I was looking at the following and I found what I needed and I really wondered and felt actually pity for the guy who asked the question.

Flavor of Linux which is ONLY command line (and super light-weight)?

This is not the first time that I come across something like this and sometimes I wonder if there should be a vote up down button to the closure note, too. Where am I going wrong?

  • 2
    I'm sorry, I don't quite get your point. Are you unsure why the question was closed and would like an explanation? Do you have any specific arguments for reopening the question? Closed questions can always be reopened—it's just a matter of casting reopen votes. There's no need for voting on the close reason per se. I would like to add though that in this case I agree with the closure. – slhck Apr 30 '13 at 19:15
  • Agree my question is ambiguous. Yes, I wonder why this question was closed. Also I wanted to know if other share my impression that closures seem to me more destructive then anything else. I do not know about the reopen mechanism, maybe that would be the right answer to me on how I can deal effectively with such a situation. – hol Apr 30 '13 at 19:20

I would like to start off with the "negative" aspect of questions being closed. Yes, I agree that the [closed] might look negative and can scare away people. The team acknowledged that – and they are currently reworking the entire closing process to address this. For example, the reasons for closure will be rewritten, and the actual wording of the close message will be different as well:

We close questions when they are not a good fit for the site. This isn't destructive though… quite the contrary, we do this in order to:

  • Maintain a certain scope. It would be destructive to the community if the scope became too broad. Maybe that's a bit of an extreme example, but you can't have questions about programming algorithms next to cooking recipes.

  • Maintain quality. Stack Exchange sites are question and answer sites and not forums. Questions should be reasonably scoped and have a limited set of possible answers. When a question asks for subjective opinion (e.g., "what do you recommend?") or provokes discussion (e.g., "Do you think Microsoft will release Windows 9 before OS X 11?"), those questions are closed because they won't generate useful answers to questions about actual problem people are facing.

Being closed isn't the end of a question though. They can always be reopened by users with the appropriate privileges. When a question is edited into better shape, it is automatically put in a review queue where users can vote to reopen.

And if you don't have the privileges yet, you can always flag a question for moderator attention for us to have a second look. Finally, you can just come to Meta and discuss about the reasons for closure, and ask for ways to improve the question—if possible, that is.

Now, looking at the question you mentioned, the biggest problem is this:

Has anyone ever looked for something like this? Ever found something good?

How is "good" defined? Everybody will have their own opinion about a certain distribution. At some point, with a larger number of answers, those questions will essentially become a polling contest. Not that we haven't been there already: In the early days of Super User, polling questions were still allowed, and quite popular.

At some point we realized though that these questions generated traffic for the wrong reasons—because everybody has an opinion. Everybody likes to discuss over trivial things. But this is not what the system is meant for. The format breaks when there are more than, say ten answers to a question. And the fact that a question has more than ten valid answers makes it seem like any answer could be valid.

In that case the answers were just links to Linux distributions. Nothing that can't be researched, and any answer would have been equally valid. Not the kind of question we encourage by today's standards, really.

  • This is an excellent answer. Thank you. Yes, it has been too aspects here: 1) The [closed] looked scary to me and it seems like I am not the only one with that impression 2) The question is bit open and I can see how this does not match the rules but I would like to add that sometimes my question are "open" and I am happy someone asked it before and I can just read the answers. Thanks for the long answer again. – hol Apr 30 '13 at 19:55
  • +1 for all those MSO links. – Seth Apr 30 '13 at 22:58

This question seems like an XY problem in and of itself.

What you asked about:

I wonder if there should be a vote up down button to the closure note, too

My response to this is the same as @slhck's comment: there are reopen votes, and you can also flag a question for a moderator to review it and determine if it should be reopened. You can also post on meta (like you're doing now) about a specific question and ask for the community to consider reopening it, and give an argument why you feel that way (note: rhetoric like "Help, I'm being oppressed!" does not help. You need to give specific, rational reasons why the question should be reopened.)

What you really wanted to know about (what you were probably thinking when you wrote that):

In this unjust world where people rabidly close questions just because they can, how can I register my disagreement with these tyrants who want to silence valuable discussion?

My response to this, as a somewhat outspoken veteran of the community, is that this is just the way it is. SuperUser and most other SE sites, being of the "Question and Answer" format, have attempted to strike a balance between Signal (the questions which are really good and belong on the site) and Noise (the questions which don't belong here and should eventually be deleted).

Here's what would make a question ideal for this site, in terms of it being "pure Signal" and "no Noise":

  • It has a clear-cut, single answer. In other words, if the number of possible correct answers is greater than 1, it is a bad question. These questions are also known as subjective questions. SuperUser, unlike other sites, seems to have a real problem with accepting subjective questions, even good-subjective questions (there was a blog post a while back distinguishing good-subjective and bad-subjective). I feel that the community is, in particular, not very cognizant of this distinction, and tends to close subjective questions regardless of whether they are good or bad subjective. These questions are often closed "Not constructive", and I really disagree with this in many cases. In the case of the question you linked, I personally feel that it does not suffer from "Not constructive" fallacy.

  • The person asking the question has included all pertinent details about the question, allowing the answers to be very specific and to the point, rather than having to over-generalize due to missing information. This particular point I agree strongly with, and think that we need to continue to weed out questions that are too broad. Questions which violate this principle are often closed "Not a real question". In the case of the question you linked, it does not suffer from "NARQ" fallacy.

  • The question can serve more people than just the person asking the question. Questions which are single-use -- that is, the person asking it is the only person in the world who is likely to ever benefit from the answer -- are not likely to be accepted by the community. I agree very strongly with this point as well. Questions which violate this principle are often closed "Too Localized". In the case of the question you linked, it does not suffer from "Too Localized" fallacy.

