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I know mods are supposed to step in to quickly close seriously problematic posts and otherwise allow the community to vote to close a post.

But what about when there are four close votes on a question, and I personally feel the question should be closed but isn't worthy of mod super-mega closing? Should I cast the final vote like a normal user (even though it's technically binding) or should I sit back and wait for the community?

For me the problem is complicated because on UX.SE we hover close to the point where there's not enough high-rep activity to quickly close posts and I was one of those high rep users that used to VtC.

Should I always treat my mod close vote as binding and reserve it for extreme situations, or should I treat my close vote as "normal" when it's the fifth and final vote anyway?

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share|improve this question
Close early, close often. – Adam Davis Mar 1 '12 at 16:36
more like [moderation-faq-poposed] but it'll do. – Won't Mar 1 '12 at 16:43
up vote 44 down vote accepted

Should I always treat my mod close vote as binding and reserve it for extreme situations, or should I treat my close vote as "normal" when it's the fifth and final vote anyway?

Neither. It isn't a vote. Ever. Don't treat it like one.

When you see a post you think should be closed, close it. When you see a post you think should be re-opened, re-open it. If you're not sure, don't do either. We've entrusted you with the ability to perform both of those tasks instantly - so use them judiciously. If you see room for improvement, you can always simply edit, or post a comment requesting clarification. The list of questions with pending close votes can be useful in finding questions that should be closed, but the pending votes themselves neither create an obligation nor absolve you of responsibility for your actions.

Closing is a tool that works best with the other tools at your disposal:

  • If you see a poor question asked, you can quickly close it and either edit or request edits, and then re-open just as quickly once the problem is fixed - this works to prevent answerers from wasting their time writing answers to a question that will change while they're writing.

  • If you see a question that isn't on-topic for the site (as the scope is currently understood), close it and request that the author bring up the topic for discussion on meta. If the community decides to allow it, they can vote to re-open, and if the discussion clearly indicates support for the topic, you can re-open.

The most unfortunate side-effect of having a voting system for closing has been the perception of close-votes as merely "weak opinions", and closing itself as a final event akin to Survivor players voting someone off of the island. It was never intended for this purpose: closing is limbo, where questions wait for redemption. Only if it never comes must they be deleted...

Treat this with the respect that it deserves, but neither fear it nor misuse it.

See also: Add a way for moderators to cast a normal, non binding vote

share|improve this answer
I totally agree with this. A Theory of Moderation is sometimes used to counter though, since issues needing moderator attention are described as "rare exceptions". Seeing a post that needs to be closed is anything but a rare or exceptional event, I would say ... too few people read, understand, and follow the FAQ. – Matthew Read Mar 1 '12 at 17:48
People don't even bother to read that whole blog post. It spells out pretty clearly what moderators are expected to do, and the philosophy behind it. We give moderators access to extremely powerful tools, of which instant close and re-open are among the weaker. They are expected to remain level-headed in the face of controversy, and avoid actions that can be interpreted as capricious, or done for personal gain. Closing is one of the safest actions they can take, provided they do so with good reason and respond promptly to complaints. – Shog9 Mar 1 '12 at 17:53
While closing may be one of the least permanent and weakest mod tools it's also probably the most misunderstood and causes a fair amount of user-freakout, especially among new users. This is why I personally like to see a general consensus to indicate to the poster that there really was a problem and I'm not just closing posts because they have too many body thetans or something. – Ben Brocka Mar 1 '12 at 19:23
Best thing you can do for new users, @Ben, is just talk to them. Explain how the site works, what your community expects, how to edit and meet those expectations... There is no substitute for how much good just a few minutes of one-on-one guidance can do. As I said, closing is a tool that works best in concert with others - if you use it to buy time while talking to the new users, and end with re-opening once they've been educated, that's the best possible outcome. – Shog9 Mar 1 '12 at 19:44
@BenBrocka Consider adapting Ninefinger's epic "A guide to moderating crypto.stackexchange yourself - close voting" to UX. It's a great reference to what closing actually is and what it's not. – Yannis Mar 2 '12 at 4:24

I very frequently cast the 5th close vote on Stack Overflow. The word binding is a little bit misleading, since posts closed by a moderator can be reopened by the community. Your close vote is supercharged in that it only takes one of them to close a post, but you're still a member of the community. If you think something should be closed, don't let your diamond stop you.

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Note that conversely, posts deleted by a moderator cannot be undeleted by the community. – mmyers Mar 1 '12 at 17:18

A lot of mods seem to subscribe to the "fifth and final" rule, but I don't get it. Users should vote to close questions that are unclear, too broad, primarily opinion-based, off-topic or duplicative. All those things are influenced by a question's content, and have nothing to do with whether — or how many — close votes have already piled up.

As a mod, you've been entrusted with extra power by your community because your peers got together at election time and decided that you are a generally awesome person, and more importantly, you have great judgment.

The so-called rule boils down to

We trust your judgment a lot, so we gave you extra powers. Don't use those powers to apply your judgment unless a particular cirumstance that has nothing to do with quality is met.

There's an argument to be made for not wanting to seem heavy-handed. But the choice should be "closing questions vs. not closing questions," rather than "applying the fifth close vote vs. not closing questions."

share|improve this answer
Don't use those powers to apply your judgement seems to imply that insta-close should be used only when there is an important, immediate reason (spam, offensive) to take action on a post. – Ben Brocka Mar 1 '12 at 19:26
Yes, that's in the "so-called rule" section of the post. – Pops Mar 1 '12 at 19:35
If a mod cant cast the first vote, then who does? – Ivo Flipse Mar 1 '12 at 21:03

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