I asked a question on Programmers, and received 7 upvotes, but got the following comments, if you could spare a look:

List of comments

And then the question got closed for being not a real question. But then a user commented on my question, and said this after it being closed:

Yet another highly rated question with a thoughtful, highly-rated answer gets closed for "not being a real question". Three cheers for Stack Exchange.

So I think there really may be a problem here. Could we somehow make the closing system more strict, or make the reopening system more lenient?

I'm not doing this because this is my question, but more because I think this could benefit everyone.

Question Here, original (first) revision here.

3 Answers 3


When I sense a good question buried within a vague wording (and your felt like that to me), I for one try to get it closed as soon as possible.

Thing is, vague wording is a road to closure anyway but while open, it can attract irrelevant answers which will make it difficult (as explained here) to further edit the question into the shape allowing to repel 1 garbage answers and reopen it.

As you can see, fast closure here serves the primary need to make reopening easier and protect the poorly worded good question from getting bad answers.

1 repel garbage answers - one sure can not 100% protect a question from getting garbage answers. But one can at least try to phrase the question so that one can come to Meta, say "Here's the question, here's the answer, I don't feel like the answer is OK" and have a good chance of garbage being downvoted by active community members who happen to read this complaint.

  • ah, so now I understand. Thanks gnat.
    – Zerium
    Commented Dec 29, 2012 at 23:41
  • And what exactly qualifies you or any other person with 3k+ points to determine vagueness?
    – user43855
    Commented Feb 16, 2013 at 22:37
  • @Nathan good question, the one that can be authoritatively answered only by Stack Exchange designers I think. My understanding is, they generally wanted to give to question answerers more "power" than to askers ("the world is awash in questions, but not answers") but why they have chosen 3K reputation (and not some other value) as an indication that one can be trusted enough to close vote, I can't tell
    – gnat
    Commented Feb 17, 2013 at 8:39

With reference to the FAQ's Don't Ask:

You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face. Chatty, open-ended questions diminish the usefulness of our site and push other questions off the front page.

Maybe the question can be edited to make it more focussed, but as it stands (IMHO) it fails this test.


This answer is in two parts:

  1. address the specific question that was closed
  2. proposal to SE members (who can vote for closing, i.e. anyone with reputation above 3000)

Analysis & suggested remedies

Well, let's go by the reasons given for closing, and consider each argument in turn. Is the question:

  • ambiguous? Probably not, it's quite on the spot.

  • vague? Well the subject is quite clear (what are the criteria ...?), but then the text muddles it all up. Suggested remedy: rephrase the text. In particular, don't state as a fact what you think about HTML or C++, rather make it clear that there are (probably subjective) opinions on each one. Then close off by restating the subject line question.

  • incomplete? No, looks pretty complete to me.

  • overly broad? Well, one could argue that, but then again, it is also kind of specific and narrow as it asks for (a list of) criteria that help to categorize languages. Suggested remedy: rephrase to ask for criteria for "computer languages" rather than just "languages".

  • rhetorical? No, it's real, and many people will likely benefit from a good answer.

  • cannot be reasonably answered? Obviously that's not true, considering the answers given.


I think the current practice of closing questions is perceived as "not constructive" and leaves people confused, and probably makes them angry. As a result it drives away people instead of motivating them to rephrase their questions.

Two proposals:

  1. SE moderators could be more construtive in giving a particular reason and suggest a remedy. E.g. by rephrasing the reason slightly and highlighting the specific criteria(s) that triggered the closing:

    It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. As moderators, we/I consider this question to be ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. Please rephrase the question. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, see the FAQ.

  2. The action of closing a question should be votable and somehow feed back on reputation. More specifically, if a moderator's closing is down voted on "too many" questions, obviously, that should impact his or her reputation.

  • Downvote as much as you want, but please give your reasons.
    – miraculixx
    Commented Dec 29, 2012 at 8:36
  • Your proposal should be posted as a separate question, so it can be voted on independently. I must warn you though that your suggestion for closures to impact reputation is not going to be well received and there's absolutely no chance that such or a similar feature will be implemented. Also, if you haven't already, check out the Meta FAQ, voting is a bit different on Meta.
    – yannis
    Commented Dec 29, 2012 at 9:07
  • 1
    I have some sympathy here, but you are missing an obvious point - it is not necessarily moderators who are closing posts, but anyone with the appropriate reputation can vote to close. It is all of us, the community, that have a big say... In the case of this question, the five votes were all from non-moderators.
    – Andrew
    Commented Dec 29, 2012 at 9:22

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