This is obviously begging to be shut down right away and have all my privileges revoked or whatever but why do some people feel they have the right to shut down legitimate discussion? Who decides what is a "real" question or topic of interest? If you don't think it's valid, just click somewhere else but it is really getting to me on this site and Stack Overflow how many really useful questions are shut down because people are asking opinions not textbook facts. Questions like this one are genuinely useful. Don't shut them down. You are making this site less useful for everyone else.

Do people get their kicks by just wandering around the site closing questions? It seems many of the same names appear on the "closed down" box. Just go to a different page, don't ruin everyone else's education the way they choose it.

  • 7
    While GenericJam may be new to this site, I too, after using it for quite a while and contributing quite a bit have lately felt that a very large number of "legitimate" questions and discussions have gotten closed. The number of such closures really saddens me. I have noticed this change in the last few months and can't help but wonder if those who currently moderate are a little too close-happy.
    – Kenneth
    Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 2:30
  • 12
    The high signal-to-noise ratio is what makes the SE network worth-while. If you want to engage in open-ended discussion, there is an entire Internet for that. Go elsewhere, please. That is explicitly not what these sites are for.
    – user229044
    Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 2:31
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    This particular SE site I felt was so well liked in its early days because it wasn't quite as rigid. Don't get me wrong I'm not advocating "anything goes," but I think the spirit of the programmers site has gotten lost.
    – Kenneth
    Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 2:33
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    Why are discussions about moderation invariably accompanied by the words "despot" or "gestapo"? Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 2:51
  • @RH For better or worse a lot of programmer types aren't huge fans of authority, even benevolent. But those words are indeed encroaching on breaking Godwin's Law ;)
    – Turnkey
    Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 3:39
  • 1
    @Kenneth Well, since you're already on Meta, how about you post a question about some of the questions you think were incorrectly closed? Some times all it takes is a couple of edits to re-open them, and a constructive Meta discussion always inspires people to go out there and do these edits...
    – yannis
    Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 5:24
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    Who decides what is a "real" question or topic of interest... just click somewhere else - hm consider studying Optimizing For Pearls, Not Sand: "We feel that the world is awash in questions, but not answers. Answers are the real unit of work in any Q&A system. Therefore, the only logical thing to do is to maximize the happiness and enjoyment of answerers. If this means aggressively downvoting or closing unworthy and uninteresting questions, so be it..."
    – gnat
    Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 8:29
  • Do people get their kicks by just wandering around the site closing questions: Not on Programmers.SE (things are pretty much officiated by the letter of the law, er charter), but on other Stackexchange site - You betcha!
    – Jim G.
    Commented Dec 9, 2012 at 4:16

5 Answers 5


Let's get the most important point out of the way first, and it is this:

You can still benefit from the information on the closed post

That's right; the question, and all eight answers that were posted to it, are still there, information waiting to be consumed by anyone who wants to read it.

Now that that's out of the way...

Stack Exchange is not a discussion forum

While we sometimes entertain questions that provoke discussion for awhile, the primary purpose of the Stack Exchange format is not to promote discussion; it is to get high-quality answers to your questions, and to provide a high-quality repository for others having similar questions.

To make this possible, we have to sacrifice certain things that other forum environments have. Take a close look at those forum environments. On reflection, have you ever found any of them really useful to you at all? Can you count on the fingers of one hand the times when posting to a forum really gave you a timely, meaningful answer to your problem?

Recently, I googled "Ford Taurus 2005 won't start when hot." Do you know how many matches there are? About four hundred thousand. Do you know how many of those matches actually impart useful information? Exactly zero. Well, zero in the first two dozen matches anyway.

Why is this? Because those matches go to forums, where dozens of people have posted the same question over and over again, and hundreds of people have posted countless useless answers to that question, including

  • "I have the same problem, any idea?"
  • "Mine starts but I have this other problem."
  • "Mine always starts, I don't know what your problem is."
  • "Mine only starts at Disneyland."
  • "I like turtles."

And so on.

Stack Exchange is a known solution to a known problem. The question and answer format is carefully crafted to encourage the posting of high-quality material.

The forum environment is exactly the opposite. It is a vast wasteland of suck, promising everything, delivering nothing. It is the Sahara desert, where you walk towards an oasis because you are dying of thirst, but it is just a mirage, and there's no water there.

