could be either Too Broad or Primarily Opinion Based depending on the question, and closing it as one of those reasons, with a suitable comment could actually work better than the current close reason.

Similarly Life Questions are invariably Primarily Opinion Based.

As discussed here, I don't think there is any value in using up one of our custom close reasons on Shopping questions, it is fairly clear now that they should be closed as Primarily Opinion Based.

Taking a quick look now, I see that over the last 90 days, half of all closed questions were either primarily opinion-based or unclear what you're asking (even split), a fifth were were too broad and the rest were fairly evenly split across all of the other close reasons.

If you wish to review closed questions youself, anyone can use the closed:1 search term, but mods and users with over 2k rep (during beta, 10k rep normally) have access to moderator tools (for instance posts closed in the last 30 days).

For lots of good advice on creating and choosing close reasons, see this answer to How do moderators make changes to the site-specific closed question reasons? over on meta stackoverflow.


Ideally suggestions should include the specific text of the close reason, just as I have done above. Also bear in mind that there is a 400 character limit for custom close reasons, including links and other mark-up.

Alternatively, suggestions to improve the current close reasons, such as adding better explanations or links to other resources would also be appreciated.

Finally, please keep each suggestion to it's own answer, so we can keep any discussions separate.

† I would love to add other Stack Exchange sites, but it is already exactly on it's 400 character limit.


One option I would like opinions on would be some variation on Stack overflows (now deleted) minimal knowledge close reason:

Questions must demonstrate a minimal understanding of the problem being solved. Tell us what you've tried to do, why it didn't work, and how it should work. See also: Stack Overflow question checklist"

Ever since iRobot added a robotics Stack Exchange link to the bottom of their Create 2 Projects page, I have been seeing many more questions with close votes, and it would be nice if we could find a close reason which helps new members of the community to improve their question without frightening them away.

We currently have a Show your working (Unclear what you are asking) copy-pastable comment text:

Welcome to robotics XXX, but I'm afraid that it is not clear what you are asking. We prefer practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face, so it is a good idea to include details of what what you would like to achieve, what you have tried, what you expected to see and what you actually saw. Take a look at [ask] and [about] for more information on how stack exchange works. If you edit your question to make it more clear, flag it for moderator attention and we can reopen it for you.

So some conflation of these two could work quite well as a custom close reason, especially if we can also fit in my Robotics Stack Exchange question checklist.


It feels like the majority of controls/actuation questions I look at are something along the lines of, "How can I get X to do Y?" or, "What X does it take to get Y to go fast/precise?" where there isn't any mention of specifications.

Sometimes I feel like there's a very fine line between answering a question about a mechanism and giving a design critique. I typically try to answer questions that want a design process, i.e., the steps you take to get the specifications you need to go shopping; and to vote to close the questions that want a design review.

So, to that end, I would agree that we can eliminate the "Unbounded design project" in lieu of the "Primarily opinion based" for design reviews. What I would like to see is a something akin to @MarkBooth 's closing reason, but more of a hybrid between it and shopping requests:

Projects without specifications (range of motion, acceleration, precision, etc.) can't be designed. If you are unsure how to generate design specs, please edit your question to ask that. Questions that have all the specs and seek a supplier are shopping questions, which really aren't a good fit for a stack exchange site.

Essentially it's a dual-purpose close reason where it prompts OP to clarify what they don't know and, if everything is known, that it's not an appropriate question.

I think something like this would apply to the bulk of the questions I feel the need to comment on. As I mentioned earlier, a lot of times I feel like OP needs to be prodded, "How quickly do you want it to accelerate?" or similar; or, "If you have all of the specifications, why don't you Google it?"

