Allow that I have been here pretty much from the start

Let us take:


Closed as "too broad". Really ? I might allow that a bit more detail of the nature of the test would help but it seems to me that its just about as specific as it can reasonably be.

If there's a better place to ask, I'd be pleased to know - but it seems that there are progressively fewer and fewer questions that can be reasonably asked here? And if not here then where (I'm not talking about questions that obviously belong on stackoverflow, rather the ones that fairly obviously don't)

What are "conceptual questions about software development" ?

Yes, I've gone read the rest of the stuff and yes clearly the example is a marginal question (in so far as it might be off-topic - but it wasn't closed as off-topic...)

  • 9
    You seem to acknowledge that the question is marginal, and you also acknowledge that you cannot think of any edits to improve it into a question that is more focused and can get a specific answer. Why then are you cynical about the community deciding this question doesn't meet our quality standards?
    – maple_shaft Mod
    Commented Jul 8, 2013 at 13:56
  • 1
    It doesn't need to be more focused - its a clear and unequivocal question about the nature of programming and preparation - that's why I can't see how to improve it (because it doesn't need improvement). Why am I cynical? Because we seem to be far more determined to close questions than to address them (in that I frequently fail to grasp the relationship between those standards and the reason given for questions being, erm, "placed on hold").
    – Murph
    Commented Jul 9, 2013 at 9:13
  • 6
    Really? You can't see anything wrong with this question? How can I truly prepare for such a test? when the OP doesn't even specify what the test is? It could be a hackathon type test for all we know. The answers given are 110% dependent on what the test actually is.
    – maple_shaft Mod
    Commented Jul 9, 2013 at 11:02
  • Its an 8 hour programming test for a programmer. Either you can program or you can't so there isn't any specific need... this is self evident hence its a good question. Of course it turns out that it isn't self evident to most of the rest of the world (in much the same way as the application of the close criteria is magnificently opaque to me) so what do I know?
    – Murph
    Commented Jul 9, 2013 at 20:43
  • 3
    This earns an automatic downvote from me for the overtly sarcastic tone of the title. That the question you linked is too broad seems self-evident to me; you would need several pages to answer it properly. Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 2:47
  • That's why its meta, that's why I tagged it [Rant] its a very very real frustration to me and I have no concept as to how it can rationally be fixed (that its a real problem is evident from the fact that TPTB are attempting to address it). In respect of the title? Well... if you look at new questions and see more [Closed] (or equivalent) than anything else what other conclusion is one to draw?
    – Murph
    Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 6:47
  • 2
    I think it's easier to just leave the site and find somewhere else that allows more open Q&A between programmers... I've long ago given up trying to change this site. They don't want to change, despite losing many of their top users, and there's not much we can do for this "community-run" site as long as the powers-that-be decide they have a different vision of the site.
    – Rachel
    Commented Jul 12, 2013 at 0:47

3 Answers 3


There are things that you as a relatively high reputation user can do:

  1. Edit the question to improve it. You saw an answerable question in there and posted an answer - help the rest of the community see what you saw by teasing out the actual question and making it clear.
  2. Add a comment explaining why it should be left open.
  3. If the question is closed vote to reopen - preferably after an edit to improve it.
  4. Engage with the community in chat to see if you can find out why people are voting the way they do and explain your point of view.

As to your final point - the close reason displayed is the one that the majority have chosen. There could be two or more close reasons in all, but we never see the others.

  • 1 & 3 are the first problems - what if there is no need to edit the question? As for engaging... well I engaged by answering questions but too many questions worthy of answers are being stomped on for reasons I utterly fail to grasp - hence [rant]
    – Murph
    Commented Jul 8, 2013 at 13:34
  • And further, looking at the list of interesting questions I was presented with, there are several that - by the criteria seemingly used in closing other questions - ought to be stomped on from a great height but haven't been (at least one "give me examples of")
    – Murph
    Commented Jul 9, 2013 at 10:55
  • 1
    @Murph - if you think other questions should be closed, then vote to close. They'll appear on the review queue and if others agree then they'll vote to close as well.
    – ChrisF Mod
    Commented Jul 9, 2013 at 10:59
  • 1
    the point is that I don't think they should be closed but if the criteria (which I struggle with) were being applied consistently then it would appear to me that they ought to have been closed (by others)
    – Murph
    Commented Jul 9, 2013 at 20:41

One of the hardest things to realize about Stack Exchange is that we are contributors to a site, but we are not the revenue stream for the business model. That lines from the next person to visit the site. Much of the site is designed around this - optimizing the search engine and being the place to go to find the answer to the question (not a forum that has a dozen answers, if you want that, there are many sites that cater to that approach).

