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Not all of us and not all the time, of course, and I'm sometimes guilty of this too. I don't want to point the finger at anyone - just discuss what I think is a problem and how we can improve. The examples I use below are just some random recent cases that illustrate my point.

We are sometimes trigger-happy with the Close button. Hear me out.

Case 1

How packets are delivered from server to local network?

The reason for closure:

This question is off-topic.

Questions seeking product, service, or learning material recommendations are off-topic because they become outdated quickly and attract opinion-based answers. Instead, describe your situation and the specific problem you're trying to solve. Share your research. Here are a few suggestions on how to properly ask this type of question.

  • Is this question seeking product, service, or learning material recommendations? No.
  • Otherwise off-topic, opinion-based or gets outdated quickly? No: it's within scope of the site, not opinion-based and the tech it's about is commonplace and has been in use for decades.
  • The problem is clear? Yes.
  • Shows effort ("share your research")? To some extent: "I learned that when packets go out from the local network, the source address is translated into a public address". Sounds like OP is actively trying to understand this, but a piece of the puzzle is missing and they want us to clarify it with focus on this particular aspect. Maybe someone could want to ask for clarification in the comments, but I can see myself posting a useful answer that could help them connect the dots.
  • The link at the end is only applicable to software recommendations.

I honestly can't see how this question is off-topic. It's probably a duplicate, but I'm no good at finding these and I can understand OP not finding anything too. What I can see here is a well-meaning person coming here to learn and being given an unhelpful "NO ANSWERS FOR YOU" without any good reason.

Case 2

Computer cutting off downloads from certain sites.

This question needs details or clarity.

Add details and clarify the problem being solved. This will help others answer the question.

  • Does the question lack clarity? No. The issue is clearly explained. Some capitals are missing here and there, but it's perfectly legible.

  • Does it lack details? Maybe. OP narrowed the problem to a couple sites and even to a particular file type: "Whenever I try to download files from certain sites, such as cloudconvert, google drive and solidfiles. This appears to be a problem only with rar files". They have added that they're on macOS.

    What's missing is info about their OS version and browser, but they don't know that. It's not a case of a user giving us nothing to work with and hoping that our crystal ball has the answer (anyone who's been here for a while knows this type of questions). They have put their effort into providing information that they thought is necessary. They don't have the knowledge we SU veterans have, that's why they came here for help. If this question deserved to be closed, then an explanation on how it should be improved should've been provided in comments. Otherwise it's just unhelpful denial of providing help with no direction where to go. It's not a case of them wasting our time, it's us wasting their time.

Case 3

Some users think that mentioning any programs in questions is banned, no exceptions. It's an extreme case, of course, and it's incorrect and absurd, but I think it's cases like this that lead them to such conclusions:

Two Headsets in one Discord

Not closed! But the comments:

Person A: "Is there any software on windows that will allow multiple microphones to be mixed to one input device" with that quoted, it's off-topic here.

Person B: I agree, glazed over that sentence

Here's how the question looked before edit:

The situation is - I got two people sharing one room and only one PC that is running discord. Both should be able to talk and hear discord. Is there any software on windows that will allow multiple microphones to be mixed to one input device that can be used in discord?

I’m aware of Loopback on Mac that can achieve such a thing but I’m drawing a blank for Windows.

and here's how it was salvaged:

Is there any software on way in windows that will allow […]

To put it shortly: if such a minor change in wording made it not a software-rec question, was it ever a software-rec question?

The question is about solving a problem that is presented more or less clearly. OP expects that this problem is solvable with 3rd party software, because that's how they solved it on a Mac, but I'm pretty sure they would be completely happy with a built-in OS feature if one existed. It's just a matter of unfortunate wording. IMO Person B glazed over that sentence because it just doesn't invalidate this otherwise fine question.

A good answer to this question would probably include a software recommendation and a guide on achieving what was asked, which strongly suggests that it's not so much about software as about a problem.

Let's go through the software-rec checklist from case 1:

  • Is this question seeking product, service, or learning material recommendations? As I've explained it's actually seeking a solution to the presented problem, and implying that some product will be a part of that solution.
  • Otherwise off-topic, opinion-based or gets outdated quickly? No: within scope, not opinion-based, won't get outdated more quickly than any other software-based answer.
  • The problem is clear? Reasonably clear I would say.
  • Shows effort ("share your research")? Well, OP could do better here.
  • The link at the end: Well, give it a read. In a nutshell, questions should be problem-based, not software-based. Questions that ask for software that solves problems is allowed - there's even a header that reads "How to ask questions that may require a software solution".

I'm not saying this question is perfect - I'm saying that commenters wanted to close it due to a twitch reflex, rather than for a valid reason. In some cases there won't be a valid reason, but the reflex will work the same. And if it's a mod♦, that's it - the question gets closed.

Why are we here?

I believe the point of answering questions and participating in this community is to provide help and serve other people. With that in mind:

  • Case 3.

    Wouldn't it be better to make that minor edit, rather than vote to close? If you don't have these couple extra seconds or are using a mobile device and it's inconvenient to edit, maybe it would be more helpful to resist the urge to VtC and let someone else make the edit? Would anything bad happen if no one edited it?

