Out of 29 questions closed in the past month, 23 were questions. All of them were closed because the asker did not follow this very good guide on how to ask them. Those questions may be perceived to lower the quality of the site, to the degree that they have been proposed to be essentially banned altogether.

We have a boilerplate text that anyone can add as a comment before voting to close a rock-identification question as unclear:

Your question is getting close votes because it has insufficient information. Please read our guide for asking “Identify this rock” questions and [edit] your question. If your question is put on hold but you improve it, the community can vote to reopen it.

To make our life easier, I propose that we add a custom close reason for such questions:

Elsewhere on the network, Graphics Design has a custom close reason that may be used with their font-identification questions:

"Please review our font-identification, critique requests, or style-identification requirements and provide the missing information so that your question is both answerable and useful to others."

(Example use)

I propose that to make our life easier and our site friendlier, we add a custom "close as off-topic" reason on Earth Science as follows:

Please review our rock identification guidelines to provide the missing information so that your question is both answerable and useful to new users.

There is no provision for a custom "closing as unclear" close reason, but we can adapt the how to ask page if we wish.

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    $\begingroup$ Could you clarify the title to make it clear that it's about "rock identification that lacks enough detail to be answerable" (or something like that)? Reading the current title, I thought you're gonna propose to close all rock ID questions... $\endgroup$
    – Andrew T.
    Nov 2, 2018 at 19:37
  • $\begingroup$ So as you're a moderator, any idea what level of response might instigate action? With posts like this one today, it seems like the sooner, the better. And nothing ever moved along from the last topic -- admittedly, there was some indecision in my answer there, and I think enough in other users too as to wanting to shut it all the way down...... but it doesn't look like any divergence so far in this one (though it could use a few more votes I guess). $\endgroup$ Nov 10, 2018 at 10:34
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    $\begingroup$ Upvoted for "yes, this should be a custom reason", but also, YES to adapting the how-to-ask page. $\endgroup$ Nov 21, 2018 at 7:54
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    $\begingroup$ I went ahead and approved the custom off-topic reason, so this should be live now! $\endgroup$
    – hichris123 Mod
    Dec 3, 2018 at 6:00

3 Answers 3


100% yes.

A perfect next step to addressing the problem, avoiding going to extremes. And really seems to offer hope of solving issues because it makes it more straightforward to close.

Honestly one main reason I tend not to close-vote now on such questions is because I'm concerned people may not understand why it was done. If the issues a question has don't fit well within one of the listed reasoning categories, I'm cautious to close it.

So I see no reasons at all why this change shouldn't be done, and hopefully a quicker close of bad questions can both encourage people to make changes... and perhaps even slightly reduce the clutter.

  • $\begingroup$ I do wish closing a question went differently... taking it off the page and sending it back to the original poster and encouraging a discussion of what is needed to get the question to muster, rather than a bunch of [closed] and [on holds] still sitting around for a while. But this still seems to offer a useful improvement. $\endgroup$ Nov 8, 2018 at 12:33
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    $\begingroup$ (Other reasons I'm hesitant to close are: 1) I'm never sure if there's enough information to use -- seems half the time some of the active rock responders provide fine answers despite limited images and details... so I'm unsure if those details are really considered necessary half the time....... and 2) I feel like closing to quickly can discourage people... some SE seem to do it before the user even has a chance to respond to comments of criticism. But "unclear what you're asking" sounds much more unfriendly and unpleasant than your new option, so I think I'd be happier to close quickly now.) $\endgroup$ Nov 8, 2018 at 12:38
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    $\begingroup$ That's why some time ago, "closed" was changed to "on hold", at least initially. We very much encourage users to edit the question and we can reopen after the edit. But in the meantime, we really don't want to have the list of questions dominated by questions that are poor quality. $\endgroup$
    – gerrit Mod
    Nov 8, 2018 at 12:45
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    $\begingroup$ @JeopardyTempest 1) that's because most rock id questions are extremely easy and I can do it from a blurry photo, 2) good! that's the point. I'm more than happy to discourage rock id questions. $\endgroup$
    – Gimelist
    Nov 9, 2018 at 8:45
  • $\begingroup$ I've been considering opening a meta question about why we have rock identification questions because the quality is extremely poor, with some exceptions. The OP question clearly points out what I mean. I'm guessing that's been asked before, though. $\endgroup$
    – kettlecrab
    Nov 10, 2018 at 7:05
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    $\begingroup$ @person27 It has, and such a question is already linked. $\endgroup$
    – gerrit Mod
    Nov 10, 2018 at 22:55

I totally agree... I fear that a lot of people don't even read the guidelines for rock id. They shoot some badly lit and out of focus pictures with their smartphones and only have in mind that they can clearly see how the rock looks like.

I get several fossil id requests per week, most of them look like the pictures posted here. When I ask the people about the bad image quality, they often answer: "when I look at the fossil, everything is totally clear!"

I can't close vote the mails I get, but closing here would be really helpful for maintaining a good quality of the posts here.


This is no longer relevant. All rock identification questions are now off-topic.

As of 2019-07-30, Rock ID questions are off-topic or Earth Science Stack Exchange. See this meta post for more information.

This decision has followed years of tolerating an increasing number of often poor rock identification questions. We have tried to use a detailed guide, a custom close reason when this guide was not followed, but it did not help to stop the flood of poor rock identification questions. Popular community consensus after multiple requests decided to declare rock identifications questions to be off-topic.


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