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The custom close reason proposed in the accepted answer is now live!


From time to time, I see ♦ moderators closing questions like this one and this one, where the puzzle is clearly not created by the author of the question and attribution is not provided. (The first puzzle has been attributed now and might well be reopened at the time you're reading this.)

It gets tiresome to write a custom off-topic reason; also, it's beneficial to standardize it so that everybody uses the same text; since we only use two out of three predefined-but-Puzzling-specific off-topic reasons at the moment ('invites speculative answers', 'math problem'), we have room for another one. Can we have one for this problem, please?

I've cut down one of @Rubio's comments on the main site to a first proposal for a close reason; the current version addresses the points in @GentlePurpleRain's answer below.

This puzzle lacks required attribution to the original source. For content you did not create yourself, proper attribution is required. Please edit it to include (at minimum) where this puzzle came from. Proper attribution will make sure it is not a case of plagiarism and it helps in verifying the puzzle is not from an ongoing competition.

Feel free to suggest improvements (or tell me why this is a bad idea in general).

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As GPR noted, we already were discussing a custom close reason for this; I'm very much in favor of having one, and just hadn't gotten around to posting here about creating one and what it should look like.


My standard blurb reads:

I'm putting this question on hold until proper attribution of its original source is provided. — It looks like you're asking us to solve a puzzle you found elsewhere. For content you did not create yourself, proper attribution is required. Please [edit] to include (at minimum) where this came from—any additional context you can provide is also helpful to solvers—then vote to reopen. Posts which use someone else's content without attribution are generally deleted.

Sentence 1 is there (and in bold) precisely because the off-topic close reason isn't particularly helpful, so this was meant to "replace it"; for a custom close, this won't be needed.

Sentence 2 says why we think the policy applies to their post - it looks like it's not their own content. (This is more to say "Hey, you seem to be doing something you're not supposed to do", rather than "YOU STOLE THIS, NOW ADMIT IT!" ... and, in any case, our guess may actually be wrong; it's happened a couple of times to me.) The current proposal reads more as a bald assertion that the policy is being broken, without indicating why we believe the policy applies to their post. Can we do something similar?

Sentence 3 says what the policy is. (And appears verbatim in the proposal.)

Sentence 4 says what they need to do to get their post reopened. This is important! We don't just want to say what is wrong, we want to tell the poster how to fix it. (Specifically, let's not leave out telling the poster to vote to reopen...)

  • In comments, "[edit]" is automagically replaced with a clickable link to Edit the post; sadly this doesn't work in custom close reason text.
  • The note about additional context is also a good reason to provide where a puzzle comes from. As a real example, someone providing a puzzle they found on a geocache hunt site who doesn't let us know this is leaving out important information.

Sentence 5 tells them what will happen if they don't fix their question. (Proposal omits this; I think we need to tell them their post will be deleted if they don't address it.)


A couple additional notes.

1) I specifically avoid referring to plagiarism; I used to, but stopped. Plagiarism, at its core, is copying someone else's content and presenting it as your own. No, that's obviously not okay, but that's not all there is to it; someone who prefaces a puzzle with "I found this puzzle and can't solve it." is quite clearly not presenting the content as their own, but that still isn't okay because they're still not providing attribution.

In some, e.g. academic contexts, it is plagiarism to even fail to attribute properly, whether it was an attempt to take credit for someone else's work or not. In many other contexts it isn't, and that's been a point of (pedantic?) contention before over whether even referencing plagiarism when closing for failure-to-attribute is appropriate; I'd just as soon not go there.

The help/referencing link specifies that, when using someone else's content, one should

  • Provide a link to the original page or answer
  • Quote only the relevant portion
  • Provide the name of the original author

If they've made a good faith effort to make it apparent it's not their own content and to tell where they got it (and provide a link where possible), that suffices for me. If they just indicate it's not their own content, they've now evaded accusations of plagiarism, but that's still not enough. I'd rather not cloud the issue by splitting hairs about whether it's plagiarism or not, because frankly that's not an important distinction here. What is not ok is using someone else's content without attribution, and I'd strongly prefer we keep the focus on that.

That said, piggybacking on "will be deleted" is a decent way to sneak in a reference to our plagiarism=deletion policy without actually calling lack of proper attribution "plagiarism" ...

2) I like the inclusion of a reference to our no-contests policy. I ran out of characters in my close reason, so my text didn't include one. If we can fit everything we'd like into one message, great.
If we have to lose something, I'd leave this out - among other things, the actual policy we have with respect to puzzles from contests is that we lock the post and delete answers until the contest has ended, and then reopen it and undelete any answers. In other words, properly following our policy, we wouldn't be closing posts for being from a contest.

3) One thing we don't touch on at all, in my message or in the proposal here so far, is permission to use. I chose to omit this on purpose; moderators are allowed but not required to delete content that is clearly used without permission, because we're not really supposed to involve ourselves in the hairiness of copyright and related disputes. (The proper mechanism for someone to object to their content being used without permission is a DMCA takedown request, which gets handled by SE without moderator involvement at all.) That said, permission to use is at least as important a question as whether or not content is part of a contest, competition or test. Should we mention it?


We get 400 characters for a custom close reason.
The current proposal is about 96 characters too long (adding links eats up a lot!)

As a starting point, removing the first sentence from my blurb makes it 395 characters:

It looks like you're asking us to solve a puzzle you found elsewhere. For content you did not create yourself, **[proper attribution](/help/referencing)** is required. Please [edit] to include (at minimum) where this came from—any additional context you can provide is also helpful to solvers—then vote to reopen. Posts which use someone else's content without attribution are generally deleted.

Here's my take on this, trying to cram as much into our 400 characters as reasonable:

This looks like a puzzle you found elsewhere. For content you did not create yourself, **[proper attribution](/help/referencing)** is required. If you have permission to repost this, please edit to include (at minimum) where it came from, then vote to reopen. Posts which use someone else's content without attribution are generally **[deleted](https://puzzling.meta.stackexchange.com/q/1348)**.

This looks like a puzzle you found elsewhere. For content you did not create yourself, proper attribution is required. If you have permission to repost this, please edit to include (at minimum) where it came from, then vote to reopen. Posts which use someone else's content without attribution are generally deleted.

This weighs in at 395.

Thoughts on this version?

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  • $\begingroup$ Excellent thoughts! The only thing I'm not sure about is 'vote to reopen'; that's only possible for users with 250 rep and AFAIK it's mostly 1 rep users who don't attribute. Also, the edit will (if it's within 5 days) put the question into the reopen queue. $\endgroup$ – Glorfindel Jul 18 '18 at 6:09
  • $\begingroup$ We get a lot of users with enough rep to reopen who do this. It's a fair point that a good number are newcomers. Honestly, though, more often than not no action at all is taken to edit such posts. I'd rather give them a method to get their question reopened and have it occasionally be misleading, than say nothing and have them feel like they have to edit and hope that Magic Happens. (Just noting it goes to the reopen queue after an edit is perhaps worse; if they edit once, still don't fix attribution, and get the reopen rejected, their next edit does nothing and they don't even know it!) $\endgroup$ – Rubio Jul 18 '18 at 7:41
  • $\begingroup$ But doesn't every close banner include a call to action to edit the post? "If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question." That does not mention a reopen vote, but why should it be different for this single close reason? $\endgroup$ – Glorfindel Jul 18 '18 at 8:04
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    $\begingroup$ The idea to specifically call out what the user can do to get their post reopened came from a post somewhere, I really wish I could remember where, that mentioned how much more, er, "welcoming" this approach would be. I really agreed, and reworded my stock message quite a bit to follow that idea. Perhaps all the close notices should be like this, but they're harder to give a clearcut method to reopening for; whereas this is one specific case where the guidance can be straightforward because, yes, if we close your question for lack of attribution, and you add it properly, we WILL reopen it. $\endgroup$ – Rubio Jul 18 '18 at 8:12
  • $\begingroup$ Since you've apparently put a lot more thought in this than me, I'm looking forward to be using your version. Now that this question has been a hot meta question for 10 days now, and both the question and the answers have seen only upvotes so far, I think it's safe to say the community has approved this new close reason. $\endgroup$ – Glorfindel Jul 27 '18 at 7:14
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It gets tiresome to write a custom off-topic reason...

In my eyes, that's not the main issue. The main issue is that currently, because we don't have that custom close reason, these questions are getting put on hold with a close reason that doesn't actually explain what's wrong with the question (the one about "This question does not appear to be about creation and solving of puzzles"). That's confusing for new users - and it invariably is new users who fall foul of the attribution rule.

In the first question you linked, the mod who closed the question actually notes in the comments:

(Apologies for the misleading close reason that will appear in a yellow box below the question; we have a very limited number of reason-descriptions and they don't really cover all the possibilities.)

And that isn't the only question I've seen him comment that on. When a diamond mod is having to regularly tell new users that the displayed close reason for their question isn't the actual close reason, that's a sign that something needs to be done, IMO.

I whole-heartedly support this proposal and hope it gets implemented soon.

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  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, standardization is another benefit. TBH, I don't understand why the moderator chose the 'stock' reason and posted this comment, while it would be easier to use a custom off-topic reason. $\endgroup$ – Glorfindel Jul 17 '18 at 9:26
  • $\begingroup$ @Glorfindel The custom close reasons are decided on as a community. It doesn't seem appropriate to me for a mod to unilaterally decide to create a custom close reason without consultation. (Although in this case it looks like there is a good case for it.) $\endgroup$ – GentlePurpleRain Jul 17 '18 at 14:46
  • $\begingroup$ @GentlePurpleRain OK, I get your point of view. I personally have no problem using custom off-topic reasons on the site I moderate, especially if I can back it up with a Meta post. $\endgroup$ – Glorfindel Jul 17 '18 at 14:48
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As mods, we were just discussing the need for a new custom close reason, and were about to bring it up, but you beat us to the punch.

I think we do need a custom close reason for this particular topic. There are two changes I would suggest to your draft above:

1) Take out the "This puzzle is put on hold..." at the beginning. This is a close reason, so it's obvious that the puzzle is on hold; we just need to explain why. Perhaps, "This puzzle lacks required attribution to the original source." as the first sentence?

2) It's probably good (as you mentioned) to link to a policy on plagiarism directly in the close reason, so that users who have their questions closed can read about what is appropriate/expected in that regard.

As another thought, could we link the "ongoing contests" and "plagiarism" reasons, and include them both in a single custom close reason?

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks! Those are valid points about the wording, I've posted a new version of the close reason. $\endgroup$ – Glorfindel Jul 17 '18 at 18:10
  • $\begingroup$ 1) Plagiarism is functionally a subset of no-attribution, and shouldn't need its own handling as a close reason (as a reason for deletion after the fact is another matter entirely; the plagiarism=delete policy is more geared toward how we handle content that we didn't know was plagiarised until usually much later). In fact, since the plagiarism policy expressly calls out that "posts containing attribution are not plagiarized", it actually weakens our position, as any token "attribution" evades a plagiarism censure. 2) Ongoing contests aren't even a close reason, if you look at our policy! $\endgroup$ – Rubio Jul 17 '18 at 22:28

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