  • $\begingroup$ So, to attempt to clarify, I would vote to close, "What ways can you think of to X?" or, "Do you think my X could Y?" as primarily opinion-based (Design review). I would vote to close, "Where can I find a 3Nm stepper motor that is 10mm wide?" as primarily opinion-based (clearly shopping request). $\endgroup$ – Chuck Mar 7 '16 at 20:16
  • $\begingroup$ I would vote to close, "Where can I find a motor/prop for my quadrotor" with the reason I gave above - Either OP is really asking "How can I determine how much thrust I need" or OP is asking "Where can I buy a motor/prop capable of XX thrust". In either case, as it stands, the question should be closed. This forces OP to edit the question to one that is suitable or allows it to just be closed. $\endgroup$ – Chuck Mar 7 '16 at 20:16

It could be useful to have a close reason relating to a majority or all of the answers only being possible if trade secrets were revealed or copyright infringement was done. I know it shouldn't be an issue, but some companies like Parallax Inc. don't like when copyright or trade secret-protected technologies are explained in the public domain.

Or simply a "proprietary" tag that specifically points out that it's limited to one company or proprietary design. Being too proprietary could be a close reason, requesting that the question be made more generic.

  • $\begingroup$ We only have a limited number of close reasons, so it is unlikely that a close reason which has never been needed so far (as far as I know) would be a viable option to take one of those slots. Also, we deprecated meta tags a long time ago. The best thing you can do if you find a question like this is flag it for moderator attention and we will try to deal with it appropriately. $\endgroup$ – Mark Booth Apr 25 '17 at 17:58
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Got it, I shall keep that in mind. $\endgroup$ – Bakna Apr 25 '17 at 17:59
  • $\begingroup$ Incidentally, if copyrighted material is posted here, we can remove it. If someone is describing proprietary technology in their own words though, that is not copyright violation, and if a trade secret is being described here then it obviously isn't a trade secret any more. *8') $\endgroup$ – Mark Booth Apr 25 '17 at 17:59


I would suggest a modification to 'Life Questions" reasons:

Working with the assumption that a lot of users of this Stack Exchange are either in college or high school, I'm sure a lot of them have an idea of what they want to do (presumably 'robotics' in this case), but not much more than that. If someone has a question about a specific career in robotics - being an ME/EE, vision scientist, machine learning scientist, mathematician, etc - why not let them ask the community for their input?

I know when I was going through school, I would have loved the chance to ask people who were already working in the field what liked, what they didn't like, what they would have done differently or wished they did. Obviously, we still shouldn't allow super-general "what is working in robotics like?" questions.


Maybe a "opinion" tag? We all know there are a ton of ways to skin a cat when it comes to robotic solutions. Maybe if someone is genuinely stuck as to where to start with a certain problem, they can request people to share their opinions on the problem. If someone has tackled a similar problem, let them share their insight about potential pitfalls the asker will probably bump into. Again, I'm not voting for anarchy. The asker should still know some of the problem conditions, and the rough direction they want to go. Be specific enough that a chat room wouldn't be appropriate, but more general than would be considered 'ok' today. The asker should also not expect any kind of concrete answer to their question either if they use the opinion tag.

  • $\begingroup$ As it says in the Help Center, "Do not use meta-tags in questions. Here are some tips to help you determine whether a tag is a meta-tag: If the tag can’t work as the only tag on a question, it’s probably a meta-tag. Every tag you use should be able to work, more or less, as the only tag on a question. Meta-tags, like [beginner], [subjective], and [best-practices], are not helpful by themselves – they do not communicate anything about the content of the question." $\endgroup$ – Mark Booth Feb 5 '16 at 1:47
  • $\begingroup$ I supposed my argument would be for an exception to this rule then. I wouldn't say allow "opinion" to be the only tag, but to allow more open-ended questions to be asked - ones where they aren't looking for a definite answer, but ones where they are obvious grappling with a complicated, but focused problem. $\endgroup$ – MechanicalMan Feb 6 '16 at 0:47
  • $\begingroup$ People with a lot more experience of Stack Exchange than either of us have determined that meta-tags are not to be used, so unless I'm over ruled by my fellow moderators, or an overwhelming community response, it's not really an option I'm afraid. $\endgroup$ – Mark Booth Feb 7 '16 at 4:06

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