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This question and my comment there made me think, and it seems to me that to completely avoid any sense of a "pack mentality" that could be applied to when votes are cast to close a question, the current format would have to be changed.

For one, there shouldn't be an indicator that others have already voted to close a question. If a question deserves to be closed on it's own merits, there is no need to know that others have already voted to do so. There is no need for a question to show that it already has 4 votes and just needs one more to be closed, so that another individual can come along and "do the right thing" and add the last vote to put it over the top. If a question deserves to be closed, and there is no "pack mentality" being applied in this situation, then it will earn all the votes it needs to close all on it's own. Right.

Also, when you DO vote to close a question, there should be no indicator as to what reasons were already chosen. Why? Think about it. If a question doesn't earn a preponderance of the SAME reason for being closed, maybe it was closed for the wrong reason. However, if there is an indicator that 3 people already voted a question as being Off Topic and one person votes Not Constructive the next vote is more likely going to be Off Topic just because there are already three votes cast for that. I don't care who you are, there is no denying that seeing the results BEFORE you vote influences the results of a vote.

I'm not saying that these stats should be removed completely, but they don't need to be visible.

There have been elections where Exit Polls that were televised before an election was over were shown to influence not only voter turn out, but the vote swing itself. People want to be on the winning side. They want to appear to be doing the right thing. They look for any indication that they are doing the right thing. When there is a clear cut path and guide set up for them, they are more likely to follow it. History has shown us that there are far fewer trail blazers than there are people who follow those trails.

EDIT I don't know if I just didn't explain myself properly or what, but I am not proposing that people not be allowed to provide reasons with their vote to close. I am not proposing an edit to the number of votes needed to bring the question to a moderators attention to close it, or even to close it automatically. I am simply proposing that the visible tally of current votes already cast to close it be removed, as well as the visible tally next to the reasons for closing.

If as has been said there is no pack mentality at all occurring when people vote to close questions, then what I propose would have no detrimental effect on the current system. If however, there are people are are influenced by the presence of existing votes to close, then there would be a difference in the number of questions closed by voting.

update obviously I'm disappointed by the responses, since I now know that people actively do sift through the questions to see which ones have close votes, so they know to join in the pack and close it. Sad to learn that although questions aren't necessarily closed simply because they deserve to be closed, those who feel the need to know that others have voted to close it won't admit they feel that way at least PARTIALLY because of the presence of those votes. If they weren't influenced, they wouldn't need an indicator. It really is that simple. I'll flag the question for removal.

Yet another edit this question only has downvotes and just keeps accumulating more. I don't agree with the reasons given for the presence of a visible VTC tally, and I haven't been given a convincing argument for why it is necessary to have that visible tally... so why can't I get the question removed? It serves no purpose to keep the question here. I'm obviously in a minority, if not alone in how I feel about this, so it doesn't even serve a useful purpose to keep the question for archival purposes. I get it. The community disagrees with me. Delete the question please.

