What is meta? ×
Meta Stack Exchange is where users like you discuss bugs, features, and support issues that affect the software powering all 131 Stack Exchange communities.

Lately I've been noticing a number of questions being closed under the "Not Constructive" criteria. Some of these are clearly very constructive, in the sense of containing, as answers, useful tips and knowledge that people can use to do constructive things. I understand there is a reason to close questions that cause emotional or highly subjective responses, but in these cases, the question can only be seen as generating useful, objective and non-emotional responses. In fact, in most of the cases I've seen, the answers have all been exactly that.

For reference, the text of the "Not Constructive" reason:

We expect answers to generally involve facts, references, or specific expertise; 
this question will likely solicit opinion, debate, arguments, polling, 
or extended discussion.

Here is an example of a closure I can't understand: Making Vim ubiquitous?

Although the title seems to indicate some sort of Vim jihad, the questioner is simply asking for ways to use vim keybindings in other tools. To me, this is perfectly reasonable and entirely "constructive". The only clauses that remotely applies to this question, that I can see, are possibly the "polling" or "extended discussion", but I don't see opinions being solicited so it's not a poll, and since answers are particular ways to do what the OP asks, I'm not sure how "extended discussion" applies either.

Another example: What are your favorite Vim tricks?

Although I understand this is an open-ended question, and in some sense a poll, the answers are useful, and it devalues this site when such questions aren't allowed in some form. If the intent of "Not Constructive" is to disallow all poll-like questions, there is no place for a lot of useful answers.

I had another example - http://stackoverflow.com/questions/1295634/best-gvim-tricks-for-programming - but the question was deleted shortly after I posted a negative comment about the moderation. Google has a cache without my comment and before the moderation: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:FhiaICeRrooJ:stackoverflow.com/questions/1295634/best-gvim-tricks-for-programming+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

share|improve this question
6  
The OP of the "Making VIM Ubiquitous" question is asking specifically for a list, and not an answer. Can you edit the question in such a way that it's no longer a list question? List questions are covered specifically by the FAQ, here: stackoverflow.com/faq#dontask. Also, this example is nearly two years old, and the community was more tolerant of such questions back then. –  Robert Harvey Dec 3 '11 at 19:42
4  
Your third example was deleted by four community member votes. –  Robert Harvey Dec 3 '11 at 19:44
3  
The "What are your favorite VIM tricks" question has fourteen delete votes on it. –  Robert Harvey Dec 3 '11 at 19:47
    
Note that casperOne did not delete that last question. I've added a link, so that users with at least 10K reputation on SO can see that it was deleted by four ordinary users. –  Shog9 Dec 3 '11 at 19:47
3  
@Robert Harvey, If the "Not Constructive" reason is in part a prohibition against questions with multiple correct answers, it should state this explicitly. Otherwise, it is open to interpretation. –  ergosys Dec 3 '11 at 19:58
    
OK, my apologies to casperone, it appeared as such. –  ergosys Dec 3 '11 at 20:00
1  
@Robert Harvey, on the delete votes, this sort of information isn't visible to me so I'm going on what I see. But in any case, I don't really care who is closing these questions, it's why useful questions (and especially the answers) are being closed. It seems rather silly to close questions because they have too many good answers. –  ergosys Dec 3 '11 at 20:05
9  
That's a straw man. Of course, they're not being closed because they have too many good answers; they are being closed because these kinds of questions are not a good fit for the site. Open-ended questions are a particularly contentious issue for Stack Overflow because many people like them. But I like driving too fast, and so do many other people; that doesn't mean it's a good idea. –  Robert Harvey Dec 3 '11 at 20:09
1  
You might investigate the local race track, and SO should find a place for questions like this. They are often valuable. In any case, if open ended questions are not allowed here, the language for "Not constructive" should be more explicit so there is less misunderstanding. –  ergosys Dec 3 '11 at 20:18
5  
@egosys We have found a place -- Yahoo! Answers. I don't see how it is the responsibility the SE to host questions they don't want, any more than it's a good idea for a municipality to use taxpayer money to build a racetrack for speeders. –  Matthew Read Dec 3 '11 at 21:49
    
