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I have experienced this a lot, and I'm sure other users as well. Sometimes the questions are well structured and answer-able but moderators or high-rep users quickly downvote and vote-close the question without even asking for some clarifications.

Wouldn't it be more beneficial if the moderator asked the user (as a small warning) to clear up their question before it's closed ?

Sometimes users don't get the chance to fully express their questions, and some users are not native-english speakers, and hence may ask a question with unclear intentions. I believe some moderators need to be less close-happy and try to understand what is the question being asked before voting to close it.

On other stackexchange websites, I have seen questions from moderators to other users and myself to re-structure the question so that it can be answered appropriately, otherwise it might be closed. The only stackexchange website I have seen questions quickly to be closed are Arqade and Mathematics (out of stackoverflow, askdifferent, electrical engineering, cooking, and physics).

Shouldn't moderators be more careful about which questions they vote to close ? It can be frustrating when a legitimate question is asked but quickly closed due to some misunderstanding from a few moderators ...

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    Perhaps your question is not directed only at moderators - but rather anyone with a close vote. I'm not sure at your rep level if you can see who votes to close your questions, but in a majority of cases they are actually closed 5 users with sufficient reputation. – EBongo Mar 9 '13 at 21:29
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    Hi Fendi, would you be able to provide examples of specific questions so we can clarify what you're asking please? – user27134 Mar 9 '13 at 21:32
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    @EBongo well I classify people with high enough reputation as moderators, as they have privileges that most users don't, which allows them to better moderate the website. – Render Mar 9 '13 at 21:54
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    @kalina I speak of experience, and most of my questions that are voted to be closed are deleted by myself. But if you look over Arqade-Meta, there are many posts that ask why their questions had been closed, along with moderators (or other users) discussing that the question was legitimate. And it sometimes turns out that some moderators just quickly close-voted those questions. – Render Mar 9 '13 at 21:56
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    @Fendi I understand why you would, and in some sense we have "mod-like" powers, but only folks with a diamond are true "moderators". It is a distinction that may be useful to folks reading your question. – EBongo Mar 9 '13 at 22:06
  • @EBongo I added that in question, thank you for pointing that out. – Render Mar 9 '13 at 22:13
  • I have enough rep to cast close votes, but I am not "quick to vote-close a question", so this does not apply to all users with enough rep to cast a close vote. I am like this when it comes to close-voting mainly because one can't cancel or rescind a close vote, so I tend to consider carefully before casting a close vote. – galacticninja Mar 11 '13 at 13:07
  • @galacticninja Thank you for pointing that out..The title should have said why most rather than direct it to everyone. I appreciate that you carefully consider your options before casting a close vote. – Render Mar 11 '13 at 15:22
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Wouldn't it be more beneficial if the moderator asked the user (as a small warning) to clear up their question before it's closed ?

Here's the thing; closure is your warning that a post needs to be cleared up (before it's deleted/left to rot, basically). Closing isn't the end. and the Not a Real Question closure reason makes it pretty clear that a post should be clarified.

We're a fairly high-traffic site, so leaving unanswerable questions to fester for a day or two really helps no one. Yes, you should leave guiding comments, but that's not a reason to not close/vote to close a post. Leaving ambiguous questions open to answers (which might be totally wrong) does more harm than good as answerers waste their time answering what they THINK the question is rather than the exact question.

try to understand what is the question being asked before voting to close it.

Usually we vote to close things where we don't understand what the question is. It's not really a question if you can't understand it, now is it? That is explicitly what the Not a Real Question close reason is for.

The only stackexchange website I have seen questions quickly to be closed are Arqade and Mathematics (out of stackoverflow, askdifferent, electrical engineering, cooking, and physics).

You're not paying much attention to Stack Overflow, then. Often questions are outright deleted within hours, not just closed. And in the case of NARQ, or any question that MIGHT be saved, that is actually going too far, unlike closing. But Arqade is certainly not alone in quickly closing questions, nor is the closure itself generally a problem to my mind.

