4

This is a follow up to BartMan's question, which is now locked. We shouldn't be dismissive of the over-moderation concerns of potential new users. You asked for 10 examples of inappropriately closed questions, so here they are, found by querying for closed questions I answered.

  1. https://softwareengineering.stackexchange.com/q/236533/3965 Closed as opinion based, but actually has some interesting objective reasons.

  2. What are the perks and drawbacks of using html templates versus building the html in-code Closed as too broad, after garnering four concise yet relatively thorough answers.

  3. Segregating interfaces/concerns to a tree Ironically, given the penchant on this site for closing questions as too broad, this rather specific question was closed as a duplicate of a question that was only vaguely related.

  4. https://softwareengineering.stackexchange.com/q/230784/3965 This question was closed as "education advice," which we used to define as "what school/degree program/course/certification should I personally enroll in" and lately seems to be broadly defined as "any question that mentions a university or degree or learning of any kind."

  5. Giving team members more decision-making power led to very long arguments, blocking progress since there is no one with the final say This one admittedly might fit better on workplace, but has some very scrum-specific concerns, which makes it unique to our profession. At the very least, it should have been migrated instead of closed.

  6. https://softwareengineering.stackexchange.com/q/230271/3965 Despite an intentionally provocative title, this question asks useful, thought-provoking questions and received three insightful and relatively objective answers. If you don't like the title, edit the title. This question illustrates a larger concern that entire questions are frequently being rejected due to one small easily-edited part of the question.

  7. https://softwareengineering.stackexchange.com/q/224275/3965 Closed as opinion based, despite having concrete cultural and historical reasons behind the practice.

  8. How do we go from assembly to machine code(code generation) Closed as "unclear what you're asking" despite having a short, clear answer. It seems like this close reason is often used to mean "I personally don't know the answer" or "I personally don't know how to explain this in a concise, easy to understand manner."

  9. https://softwareengineering.stackexchange.com/q/227743/3965 Closed as "what language should I learn next," but the question is more detailed, more objective, and less personal than that. Also throws in the "education advice" reason, presumably because the question mentions the word "learning."

  10. Debugging checklists: How much it's necessary to have? Closed as too broad, despite having a few good answers already. This "too broad" reason is way overused for a site that's supposedly about conceptual questions. If a concise conceptual answer can be given at the same abstraction level as the question, it's not too broad.

I could go on, and those are just the ones I personally got around to answering in the last month or so before they got closed. I used to occasionally address these kinds of closings individually with meta posts, but it has become overwhelming, and people now seem more interested in finding excuses to close a question rather than reasons to keep it open.

The problem is twofold. First, people have no incentive to be judicious with their close votes. Second, voting to close is easily done during normal use of the site while the questions are at the top of the page, whereas voting to reopen requires effort to go back and find appropriate questions that may no longer be visible on the front page.

The balance of moderation power is heavily tilted in favor of the closers. All the 10k+ users put together currently have enough votes to close every single new question on this site every day 10 times over, and that's not enough?! If that doesn't sound like over-zealous moderation, I don't know what does.

My proposed solution?

