When going through the close queue, the most common reason I vote to close a question is because it lacks basic research. Either it's something easily answered by a web search, or the poster appears to lack the most basic knowledge of IT or security.

These questions are typically closed as "unclear what you're asking" or "too broad". However, neither of those are very satisfactory. Often the question is neither of those; the problem is it lacks basic research.

Possibly this could replace "unclear what you're asking" - or maybe we could keep both.

  • do you have the "Other" option with the freeform text box?
    – Rory Alsop Mod
    Sep 22, 2015 at 14:16
  • 2
    @RoryAlsop - Hey Rory, no as a lowly sub-20k non-moderator, I don't
    – paj28
    Sep 22, 2015 at 14:23
  • Okay - wasn't sure who got it.
    – Rory Alsop Mod
    Sep 22, 2015 at 14:24
  • 5
    First select "Off-topic because...", then you should get "Other" as last option. I have it, so don't tell me this option is specially removed for the nasty 10K users ;) ! Sep 22, 2015 at 14:24
  • @RoryAlsop - Sorry, I do have access to "Other", exactly as WhiteWinterWolf said
    – paj28
    Sep 22, 2015 at 14:48
  • 1
    I know it requires a few more seconds, but it gives a good way to provide a reason that doesn't quite match the stock ones
    – Rory Alsop Mod
    Sep 22, 2015 at 14:51
  • @RoryAlsop - This sounds a good solution - I can live with one extra click :-)
    – paj28
    Sep 22, 2015 at 14:56
  • Note that there IS a similar close reason, but only for some circumstances: "Questions asking us to break the security of a specific system for you are off-topic unless they demonstrate an understanding of the concepts involved and clearly identify a specific problem." Unfortunately this has been misconstrued to mean "We don't break systems here", but rather the focus is the combination of "clueless" and "possibly harmful". However, in those cases, lack of basic research should be the deciding factor.
    – AviD Mod
    Sep 24, 2015 at 7:50
  • @AviD - if that is the intention of that close reason, it is completely non-obvious to me, and I expect also to any new user who receives that as a close reason
    – paj28
    Sep 24, 2015 at 9:55

3 Answers 3


I've been feeling the same way, too. It's not about the "too basic" questions (hey, those are great for newer members to practice composing good Answers!), but for me, it's about answers being found:

  1. in the top 5 Google hits using the Question title
  2. within a link/source included in the Question itself

The answers are at their fingertips, but for some reason the asker decides to ask others instead of spending a minute looking at what they already have.

I don't think that a "close reason" is a good idea, though. First, there are very real cultural reasons why some people will ask others instead of looking at primary data. Second, it is also often the case that the asker did perform research, but they didn't include it in the question (either due to laziness or to wanting an answer unbiased by the research performed).

In either case, I believe that we need to prompt for research, not to close it for a canned reason. When I do this, there are 2 distinct camps: those who readily provide the research performed, or those who lash out that we didn't provide an easy answer. For the former, the problem is solved, for the latter, the available options or "Other" should suffice.

We do expect that askers have performed some basic research. We can encourage and mentor the community to do that.

  • "In either case, I believe that we need to prompt for research, not to close it for a canned reason." This is exactly what I was thinking. "Closed Question" seems too harsh an action. Would it be too much to edit the question to include the questions we'd like the OP to answer?
    – RoraΖ
    Sep 22, 2015 at 17:38
  • I like your thinking. Just to be clear, we should initially just comment asking to poster to show some research effort. If they don't after some period of time, then close the question? This explains why there have been recent meta questions asking how to access the recent review queue. Nice one schroeder, you were clearly the right choice as the new mod!
    – paj28
    Sep 23, 2015 at 6:09
  • @paj28 Thanks! My goal is to prompt for improvement where possible. I try to keep tabs on the questions that I have suggested improvements on and follow up later in the day.
    – schroeder Mod
    Sep 23, 2015 at 21:21
  • 1
    #3 in the Wikipedia article of the same name of the subject of the question...
    – AviD Mod
    Sep 24, 2015 at 7:33
  • there are very real cultural reasons why some people will ask others instead of looking at primary data.: Indeed, that is very realistic. It is also the point of view of a psychologist or a sociologist :) But very true.
    – user45139
    Oct 3, 2015 at 9:37

This website is not meant to be reserved to IT Security professionals. Therefore, I think it would be difficult to close a post simply as being a "too basic IT security question".

What may be basic for one may not be for another: sometimes, people just need a keyword, the name of a concept, or something like that so they can engage their own researches. For instance, I remember someone trying to determine how to apply SSH-keys like security to SSL, all the OP needed was the term "client certificate" and he was happy with that.

The main "threats" that I see that such question could open would be the following ones:

  • People needing a long explanation on a very basic topic, or people asking a lot of question on the same subjects or adding new questions while they get answers to the previous ones.

    All this seems perfect fit for the "Too Broad" requesting the OP to clearly narrow down its request,

  • People mixing up unrelated terms and technologies into some nonsense gibberish, or having no clear idea about what they actually want or need (the famous "I want better security" without knowing against which threats).

    All this seems perfect fit for the "Unclear what you're asking".

  • People having a too higher and non-technical view of an issue and asking a question through the scope of an anti-virus or other end-user software message, or asking how to achieve something using their GUI or web interface.

    Such request would fit in the off-topic "This question does not appear to be about Information security within the scope defined in the help center."

  • 1
    Thanks... while this all sounds reasonable, I prefer the approach schroeder outlines
    – paj28
    Sep 23, 2015 at 6:10

Mouse-over the down-vote button on a question, and you'll see this in the tooltip:

This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful.

(Emphasis mine.)

Questions with answers findable in the first 5 Google results need a down-vote, not closing. Sure, they might not be very useful for the professional community here. But they're still of interest to someone or else the answers wouldn't be so easily Googleable. By allowing them to remain here, and providing high-quality answers, we help this site to become one of those "first 5" sites.

Honestly, I'm not a big fan of the questions either, but they do serve a purpose.

  • Oh dear, it seems my own question lacks basic research :)
    – paj28
    Sep 29, 2015 at 7:11
  • May not this allow down-voted questions to accumulate over time and pollute the site, bringing down it's overall quality? When I arrived here, I was happy to browse the latest pages or even take a random page: there was a lot of learning material, good questions assorted with good answers, this was very motivating. However, if doing so I would have just faced walls of down-voted & poor questions, this would have just gave a poor feeling to me. I can find crap anywhere on the Internet, and I expect this site to remain a bit clean of it so new comers could feel the same motivation as I did. Sep 29, 2015 at 9:26
  • @WhiteWinterWolf This is the way it is and has been across all of StackExchange for years. Are you seeing such a trend right now?
    – Iszi
    Sep 29, 2015 at 14:45
  • I'm very curious about the latest SE experiment currently on SO, the Warlords of Documentation, since it I imagine it may be something which could be very useful for starters asking how to better secure their host/network, what is the next step now they are able to ping their target, how to get a rough idea of this software/website security, how to decrypt this string/file, etc.. I'm too new here to talk about a trend, but such questions seem very frequent, and I think that keeping them, even downvoted, would cause more harm than benefit. Sep 30, 2015 at 9:46
  • By the way, I agree with you regarding the Google thing, that's why in my own answer I made the difference between "basic" but still valid questions (I can agree with the downvotes there), and questions which for some reason are not suitable here. So, I'm ok with you for the downvotes, as long as they do not replace close votes when needed :). Sep 30, 2015 at 9:52

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