@MatthewRead, thanks for that analogy. I had thought of SO as a for-profit business whose value is the hosted questions and answers, but thinking of it as a crooked municipality run by boss hogg is making a lot more sense ;-) –  ergosys Dec 4 '11 at 1:12
3  
@ergosys: I vote to close and delete any question like that. I'm not paid by SO. –  user7116 Dec 4 '11 at 1:34
4  
@AndrewBarber, I'm not sure where you are getting that. I noticed a discrepency in the reason for closing some questions, mainly obviously "constructive", to me anyway, questions were being closed for being non-constructive. Apparently "the site" doesn't want any open ended questions, so be it, but the reason for closing should explicitly say that so there is less confusion in the future. This later part is not part of the scope of my question, but part of my new understanding. continued.. –  ergosys Dec 4 '11 at 19:23
2  
continued... Frankly I don't understand why such useful questions don't have a place somewhere on SO, but I don't really care enough to argue about it. Excuse me for trying to improve things, I'll stop now. –  ergosys Dec 4 '11 at 19:23
1  
I have also had questions closed as being overly broad, yet this in of itself, is vague. Yes we are all humans, but some questions shouldn't evaporate because they are not the flavor-du-jor. –  David Robbins Jan 6 '12 at 15:54

5 Answers 5

Possibly; regardless of my opinion on the examples you've posted, it should be clear that moderators are human and do make mistakes.

Fortunately, the community has the ability to re-open questions closed by moderators (or other users) and by doing so forestall the deletion of such questions.

If you want additional attention for a question you feel has been wrongly closed, feel free to bring it up here on Meta, or in chat - there's even a dedicated chatroom for users to collaborate on and discuss the moderation of specific questions.

Users with at least 10K reputation points on Stack Overflow have access to additional tools for reviewing questions that have been or are about to be closed or deleted. Community-minded users should take full advantage of this...

share|improve this answer
    
The third question I mentioned was closed sometime after Nov 28 (according to google's cache), and deleted sometime before now, Dec 3. Four days isn't much time to save a question from mistaken moderation, much less even notice that it was closed. Also, I'm not after a specific question, it just seems like the "not constructive" reason is being applied to questions it shouldn't be. –  ergosys Dec 3 '11 at 20:24
    
@ergosys: it was deleted fairly quickly. That said, there's a two-day waiting period after closing, during which users with less than 20K reputation points cannot vote to delete a closed question - so most of the time, you'll have at least two days to review recently-closed questions. In this case, the last user voted ~5 days after the question was closed. –  Shog9 Dec 3 '11 at 20:27
1  
that's way too small of a window to correct human error (speaking in general, not specifically about that question). –  ergosys Dec 3 '11 at 20:31
4  
@ergosys: after those two days, the question still needs to collect enough delete votes (at least three, more for highly-up-voted content) to actually cause it to be deleted. Note that the first two questions you linked to have been closed for weeks and months respectively, without being deleted - even though it has 14 votes right now, it'd take 97 to actually delete it; that effectively means it won't be, unless a moderator steps in and finishes the job. In effect, the more popular a question is, the longer folks have to save it if it gets closed... –  Shog9 Dec 3 '11 at 20:40
    
Are you sure that a regular user can vote to reopen a question that was closed by a moderator? –  Andomar May 19 '13 at 17:08
    
Yes I am, @andomar –  Shog9 May 19 '13 at 17:42

I don't like the term "not constructive." The term I would use is "not definitive." The text would be something like: "This question will likely solicit opinion, debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion because it cannot be answered clearly and definitively using facts, references, or specific expertise."

On this site, a "not constructive" question could mean one that attracts too many "pretty good" possible answers but no one that stands out from all the rest. "Not constructive" is a SITE definition that means "The question does not lend itself well to one best answer.

Thus, there can be many "good" questions that the moderators close because they are "not constructive" as the SITE defines the term.

share|improve this answer
    
+1 This is a good idea –  ergosys May 19 '13 at 17:25
    
You should suggest "non definitive" term to meta.stackexchange.com/questions/173762/… discussion –  Michael Freidgeim May 19 '13 at 21:23

Yes, there are many open-ended, subjective and list-request questions, which are highly upvoted, that are closed as not constructive.