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    This perfectly describes my experience whenever I have to google a problem with a vehicle. Working on my cars isn't even fun anymore because of the endless stream of garbage that's out there. What's more, no matter how I word my search query, I always end up reading about transmissions for Chevy's or clutches for Fords instead of... well... transmissions for Fords or whatever it was that I was actually trying to find. With that said, I'm rooting for Mechanics SE.
    – jmort253
    Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 6:23
  • Well unfortunately your "You can still benefit from the information on the closed post" idea is false. A question I asked over a year ago now which had quite a few relevant and helpful answers was recently closed and a short while later removed.
    – Kenneth
    Commented Dec 14, 2012 at 2:48
  • @Kenneth: It is true that the question does have to have sufficient value to prevent deletion. Remember, the people who have vote to delete rights also have vote to undelete rights. Commented Dec 14, 2012 at 3:01
  • I would like to know why my question was deleted then... especially more than a year after the fact. There was plenty of value there. I find it interesting when people question decisions to close or delete that there doesn't seem to be much consideration given to the matter. 10000+ users but 5 people can decide to close or remove...
    – Kenneth
    Commented Dec 14, 2012 at 3:21
  • @Kenneth Well, obviously we can't poll all 10000 users to disposition a question. This particular post only has 219 views as of this writing, a good percentage of which may not even be registered users. As to the reason your particular question has been deleted, I can only speculate, but I would imagine that the fact that Programmers.SE's site scope has changed might have something to do with it. Commented Dec 14, 2012 at 3:25
  • I was hardly suggesting that 10000 users should be polled. A change in scope shouldn't affect past questions.
    – Kenneth
    Commented Dec 14, 2012 at 3:28
  • @Kenneth: If old questions are never eligible for deletion it creates too many broken windows. People are forever asking why some old, off-topic question gets to stay, but theirs doesn't. Commented Dec 14, 2012 at 3:34
  • Any more than the people who wrote them during a time when that question was valid are asking why it got closed because the rules changed after the fact?
    – Kenneth
    Commented Dec 14, 2012 at 3:46

Can Questions be Reopened After They've Been Closed by Some Self Appointed Gestapo Moderators?

Certainly. At 3000 reputation, people can vote to reopen a question.

Granted, 3000 is also the level that Gestapo Moderators can vote to close the question.

Who decides what is a "real" question or topic of interest?

The community.

Questions like this one are genuinely useful.

Enh. Questions like that one cannot be answered; just debated. This being the internet, debates devolve into flame wars quickly. So while I don't necessarily agree with that level of closure on the Erlang sort of question, I understand it. And I don't disagree strongly enough to vote to re-open.


Discussions should be closed as they fit the definition of not constructive. Not only is it mentioned explicitly in the FAQ, but there's an entire blog post on the Stack Exchange blog about it. If you want to have a discussion with other users, we do have a chat room - all Stack Exchange sites tend to have at least one for the site. However, you need 20 reputation points to use an existing chat room and 100 reputation points to create your own chat rooms.

Consider that closing questions, especially before they have answers, is a very good thing. It allows the author, and other users with the edit permissions, to make it a good, high quality question that meets all of the guidelines. If a question is too broad or too vague, closing it prevents bad or even incorrect answers and users can still comment, prompting for more information or guiding the user asking the question into providing everything that is needed in order to help solve the problem.

If you think that there's a question that was closed and shouldn't have been, ask about it on Meta. If you think you can fix the question, suggest edits. If you see a bad question, vote to close it or flag it so it can be handled before a bad question gets bad answers and work with the user to improve the question so it is helpful to everyone.

I'd also like to point out that rudeness is not tolerated on Stack Exchange sites and may lead to the suspension of your account. Calling the community elected moderators of a site "Gestapo Moderators" is good way to get off on the wrong foot.

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    Well I have thick skin so I really don't care what people call me. I just don't like rudeness when it is directed at other members of the community :)
    – maple_shaft Mod
    Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 3:00

Yes questions can be reopened and are reopened all the time. The act of closing a question is not a permanent thing, it is simply temporarily halting any further answers until the question can be improved to meet the guidelines of the FAQ.

We generally discourage questions that promote or encourage an unusually large amount of discussion or that can have wildly different opinions on the matter. Asking what What feature of Erlang makes it hard to use? is simply going to attract a lot of noise and isn't going to leave anybody walking away with a definitive answer in their mind. We strive to promote quality over discussions.

This is not to say that discussions and community are not important here. We encourage users to engage in the Chat Rooms to work out issues and to just unload or have fun.

The question you posted would be great on Reddit, but not so much here. There is nothing wrong with Reddit's format, it is just not what we are about.


First answer to this is easy - More often than not the moderators are not doing the closing, the community is. It requires 5 votes to get the question closed, so at least 5 people think the question has a problem.

The next comes from what this site is not - as indicated by @meager, it is a QA site, not an open ended discussion forum. The specific question you referred to, although valid and interesting, fails a number tests required to be valid for this site. It is likely to lead to discussion, the answer could be written into a book, and is promoting answers based on opinion rather than fact. In additional to this, the question itself shows a complete lack of research into the topic - 5 minutes on Google will give about 95% of the answer requested.

I admit to using the "Close" vote freely - after all, my vote cannot close a question on it's own. If I am the only one then the question remains open. I do not do this for "kicks", I do this to help maintain the quality of the questions, and therefore the qaulity of the site. If you want to know what happens without this level of active filtering, have a look at sites like "ask.com" to a question like "How to fix my car" - is that what you really want from this site?

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