The Stack Exchange model is to:

Stack Exchange is a network of 142 communities that are created and run by experts and enthusiasts like you who are passionate about a specific topic. We build libraries of high-quality questions and answers, focused on each community's area of expertise.

In that vein, our sister site, History.SE, has the following as a close reason:

Requests for trivia or basic historical facts are off-topic if they can be easily answered by looking up the relevant topic on Wikipedia. We're trying to complement common historical references, not duplicate them.

This allows them to close waste of time questions that are none of "unclear what you're asking", "too broad", or "primarily opinion based". Could we please have a similar custom close reason, e.g.:

Requests for trivia or basic mythological facts are off-topic if they can be easily answered by looking up the relevant topic on Wikipedia. We're trying to complement common mythological references, not duplicate them.

Let's do everything we can to keep the quality of contributions to this site here, and give ourselves a straightforward, standard way to close these sorts of questions.

3 Answers 3


I don't think this is a good idea.

If a question shows inadequate research effort, then downvote it.

I'm not comfortable with judging even obvious-seeming questions as off-topic. We're dealing with narratives told over hundreds of years by diverse groups of people, and our understanding of them is often based on fragmentary evidence and conflicting narratives. Seemingly trivial answers that you think you know off the top of your head, often aren't that simple. They could be over-simplifications, or even pop culture shaping our view of the stories. This is why we need citations on our answers.

Basic summary facts are where this problem will be the worst, in my estimation. To provide a simple, encyclopedic summary of a topic on wikipedia, the commonly accepted vision will be accepted and complexities ignored, saved for much later in the article, if they are addressed at all.

An example:

Say someone had asked: "What is a gorgon?"

I saw Clash of the Titans, I know what a Gorgon is. But just to be sure, let's check wikipedia:

...any of three sisters who had hair made of living, venomous snakes, as well as a horrifying visage that turned those who beheld her to stone.

Yep, that's what I thought. Closed.

But wait, according to Ovid, only Medusa had snake hair, due to a punishment from Athena, the other two didn't. And according to Apollodorus and Pausanias they were beautiful, not hideous (Medusa particularly). And what about tusks, brazen hands and golden wings?

And that's not an exception. In the past week, I don't know how many questions I thought I had a pretty reasonable grasp of the answer, only to start looking into it to find the topic to be far more complex than I would have expected.

Not every crummy question needs to get closed. Downvoting is fine. If a question is bad and lazy, but clear and answerable, downvote and move on!

And if you did the work to confirm the obvious answer is correct, then by all means, answer citing/quoting primary sources.

Also, might be worth taking a look at how the "General Reference" close reason worked out on scifi.SE: Should we burninate General Reference? (Summary: "Kill it with fire!")



Stack Exchange sites have two review systems for questions:

  1. Close / re-open votes to indicate topicality.
  2. Up / down votes to indicate quality.

The first one is supposed to be as objective and explicit as possible. The second one is inherently based on people's personal standards, and can't be anything but subjective. And while it's true that at the low end of the quality spectrum an off topic question is nearly indistinguishable from a low quality one, fusing the two systems together is a recipe for disaster.

If we are going to succeed as a Q&A site, we must be consistent in how we treat questions. And nothing reeks more of inconsistency than applying wildly subjective criteria to closures. What's too trivial? What's too basic? What's too easily discoverable? Are the answers to these questions the same for you and I? And can we really come up with answers that will cover the full breadth of our scope?

I think not.

If you feel a question doesn't show sufficient prior research, downvote it. If you feel an answer encourages people to ask ill-researched questions, downvote it. It really is as simple as that.

  • Is it better to have people close questions they don't like for close reasons that aren't appropriate? This question is very clear, for example
    – durron597
    May 11, 2015 at 16:17
  • 3
    ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​@durron597 I don't find that question clear. It links to a source that answers it and for some reason that's not good enough. I have asked the OP to update the question to tell us exactly what that reason is, and he responded with a comment that managed to confuse me even more. I stand by my "unclear what you're asking" close vote.
    – yannis Mod
    May 11, 2015 at 16:20
  • Right. It links to a source that demonstrates it's trivially answerable. But it's still clear what he's asking. I'm sorry if I'm not following what's unclear about it.
    – durron597
    May 11, 2015 at 16:22
  • 1
    ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​@durron597 And by linking to that source the OP is showing us that he has already done some minimal prior research. He even acknowledges that Wikipedia answers his question. But, for some bizarre reason that answer is not enough. That's what I find unclear about it.
    – yannis Mod
    May 11, 2015 at 16:28

If we decide to make this a close reason, I would oppose including the word "trivia" in the wording. On History.SE at least, it periodically erupts into arguments over "trivia != unimportant" and similar.

My suggestion:

Requests for basic mythological facts are off topic if they can be trivially answered by looking up the relevant topic on Wikipedia. If the Wikipedia answer is unsatisfactory, please explain why it failed to answer the question, or why we should suspect it to be wrong.


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