  • The question is on topic. Note that, because all questions whose sole purpose is to acquire a list of products or services are inherently time-limited (they become less and less useful as more of the products or services listed become obsolete or are discontinued), we categorically mark all questions, whose sole purpose is to obtain links to software, as off topic. Personally, I weakly agree with this point as well, though I feel that, if the community were to commit to continuously maintain "software list" type questions, they would be useful. The problem is, how do we organize / incentivize the maintenance of these lists. Questions which solicit off topic information, which includes software lists as well as other off topic ideas, are closed as "Off Topic". In the case of the question you linked, I think it actually is a bit Off Topic, since it is purely about obtaining a list of software (Linux distributions). So, if I were to vote one way or another on that question, I would actually vote to close it as off topic, not "Not constructive". This is unfortunate, as, I feel that we could maintain lists of extremely common and generally useful software like this, and the site would be better off for it. But that's not how it is now. :(

I personally feel that we are trending towards our quest for a "pure" Signal and are setting our standards so high that many valuable questions with practical answers are getting shut out. But like I said, I am outspoken in the community, and many (including moderators, which is what really counts) feel that the status quo is fine, and that we are accepting most or all valid questions and turning away most or all bad questions, with little, if any, crossover.

  • In general, I feel that more subjective discussion, and in particular, lists of software satisfying some condition, would be useful on SU, especially if we had some kind of way to ensure that the lists were cleaned up and edited on a regular basis to remove obsolete information.

  • In general, I feel that questions closed as "Off topic", "NARQ", or "Too Localized" are generally rightfully closed, but I have a problem with "Not constructive" in several cases.

  • In general, I am a bit concerned that maybe we are trending towards being too strict, and interpreting our guidelines a bit too literally when determining what constitutes an acceptable question and what should be closed/deleted.

  • In your specific case (the question you linked to), I think it definitely has a problem with being off topic (see my explanation of what I consider to be on-topic under the current system). The "Not constructive" reason for the closure is nonsense, if you ask me.

Lastly: I want to end on a positive note. The rules, guidelines, procedures and decisions of the StackExchange communities, including SuperUser, are malleable. This means that you (and me, and everyone else) can contribute ideas and help steer it in a direction that is, hopefully, closer to the "ideal" site, and better for everyone. So, if you want to help out, I invite you to contribute your ideas that will make the rules better, without destroying the community and the quality content that we value so highly.


It should have been closed as "Off Topic", not "Not Constructive", but I agree that it should be closed. We should strive to come up with a solution in the future to somehow accept software list questions.

  • 3
    A couple of months (years?) ago there has been an incentive to put those lists of commonly used software into the tag wikis, but unfortunately a) nobody writes those lists and b) nobody ever reads the tag wikis. – slhck Apr 30 '13 at 19:46
  • @allquixotic Long answer and it was not TLDR. I read it all and compliment in interpreting my question better than I was able to put it in words (I mean the "unjust world" part). Next time I will come across a question that seems to me unjustly closed (or destructively closed as I phrased it) I will look at it different. I think I tend to the less strict more tolerance policy. The question I referred to was the last out of a row of closed questions I saw that I found unduly closed. This one drove me to action especially as the question was almost identical to the question in my mind. – hol Apr 30 '13 at 20:13
  • @JuergenHollfelder In my view, we need to focus on ways to add, retain, and maintain the kinds of topics/questions that we find useful and want to see on the site, without simply being "less strict" or "more tolerant". It's not a question of tolerance; it's a question of topicality. Tolerance implies accepting questions which fall outside of our good question guidelines, even though we know they do. Topicality implies adjusting the rules themselves to explicitly allow the questions we find useful. – allquixotic Apr 30 '13 at 20:16
  • 1
    For the kinds of questions we get when we don't interpret the rules as strictly, see some old, now closed and/or deleted questions that were awarded gold badges in 2009 or so: superuser.com/badges/34/stellar-question superuser.com/badges/22/great-question superuser.com/badges/25/great-answer If you have 10k+ reputation, just check them out, and you might understand why we no longer want this stuff. For a site where people think differently (pun intended), check out Apple.SE. – Daniel Beck Apr 30 '13 at 21:31
  • I cannot see what is exactly so wrong with this "kind of questions". I like them and many others obviously, too, hence the many upvotes. Few can overule the many upvotes by deciding that a question is not by the rules and vote for closure. I know, I still got something wrong about "topicality" and "good order" and "purpose of this site" and "this is not a forum". So I will give in and stop arguing. But I want to make a point that popularity of questions being closed leaves some bad impression and may drives one (like me) away from this place to a more friendly place. – hol May 2 '13 at 7:11
  • @hol I do hope you don't see this place as unfriendly just because questions you like were closed. I understand that to some it might not make a good impression, but that makes for an even stronger reason to just delete the posts that aren't a good fit instead of keeping them around for eternity. Note that votes and close votes are completely orthogonal concepts. There is no "overruling" involved here. There are quite a few downvoted posts that aren't closed, and insanely upvoted posts that are. – slhck May 2 '13 at 12:39
  • @slhck Maybe I do. But as a matter of fact I will certainly stick to the StackExchange platform because it is very useful. Deleting posts down would be even worse, that is for sure. When I see a closure note I interpret this with "this is bad" and when I then look at it I often must say "this is not really bad" the question and its answers are what I was looking for. I think that was my original reason for this question "Why is ... ?" and it has throughly been answered. – hol May 2 '13 at 13:48

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