  • Provide a notification to anyone capable of casting reopen votes (3000+ rep) when a question they upvoted or answered has been closed, or
  • Allow some means of casting reopen votes before a question is closed, and
  • Time out the downvoting and close voting privileges of people who vote to close a question that is later reopened.
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    The lock is because of the rejected migration - not any other mod action. – user40980 May 6 '14 at 21:29
  • Don't we already have a reopen queue that addresses most of these concerns? If the commumity really cares about these questions, they should spend some time there casting reopen votes. – Robert Harvey May 6 '14 at 22:04
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    One "problem" we have here is that you, Karl, have a real knack for taking a question that would usually get lousy answers and giving it an answer much better than the question. – psr May 6 '14 at 22:14
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    For example, on #7 the other 2 (remaining) answers don't quite answer the question - they give opinions on how commenting code should work. The question was written in a way that invited such answers. Your answer was much less opinionated. This happens fairly often with you - you can answer questions with subjective elements in a valuable way, but often the other answers to those questions aren't good. (Neither of the 2 I'm calling out are bad, but often they are). I don't have a great answer on how to deal with that. – psr May 6 '14 at 22:36
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    @psr close the question, edit it so that it doesn't have the parts that cause people to answer it in an opinionated or subjective way, and then reopen it. – user40980 May 6 '14 at 22:41
  • @MichaelT - I don't think I can. It's not the phrasing - it's inherently part of the question. I think there is a class of questions that admit valuable answers and also not especially valuable answers. Karl has a lot of valuable answers to such questions. – psr May 6 '14 at 22:52
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    @psr certainly. However, closing the question is an attempt to prevent those not especially valuable (and sometimes very poor) from getting in there. Ideally, the question is one that can be modified for allowing just the good answers, but it is necessary to close them to prevent a constant stream of crap answers in there with additional anecdotes and forum like answers ("I agree with Robert but think that you should do something else"). – user40980 May 6 '14 at 23:08
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    Related (to the first bullet of your proposed solution): Notify answerers that a question they've answered is in trouble – yannis May 7 '14 at 7:21
  • Thank you for bringing up this conversation in a non-inflammatory way. I like to think that civil discussions are always welcome. – GlenH7 May 7 '14 at 14:33
  • A bit late to the party, but #7 looked salvageable to me, so I edited it to look more like the objectively answerable question that Karl seemed to read it as and cast a reopen vote. We'll see what people think. – Ixrec May 24 '15 at 16:12
4

The first thing to realize is all but one of these questions have five close votes. Not a single one is there a review by you with a close vote review of 'leave open' on it. That is the best time to act on them if they are to remain open rather than closed.

In most cases, the reopen review was done by three different people than who did the close votes:

  1. https://softwareengineering.stackexchange.com/questions/236533/what-are-the-benefits-of-exotic-languages-and-scripts (reopen review: https://softwareengineering.stackexchange.com/review/reopen/60905 )

    This question is too broad with three nested questions in it. It is asking for people's opinions on things "Why would somebody explicitly want this?" and asking for a poll of the reasons for the original request (on Software Recommendation) reasoning. We can't know what the reason is, we are only guessing and giving our opinions.

  2. What are the perks and drawbacks of using html templates versus building the html in-code (reopen review: https://softwareengineering.stackexchange.com/review/reopen/58877 )

    This question is a poll. Plain and simple.

    what are other advantages and disadvantages of both approaches?

    It can get dozens more answers and still not have a right answer. There is no problem posed in the question. There can be no answers solving the problem.

  3. Segregating interfaces/concerns to a tree

    Apparently this one has been reopened from being a dup.

  4. https://softwareengineering.stackexchange.com/questions/230784/is-a-degree-in-cs-and-a-degree-in-se-the-same-thing (Reopen review: https://softwareengineering.stackexchange.com/review/reopen/56022 )

    This question is asking about career and education and is asking questions specific to the curriculum at various universities.

  5. Giving team members more decision-making power led to very long arguments, blocking progress since there is no one with the final say (I couldn't find a reopen review on this one)

    I'd argue its a better fit for PM.SE. The question is one more of project management than methodologies and working with the people more than the patterns.

  6. https://softwareengineering.stackexchange.com/questions/230271/is-procedural-programming-the-root-of-all-object-oriented-evil (Reopen review https://softwareengineering.stackexchange.com/review/reopen/56018 )

    Seriously?

    Is procedural programming the root of all object oriented evil?

    You've got debate forming language right in the question title. If you think this can be a good question, edit it into one that isn't inflammatory and isn't trying to spark a debate or discussion. You have just as much ability to fix the issue as other people do and appear to have a better idea of what the proper question should be. When answers start out with "I think the problem is not so much..." you've got answers that are going to try to discuss this and debate it.

  7. https://softwareengineering.stackexchange.com/questions/224275/why-are-there-so-few-comments-in-c-c-code (Reopen review: https://softwareengineering.stackexchange.com/review/reopen/49492 )

    This question is speculation about a particular culture. I've seen wonderfully documented C. I've seen awfully documented C. The comments fairly well sum it up with that it is who you are dealing with and the culture.

