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Feature Request

*****Make questions unclosable until one hour after they've been asked, with an exception for flagged questions.*****


What reason can you give for a non-abusive but otherwise bad question being closed as soon as possible? Bonus points for explaining the rationale behind your answer.


Since closed questions can still show up on various lists, the implication is that deletion is the goal of closing a question. Since a question can't be deleted for two days (See Shog9's comment in this answer), why the fuss about delaying the closing of a question for a relatively small number of minutes?

The notion that the signal-to-noise ratio on the home page outweighs all other considerations assumes that most people answer questions mainly from there. I almost never use the home page, preferring the newest or active tabs, or using a tag. Seeing as the number of closed questions is so low, I'd hesitate to call them "pollution." I would guess that less then 10% of any of the regular lists consists of closed questions.

Also, it seems that it is much easier to close a question than to reopen one.

If you disagree, I invite you to put your reasons in an answer or a comment before doing so with a downvote.

Another question on the subject is not a duplicate of this because it is asking what the social norm of the community is for voting and mine is a feature request.

For those who claim that keeping a question open pollutes the home page, I would say why don't we request a feature so that questions with even 1 close vote not appear on the main page at all? This solves the so-called 'pollution' issue.

Related question

reputation penalty for closing a question that gets reopened

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No thanks. Closed questions pollute the front page too much already. – Perpetual Motion Goat Jul 30 '09 at 9:16
More like 3 minutes if I HAD to pick a number. – Tyler Carter Jul 30 '09 at 16:04
Put in a feature request so closed questions don't pollute the front page. – Kelly S. French Jul 31 '09 at 16:35
I agree with OP. Too many geeks here who feel like they need to kill questions really fast. – orokusaki Feb 2 '10 at 23:30
Possible duplicate of How soon should I "vote to close"? – gnat Oct 22 at 20:32
The questions are not duplicates. Mine is a feature request, the other is a question of querying the community for the social norm. – Kelly S. French Oct 23 at 16:22

6 Answers 6

up vote -2 down vote accepted

In another question I suggested another mechanism : making the grace delay depends on the reputation of the user asking the question. I suggested 1 rep point = 1 minute, but it could as easily be any other formula (logarithm, slices ?). As my other question was closed as exact duplicate of this one, I bet this suggestion belongs here.

The rationale of doing this is simple : trust the community. Really allowing a grace delay for a high rep user is not much different from other rights you get with points. How is it that someone could be trusted enough to edit other's posts but become totally untrusted as soon as he asks a question ?

I understand the point on voting to close to reduce noise, but the problem is that is not the only effect. That's the main effect from the "people looking for an answer" point of view. But that is also forbidding others to answer questions and that part is bad (why should closer consider themselves so superior to forbid other people to answer other's questions ?). Hence there should be a way to separate both effects.

There is also the fundamental problem of overlapping between close feature and downvotes for the question. OK, there are cases when the difference is clear. There is also cases when it is not. And to me downvoting seems to be a much better way to reduce noise than closing. Hence stating that close is for noise reduction seems at least suspicious.

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Stop and think about it. Ask yourself this: what is the purpose in closing a question? Why would Stack Overflow support such a feature?

The answer is: noise reduction. The more duplicate, off-topic, poorly-asked, argumentative, or offensive questions there are on the site, the harder it becomes to find good, informative, helpful questions.

Now ask your question again: What harm is there in letting noise persist on the site for any longer than it needs to?

You should be able to answer that...

