Sometimes we get questions that seem like they may be closed or put on hold for multiple reasons. I have in mind this question at the moment.

The question is asking about analyzing MusicXML files with MATLAB or Python. Whether this question is on-topic seems questionable to me; as others have noted in the comments there, this question seems to be more about programming and parsing files than about music.

On the other hand, at least one commenter has pointed out that we do answer questions about MIDI and LilyPond here.

I am not sure that the question is on-topic, but the more important point seems to be that the question is too broad: "Is there any way I can analyze the notes and intervals with MATLAB or Python (programming)?". You might even argue that the question is unclear: analyze the notes and intervals in what way?

For my part, even for questions that are borderline off-topic, I tend to favor "too broad" if it applies. By voting to close a question that seems like it may be off-topic as "too broad", maybe the poster can use that information to refine the question and arrive at something that is on-topic.

Maybe it doesn't matter how a question that should be closed gets closed. I'd rather think that we should try our best to communicate our intentions when choosing close reasons; this would seem more helpful for the posters of closed questions.

Note that I am not suggesting that other close reasons were wrong on the question used as an example here; I think that many here do think carefully about their choices, though I do also see some sloppiness in this regard with others. I am mostly interested in opening up a discussion about close reasons, how we use them, and what we expect them to communicate.

How important is it to arrive at a clear, correct(ish) and fundamental close reason for questions that should clearly be closed for some reason?

4 Answers 4


From a purely technical perspective it doesn't matter - the close votes just count as close votes when it comes to weight. So if you want any guidance I'd suggest using whichever one you think gives the message you want to deliver to the OP, and ideally then follow up with a comment on what should be improved.

Of course, the preferred route if you think it can be saved is to edit it yourself if you can, but I know that is often not possible where the question really needs the OP's attention.

  • I agree with "using whichever one you think gives the message you want to deliver to the OP", but question the emphasis on the fact that "From a purely technical perspective it doesn't matter" - isn't the human perspective the important one? Mar 18, 2019 at 21:30
  • @topomorto comments are more important than the exact close reason. We have very few close reasons and we cannot tailor them for every question leading to lest than perfect close reasons for a good number of questions. The comments on the question are the human perspective as we can tailor them as we see fit. I don't have hard numbers for you, but in general user I tend to see users react more to the comments than the exact close reason. I'm not saying it doesn't happen, but comments should ensure the user has the guidance needed to proceed.
    – Dom Mod
    Mar 18, 2019 at 22:41

It's always hard to shape an exact close reason out of the 6 default close reasons we are given. Even off-topic comes with different flavors. Equipment recommendations differ vastly than transcribing a song, but both are off-topic and it is possible for a question to be both or a hybrid of both and also broad or primarily opinion based. There's not a silver bullet nor foolproof guidelines, we just need to make judgments based on what we know about our community.

If you are voting to close a question, but there are overlapping issues you see you should leave a comment regardless of which close reason you pick. This is to be as clear as possible what the current issues that should be resolved before the question is reopened.

I can talk about my personal experiences when I come across this, I tend to pick the close reason that is the biggest issue which in my opinion is almost always off-topic. If the question's goals don't align with the point of the site, it's hard to give the OP what they want while pushing.

Primarily opinion based can be salvageable, but it sometimes transforms the question away from what the OP wants since on some subjects the subjective vs objective puts the topic.

Unclear is just unclear. I'd recommend closing them fast to save the community as a whole time on answering questions that might not be what they seem without the OP clarifying. It's fixable, but due to the nature needs the OP's direct input.

Broad is typically the easiest to salvage, we just need detail that will shape the question into a more specific question.


I tend to favour the more severe or harder-to-fix close reason, to avoid setting false expectations. For example, if a question is blatantly off-topic, and can't be edited to bring it on topic (e.g. if it has nothing to do with music at all), but it's also a bit broad, close as off-topic. If you instead close as "too broad", that suggests that editing the question to narrow it down a bit will allow it to be reopened, when in fact it won't, because it would still be blatantly off-topic.

There's no hierarchy of reasons here: which is "more severe" will depend on the question. For example, with a question that's borderline off-topic (but could be edited to be on-topic) but isn't even a question at all and couldn't be edited to make a real question, I'd prefer the "unclear what you're asking" reason. With a question that's completely unrelated to music, but is a mainly clear question that simply lacks some important detail, I'd prefer "off topic".

The close reason tells the questioner what they need to do to have their question reopened, but if there's no possibility of that at all, or if the effort for them to clarify is likely more than they would put in, it's best to make that clear up-front, instead of having them do a succession of small edits which don't result in an answerable question.


How important is it to arrive at a clear, correct(ish) and fundamental close reason for questions that should clearly be closed for some reason?

Very important, IMO, that the reasons given should be correct(ish)..

  • If the question is marginal, then the close reason is part of the guidance that the poster sees to help them improve the question.
  • If there is discussion within the community about how certain types of question should be treated, then any confusion about why questions have been closed makes it hard to actually have that discussion with any precision
  • A close reason that seems unrelated (or tenuously-related) to the problems the question has can make it look like the question has fallen victim to bullying or newbie-bashing.

I often avoid close-voting a question if it looks like that will result in the question being closed with a reason I would disagree with.

  • "I often avoid close-voting a question if it looks like that will result in the question being closed with a reason I would disagree with." This should not stop a close vote from being cast. You can always clarify why you voted to close. Questions with multiple issues typically need a longer close cycle, not to be open longer because there are a few varying reasons to close.
    – Dom Mod
    Mar 18, 2019 at 22:14
  • @Dom unfortunately the message stating (e.g.) "closed as off-topic by Dave, Tim, Dom, topo morto, David Bowling" is bigger and more prominent than any comment I might leave, which is what leads to my reluctance to press the close button in these situations. Mar 18, 2019 at 22:18
  • Closing in general is a community decision. The biggest weight may be put to one, but any issues should contribute to closing. You can always vote to reopen or vote to leave closed later based on changes or lack of changes to the question regardless of close reason. We shouldn't limit any community tools based on how others may or may not use them including voting up or down, close or reopen votes, or review queue actions.
    – Dom Mod
    Mar 18, 2019 at 22:35

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