  8. How do we go from assembly to machine code(code generation) (I couldn't find a reopen review for this)

    This question is asking some questions but lacks the associated information about what is understood. The question was risked with How does assembly relate to machine/binary code that included additional information that remains open.

  9. https://softwareengineering.stackexchange.com/questions/227743/coming-from-high-level-to-c (Reopen review: https://softwareengineering.stackexchange.com/review/reopen/52927 )

    This question is a combination of career advice and what language should I learn next.

    Coming from high-level languages, should I go down the ladder (to Java, then C++, then C) or just skip to the bottom (C) and go up from there if I need?
    Is learning C with Internet tutorials easy, or even recommended?
    Do I need C for common software? Does my knowing C help me with coding high level?

    Those three questions are the epitome of the close reasons given.

  10. Debugging checklists: How much it's necessary to have? (Reopen review https://softwareengineering.stackexchange.com/review/reopen/50374 (had one 'reopen' vote) )

    On the surface, this question is too broad, polling for people's suggestions on debugging checklists. I should also stress that the original question that at least some votes where on was against the question:

    Should making debug-checklists be an essential part of development process? How it can be integrated with unit-tests?

    which was the entirety of the question. The question now has a long rambling update which presents a revised question of:

    If the above example could save myself or another developer 10-15 minutes of looking around to find the problem, should we make it mandatory for every developer to write this kind of checklists when they spot something that's potential to be source of a problem on a specific part of application later?

    At that point, the question becomes one of opinion. If focused down to what the question really is, and the problem rather than the poll, it might be something to reopen.

I'd like to point out that every single reopen review except one that I was able to find was a unanimous "Leave Closed"


Just tossing a reopen vote on a closed question will likely not get it reopened. If the question is to be reopened it likely needs some work of some sort - an edit to fix the issues raised in the close vote reason (and possibly some that don't show up in the close vote majority reason).

Fix the question, then vote to reopen it.


  • Provide a notification to anyone capable of casting reopen votes (3000+ rep) when a question they upvoted or answered has been closed, or
  • Allow some means of casting reopen votes before a question is closed, and
  • Time out the downvoting and close voting privileges of people who vote to close a question that is later reopened.

The first item is addressed on MSE: Notify upvoters and answerers when a question is closed and was status-declined.

The second item is addressed on MSE: You should be able to vote to reopen a question before it is actually closed, How about a “Vote not to close” option to counter the “Vote to close”?. The key here is to do reviews - thats where the 'remove from queue' functionality is.

The third point, I'd suggest that you ask that on MSE instead.

4

I agree that it is extremely frustrating and sometimes almost impossible to try to get an acceptable post re-opened, while it is extremely easy to get any question closed on here.

I suspect that in part it is because we have a dedicated group of "closers" on the site, while we don't have a dedicated group of "reopeners".

If you want proof, here's some Data.SE queries that contain the stats.

Top Close Voters since 2013

Count   User            LastPostDate    LastVoteDate
3601    gnat            04/20/2014      05/03/2014
3273    MichaelT        04/29/2014      04/29/2014
2366    GlenH7          04/29/2014      03/27/2014
1440    Kilian Foth     04/29/2014      
1396    Bart            04/30/2014      05/03/2014
805     Martijn Pieters 05/03/2014      
709     Robert Harvey   05/02/2014      05/02/2014
692     Dan Pichelman   05/01/2014      02/21/2014
622     *World Engineer 04/09/2014      10/15/2013
512     Dynamic         12/18/2013      07/03/2013
460     Glenn Nelson    03/04/2014      02/02/2013
415     BЈовић          05/02/2014      12/02/2013
345     thorsten müller 03/04/2014      10/04/2013
340     *ChrisF         04/12/2013      
327     Jim G.          05/03/2014      03/29/2014