For a question to be useful to this business model, it must be something someone wants to come to and see. A question that is only helpful to one person - the one who asked it - adds negligible value to Stack Exchange as a whole. Compare to a question that people do want to come to and see.

As users with a reasonable amount of reputation it is our responsibility to keep the site on topic, and useful to this end. If someone is asking polling question, or a question that doesn't do a good job of explaining itself it needs to be addressed. In many cases, this means closing questions. For some reason, P.SE tends to get a lot of the people looking for help on their career, education, or with very poorly defined questions.

I don't believe that it is fewer questions that are allowed to be asked, but rather that you see more and more of the borderline and on the poor side of borderline.

I will note that I personally have a philosophy of close fast, fix, reopen to try to avoid getting answers to questions that don't work correctly (the polling questions are most notorious for this). I do dismay at the difficulty that people seem to have reading the on topic portion of the help center and those who have the question closed as "too broad" or "primarily opinion based" on Stackoverflow and then reask it here without fixing the underlying problem of too broad or opinion based.

Aside from closing questions, we have the ability to edit them. Transforming a question that isn't a good fit into one that is a good fit (even if it is not the one originally asked, but should have been asked).

To the editing part, consider Java continuous integration with extras and Considerations on which Java version to run in Production which are two examples of questions that I reworked into ones that fit the site. I am sure other people have other examples - I just don't know them off the top of my head.

If there is a question that you believe should be open, please, come into the chat room and people there would be happy to work with you to figure out how a question can be worded so that it can fit properly within the site.

Many times, though, this will involve working with the original asker of the question which can be difficult (there is a surprisingly large number of users who ask a question and never revisit the site logged in again - even if it is a good question).

I'd much rather have a open good question on the site than a closed question, but I'd rather see a closed question than a multitude of poor quality open ones.

Going back to chat again, it really is a good place for the 'fun' things that people seem to nostalgize about and asking/answering those really fuzzy questions that seem to keep showing up about careers and education.

  • 1
    I'd like to see an argument why I should be concerned about the stackexchange business model. They don't pay me.
    – psr
    Commented Jul 12, 2013 at 23:09
  • 2
    @psr no, but it keeps the lights on for the site and helps people understand what direction the people who do keep the lights on will take (and enforce) when a decision is made. Trying to fight against that tends to be frustrating and fruitless.
    – user40980
    Commented Jul 12, 2013 at 23:11
  • 1
    @psr - their business model maintains your community so you're able to participate and get the answers you need.
    – user53019
    Commented Jul 12, 2013 at 23:52

I get your frustration and feel we display closed questions like heads on the end of spears to discourage entry, but it's not easy to identify or have any consensus on appropriate questions.

The same 5 people are doing all the closing. You can't rely on the entire history of the site because the rules, interpretations, and people change.

You can't deny that there are too many questions that completely disregard the suggestions for acceptable questions.

Personally, I don't think the question example you're using offers any benefit to professional programmers. A test you can use any language and is going to involve programming just about anything they can come up with is hard to prepare for as you indicated in your answer. Are there programmers spending countless hours cramming for these types of tests or wasting money on some self-help book that claims it will teach you how to be a programmer in one day?

If this question is acceptable just because it's about programming, why not invite the thousand of other questions anyone could ask about how to get better at anything programming related? I wish more people (myself included) would ask how to get better at writing questions and stop making me close them. https://softwareengineering.stackexchange.com/questions/204587/which-certification-to-go-for How about getting certified in reading the FAQ's?

  • 1
    I agree with most of your points. Looking at the [close stats], there are 9 users with over 1,000 reviews and the top 20 account for 88% of the reviews. It's not just 5, but it is a small, active group. Looking at the profiles though, I see a very broad range of personalities (as expressed by comments) and approaches to closing. We get a number of interesting questions that just don't fit the site format. It sucks; I don't like closing them; but I believe in maintaining the site's quality until we figure out a way to handle those non-constructive Q's.
    – user53019
    Commented Jul 12, 2013 at 23:50
  • @GlenH7 close review stats are not quite straightforward; eg of top 10 reviewers, at least 3 tend to rather frequently vote "Leave Open", which is the opposite of what you're looking for. On the other hand, I know of at least 3 active closers who make a lot of voting outside of review, so that it's missing in these stats. IIRC Rachel made a SEDE query that gave real close stats; it wasn't 100% accurate since it didn't account for deleted questions, but still better than review stats
    – gnat
    Commented Jul 14, 2013 at 23:38
  • 3
    @gnat Here's the query. It's caveat is that it only counts close votes on questions that ended up closing. That's arguably not the full picture either.
    – user53019
    Commented Jul 15, 2013 at 0:55
  • @GlenH7 yes I was thinking about this query. It makes better sense than review stats
    – gnat
    Commented Jul 15, 2013 at 5:24

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