    Also: I think this question has potential to be helpful for other visitors. It would be great to make SU number 1 on Google for this problem. It doesn't seem like OP did any research, but other than that the question checks all the boxes. IMO it's good enough to keep it open even if it doesn't fit the guidelines perfectly. The point of guidelines is to instruct users how to ask good questions, but useful questions that don't follow the guidelines are still useful. Unless they are off-topic in the strict sense (first 3 bullet points), we may want to keep them open.

  • Case 2.

    Closing unclear questions is okay. But ultimately we want to help people who ask them.

    Sure, if OP can't write a coherent sentence, it's a waste of time to decipher and answer their question. Even if someone has a similar problem, it's unlikely they will be able to realize it's the same problem (or even find the question).

    But if the question looks like some effort was put into it, be helpful and explain what information you need. Unlike you, OP isn't an expert - they may not know relevant stuff from noise nor understand how complex the issue is and what information is needed. Closing the question doesn't address this. It just leaves OP to themselves and prevents SU from gaining a useful question.

    IMO even "crystal ball" questions shouldn't be closed without a comment. Some people think computers are magic and we can magically devise a solution for their issue. They understand nothing and don't know what we need from them. It's us that have to tell them.

  • Case 1.

    Finding duplicates can be hard. Many times I've been 100% sure a question was answered before, but I just couldn't find it. But if I can't find it, neither can OP and other people who have a similar question, so instead of closing with questionable reasons maybe it's better to leave it open, let someone write a good answer and hope that this one won't get lost?

    There's a large Polish electrical engineering forum that's infamous for getting first positions on Google with unanswered threads that are closed by mods because "this topic was discussed a thousand times, search for it". Well, here I am searching for it and getting their unhelpful posts. SU is technically superior because (I think) it's guiding Google away from closed questions and presenting duplicates as redirects, boosting their targets. Thus a duplicate closed with a bad reason is a wasted opportunity to promote a good question in search engines.

    And this - without leaving any explanatory comment - is just unhelpful:

    "Incorrectly closed as asking for learning material - declined - a moderator reviewed your flag, but found no evidence to support it"

    Am I missing something and it's actually a something-rec question? Is the moderator♦ disagreeing with my stance on using correct close reasons? Should I keep flagging stuff like this? I don't know. I can complain on meta (trying not to sound too petty), ignore it and keep making the same mistakes, or get frustrated and leave. (Please note that the comment with a potential duplicate was posted after the flag was rejected.)

Closing questions is easy, reopening them is not. I'm pretty sure closed questions get much less visitors than open ones, but the number of votes required to reopen is the same. Once a question is closed, it's often doomed to stay closed. People sometimes come here with sincere intention to learn something, but leave with a feeling of being unjustly judged. The "on hold closing" experiment may not have worked, but there was a reason for it, and no technical solution can make up for behaviors that feel hostile. I believe unwelcoming SU is not the kind of SU we're trying to build.

Maybe before clicking the Close button we should think twice what are we trying to achieve long-term and if it's actually serving our goals.

I'm sorry if I'm using a strong language or if any of you felt offended in any way. It was not my intention. I'm certainly not completely objective in my perception of the issue and I'm open to discussion… or at least I think so. The fact that I'm not a native speaker and may not get the tone of my language the same way as you do doesn't help either.

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  • 1
    1/ reopened, 2/ posted a comment asking for missing information. 3/ I voted to reopen that one after the edit was made. Wasn't involved in closing it.
    – DavidPostill Mod
    Jul 30 at 18:00
  • 1
    for the declined - you do have the rep to vote to reopen right? And its fine to make a case for a specific post to be reopened on meta. Dosen't seem a 'need' to flag
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Jul 30 at 23:57
  • 4
    @JourneymanGeek It takes 1 diamond vote to close a question immediately, but 5 regular votes to reopen it - it may never happen, and if it does, it takes time and leaves bad aftertaste. If a question is closed with 5 regular votes and I disagree, it's less likely that it was a mistake. Either I'm missing something or there's a disagreement in the community that has to be addressed. Either way a quick reopen isn't the way to go. But with mod♦ voting powers it takes 1 click to close a question by mistake and in such cases I see flagging as the fastest way to get this straight.
    – gronostaj
    Jul 31 at 10:11
  • Sure - but we have a bit of public documentation to point to, and you'd depend on a mod being around. We watch meta too - so the meta post gives you both the space to make your case, and more eyes than just the mods
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Jul 31 at 10:19
  • 2
    All your examples seem like people getting frustrated with what they perceive as "dumb questions" and just closing out of that frustration. I agree they should not have been. Its pretty difficult to strike this balance, as wikipedia can attest...
    – O'Rooney
    Aug 2 at 5:59
  • 3
    Funny how the timing works here. I had the exact same experience just yesterday. My first question, brief, immediately closed. Made it longer and slightly rephrased it, but it's the same question, now it stayed open.
    – RL-S
    Aug 3 at 10:04
  • 2
    I agree that this is a big problem for the site. We also should not discourage/admonish people from/for answering (while still accumulating close votes) or commenting on questions that are perceived as off topic. as for mod intervention, we've already done the damage to the sites reputation and user's perceptions of it by the time someone reaches out on meta. Maybe my question got reopened, but I'll never forgive its closure. Aug 3 at 16:47
  • I miss the diamond that was part of Journeyman's name Aug 7 at 21:49
  • 2
    Here’s another example. The question 2 hours old and has already accumulated three close votes. Yes, it is lacking. No, OP will not return once it is closed. At least give people seeking help some time to fix their question. You can still VTC tomorrow.
    – Daniel B
    Aug 9 at 14:21
  • 2
    Related meta thread, in case anyone missed it: I think SU has a newbie-biting problem
    – Daniel B
    Aug 9 at 14:28
  • Problem is in the core of the "rewards system" on SE. 90% of people who are managing SE are worthless layabouts with mediocre brains. the mediocrity is really the problem. with little effort you can earn thousands of points and become someone who can do a lot of damage. No knowledge is required. their high SE rating gives them feeling of power. if they cant understand your question or they are irritated by the fact they cant earn more SE rewards - they simply dump you. I reduced my SE visits in last 5 yrs to the minimum and mostly trivial questions are answered 4 hours ago