Top Reopen Voters since 2013

Count   User            LastPostDate    LastVoteDate
61      gnat            04/20/2014      05/03/2014
59      *World Engineer 04/09/2014      10/15/2013
54      *maple_shaft    02/27/2014      06/27/2013
54      GlenH7          04/29/2014      03/27/2014
47      *Yannis Rizos   12/01/2013      02/20/2014
43      *ChrisF         04/12/2013      
37      Rachel          12/20/2013      05/30/2012
33      Martijn Pieters 05/03/2014      
29      Bart            04/30/2014      05/03/2014
27      *Thomas Owens   04/30/2014      11/30/2012
24      Karl Bielefeldt 05/04/2014      04/29/2014
19      MichaelT        04/29/2014      04/29/2014
15      Jimmy Hoffa     04/25/2014      04/22/2014
15      Yusubov         04/06/2014      09/06/2013
14      Jalayn          11/05/2013      10/07/2013
13      Telastyn        05/04/2014      
12      thorsten müller 03/04/2014      10/04/2013
11      Mason Wheeler   05/02/2014      03/17/2013
11      MattDavey       03/03/2013      12/04/2012
10      Robert Harvey   05/02/2014      05/02/2014

Notes

  • This only counts Successful Close/Reopen votes, and it does not include Deleted posts. I imagine if Deleted posts were included, the Closed count would be much higher since most items are closed before they're deleted, and last I checked we had a 40-50% delete rate.
  • The LastVoteDate only counts Favorites and Bounty "votes". I just didn't feel like removing those columns from every line once I noticed that.

Notice anything about the numbers, names, and approximate last activity dates? Also moderator (noted by a * before their name) vs non-moderator close/reopen activity?

In regards to your proposed solutions

1) Provide a notification to anyone capable of casting reopen votes (3000+ rep) when a question they upvoted or answered has been closed

Would love this providing it didn't spam me.

2) Allow some means of casting reopen votes before a question is closed

Again, I like this idea since I think posts get the most visibility before they are closed, and are much more likely to get a "fair closure trial" at this time than afterwards.

3) Time out the downvoting and close voting privileges of people who vote to close a question that is later reopened.

I have some reservations about this one, as there are too many cases where it could incorrectly shut out someone from helping maintain the sites. If done right, I'd be OK with it.

4th suggestion: Please allow expired close/open votes to be re-cast

Note that this only refers to unsuccessful expired votes.

Right now your chances of getting something closed or reopened is tied to a random variable: how many people review the question at the same time as you.

In the case of close votes, there are quite a few "close happy" people who do this. In the case of reopen votes and "reopen happy" people? Not so much.

  • 2
    Comparing close with re-open vote stats doesn't make much sense; all questions start open. Does every time that I read a question and decide not to close it count as a re-open vote? If so, I have at least 10 additional re-opens per day. That said, I wouldn't say no to a dedicated "reopen happy" group (that would take care to improve questions before re-opening them). – yannis May 7 '14 at 7:17
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    Looking at those numbers a different way, I see that gnat, MichaelT, and myself and the top close voters. Ignoring mods who are potentially acting on flags, gnat, myself, and you are the top reopen voters. gnat and I are in both categories, and I think the numbers show we're both very happy to re-open questions that get fixed. Also note that data explorer can't show cases where close votes were retracted, which is something I will frequently do after the question is fixed. – GlenH7 May 7 '14 at 14:31
  • I find that the top close voters fairly closely maps to the all time close vote reviewers and the top reopen voters is fairly closely matched to the all time reopen vote reviewers. I am fairly sure that if more people were willing to do reopen reviews or edit before casting a reopen vote then there would be more successful reopens. I can't find it at the moment, but there was a post on MSO recently about the number of reopen reviews being successful without any edits being less than 0.1% or so of all of the reopen reviews (I could be wrong on that number, but it was very small). – user40980 May 7 '14 at 14:58
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    @GlenH7 I should point out that I stopped actively contributing to the site roughly March 2013, so I find it kind of sad that I'm the 3rd highest non-mod reopen voter... – Rachel May 7 '14 at 15:04
  • What are you suggesting with the stats? That not nearly as many questions get reopened as get closed? I would expect that. Most questions never get rehabilitated enough to reopen. Note that many of the users in your close list are also in the reopen list. – Robert Harvey May 7 '14 at 16:14
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    @RobertHarvey I am showing the number of close votes/voters compared to the number of reopen votes/voters. I think the core problem here is summarized at the end of my answer: Your chances of getting something closed or reopened is tied to a random variable: how many people review the question at the same time as you. In the case of new open content, it is viewed by many people, including our group of "close happy" users. In the case of closed content, very few people view it, and we don't even have a decent sized group of active "reopen happy" users. – Rachel May 7 '14 at 16:29
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    You might have a point there. Seems as if it is in the best interest of new users to try and get their question right the first time. – Robert Harvey May 7 '14 at 16:31
-2
  1. Any question that includes the words "benefits," "advantages," "pros and cons" or anything that can be enumerated as a list is subject to closure as Too Broad, under the "we are not a discussion forum" principle.