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This seems to assume that by marking a question [closed] it becomes invisible. They still show up in all the lists. Since most sorting is by score, a vote for [closed] should be considered a downvote to bury the offending content. Otherwise a high scoring but [closed] question will still fill the lists. – Kelly S. French Jul 29 '09 at 23:28
Closed questions can be deleted (and are, by admins, moderators and high-rep users). To allow for re-opening disputed questions, there is a two-day waiting period for non-admin/moderator/20K user deletion that begins when the question is closed - that should make you happy. ;-) – Shog9 Jul 29 '09 at 23:39
Oh - and the default sort order is by search rank, not vote score. – Shog9 Jul 29 '09 at 23:41
@Shog9, Now you're really getting to the heart of my question. +1 – Kelly S. French Jul 29 '09 at 23:46
It doesn't quite address my point. I don't want closed questions to live longer, I want more time for a salvageable question to be edited before being closed. – Kelly S. French Jul 31 '09 at 16:37
You've equated "questions I think should be closed" (which is an opinion, thus subjective) with noise and also made the assumption that questions can not be edited so they are no longer 'noise'. Seeing how close/dup happy the users are on SO, I've assumed that if I reposted an edited version it would get closed as a dup just as fast as the original did. – Kelly S. French Jul 31 '09 at 16:41
@Kelly: (re: opinion vs. noise) Noise is subjective. Anything that shows up without contributing to whatever you're looking for on the site is noise, and that varies not only by person but what they happen to be looking for at any given point in time. Folks looking to be entertained - and there are lots of them - love questions like the famous "favorite programmer cartoon"; for them, it's not noise. It would be though, for someone looking for help with a cel shading algorithm. That's one of the fundamental questions of SO: are we here to cater to the former, the latter, or both? – Shog9 Jul 31 '09 at 17:25
Duplicates are less subjective, but only a little... it's striking how many people think their problems are unique, even when you point to the answers on another question. This is where the value of voting and discussion come in to play... Unfortunately, civil discussion tends to get abandoned far too quickly in favor of pointless name-calling and empty assertion; so we're left with "vote if you think it's noise, vote if you think it's useful". – Shog9 Jul 31 '09 at 17:27
@Kelly: (re: more time to edit) - making major edits to a question while folks are trying to write answers isn't necessarily a good thing. See my answer here: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/288/edit-a-closed-question/… FWIW, in some ways this was a lot easier before the current "vote to close" system: you could close a bad question quickly, advice the author as to what was needed (or edit it yourself, if enough information was available), and then re-open. But, as i stated above, there are some problems that only voting could solve... – Shog9 Jul 31 '09 at 17:29
And so we're left with the uncomfortable necessity of going back to check on previously-closed questions to see if they've been improved. There have been a number of requests for features to make this easier (notification of edits, etc.) - 'till then, it's a manual, optional, process. – Shog9 Jul 31 '09 at 17:32

I think the reason to close questions immediately depends on what the reason for closing is, but I'll address what I expect are the three most common close reasons:

  • Duplicate - should be close immediately to point people in the direction of the appropriate question to respond to and look for answers from. The goal of SO (et al) is to be a canonical source, which means striving to answer questions only once.
  • Belongs on site XXX - these should be closed immediately so they can be moved to the appropriate site and allow the people with the proper skills and interests answer the question. Furthermore, this is beneficial to the asker because they're likely to get better answers, and if the post stays on the wrong site it is likely to be downvoted a lot.
  • Not a question/not related to the site's topic - these should be closed immediately as a service to the people who contribute to the site with their time answering questions. If they have a limited amount of time and can only read so many questions, it serves the community better to filter out bad questions faster so people are not wasting their time with them.
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To #3, if you can tell by the title that it's a discussion type question, you skip it without any waste of time reading it. Since closing doesn't filter them from the lists, I don't see the need to rush the closing vote. It may have to do with the question-vulture culture that has evolved but not everyone worries about the purity of the lists but would rather give questions time to improve through edits if at all possible. – Kelly S. French Jul 31 '09 at 2:23
Other answers dealing with home page 'pollution' had a fastest-gun-in-the-west flavor that didn't sit well with me. Your service-to-the-community is more palatable. Veterans know how easy it is to resubmit a new and better question while newbies don't; they can personalize the rejection even though closing a question isn't intended to be thought of that way. For borderline questions, a speedy close ( < 2 minutes) can feel like a slap on the hand. – Kelly S. French Sep 9 '10 at 17:30
All of these reasons support my underlying reason - help prevent answerers from wasting their time. Also migrating fast is different from closing fast - slow migration leads to orphaned answers on the target site. – Kate Gregory Jun 6 '11 at 22:15

Closing as exact duplicate... it may be better to re-focus attention on the older post, but having an open post attracts a whole new set of answers. Should they merge? who knows...

I guess the valid case for not closing them is where the question can be improved by editing; but in general, when any of the other reasons apply; it will still be just as bad in an hour as it is now... for example, if it isn't programming related now, it still won't be an hour later. It is just attracting unnecessary answers, fuss, flame-wars, insults, etc.

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There are a few cases where the duplicate question could be of any help: when the original question has a title that doesn't come up in the search made from the user, while the title of the duplicate question appears in the search. I admit, this is probably true in very few occasions. That would eventually be a reason not to delete the duplicate questions, which should still be closed as duplicate. If the question is edited, and it's not anymore a duplicate, then it can still be re-opened. – kiamlaluno Jun 6 '11 at 22:12

What if it is blatantly obvious that it belongs on another of the trilogy sites? Then it is just spamming up the site it was posted on for a whole hour, rather than being on a place it can be answered properly.

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Would it make a difference if the threshold were 30 minutes or 10 minutes? – Kelly S. French Jul 29 '09 at 22:40
I would prefer a complete removal of the threshold for "belongs on" reasons, although I suppose that this could escape into removing the whole policy. – Lucas Jones Jul 30 '09 at 22:50

They just increase the signal-to-noise ratio, and distract people from answering the real questions.

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