  • Unless I have a very strong opinion about a question, I practically never click reopen since it's almost always a wasted effort. The exception being questions with ongoing reopening efforts. If you want to remove the indicator, you need to remove it there as well to balance it. I expect this to be pretty bad for any question deserving to be reopened. – Daniel Beck Jul 7 '12 at 18:32
  • What's your point on the close reason? The notice states the most often chosen one, so it doesn't have any bearing on the ultimate outcome. Given that frequently (for really bad questions) different (but applicable) reasons are chosen is pretty good evidence against your "pack mentality" argument. For questions that suffer from a single deficiency though (like well-worded, easy to understand question about Facebook), users are perfectly capable to choose the same reason. – Daniel Beck Jul 7 '12 at 18:36
  • How do you propose we handle this for 10k+ users and the moderation tools, where stats for the current most close/reopen voted questions are shown, as well as stats about recently closed/reopened questions (inciting 10k+ users to double-check them)? – Daniel Beck Jul 7 '12 at 18:38
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    I left dozens of comments on questions when I noticed that a VTC effort was ongoing, explaining why the question wasn't off topic. Often, other users upvote these comments to show their support in preventing the question from being closed. Something that's no longer possible without that information, or only by spamming every remotely endangered topic. – Daniel Beck Jul 7 '12 at 18:48
  • I mostly don't vote to reopen, because in my experience it's a pointless waste of time, unless others noticed the question as well. There's a difference between getting an indicator about the possible value of an effort, and blindly clicking somewhere because others did before. – Daniel Beck Jul 7 '12 at 18:51
  • I prefer well thought out suggestions to half-baked ideas, and that's why I'm asking about the reopening indicator, and the 10k tools. So far, your suggestion is incomplete, and therefore more the latter than the former. – Daniel Beck Jul 7 '12 at 18:53
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    I don't care why a question was closed as long as it was the right decision. If it wasn't then I would complain and try to reopen. But that has never happened. In general, I almost never see a question that was closed even though it shouldn't have. So where exactly is the problem? Does it bug you that people are doing the right thing but possibly for the wrong reason? That might be sad, but the end justifies the means. Why people put in their close vote is not relevant, as long as the decision is right. We try to keep a clean ship here, what you're proposing will not further that goal. – Der Hochstapler Jul 7 '12 at 19:05
  • Actually, thinking about it, the whole SE family uses the same VTC system on the sites proper... so shouldn't this be a MSO question, or could we get a dev/other TBTB to weigh in? Most of the answers are by people familiar with how we do things on SU, but in this case, the why is as important. – Journeyman Geek Jul 11 '12 at 0:54
  • @JourneymanGeek it doesn't matter. I've been voted down, and no one wants to address the actual issue. They dance around the fact that they ARE influenced by the presence of a VTC tally, but don't want to admit it. Comments have gone from saying it is a NECESSARY thing, to reducing it to being a HELPFUL thing... and stopped short of it being called a feature they LIKE. Without honesty, the discussion is useless. But, I guess I'm not surprised... only at my expectation of an honest discussion on the matter. – Bon Gart Jul 11 '12 at 14:14
  • @BonGart: The question is whether there is an actual issue to be addressed. If you don't look at the end result of what we're doing and showing us how that influence is bad in the end, then I don't see why a change is necessary. I'm not choosing for either side regarding your idea, but I don't feel like changing it either... – Tamara Wijsman Jul 11 '12 at 14:55
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    people disagree with your view, doesn't mean it needs to be deleted just because they don't agree. Would you have asked for deletion if they did agree? No? Ok. Right then. Please don't abuse others. I'm locking this for a while. – Sathyajith Bhat Jul 14 '12 at 13:49
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I understand your point, but you would still have to provide a list of questions with close votes for people to browse.

Why?

When a site gets to the size of Super User it's not possible for everyone to see every question that gets posted on the site. Without a list of questions with close votes bad questions will remain on the site attracting all sorts of wrong attention for the site and encouraging other bad questions to be asked.

By having a list (and a certain degree of pile-on/bandwagon effect) the system ensures that bad questions are removed from the site quickly. This is either by being closed and eventually deleted or - more importantly - edited and reopened.

In this way we keep the quality of the site high - which is a great benefit to everyone.

  • If the tally count next to the VTC link is necessary to the process... how does ANY question EVER get the first vote to close? From all the arguments, they feel it is necessary for there to be an indicator saying how many votes the question already has to be closed in order for them to be able to vote on it... so how can it ever get that first vote if it doesn't start with some kind of tally? And... if it doesn't need a visible tally to get that first vote, why does it need a visible tally to get a second vote? And why couldn't questions be found by the existence of a VTC? – Bon Gart Jul 11 '12 at 19:35
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    @BonGart - the first vote is from someone who a) stumbles upon the question or b) is using the review pages. I'm not wedded to having to know how many votes to close there are on a question - just that there are some. If someone else has deemed a question worthy of closure then I'd like to see that question so I can make my mind up too. – ChrisF Jul 11 '12 at 22:15
  • those that seem to be wedded to the idea of having the tally also talk about closing questions actively in chat with others who close questions, which means they don't need a tally. How friggin stupid are they if they are talking about closing questions, actively trading questions in the chat that need to be closed AND they need a visible tally? That's just sad. – Bon Gart Jul 14 '12 at 13:43
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Voting is a privilege that we should trust our users to use properly. It's rare when a question is closed incorrectly, and I've never seen a malicious attempt by packs to close questions at will. And if that were to ever occur, the Mods would be able to step in a take care of it pretty quickly.