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    It's not really a question if you can't understand it, now is it? it might be a question that was not phrased correctly due to bad grammar or english. Asking the user to clarify their intentions might motivate them to edit their questions correctly. – Render Mar 9 '13 at 21:51
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    @Fendi: Which is why there's typically a comment that accompanies questions closed as NARQ stating that (one of) the closers can't understand what is being asked, and that the asker should clean it up. – MBraedley Mar 9 '13 at 21:55
  • @MBraedley When many high-rep users quickly vote to close a question, the user won't even have time to correct or clear up what is being asked. – Render Mar 9 '13 at 21:58
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    @Fendi: They can still edit their question. They can still comment on it. The only real thing that's changed is that new answers can't be posted. After editing, it only takes 15 rep to flag a mod for reopening. Then it shows up in our reopen queue. – MBraedley Mar 9 '13 at 22:08
  • Can the person asking the question flag it for reopening ? – Render Mar 9 '13 at 22:10
  • @Fendi: Yes, as far as I know. Why don't you take a look – MBraedley Mar 9 '13 at 22:12
  • @MBraedley I didn't try it, but button to flag for reopening is there. I hope you are not trying to imply that I may be referring to the question you posted as an example of quick voting to close. That question I asked violated one of the rules and deserve to be closed. – Render Mar 9 '13 at 22:16
  • @Fendi: Not at all, but it was the first question of yours I saw that was closed. – MBraedley Mar 9 '13 at 22:46
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    @MBraedley actually I believe an edit to a closed post will now bump it into the reopen queue too – Ben Brocka Mar 10 '13 at 8:07
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I'd like to push back against the thought that closure is a bad thing.

We're far from the only SE site to have this problem. It's part of what comes with the territory as the site grows. We'll get new users that don't bother reading, think this is a forum like everybody else, and ask their cool questions. Most often, this will result in a closure, as their cool question either hits one of our blanket bans (which, as @badp stated, is something we've tried and found we're crap at doing), or have good reason to close them.

This new user is used to forums, where closure is permanent and unchallengable. Here at Arqade, though, closure isn't a permanent state (unless it's a duplicate). Even then, it can be re-opened if it's sufficiently different.

If anything, closure is a good thing, not something to do in the case of last resort. For clearly off-topic questions, it keeps the signal to noise ratio nice and high. These are the blanket bans.

For the rest, one of two things will happen:

  1. The question gets closed, and eventually deleted.
  2. The question gets fixed, and re-opened.

Either one strengthens the signal ratio, and that's a very good thing.

For new users, we strive to leave comments as to why their question got closed, so it can be fixed (if it CAN be fixed). Sometimes we get meta posts about them. This brings more attention to the questions than if we had just left them alone, and usually identifies and fixes any problems the question might have. This is the whole reason we HAVE those other close reasons. It identifies the part of the question that isn't acceptable so that the asker (or others) can fix it.

So closing isn't a bad thing; it's gained a bad rep from forums. New users won't like it, but there's a reason we have this ability; to determine what does, and doesn't belong, and fix that which might be salvagable.


The other part I'd like to address is the new user experience. Are we welcoming to each and every new user? Probably not. It's something we're working on, and the comments on questions is one aspect of being nicer.

But I'd like to challenge the notion that it is entirely our responsibility to keep those new users. We're a community, with set rules in place. A barrier to entry is to adapt to the community's rules and quirks. It's not up to us to coddle and baby new users in order to get them to stay. It's as much their responsibility to conform to our standards as it is for us to be open to welcome new members. The new user has to want to be here, rules and all.

Trying to keep new members for the sake of new blood is self-defeating. If their importance is greater than that of the existing community, we'll lose our experts in our mad rush to place the new user experience over that of our established (and valued) members. That's who this site is built around: expert gamers.

This site isn't a forum, where all you need is to register a new username and away you go. We have rules and policies that we follow, built on the history of StackExchange, and Arqade's own. Yes, it's a barrier to entry. Yes, we should be trying harder to welcome new users and teach them the ropes.

But we shouldn't be doing it at the expense of site quality. If a new user can't be bothered to read the rules that pop up the first time they ask (or answer) a question, or worse, read them and ignore them, then their question deserves to get closed if it's problematic. It's not something we should be waiting to do, just because they're a new user. Closure isn't about the user; it's about the question. If a new user wants to take it personally and leave, that's their choice.

TL;DR: Compromising site quality for the sake of new users is infinitely worse than closing their questions. Especially when it's a temporary state.