3 Answers 3

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Closing questions is easy, reopening them is not.... Once a question is closed, it's often doomed to stay closed.

Strongly agree. And this presents an additional approach for those of us who curate/moderate here. When we vote to close a question, we should consider taking a few minutes to visit the "Reopen Votes" queue.

And when and if we do moderate through the "Close Votes" queue, please consider visiting "Reopen Votes" first.

9

Many Stack Exchange websites including SU are plagued with ill-informed close-votes. I believe one solution to mitigate this problem is having a “Vote not to close” option to counter the “Vote to close” before the question is closed, so that question viewers can counteract the deleterious ignorance/ineptitude of close-voters in such situations. Another reason behind this issue is that people casting incorrect votes face no consequences.

Closing questions is easy, reopening them is not.... Once a question is closed, it's often doomed to stay closed.

This is very clear from the stats: 2021: a year in closing.

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  • Thanks for the stats link. Unfortunately it's hard to say how many of these questions actually should stay closed. And I can't think of a practical and objective way of checking this.
    – gronostaj
    Aug 4 at 5:53
  • This is a bad idea and an even worse justification for it; it's basically "I'm smarter than the people I disagree with, let me win". If you want to have unilateral power over whether questions should be closed or opened before they go through the well-established processes, run for moderator.
    – TylerH
    Aug 4 at 13:25
  • 1
    @TylerH: no, I find it to be a great idea. The same way as a voting button is "up" or "down", the fact that someone stated "it should be closed" needs to have a "it should stay open". None is right on their own and since there is "pseudo-democracy" on this site both sides should have a voice.
    – WoJ
    Aug 4 at 14:47
  • @WoJ Voting a post up or down is not introducing a state change to it. Closing or reopening a question is introducing a state change, and thus needs to be processed a different way. There is already a way to say something under review for closure should stay open, the "leave open" review action.
    – TylerH
    Aug 4 at 15:50
  • @TylerH no idea where your "I'm smarter than the people I disagree with, let me win" comes from. Close votes and reopen votes should be handled the same way to be fair, but currently they are not. Aug 5 at 1:52
  • @gronostaj Agreed. human labeling. Aug 5 at 1:54
  • 2
    @TylerH But does the “leave open” action actually do anything? Isn’t that more of a “do nothing” action, while the alternative is to also cast a close vote? In the end, it does nothing to not close a question, it at best delays closing.
    – Daniel B
    Aug 5 at 7:27
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Wikipedia has a AfD section that is used to decide whether to delete an article, it is functionally similar to close votes here. However, they have:

  • AfD is not a Vote, reasons to Keep and Delete must be provided.

  • Assume Good Faith,

    It is the assumption that editors' edits and comments are made in good faith – that is, the assumption that people are not deliberately trying to hurt Wikipedia, even when their actions are harmful.

  • Do not bite the newcomers

    New members are prospective contributors and are therefore Wikipedia's most valuable resource. We must treat newcomers with kindness and patience—nothing scares potentially valuable contributors away faster than hostility. It is very unlikely for a newcomer to be completely familiar with Wikipedia's markup language and its myriad of policies, guidelines, and community standards when they start editing. Even the most experienced editors may need a gentle reminder from time to time.

I believe these three may be of use to the Stack Exchange community, especially those caught in excessive closing of questions.

New contributor
Lily White is a new contributor to this site. Take care in asking for clarification, commenting, and answering. Check out our Code of Conduct.
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  • A word of warning to the unwary: the Wikipedia 'AfD' process, depending on the topic, has had problems with toxic behavior since at least 2003. The policies there are generally good (especially the three you highlighted), but the implementation can vary dramatically. 18 hours ago
  • They just said AfD is not a vote; they didn't say it's not a war :-). Just as laws didn't exactly prohibit you to do anything (morally) "bad", but you don't do that. For reference: [[WP:WikiSpeak]] is a humorous account for how the policies actually got implemented some times.
    – Lily White
    15 hours ago

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