IMO if a question has four votes, I still look it over to make sure I agree, but more often than not, I cast the vote. Also there have been times that I've voted differently that what others have voted, because a question often times has multiple reasons to be closed.

So in essence, I don't feel that this is a problem at all, as these cases are few and far between and often times rectified very quickly.

  • +1. Since I got the privileges, I read the FAQ a couple more times, and re-read the question to see if I can improve it before I click Close. If I can improve it to a reasonable question, I don't vote to close, and I tend to mention in the comments. Questions that can't be fixed (i.e. shopping questions, piracy, completely off topic, etc), I will then VTC. This is just me speaking, but I tend to agree with Kronos – Canadian Luke Jul 7 '12 at 20:53
  • @BonGart We actively encourage users to VTC in the VTC chat room. Also, I know that you're not implying that there is a pack of trolls roaming to close questions, but I do disagree that people just vote to vote. There is no incentive to vote to close anything. It's purely done with the best interest of the site at hand. – James Mertz Jul 7 '12 at 23:17
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    With the amount of questions that we get and have, not enough questions would be closed, if we didn't actively alert other users of questions that need votes to close. – James Mertz Jul 8 '12 at 5:52
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The reason we see that other people already put a close vote in, is to draw our attention to a possible issue with the question. This is intentional and helpful.

It allows us to track down problematic questions quickly and remove inappropriate content from our site.

Nobody puts a close vote in on a question if he doesn't believe the question needs to be closed.

Sometimes, the reason why the previous votes were cast is now void, because the question was improved or otherwise changed. Do you want to have your name under a closed question and later find out you just didn't read it right?

No, you don't want that. And that's why you read the question and all comments before you vote to close it.

Personally, I would be shocked to find out that what you're talking about is actually talking place on this site. But I can see no evidence of that.

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    @BonGart: What you call "pack mentality", I call "teamwork". Falsely closing a questions sucks, but not closing a question that needs to be closed sucks even more. We want perls, not sand. And closing questions is a big part of that. – Der Hochstapler Jul 7 '12 at 23:40
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    @BonGart If someone finds an OSX-related question that needs to be closed, I would never read that question on my own, because I know nothing about OSX and rarly read questions in that tag. But if someone else reads it and determines it needs to be closed, I can judge if it should be closed as well. So if the other vote draws my attention to that OSX question, so that I can close it, that's a good thing. Closing questions is a team effort. We work on closing questions. We track them down, we discuss them in chat, and we close them - together, as a team. Showing the vote count helps. – Der Hochstapler Jul 8 '12 at 13:53
  • @BonGart: You get a list of questions with already placed closed votes in the moderator tools (10k+ rep). Some users use that list to track down questions that need to be closed. Not every question is brought up in the chat. And if you look into the Vote to close chat, it's more a list than a chat. Point is, closing questions is and should be a team effort. I believe, the vote indicators help us to track down problematic content faster. I understand the point you're trying to make, but I don't see any actual issue. :( – Der Hochstapler Jul 9 '12 at 10:02
  • "Nobody puts a close vote in on a question if he doesn't believe the question needs to be closed." - Prove that bullshit. You can only state the reasons why YOU close a question. You cannot speak for others. I propose a way to eliminate some of the potential for impropriety, and you all defend keeping it instead of accepting that truth. That makes me suspect you are lying to cover your ass. All I'm seeing is the standard defense of a liar in asking me to Prove that some people are voting based on the presence of a tally. You know I can't prove what is in people's minds. Disgraceful. – Bon Gart Jul 14 '12 at 13:49
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    @BonGart: Nor can he prove the same. If you want to objectively determine whether the current system acts good or bad, you should look at its results; only by doing so, you can actually attempt to proof one or the other way. Otherwise you are just guessing with you "pack mentality" as well, as you said, you can't prove what is in people's minds... – Tamara Wijsman Jul 14 '12 at 14:13
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obviously I'm disappointed by the responses, since I now know that people actively do sift through the questions to see which ones have close votes

No, we don't "actively" sift through questions which have close votes. I do take a look at them and close which are obviously out of topic.

There is a list, true. But that doesn't mean we sit there all day, waiting to refresh it.

Is there a pack mentality? Sure. I've done mistakes in closing questions. Does that mean that they'll never, ever be reopened? No - have a look at my previous answers where I've admitted and re-opened.

And it's not just limited to me - there have been plenty of occasions where the question has been reopened by community members.

But you suggesting the notion that displaying the close votes against a question results in pack mentality and mass closure is simply ridiculous. If that were true, a Lot more questions would have been closed.

The close vote indicates to someone that the question is off-topic, and by no means an indication that all must close it.

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    Well, the new /review route would actively encourage people to sift through the questions with outstanding close votes. But it also gives you the choice not to vote. – slhck Jul 11 '12 at 15:07
  • @slhck true, but the review route, much like the one linked to, is available to 10k+ – Sathyajith Bhat Jul 11 '12 at 15:14
  • True. All I wanted to say is that it actually encourages people to make a decision, which is better than just having the option to make the list smaller by voting to close (which is the case in /tools right now). In the end, I still would like to see evidence of "pack mentality" where it's unfair and leads to questions being closed that actually should have stayed open. Because we always have Meta, chat, or flags to formulate reopen requests, and it's not like these would be ignored. – slhck Jul 11 '12 at 15:18
  • @slhck aye, I hear you. – Sathyajith Bhat Jul 11 '12 at 16:44
  • @Sathya can you read Chris F's response and rethink your decision to say people don't do what he admits is being done? I mean, don't argue semantics... a list of questions by the presence of a VTC, is still actively sifting questions by close votes. And don't dramatize it, I never said that it is an indication that ALL must close it. I have stated multiple times that it is an influence, that some consider a VTC who might not have if there weren't a tally there. When you vote in an election, you choose a candidate based on the merits... not on what the person before you voted on. – Bon Gart Jul 11 '12 at 19:39
  • @Sathya Amazing. An all powerful moderator says people don't sift through answers filtered by close votes...and it turns out he is wrong (as per ChrisF's answer... and then he backs out and won't reply. Wow. Color me surprised. Maybe you can do the right thing and remove this whole question as per my request, eh? – Bon Gart Jul 14 '12 at 13:46
  • @BonGart you've made up your mind, and no replies from me or anyone else will change it. I don't see what's more left to discuss. – Sathyajith Bhat Jul 14 '12 at 13:48
  • @BonGart as mentioned in the question people disagree with your view, doesn't mean it needs to be deleted just because they don't agree. Would you have asked for deletion if they did agree? No? Ok. Right then. – Sathyajith Bhat Jul 14 '12 at 13:54
3

Disclaimer: Not meant personal, but I'm trying to show the opposite point in this answer as to understand why it has been in place and that you need some statistics to justify such change. I'm not going to defend this position, but I thought I would share this to feed any discussion / consensus.

TL;DR: Is there a significant ratio of questions being closed for a wrong reason? We want to benefit from the advantages if there isn't shown to be a huge drawback, hence that's why it's still there.


If a question deserves to be closed on it's own merits, there is no need to know that others have already voted to do so.

While I would agree with this, I would ask myself ...

Do questions need to be closed on their own merits?

