When is it acceptable for a moderator to make a unilateral decision to close a question?
I recently had the pleasure of reading the top 1500 questions/answers on programmers.SE, and noticed an alarming trend. About 100 of these questions, all with a community vote ranging from about +10 to +300, were closed by a select few moderators for being not 'constructive'. Only around 15 questions among these top 1500 were closed collectively by non-moderators for this reason - a large difference.
The point of this post is not to debate the 'constructiveness' of the questions within the set I speak of, or to debate about the '6 guidelines for constructive questions'. There is no doubt in my mind that some of these questions are constructive. It is also clear that these questions, as a whole, are viewed as constructive by the community. As a whole, these questions and answers have probably garnered significantly more than 10,000 community upvotes. They are obviously useful to many. If they really were not at all constructive, I imagine they would be removed from the site, instead of still sitting in their same place with a little [closed] sign stifling further growth.
It is also not the point to bemoan the power of the moderator to close questions with a click. I believe that this is an important tool for some to possess, and takes much of the burden off of the user base when it comes to regulating spam, duplicates, and non-questions. I am grateful to the moderators that use their bestowed power for these reasons.
However, I do see a problem here, and the plot thickens.
An overwhelming majority of these closed questions were flagged as 'not constructive' by a single user. Yes, a single user. I won't call you out, because I don't need to. It is an easy fact to find, for anyone looking. This flag draws moderator attention, which dispatches those with the mod-hammer. It appears that a few moderators really enjoy swinging it, so the questions get closed. I feel that this is an abuse of both the flagging system and of moderator power.
I'm not really sure how we arrived at a point on programmers where this can happen. I do acknowledge and understand why the subjective question criteria exist, and although I don't feel like they are perfect, nothing really is, and i'm willing to accept them, as open to interpretation as they are. My problem rests in the fact that a moderator can easily spoil a good question, well accepted by the community, with a click of a button and no explanation, because they feel that it doesn't meet enough of the criteria, or doesn't meet the criteria well enough. In all the questions mentioned, the community disagreed with the moderator decision to an overwhelming degree.
Case in 2 points, briefly -
This question has been mod-hammered. It has a total of +63 ups, and has been favorited by 36 users. It has been twittered about by Joel, and about this question Jeff says, "the measurement of the worst software bug, and the idea that programmers need to consider the consequences of their professional actions, puts it on the other side of the line to 'acceptable'". For this question, both founders feel it fits, and so does the community. One moderator disagrees, however, so it is closed.
(quoted from Some inconsistency in closing questions?)
If you could pose a question to a Turing test candidate, what would it be?
Yes, this is my question, and yes, it helped sparked this question. It was mod-hammered for not being constructive. I asked this question because I am working in NLP/AI, not because it just popped into my head and thought it would be useless but fun question to post here. The answers people gave helped me further understand the aspects from which a computer is generally considered to be different from a machine, information I can extrapolate from the questions listed. I can ask my robot all the answers (questions) provided by the community. To me, this is very 'constructive'. The included comment regarding the close -
"I was prepared to leave this open, but I think it's run its course."
I really don't get this. At all. I don't feel like this is the moderator's place to judge the 'course' of a question. What is the harm in leaving it open? I hate to see the most awesome community QA site be subverted by a small handful of individuals on some sort of bent that I don't understand. If this question were closed by the community, because the community as a whole did not accept the question, I still wouldn't understand, but I would accept. In these cases, however, I do not.
A more complete list -
[.. excessively long list of URLs elided, try searching using the
votes: modifiers ..]
Again, I'm not trying to say that all of these mod-closed questions belong here. Some of them don't, in my eyes, and I would cast a vote to close. But even if I were a moderator, I don't think I would exercise my authority on any of these, especially given the overwhelmingly positive community response to them. I do feel that it is better to have borderline questions open than closed, but not even all of these questions are borderline, in my eyes. Some of them are just plain awesome! What is the harm, and has the mod-hammer been taken overboard? Is there any way we can escape the tyranny? To the offenders (no need to call you out either) - Why? Why would you ever do this? I love the SE community, but it is things like this that makes me want to bring my contribution (and questions) elsewhere. This is a community site. I don't enjoy seeing it stifled by a handful of trolling mods. I'm now seeing questions arise on the regular with a 'do not close' plea. Is there anything that can be done? Do you feel that anything needs to be done, or do you disagree in entirety?
Edit: 43% closed unilaterally.