But in fact, they are the perfect fit for:

We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or specific expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion.

So the moderators are just being just and treating all the questions the same, no matter when they were asked and how many upvotes they have.

I personally think that list questions or recommendation questions may sometimes be useful, but I respect the guidelines of SE owners. If such questions are not welcomed not, the old questions following the same pattern should be closed too. Otherwise we would have a flood of posts like that:

Why my question for favorite trick / best tools library / best tutorial was closed? There is question X which is similar to mine and it has 300 upvotes! I thought such questions should be used as example what is good and welcomed here?

share|improve this answer

I've seen many questions closed as "not constructive" or "off-topic" even though the community had clearly shown otherwise. Most recent example, today, was a Community Wiki question active since 2008 which was single-handedly put on hold by a moderator.

share|improve this answer
    
And how is this an answer to the question? It seems more like a comment to me... –  hichris123 Feb 24 at 1:55
    
The question was "Are moderators closing good questions as “Not constructive”", and my answer expands on why I think that's the case. –  Dan Dascalescu Feb 24 at 1:57
3  
Whether we like it or not, the closing of stuff like this is consensus these days. It's not an issue of moderators acting against the community's will - with a half a million questions in the close votes queue, moderators are supposed to use their powers on clear-cut cases like this one, instead of waiting for 5 community close votes to trickle in. –  Pëkka Feb 24 at 2:05

I agree with your point in comments, that community should find a place for questions that currently do not fit to Q&A format. They are often valuable. I've posted my suggestion at http://meta.stackexchange.com/questions/180767/new-stackexchange-discussion-site-for-not-constructive-questions.

Unfortunately, many of community members made their opinion and do not listen for different suggestions, that will reduce unending fight with recommendation/multiple answers questions.

share|improve this answer
8  
This isn't really about community members that won't listen to different suggestions. Stack Exchange is not interested in hosting a site for questions that don't fit their general guidelines. Nothing unreasonable or unexpected about that. –  Yannis May 18 '13 at 18:06
    
made their opinion and do not listen That's contradicting yourself. It's not that nobody's listening, it's that people are listening and rejecting the suggestion for reasons that they are explaining to you. If they weren't listening they'd just ignore the question and not post anything. –  Servy May 18 '13 at 18:28
    
There is absolutely no obligation upon anyone whatsoever to make every conceivable question fit somewhere within the Stack Exchange network of sites. Period. End of story. End of debate. –  Jack Maney May 18 '13 at 20:02
    
@servy, I feel that people do not read my arguments, but just see the word "discussion" and immediately react "NO". May be my suggestion is too long to read? –  Michael Freidgeim May 19 '13 at 3:28
3  
@MichaelFreidgeim You seem to think that you've stumbled onto a really special and unique idea. The simple fact is you haven't. You're just making the same arguments/suggestions that have been made dozens of times before. In fact, you're the one that appears to have done taken the time and effort to read the existing questions on that topic before posting your question. Had you read through the many existing discussions of that topic you would have already seen your suggestion rejected a number of times as well as a number of reasons as to why. –  Servy May 19 '13 at 4:12
    
@Servy, I've read a lot of discussions and see that is a problem, that SO tries to fight unsuccessfully for many years, because people keep asking good questions, that do not fit into SO Q&A format. Keep them closed is half-measure. Moving them to a separate site with different rules is an approach, that will send a clear message to users- recommendations questions are not allowed on SO, but they can be asked and answered on different site. –  Michael Freidgeim May 19 '13 at 8:43
4  
@MichaelFreidgeim The thing is... we build communities, not just sites that people show up to once in a while. There is no community around a general "let's recommend stuff!" setup. What we do is rather specialized, that's true. We do expert-knowledge-based Q&A as much as we can, and we (arguably) do it really well. We currently have no interest in establishing a site that goes directly against everything we're trying to build and teach on every other site we run. We're more into trying to establish a consistent experience across the network rather than introduce major differences. –  Anna Lear May 19 '13 at 9:08
    
+1 I think it would be great fun to have a non-constructive stack exchange site. You might call it trolls.stackexchange.com :D –  Andomar May 19 '13 at 17:10

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .