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Why are the mod-close rates here on Super User so much higher than on other similar Stack Exchange communities?

For comparison, I pulled the questions for the last (roughly) 11 days to analyze close-vote patterns from 4 different Stack Exchange communities.

  • For comparison to Super User, I used Ask Ubuntu, Unix & Linux, and TeX - LaTeX since they are the only other non-programming, technology SE sites with at least 50 questions a day. Stack Overflow, of course, would not be a valid comparison as it only requires 3 community-close votes.

  • For reference, I used the following API query:

    https://api.stackexchange.com/2.3/questions?pagesize=100&fromdate=1652400000&todate=1653350400&order=desc&sort=activity&site=tex&filter=!nKzQUR2*et
    

    ... with, of course, the site adjusted. And, of course, each page pulled in a loop.

  • I limited it to the last 11 days since, beyond that, closed questions start getting Roomba'd. It's likely some of them already were deleted in that period if they were closed quickly.

  • I limited my analysis to non-duplicate closures, since duplicates are often closed by gold-badge holders, not mods.

  • I double-checked the data to confirm that every (non-duplicate) question that was closed with fewer than 5 votes was closed by a Mod-vote.

  • If anyone would like the raw JSON results for validation (and I don't mind additional eyes on the data one bit), I'll try to put it on Github.

The results, honestly, showed what I already suspected. Questions are closed by Mods here on Super User at a much higher rate than the other sites.

Super User Ask Ubuntu Unix & Linux TeX - LaTeX Total Non-SU
Total Questions (~11 days) 864 961 558 568 2087
Questions Closed 113 108 43 44 195
   ↪ Percent of total questions 13% 11% 8% 8% 9%
Non-duplicates Closed 96 55 26 25 106
   ↪ Percent of total questions 11% 6% 5% 4% 5%
   ↪ Percent of total closures 85% 51% 60% 57% 54%
Non-duplicates Closed with 5 votes (Community-close) 12 47 21 25 93
   ↪ Percent of non-duplicates 13% 85% 81% 100% 88%
Non-duplicates Closed with fewer than 5 votes (Mod-assisted) 84 8 5 0 13
   ↪ Percent of non-duplicates 88% 15% 19% 0% 12%
Non-duplicates Closed with 1 vote (Mod-only) 45 4 2 0 6
   ↪ Percent of non-duplicates 47% 7% 8% 0% 6%

I think the trends are apparent, but to point out the key stat -- 88% of non-duplicate (84:12) closures here were done with moderator involvement. The average for the other sites was 12%, making the SU mod-closures more than 7 times higher than the other sites.

Nearly half (47%) of non-duplicate closures were done with a sole moderator vote. That's almost 8x the rate of the other sites.

It doesn't seem to me that the quality of questions here is so much worse than the other sites that they need to be mod-closed rapidly without reaching community quorum. So what's the reason for this (very large) discrepancy between Super User closures and that of the other communities?

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  • 3
    I agree we’re too aggressive with closing questions – it is off-putting and re-opening the questions is very hard. I don’t think this is due to moderators though, even if they may be a little more “trigger-happy” here.
    – Daniel B
    May 27 at 9:14
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    Is this a problem? I mean, do you feel the mods are closing things that should be left open? If they are closing things that should be closed, I don't really see the issue.
    – terdon
    May 27 at 18:06
  • @terdon Yes, you and I (and Journeyman) discussed one example in AUGR chat a few weeks ago. Things are certainly being closed here as "Needs details or clarity" (on more than one occasion), that are perfectly answerable (and it happened again on a WSL question just yesterday after I posted this). I definitely think SU could benefit from your personal mod approach on U&L of (to quote you on a different U&L dupe question), "... since my vote is binding, I didn't want to hammer it closed until I was sure ...." May 27 at 18:39
  • 1
    I believe the stats above back up the "overzealous" closing that we discussed. I'm trying to show an objective, data-backed view of this problem. May 27 at 18:40
  • Eh, I admit that my personal style as a mod is to leave as much as possible to the community, but that's just my personal preference. If the mods here are closing posts that should be closed anyway, I am not sure there is a problem. It may be one, I don't know. But your post doesn't explain why you feel it would be a problem, perhaps you could explain?
    – terdon
    May 27 at 18:52
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    @terdon It is, of course, difficult for me to find lots of examples since Roomba tends to clean them up after 9 days (unless they were upvoted, which I've started doing to make sure they stick around if I feel they were closed improperly). The two recent examples that I pointed out in comments to Mokubai's answer are this question and this one. The first is the one we discussed several weeks ago. The other just happened yesterday, and is perfectly understandable as-is. May 27 at 18:58
  • @terdon And that's just in the WSL area that I focus on. A quick review of the recently closed questions shows several more that, IMHO, shouldn't be closed, or at least should have received a community quorum rather than mod-hammer. This one is clearly focused on a single question -- Can you still use the legacy dialog boxes in recent Office releases? This one seems pretty clear to me - Pure Linux question, so I'll let you decide. May 27 at 19:13
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    This seemed clear enough to someone that they were able to answer in the comments. It's almost certainly from a non-native English speaker, which I tend to try to edit to make more readable personally (which I have the subject-matter-expertise in the topic), since I'd like to be inclusive of as many users as we can, regardless of their English proficiency. That said, it's understandable, if not "perfectly clear". Could it use more clarity? Sure - But what question couldn't, especially when English is the second language? May 27 at 19:13
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    So yes, I think there's a problem. May 27 at 19:14
  • @NotTheDr01ds - Closed questions can be reopened. If a question is not well written, by somebody that isn't a native English speaker, then the community can improve it.
    – Ramhound
    May 28 at 4:38
  • @NotTheDr01ds - You know why I voted to close the Legacy dialog boxes in the recent office releases question, because the author, had done zero research on the subject. It wasn't the first question on the subject the author had asked either
    – Ramhound
    May 28 at 4:39
  • I think you should also take in account the level of involvement of the community members in signaling problems. Often enough, at least the first close vote is by a non-moderator, with the moderator only completing the task. This might indicate a very active community, with the participation of the moderators.
    – harrymc
    May 31 at 8:28
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    @terdon I definitely feel the mods are sometimes closing things that should be left open. Jun 1 at 1:14
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    @Ramhound often hard to get enough reopen votes. Jun 1 at 1:14

1 Answer 1

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While pretty, statistics tend to hide disparities and assume "all things are equal."

One guess would be that other sites (such as those that are Linux based) have a certain kind of user that already knows that they are trying to solve a real problem and need to provide real information.

Super User has a simultaneously broader scope (all computers) and more focused rules (no phones/tablets/gadgets except where they connect to computers) which draws in a two crowds of people

  1. Those who have no idea what they don't know and lack pretty much any usable information.
  2. Those who are asking blatantly off topic questions, whether knowingly or not.

Result: there's more garbage for moderators to clean up on Super User than other more focused sites.

I would also argue that the quality of questions is not that much worse than other sites in part because the worse stuff is pretty much stamped out before it can become a problem.

There is also the argument that the longer obviously off topic questions are left open then the more chance that they will attract answers. At least a couple of times recently I have seen and had to ask well established users not to answer off topic questions.

My question for you would be what you want or would like to see.

  1. Do you want moderators to close nothing?
  2. Do you want moderators to continue closing egregiously off topic questions?
  3. Should moderators relax on the borderline stuff?
  4. Do you want moderators to only be clearing out spam? (We do see a solid flow)
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  • "the longer obviously off topic questions are left open then the more chance that they will attract answers." Yes, that's a real problem, but it is for all sites. And yes, it's a pet-peeve of mine in the way that SE in general handles answers on closed questions. Since they can still receive upvotes, there's no real incentive for users not to answer them (other than, as you mention, intervention by a mod, which definitely is appreciated). May 25 at 20:56
  • "what you want or would like to see" - I think that would be a great question for the Mod team to ask the community here on Meta. Personally, I think "borderline stuff" is an obvious area where the mod-hammer should definitely not be used (or much less often, at least). If a question is "unclear" to a mod, for instance, it may be clear to another user who has seen the same or similar problem. If, on the other hand, it's in a non-English language, then that's an obvious good use of a Mod-close for "Needs clarity". May 25 at 21:02
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    If a post has "multiple questions", a SME may realize that they are all stemming from the same root cause, but a Mod without that particular subject-matter-expertise might not. Better to let the community review, IMHO. May 25 at 21:03
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    Another example today in this mod-closed question -- The question is perfectly understandable, and answers could be provided by the community as the answer is currently written. Same as with this one, where I was able to provide the answer on Ask Ubuntu without any change in the question. May 26 at 18:38
  • While I do agree that having mods close off topic stuff isn't a problem, I feel I should point out a misunderstanding you have about some other sites. Speaking as a mod of U&L and ex-mod of AU as well as an old-time user of SU, I can assure you that the quantity of garbage that is posted on AU easily rivals that of SU. U&L may be a bit better as it is mostly frequented by more experienced users, but if you think SU has significantly more garbage than AU, I fear you have another think coming. Also, yes SU has a broader scope, but it certainly doesn't have more focused rules.
    – terdon
    May 27 at 18:03
  • @terdon Thanks for pointing that out -- I would say that Ask Ubuntu has a similar problem with a lot of off-topic posts, and quite a few questions that aren't clear at first glance, either because the user is relatively new to Linux or because English isn't their first language. But I feel the mods (and to some degree the community) are much more willing to work with the user to clarify the details. Mod-bans on U&L and AU seem to be reserved for the more egregious issues, but not so much here on SU, I feel. May 27 at 18:45
  • @terdon And yes, I know you feel that some community members on AU are over-zealous in closing, and I agree with that. It's a problem shared on SU. But I'm hoping we can expect better from the mod-team on each site, at least. May 27 at 18:47
  • Sorry, that was meant to be "mod-hammer" or "mod-close", not "mod-ban". May 27 at 21:31
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    I do think some closes are done a bit too fast, but a related problem is that questions that were closed for minor issues never get reopened even after those issues are resolved; there's an imbalance betwen "1 mod vote to close" and "5 user votes to reopen". In particular, I think that "needs clarity" shouldn't be done with mod powers – just because a moderator doesn't understand the question doesn't mean other users won't, and often this stops users who do understand the question from posting an answer because such questions never get reopened.
    – user1686
    May 28 at 8:37
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    Even worse are Duplicate closes by moderator. Often the only way to show that a post is not a duplicate is to post an answer that demonstrates the difference, which is of course now impossible.
    – harrymc
    May 29 at 16:24

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