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My question stemmed from happenings on this question.

There was one person that voted to close, that also answered the question. The same person also edited the question.

On other sites, at least, I've always felt that "if a question is good enough to answer, it's good enough to leave open." Sometimes I would edit and improve the question before answering it. But having done so, I wouldn't vote to close it.

If, on the other hand, I felt that the question was bad enough to vote to close, then I wouldn't dignify it with an answer. Is this the right posture, to discourage others from answering until the other four close votes are registered? (I don't have enough rep on this site to vote to close, so I flag moderators instead.) And is there a potential conflict of interest with answering a question, then voting to close, meaning that I can get "rep" for an answer, but deny the opportunity to others?

Finally, I wouldn't both edit and vote to close. Either my edit was good enough to salvage the question, or maybe it wasn't. But again, is there a conflict of interest if I did both?

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Some thoughts:

  1. People sometimes change their mind. They also sometimes forget to retract their vote after an edit.
  2. There are many questions, both here and on Stack Overflow, that are closed but not deleted, because the value of the resulting content was deemed greater than the need to remove it. This sometimes causes heartburn amongst new users who cite such questions as proof that they can ask theirs, but most of us have learned to live with the apparent incongruity of off-topic questions sometimes getting a pass.
  3. It takes 5 people with close vote privileges to close a question, so four other users would have to be colluding to deny rep to others, which is ridiculous (and doesn't happen).
  4. That an answer is posted to a question doesn't automatically make the question a good one.
  5. What does dignity have to do with anything?
  • "Dignify" was a bad word. But my point is, if I think the question should be closed, my answering it will possibly attract other answers before it is closed by four others. In that case, why not "let sleeping dogs lie?" – Tom Au Jun 10 '14 at 23:49
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    I dispute the (widely-held) belief that community behavior in the answers section somehow has anything to do with question quality. – Robert Harvey Jun 10 '14 at 23:50
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    A final thought: we're here to be helpful. Users who insist on asking a parade of low-quality questions get dealt with anyway. In a rather severe manner, I might add. – Robert Harvey Jun 10 '14 at 23:56
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In the past I did the following in order on Stack Overflow at least several times:

  1. Found a question, couldn't make much sense of it, voted to close it as "Not a real question" (the predecessor to 'unclear what you're asking').
  2. Read it a few more times, epiphany hit, understood what they were getting at
  3. Edited the question to be much clearer, left a comment for the author to make sure I preserved their intent
  4. Answered the question, since I knew the answer
  5. Felt like a very sad panda because I voted to close an interesting question

This can unfold in different ways but I think making the edit, or doing something else to give others the same sense of value you saw which led you to answer the question is what matters. Sometimes you can pull that off simply by answering and showing others there's more depth to the question than what meets the eye.

The other thing I strongly encourage users to do is answer duplicates in the course of voting to close them as such. Write an answer that pulls in knowledge from the most relevant answer on the duplicate, and explain how it pertains to the problem / code at hand. That gives these 'stubs' that are left much more lasting value to those that find them as folks search for things in a variety of ways.

In other cases, if you still feel that the question should be closed yet feel compelled to answer it, then you probably want to consider making some edits instead. It's not black and white, though - sometimes sending someone off with a better start than they had can be the right thing to do, even if it's not in the process of creating something of lasting value. Maybe you see something in them and want them to come back. It's (as I said) sometimes fuzzy.

Take away - prefer editing and answering if you can over closing if you think you've got a gem that just needs some polish, but don't let 'decision paralysis' prevent you from keeping the site clean or extending a welcoming hand to a new user. Just do what makes sense given what you've got.

  • One can also retract a close vote if you edit or otherwise improve a question to your satisfaction, right? – Tom Au Jun 11 '14 at 17:40
  • @TomAu up until the time the question is put on hold (5 votes or a mod vote), a close vote can always be retracted. As a chat denizen, its not rare to cast a close vote and then talk it over in chat, figure out how to make it a better question and then retract the vote (and get the others in chat to also retract theirs). Closing the question gives people a chance to edit the question into one that fits the SE framework without worrying about new answers coming in (which would need to be deleted if the question changes). – user40980 Jun 11 '14 at 22:32

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