  2. Closed does not mean "dead." It merely means "No more answers will be accepted on this question unless it is improved to be more on-topic." People can still get at the answers that have already been posted.

  3. Doesn't look like a dup to me either. Nobody's perfect. I flagged to reopen.

  4. Quite right. We don't dispense education advice of any kind here, for reasons that are eloquently stated in the close description. There isn't much air between those two definitions anyway.

  5. This question doesn't seem to be specific to programming. I can see why it was closed, although I didn't vote to close it.

  6. Well, c'mon. That's practically the poster child for "primarily opinion-based."

  7. I voted to reopen this one, although I appear to be in the minority (it was closed by five community members, not by a mod).

  8. Given that this one has a delete vote on it, I voted to reopen. I don't see any reason to delete it, although I do understand why it was closed as unclear.

  9. As detailed as this question is, it's the perfect storm of close reasons. It's educational advice, a technology recommendation, too broad and primarily opinion-based, all at the same time.

  10. This question needs to be edited to make it a better, more focused question. The prima facie question in the post ("how many checklists are too many?") is unanswerable.

I dispute your assertion that moderation is tilted in favor of the closers (several active members regularly run out of close votes); although I would agree that it is tilted in favor of closing. I consider that a good thing. In the absence of users attempting to improve their question quality, it's up to the regulars to close the poor questions so that there's room for the good ones.

The problem is not so much closing as it is disputes in site scope. The site scope currently states that educational questions are categorically off-topic, so if you're trying to assert that closers are being overzealous closing these questions, your argument is invalid.

  • 1
    Do you really think knowing the definition of a kind of degree (#4) is really of lasting benefit only to the person asking the question? Usually we are talking about "should I get degree X", not "what the heck is degree X". – psr May 6 '14 at 22:08
  • Oh, hell @psr. That question gets asked every other day here. If that's the only beef with the educational questions prohibition, then we should create a canonical question and close every instance after that as a duplicate. – Robert Harvey May 6 '14 at 22:11
  • That's a good argument, actually. – psr May 6 '14 at 22:12
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    Most educational questions are unanswerable. "Should I get a CS degree or self-study?" We don't know. "Is an IT degree better?" We don't know. "Will it help me get a job?" We really don't know that one. Most of these questions are "shortest path" questions; the askers want some sort of assurance that they are doing the right thing. We can't give them that. – Robert Harvey May 6 '14 at 22:13
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    These are always variations on the same question: "What should I do in my specific situation?" Ask a career counselor, that's what you should do. – Robert Harvey May 6 '14 at 22:14
  • I agree in general, but the example really doesn't make reference to the person asking the question's specific situation. The great majority of career questions are as you said. – psr May 6 '14 at 22:17
  • @psr: The problems start when you try to take the position, "Well, most educational questions are crap, but there are a few that are interesting enough to be answerable." How do you draw that gray line? Down that path lies madness. – Robert Harvey May 6 '14 at 22:18
  • The close reason says "advice". That might be a good guideline. I would not characterize this particular question as asking advice. (Duplicate is another issue...) – psr May 6 '14 at 22:38

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