The home page of P.SE is often littered with inappropriate questions that have been appropriately closed. This is an important part of any .SE site.

However, it can be intimidating or off-putting for potential participants who encounter it as their first experience. It may make them hesitant to ask questions, and it may not provide enough context to guide them toward asking better questions (or asking their question in a more suitable way).

What can we do to maintain the scope of the site while avoiding the negative impact on newer users?

  • @JensG You may wish to read Are you still confused about what Programmers is for? and help center. Optimizing for pearls, not sand is another very good read. If there are specific questions that you believe should be up voted and not closed or have ideas as to how to better guide people asking questions to understand the scope, please help us help them. – user40980 Nov 1 '13 at 23:09
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    @MichaelT: following the "pearls" link, one can read "Consider the question Does torture work well as an interrogation technique? on Skeptics. Is this a brilliant question? Is it even an original question? No, it’s just a mundane grain of sand question that could have been asked by anyone at any time. What makes it remarkable is the incredible answer on that question by Larian LeQuella with over 100 upvotes." - How do you plan to ever get the remarkable answer if the question is voted to an early death? – JensG Nov 2 '13 at 0:29
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    @JensG which continues to the next paragraph "That’s why we’re determined to keep question quality high, even at the cost of refusing a little sand. It’s true that you can’t have Q&A without questions, but having the wrong sorts of questions is far more dangerous. The fastest way to kill any Q&A site is to flood it with low-quality questions." - down voting is one of the ways that people work to maintain high quality questions on the site, by helping to separate the poor questions from the good ones. – user40980 Nov 2 '13 at 1:46
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    @JensG this continues a bit further down with "There is no such action for question lists. I can’t say “these questions suck, show me this question I just thought up instead”: that’d be silly. So, it’s imperative the question list have a high signal-to-noise ratio, and removing the penalty for those users who do take the time to read a question and later find it to be useless so they can down-vote is conducive to that." - this is important, the down vote shows a lack of research for the person asking the question, or a lack of topicality that the person answering it won't be rewarded. – user40980 Nov 2 '13 at 1:49
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    @JensG and at the end of the post "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." -- we have more than enough questions to answer on P.SE. As has been shown elsewhere, the participation in the site is directly related to the moderation of it (part of this is down voting and closing questions that are not up to the standards). – user40980 Nov 2 '13 at 1:50
  • @MichaelT Maximize the enjoyment of answerers - good point. I would recommend to start there. I have never asked a question so far here, only provided answers and have been offended more than I can count so far. Wasting a lot of time for a net-effect of being rebuked multiple times isn't what I would call "maximized enjoyment". And by the way, programmers.stackexchange.com/questions/216129/… was (and still is after all those changes) a good example of a really shitty question where it's hard to provide a high-powered answer at all. – JensG Nov 2 '13 at 9:28
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    @JensG you don't see that there are a number of up and down votes on that question, and some close votes too. There attempts to make it narrow enough on scope for the site. If you wish to discuss that question, please open a new meta question or come ask us in Software Engineering Chat. – user40980 Nov 2 '13 at 14:03

Where is this "wall of closed questions" that you speak of?

Looking at the "Top Questions" tab (which is what everyone sees when they first open the site), of the 40 or so questions that are there, roughly 5 (or about 12 percent) are closed. I wouldn't exactly call that an epidemic of closed questions. At the moment, there are no closed questions on the Unanswered tab.

The percentage of closed questions doesn't seem to be significantly higher than that of other Stack Exchange sites. Perhaps the bikeshedders have gone elsewhere (that is a good thing).

Just checked again this morning. There are seven closed questions on the front page, slightly higher than before, but still not what I would consider a wall.

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    This could be an example of a wall that OP was talking about: meta.programmers.stackexchange.com/questions/6233/… – DXM Nov 1 '13 at 5:24
  • bikeshedders are likely trying to leak through to Workplace (which currently has slightly higher close rate than Programmers). It probably also helps that they accommodate part of fake hotness damage from collider, while before it focusing mostly on breaking Programmers - sort of (crap)load balancing if you wish – gnat Nov 1 '13 at 7:14
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    @gnat Don't forget the stats don't show deleted questions, and there is an auto-deletion script that runs on questions older than a month. I know Shog said the actual closed/deleted/voted-below-0 rate was over 50% earlier this year, or take a look at the last month open/close ratio compared to the rest of the data points in this Data.SE query. You can't get good stats on the publicly visible data for SE sites which have a high number of deleted questions. – Rachel Nov 1 '13 at 11:58
  • @gnat Which is why I wish they'd include meta data about deleted questions in Data.SE so we can get more accurate statistics – Rachel Nov 1 '13 at 11:58
  • @Rachel 200% agree that it would be helpful to have this info in SEDE: two bounties in the MSO feature request you referred are mine :) – gnat Nov 1 '13 at 12:17
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    @gnat: You cite the collider a lot. Maybe it's just my workflow, but I've gotten here maybe once through the collider, and never has the collider motivated me to ask a new question. I don't think it's nearly the bad influence you think it is, although I do agree that some questions do show up in the collider that shouldn't be there. – Robert Harvey Nov 1 '13 at 15:17
  • @RobertHarvey looking at the bounties listed here makes me feel that at least 8 guys besides me think it's about as bad influence as I think it is. Incidentally, most of them are active regulars at Programmers / TWP, focusing on these sites and not having to devote a lot of their time to moderate Stack Overflow – gnat Nov 1 '13 at 21:01

Many of the potentially salvageable but closed "on hold" questions will have a comment or three from reviewers indicating why the question was put on hold. And that's beyond the boilerplate banners that SE applies.

