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Currently, we have the following as one of the three close reasons that we (as moderators) are able to customize locally for GIS SE:

Questions describing a problem that can't be reproduced and seemingly went away on its own (or went away when a typo was fixed) are off-topic as they are unlikely to help future readers.

It's a wording that I think could be improved, and I just noticed that Meta SE uses a different wording:

The problem described here can no longer be reproduced. Changes to the system or to the circumstances affecting the asker have rendered it obsolete. If you encounter a similar problem, please post a new question.

If we were to change the wording of this custom close reason what should it become?

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    Would you mind explaining why you are not comfortable with current wording? Have you seen it being misused? Or not used as it could be (sub used)? I'm ok with the two wordings you cited, despite the last sentence on the second one is a bit strange for me. Because 'similar problem' could be mistaken with 'same problem' and OP asking the same closed question instead of asking to reopen it. – Andre Silva Nov 22 '15 at 13:05
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    @AndreSilva I'm hoping to hear from the community before injecting my own thoughts but basically I feel like some re-wording could make this a much more useful close reason. That last sentence of the second one seems like an invitation to re-ask rather than edit which is not something that I would advocate. – PolyGeo Nov 22 '15 at 19:53
  • With no apparent objections and approval of other moderators the wording I suggested has been implemented. – PolyGeo Dec 4 '15 at 20:25
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I agree that we could improve the text.

In some cases, "went away on its own (or went away when a typo was fixed)" doesn't apply because it's more like that the OP realized a flaw in his/her assumptions or the input data was corrupted or ...

  • I like that wording because it's so often the case, but I do agree that there are other cases where it doesn't quite fit. A concrete example just in the last few days of your own example, someone said a projection wasn't working only to find they were trusting the incorrect definition. Maybe it just needs to be expanded a bit rather than reworded. PEBKAC? :) Or a more tactful 'on its own, when a typo was fixed, or after correction of operator error'? – Chris W Nov 23 '15 at 5:14
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I think that our current wording is too specific, and as a result it cannot be applied with confidence to a significant number of questions that have little value to future readers. As a result such questions can remain unanswered for many years, with little hope of attracting an answer in the future.

The class of question that I am thinking of is the one where a user describes some symptoms of a problem, without being able to also describe a procedure to reproduce those symptoms. Such questions sometimes attract support via comments by other people who say that they have seen the same thing, but they too are unable to describe precisely what they did. As potential answerers we are left with two or more descriptions of the same or similar symptoms that may or may not be due to the same cause, and for which a more detailed procedure may or may not be forthcoming from those who say that they have experienced it.

These are classic non-reproducible problems and for anyone not familiar with the term non-reproducible in a software problem solving context, it means not having a procedure that can be followed to demonstrate the symptoms of a problem at will, and not that the same or similar symptoms have simply been reported by more than one person.

If we were a GIS Software Support Site, then I think we would have an obligation to keep such reports open until the symptoms are better classified and hopefully resolved, but we are not a GIS Software Support Site, and so I think it would assist our volunteer answerers to maintain enthusiasm if there were a tool like this to close some questions which they have little hope of answering, and which may have been asked by a user no longer active on the site to assist with further clarifications.

The wording that I propose for this custom close reason (which has 8 characters to spare) is:

This problem cannot or can no longer be reproduced. Changes to the system or to the asker's circumstances may have rendered the question obsolete, or the question does not include a procedure to enable potential answerers to reproduce the same symptoms. Such questions are off-topic as they are unlikely to help future readers, but editing them to include more details can lead to re-opening.

I hope people will not be unduly concerned by the thought of this close reason being used to close more questions than it currently does, and will appreciate that the mechanism to re-open a question is already there for those cases where anyone may use it (or any close reason) overzealously. I suspect that this close reason will continue to be used in a "close later" rather than "close early" fashion.

  • +1 sounds good. My only concern is indeed the last paragraph; there are still few users able to cast reopen votes here (for example, I can't yet), and we need to pay attention what would be the result from making this close reason more broad, certainly there will be more questions closed. See this question, for example; in my opinion it should have been reopened after the edit. – Andre Silva Nov 23 '15 at 12:25
  • @AndreSilva I was only involved in that question at the beginning, and then I made a comment on it just now. I don't have a Network Analyst license to try and reproduce what is described but if I did I think it is still lacking in some details that I would prefer not to guess. I suspect that is why no one has voted to re-open it yet. – PolyGeo Nov 23 '15 at 12:53
  • @AndreSilva it looks like you are about to get the re-open vote privilege and when you do you will bring the number of people able to do so to about 140. – PolyGeo Nov 23 '15 at 13:15
  • Thanks for letting those comments to the OP. Surely they will help him/her to improve the question even further. – Andre Silva Nov 23 '15 at 13:48
  • Perhaps the bold format should be kept in the first sentence. – Andre Silva Dec 5 '15 at 2:09
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    @AndreSilva Do you mean like I just applied to the answer here? I did the same bolding as it is now when implementing it. – PolyGeo Dec 5 '15 at 2:18

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