... which would impose that there would be too much questions getting closed because of pack mentality, as you call it; but is that actually the case? We need to ask ourselves two questions here:

  1. Are too many questions being closed?
  2. Were the reasons the questions are being closed for not right?

In both of these, I don't see a problem; if I look through the closed questions I see most have been closed for some good reason, but feel free to come with a counter example.

The point behind an alternation in the system is that it should result in a noticeable better outcome from the improved system; while you could theoretize about the so-called "pack mentality" and think about its possible effects on the system, if you don't show they take actually take place then it's hard to belief that there is an actual problem rather than just a thought.

What another site I surfed regularly on a while ago did, was to add a system that tracks people that almost always choose to vote for the majority, and punish them lightly in one or another way (letting their votes be less effective). Of course this was made for that site and wouldn't work as well here...

There is no need for a question to show that it already has 4 votes and just needs one more to be closed, so that another individual can come along and "do the right thing" and add the last vote to put it over the top. If a question deserves to be closed, and there is no "pack mentality" being applied in this situation, then it will earn all the votes it needs to close all on it's own. Right.

True, this is an exceptional number. In essence, it gives you some kind of final decision feeling; and because of that, I decide to do the exact opposite and carefully take a look. While there are a ton of obvious cases where you would just close as well, I've found myself to not cast in the last vote on quite some questions to give the user the benefit of the doubt because I didn't feel like it should strictly be closed. This is the opposite take on it, "pack mentality" vs "final decision responsibility".

However, if there is an indicator that 3 people already voted a question as being Off Topic and one person votes Not Constructive the next vote is more likely going to be Off Topic just because there are already three votes cast for that.

This is actually pretty clear cut. The reasons for a question being Off-Topic are stated in the FAQ, whereas Not Constructive applies to questions that are on-topic but won't result in anything valuable that can solves an actual problem in a way that can be learned of. Both of these stand apart from the NARQ (not real) close reason, in which case the question misses something in one or another way.

People want to be on the winning side. They want to appear to be doing the right thing.

I can use this as a reason for the opposite as well; the vote counts teach new people that just earned the rights to vote on questions what type of questions fall under which vote reasons, and over time they will have their own view on it and surely people will vote different. But yeah, there might be people that mindlessly vote but I don't think it has shown to be a problem...

History has shown us that there are far fewer trail blazers than there are people who follow those trails.

It requires some effort to get to the trail blazers though, you don't get to 3 or 4 close votes before having passed 0, 1 and 2 close votes. And even when it shouldn't be closed, it is revertible...


Edit: As a side note, close vote counts are also shown in review and moderator tools and allow people to see which questions might potentially be closed. While your proposed system might somewhat work on Stack Overflow given the volume, it doesn't have the same effects on other sites. We've found that getting up to 5 close votes is not particularly easy some of the times on Super User, and I would even consider it to be harder on other SE sites.

I don't go to that age with "I'll close all the 4 close vote questions" but rather with "Let's see if I can close some questions right away that need to be closed". And because I choose to mostly only vote for those with the most close votes, I even the odds for those that might not need to be closed and are still hanging around ~2.

Why would you go to these pages just to do mindlessly repeat the others? You wouldn't...

  • "Then see if this affects how many questions get closed." Developers want to fix actual existing problems, not introduce risks. That's why I am suggesting you to statistically show what the problem is with the current questions, if there is no significant one then why and what are we trying to fix exactly? As said, I'm not going to go into the rest as I feel it is just brainstorming around a non-existing issue... – Tamara Wijsman Jul 8 '12 at 0:00
  • you fear that removing the visible tally will reduce the number of closed questions. That clearly means you KNOW that people are influenced by the visible tally. That means you know there is a pack mentality. Dance around and deny it all you like. It doesn't matter. I didn't get the response I would have preferred, but I got the response I expected and dreaded. – Bon Gart Jul 11 '12 at 14:18
  • @BonGart: Can you please show how us "pack mentality" significantly results in wrong closures? And I don't mean theoretically, but rather in practice. If the end result of what we are doing now isn't wrong, then why change it? – Tamara Wijsman Jul 11 '12 at 14:52

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