It's natural for newish Askers to ask broad questions or difficult to answer questions. The comments that are left help them scope their question down to something that fits within the site scope and capability.

And I will note that not every question on hold receives comments from reviewers. Blatantly off-topic stuff just gets closed and frequently downvoted.

To address your question - I think you're forming the wrong impression.

Having some degree of closed questions shows to new visitors that the community cares about the site and that it would be prudent to research a little bit before just throwing a question out there. It shows that the site actively maintains itself and is looking for high quality Q&A, not just noise.

We actually want site participants to hesitate before asking their first question(s). The site has a rich repository of already answered questions with a wealth of information. The implied suggestion is to poke around and see what you can find first.

So how can we (you!) help avoid turning away potential participants? It's pretty simple:

  • Actively participate in the review queues.

  • Vote appropriately for both questions and answers. Start looking at down votes as an investment in site quality. A down vote tells the noise makers to cut it out.

  • Leave constructive comments to questions and answers to help explain what the post needs in order to be more constructive and have a higher quality. A constructive comment tells them what is wrong and also suggests how it could be fixed or improved.


We can stop closing so many questions, and relax our standards.

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    Wrong. You attract subject-matter experts by asking quality questions and eliminating the noise. The only way you can do that, short of deleting noisy questions outright, is to close them. – Robert Harvey Oct 31 '13 at 18:41
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    As seen from the stats in why are the best questions the ones which have been closed? on MSO, P.SE only started gaining in popularity after people started actively moderating it - closing questions and deleting things that should be deleted. – user40980 Oct 31 '13 at 18:44
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    @RobertHarvey: reviewing some of similar meta posts and discussions, it does appear that current stance on what's considered quality vs. noise has also resulted in a number of existing and active SMEs to leave, so same policy does seem to work both ways. And I think our goal shouldn't be to just attract SMEs but help cultivate the community and the profession so that today's noob who might know know any better, would stay and hopefully become an SME tomorrow. – DXM Nov 1 '13 at 5:03
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    Why not stop opening questions? That could dramatically increase Efficiency and would drop the closed rate down to zero. Sounds like a perfect solution to me. And on top, you would no longer wasting other peoples time with strange politics games. – JensG Nov 1 '13 at 12:13
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    @DXM: The SME's that you refer to were generally interested in the social aspects of the site, which are no longer part of the site scope. – Robert Harvey Nov 1 '13 at 15:18
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    @RobertHarvey: Wrong. I was referring to SME's who visit the site quite often, have a ton of rep because of number of people they've helped with their answers, but who don't agree with where the quality vs. noise balance is falling. And don't get me wrong, we absolutely need that balance and I'm hoping Moron's answer didn't mean "let's keep everything open" but we could definitely benefit from "relaxing" our standards at least a tiny little bit... IMO – DXM Nov 1 '13 at 15:23
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    @DXM one of the best ways to help with this would be to participate in /review close votes. When people look at their own reviews and see other 'leave open' may help moderate the close votes (I know seeing Glen casting some in a way that wasn't the way I cast made me reevaluate those votes) or help in removing something that shouldn't be in the queue in the first place faster. It also helps give a sense of what is getting closed to be able to form a more informed opinion on what is getting asked (or cleaned up) and closed. – user40980 Nov 1 '13 at 16:00
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    @DXM - several of the more active close reviewers are frequently in The Whiteboard. I / we always welcome a discussion of whether a question should be closed, stay open, or if it can be tweaked to be made constructive. There are quite a few that have been salvaged that way. – user53019 Nov 1 '13 at 16:19
  • @DXM >> I'm hoping Moron's answer didn't mean "let's keep everything open" - It did not. – Morons Nov 1 '13 at 16:52
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    I must say, the questions I find the most helpful/informative/interesting are the ones we often close as being too subjective/open-ended. As a SME (or at least someone with a good rep), it is discouraging to almost entirely have questions I can answer and very few questions I can learn from. – Telastyn Nov 2 '13 at 4:36
  • It's unfortunate that Up/Down votes aren't visible to everyone on meta... this answer is at +9/-7, while the others are at +5/-2 and +4/-1 right now, which means this one is the "lowest scoring" answer despite having more votes. – Rachel Nov 3 '13 at 13:52

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