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.

Recent example: https://softwareengineering.stackexchange.com/questions/181071/how-to-increase-popularity-of-node-js-modules

The OP was somewhat ranty, but I edited it to be a real question and it still got closed. See the second comment to the question - we have positively frustrated the user and drove him away. What a waste. I am sure there are similar cases.

How could we improve the tone of closing questions to motivate users to improve their questions?

  • 1
    For what its worth, I downvoted because its a marketing question, not a programming question. This question has no place here, imo. Questions about designing node modules... those would be programming questions. Dec 31, 2012 at 21:40

3 Answers 3


You didn't make enough of an edit to stop me from casting a close vote.

However, if you think there is a real question in there make a more substantial edit and flag the post for moderator attention and we'll review the closure.


One solution would be to start posting friendly comments explaining the closure when you vote to close, or when you see a question closed as "not-constructive" with no comment left for the OP to explain why it was closed and what they can do to get their question reopened.

I was actually reading this answer earlier today and thought it might be related. To quote parts of it (emphasis mine):

"Not constructive" is already extremely broad in what it covers, to the point where it's almost too easy to apply it in cases where the closer should really just be editing to clarify instead. It's also one of the hardest reasons to explain to the author of the post being closed - the description is pretty good, and links to the FAQ which elaborates... But at first glance, it's already too close to "we don't like your question, kthanksbye".


Finally, the core problem with your two examples is that there's no clear explanation of the specific problems in the comments; there is a decent meta discussion, but the confusion could have been mitigated more easily if the close-voters had simply been more clear as to what they found troublesome about these questions. Because of the breadth of scope (see above), Not Constructive tends to require more of this than, say, "Not a real question" or "Exact Duplicate". The alternative solution would be to break it up into multiple close reasons... But we've seen this cause problems in the past; encouraging closers to explain their rationale tends to produce more thoughtful closing

So I'd encourage users who vote to close as not-constructive to leave a friendly and helpful comment explaining what makes the question not-constructive, and explain what needs to be done to get it reopened (if such a comment doesn't already exist of course). You don't need to be the close-voter to leave helpful comments like that either.

Personally when I first started with the SE sites, I got upset with some question closures as well. Having an actual person (instead of an extremely broad auto-generated closure message) point out the flaws of the questions to me, and explain what needed to be done to get the question reopened is probably part of the reason why I'm still participating in SE sites today.

  • 1
    I'm glad you brought up commenting. The first comment on the post isn't rude, necessarily, but when someone is new to the community, we should be as constructive and helpful as we can to avoid breeding animosity. :)
    – jmort253
    Jan 1, 2013 at 0:13
  • +1: Just upvoted your Meta.SO post too. Kind of miss seeing you around here too; although you definitely have your reasons.
    – Jim G.
    Jan 1, 2013 at 3:55

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.

  • 6
    We don't have control over the reason given when a post is closed and we don't always have the time to add a more specific comment.
    – ChrisF Mod
    Dec 31, 2012 at 15:00
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    This isn't a problem with moderators; instead, this problem is solveable by the first user on the scene. If the comment on the post isn't friendly, welcoming advice on how to improve the post, then that kills any chance we might have of converting the new user. Animosity just simply breeds more animosity, and this chain can be broken by the first user on the scene being helpful. I know you weren't the first user in this instance, but if you are, offer the asker some tips on how he/she might improve the post.
    – jmort253
    Jan 1, 2013 at 0:11

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