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Say I've asked a question that may be rather controversial. Oh, wait, I have. It was closed, and for good reason: it's probably not the best fit for Stack Exchange, no matter how interesting the resulting answers and discussion might have been.

Stack Exchange sites are known for having very fast turnaround: I can ask a question and have votes, comments, and answers within minutes. On Stack Overflow, sometimes within seconds. That's great for getting answers to legitimate questions, but unfortunately, it's also great for getting close-votes on questions whose legitimacy is in doubt.

I propose that on a subjective-question site such as Programmers, when a question could go either way, closing be postponed until answers demonstrate whether or not the question has merit. A so-so question can still garner great answers, because the people who provide great answers are likely going to view the question impartially; and after all, answers are the blood of Stack Exchange.

Is there a good solution to this?

  • The answer was deleted by the poster. – ChrisF Jun 21 '11 at 21:54
  • @ChrisF: Thanks, one mystery solved. :) – Jon Purdy Jun 21 '11 at 21:57
  • Indeed, the first comment on the question made my answer obsolete. – user281377 Jun 22 '11 at 6:21
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Um... Wow. We've really done a lousy job of communicating this, haven't we...

Closing is "probation"

That's the whole point, y'see? Put the question in limbo for a bit, while folks discuss it, edit it, beat it into shape and make it presentable. Then re-open, so it can be answered.

If we didn't want to give borderline questions a chance, we'd just delete them. Often enough, we have to do that anyway... but they do usually get a chance, whether minutes or days, to reform and be good citizens.

Yes, a great answer can salvage a borderline question. Heck, a truly great answer can salvage a horrible question. But the point isn't to have horrible questions with great answers - it's to have great questions with great answers!

  • I had some long winded answer prepared, but this says it all really. – ChrisF Jun 21 '11 at 22:06
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    I suppose the real problem is that close-votes are easier to get than reopen-votes. It's just the culture: of course the point of closing is to give the question a chance to improve, but if the question is as good as it's going to get and still controversial, editing isn't an option, and reopening is not going to happen. I think that represents a missed opportunity for good answers, that's all. – Jon Purdy Jun 21 '11 at 22:15
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    @Jon: some questions just aren't a good fit here... Doesn't mean they're not good questions, just means they don't really work for a Q&A site. A discussion site, maybe... A proper essay, if you do the research yourself. But if folks can't agree on what the answer should look like, they'll only be a headache here. That said, use the close-probation to fight for your question - argue for it, justify it, fix what you can and hope for the best. – Shog9 Jun 21 '11 at 22:25
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    @Jon - don't forget you can always flag your edited question for a moderator to review - we will reopen if it's the correct decision. – ChrisF Jun 21 '11 at 22:28
  • The problem is that a lot of the "good subjective" stuff is about the answers a question will get. I've seen borderline questions with good subjective answers and bad subjective answers, and voted to close accordingly. Closing makes it impossible to judge on that basis. It's possible to modify the question while closed, but it really isn't possible to judge what the answers will be like. – David Thornley Jun 23 '11 at 22:00
  • @David: if you have a question that meets all the question-specific guidelines, is on-topic, etc. and could potentially have good answers (doesn't ask anything stupid like "what's your best one-line language flame?"), then there's no reason to close it. But if it collects a bunch of lousy answers, then you pull up the subjective guidelines and say, "Hey, you tried, but it just isn't working". You don't leave it open, collecting badness, hoping someone comes along and saves it with a brilliant answer! – Shog9 Jun 23 '11 at 23:03
  • @Mr. CRT: Obviously we close when the answers don't meet the "good subjective" standard. However, the question was about leaving questions open longer to get a look at the likely answers, and your answer was that closing is probation. In the case where we're doubtful about the question for other reasons, that's entirely true. In the case where we're doubtful about the quality of answers the question will elicit, closing prevents us from finding out. – David Thornley Jun 24 '11 at 14:15
  • @David: if the question is asking for lousy answers, then... well, it shouldn't do that. Otherwise, it's just speculation. I'd have to say, if there's a reasonable chance that a question could get good answers and it meets the rest of the rules and guidelines, it should just stay open... At least until lousy answers turn it into an eyesore. But we're getting increasingly abstract here - do you have an example of a question that was closed purely because someone thought it might get bad answers? – Shog9 Jun 24 '11 at 14:43
  • @Mr. CRT: No, I don't have an example right now, but it's the question posed by the OP, who was asking that borderline questions be left open and judged on their answers. (His example does not, to me, qualify as a borderline question.) – David Thornley Jun 24 '11 at 14:53
  • @David: there are a lot of ways a question can be "borderline". The subjective guidelines, key though they are to letting this site exist, are among the weakest reasons for closing a question: duplicate, off-topic, incoherent, rant/poll/GTKY/troll - these are all much more crucial. So if you can avoid those, and then meet at least some of the guidelines, you should at least have a shot. – Shog9 Jun 24 '11 at 14:59
  • @Mr. CRT: I am getting increasingly convinced that we're in complete agreement here (although not necessarily on the details of what falls into the categories), despite a feeling that we're talking past each other. – David Thornley Jun 24 '11 at 15:08
  • @David: probably. It's The Meta Way ;-) – Shog9 Jun 24 '11 at 15:17

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