  • Do most forums even have a "closed" feature that's similar in name to ours? I've usually seen "locked" used to shut down forum threads, and the wording is only vaguely similar – Ben Brocka Mar 11 '13 at 13:01
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    I think "Close" needs to be called something different. Nobody but experienced users actually know what it means; we constantly have to explain that it's not as permanent as it sounds. Clearly, the SE network is using a word that does not accurately reflect how the site works, which is the definition of a UX failure. – SevenSidedDie Mar 20 '13 at 15:59
  • @SevenSidedDie It's been suggested before, and the SE devs have shot it down. It's a network wide thing, so there's not much we can do about it. The closing text already says, "Check the FAQ to see what you can do to get it re-opened." As far as new user experience goes, we can notify them of the exact things they can do to get it re-opened, but we can't make them read it. – Frank Mar 20 '13 at 16:11
  • @fbueckert Yeah, I was pretty sure it'd been suggested and rejected before. So long as they insist it's not a UX problem though, we'll continue to suffer the results of this UX problem. It's just worth keeping in mind that those of us who are anti-close are, in part, against quick closing because of this. – SevenSidedDie Mar 20 '13 at 16:14
  • @SevenSidedDie Do they still call it "close"? Recently I've been seeing "on hold" instead. – Batophobia Aug 26 '13 at 17:25
  • @Batphobia Nope! That all changed with the close-vote reasons overhaul. Now it's "on hold" for three days, and automatically converts to "closed" if it stays on hold longer. – SevenSidedDie Aug 26 '13 at 17:36
  • @SevenSidedDie Isn't it five days? Either way, it's only a wording change. – Frank Aug 26 '13 at 17:37
  • @fbueckert I might be wrong about the hold period. But yes, though it is just a name change, it is extremely awesome from a UX perspective! Words have power; words are almost entirely our universe when on the web. It also makes me object to quick closes far less. – SevenSidedDie Aug 26 '13 at 17:41
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As I have stated before, I believe as a community we are too quick to close. I think we have too many blanket reasons for closure, and I think the blunt way we close questions, specifically those of new users, drives people away.

There are many previous Meta questions that seem to agree with this stance. Or at least that close votes are overused.

However, it is as much an Arqade cultural behavior as a "site policy". As such, "changing the policy" won't really reduce the number of questions that are quickly closed. There is no such policy requiring it. There is just a disorganized team of editors who have the power to close and use it in this way.

The best, or only, way I see to address this is to earn enough rep to gain the priveledge of close/open voting, and use your powers for good.

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    Whenever this power is abused, many people will be pushed away (as you mentioned) or come here and ask why their questions were closed. And if anyone cares about the sustainable growth of this community, then they know that abusing powers has a negative impact on it. edit Well I can see that some users disagree with you already. – Render Mar 9 '13 at 22:19
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    The assumption that closing is inherently bad is something I very much disagree with. It's a temporary state, for either re-opening, if it gets fixed, or deleted, if it's off-topic and/or there are problems with it that go beyond the norm. – Frank Mar 9 '13 at 22:53
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    I can honestly stand behind each and every one of the blanket bans we have. They aren't that many. Game recommendations (and lists of games?) — they just don't work here; we tried. Game identification without actual material to identify — while I've personally had luck with these questions on the network, that's what it is: luck. Unreleased stuff — if you want to get breaking news, go read news sites. Piracy — for rather obvious reasons. That's all the blanket bans we have, I believe. Each is either inherently reasonable or the result of our trying and failing to do them well. – badp Mar 9 '13 at 23:56
  • At the end of the day, we want to get answerers more than we want to turn askers into users, because we want to optimize for pearls, not sand. The vast majority of the top users in the networks started by answering, not asking - both on Stack Overflow and here and on more lenient sites like SFF. – badp Mar 10 '13 at 0:01
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    @Fendi Suffice it to say, I know how you feel - and I'm not at all surprised the community disagrees with me. At a fundamental level you can see there is an active majority of folks who believe fast closing is the right behavior. Also, to be clear I don't disagree with them that there is a lot of crap content that should be closed - merely that we should do so in a way that is welcoming to new users and our fellow men/women who, like us, play games and sometimes have questions about them. – EBongo Mar 10 '13 at 13:18
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    @fbueckert Of course everyone is entitled with their opinion. And in my own opinion, I believe you are likely to quickly vote-close a question, as I have seen some occurrences of that. – Render Mar 10 '13 at 14:49
  • @EBongo Yes I agree with what you said. Although my topic was not about off-topic questions or questions not abiding the rules, as badp mentioned. My topic was about legitimate questions that get closed quickly before the user notices what they did wrong. – Render Mar 10 '13 at 14:51
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    @Fendi Fair enough, but I believe some of the same applies. Just as reviewers tend to rush to close as NARQ, they'll also rush to close for other reasons like Off-topic. This can present itself in the form of "this looks like a list question - close it" or "isn't this basically game-rec by another name - close it". So I see it as a related problem. – EBongo Mar 10 '13 at 15:20
  • @EBongo Yeah I do agree with you on that point as well. – Render Mar 10 '13 at 15:23
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    @fbueckert I think that there is a small inherent badness to closing, because it's called "closing". New users don't understand what that means and we're left to fix that by hand with (repeated) written explanations (and meta debates) that it doesn't mean what it sounds like it means. So long as there is that UX gap, closing will be at least a little bit inherently bad. The site mechanic itself is not bad at all, but the UX is broken. – SevenSidedDie Mar 20 '13 at 16:03

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