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Joel Spolsky has clearly stated that he wants these sites to be welcoming and inclusive where anyone can ask any relevant question even if that question has appeared elsewhere.

With questions being closed in seconds, is the community really being inclusive?

Being able to close questions seems to bring out the nasty side of some people, as evidenced by the snide comments about the use of English that have accompanied some closures. Perfectly valid questions have been voted for closure as "joke questions" by people ignorant of the subject matter.

Some questions absolutely deserve to be closed but shouldn't this be a last resort carried out by the moderators? Closing a question is a strong response, it's really like telling someone to "shut up".

These sites are much more than collections of questions and answers. A real and growing body of high quality knowledge is being constructed which is a truly fantastic thing.

Are there better ways of maintaining the quality of questions other than closing them?

Edit: Many thanks for the responses about the current closure process. I'd really like to know what you think about question closure as a metaphor. Is that inclusive?

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5 Answers

I too find it a little strange that Jeff said that a closed question is a question on its way to deletion, yet Joel stated that he wants each question asked in every way possible.


Many times questions can be specialized instead of being closed. This doesn't always apply though.

2 questions may have the same subject, and 99% of the people think they are the same. But the body of the question is asking slightly different things. In these cases specializing the subject to make it clear about the distinction in each question is better.

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@Brian R Bondy: Would tags be used to specialize the subject? Or would more meta-data be needed? –  Jonathan Webb Jun 28 '09 at 13:34
    
Sometimes just the subject refined, sometimes tags, sometimes the body. –  Brian R. Bondy Jun 28 '09 at 13:38
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See my answer to: Edit a Closed Question

IMHO, the best use for closing a poor quality or argumentative, but otherwise on-topic question is the opportunity that closing gives to the author and editors for discussing and fixing problems without worrying about a deluge of argumentative or side-tracked answers piling up in the meanwhile.

This had the potential to work even better when a single user could close and re-open a question: you could actually conduct a close, discuss, edit, and re-open process with only the author and one editor involved. However, it can still do the job now, so long as all of the folks who voted to close are willing and able to revisit it later on and vote to re-open upon seeing improvement.


FWIW, this off-topic question on SO also has a few decent answers to this question...

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I find this discussion perplexing, because closing is a rather democratic process:

  • users must have 3,000 reputation to close a question
  • users are limited to 12 close votes per day
  • the same user cannot vote to close more than once on the same question
  • it takes five (5) votes to close a question

and then..

users can cast reopen votes in the very same manner!

So, if you don't agree with the closures, vote to reopen. How is this a problem?

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I think a problem (possibly more not sure) is that Joel will not get his "same question asked in different ways" if some closed questions will get deleted. Or maybe I just don't understand fully which closed questions get deleted. Maybe it would be more clear to mark duplicates as closed, but not subject to deleted vs others as closed and subject to deleting. –  Brian R. Bondy Jun 28 '09 at 13:17
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"users can cast reopen votes in the very same manner!" --- only after the question is fully closed though. And by then it might be off the front page. So re-opening is much harder by that point. –  Brian R. Bondy Jun 28 '09 at 13:18
    
It's not the closure process that I'm questioning, I'm asking is there an alternative to closing itself. –  Jonathan Webb Jun 28 '09 at 13:18
    
I don't think closing is a bad thing, for example for a dupe it will ensure all the future answers go to one place only and not split in 2. But some assurance that the closed question won't be deleted might help. –  Brian R. Bondy Jun 28 '09 at 13:20
    
Do duplicates have to be closed? They could be associated with the original question. This would show the variety of questions on that particular subject. –  Jonathan Webb Jun 28 '09 at 13:31
    
    
Generally in the case of duplicates, the faster its closed the better, so answers will put their answers all in one place. There is nothing to be gained from 2 questions asking the same thing by different people in different places, nothing. –  Kent Fredric Jun 28 '09 at 14:01
    
I absolutely agree that duplicate questions must be handled quickly but why do they have to be "closed"? –  Jonathan Webb Jun 28 '09 at 14:05
    
I think the number of votes needed to close a question should be a function of the number of SO users. When SO grows big enough, it will become too common an occurrence that five users are willing to close a question (IMHO that is already the case) –  Klas Mellbourn Jun 28 '09 at 20:59
    
Due to a very recent experience of mine, I fully agree With Klas. –  Charles Y. Jul 17 '09 at 21:32
    
I just ran into a closed question I REALLY wanted to read....grrrr....It would be nice if I could override the feature as a user and "read it anyways" –  Dean Hiller Jan 27 '12 at 18:34
    
@dean closing does not prevent reading, just new answers being added. –  Jeff Atwood Jan 28 '12 at 6:14
    
sorry, the site specifically said this question is closed and I could NOT read it :( :( :(. I even sent a email to support who said this is part of our process but you can send me the link and I will evaluate whether we want to re-open it or not. –  Dean Hiller Feb 13 '12 at 4:51
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Maybe it would be possible to set the question in a "Has to be rewritten" mode. So the questioner has one or two days to rephrase it or it is closed after the time elapsed. However that is no solution for real duplicates.

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This could certainly refine the question review process. But why does a question have to be "closed"? Closing a door in someone's face is incredibly rude, so why do we close questions? Is this in the spirit of being inclusive? –  Jonathan Webb Jun 28 '09 at 17:15
    
Closing is like weeding. You want to get rid of the clutter. I think that's why it was established. –  Ladybug Killer Jun 28 '09 at 19:26
    
Unfortunately things aren't as black and white as what is a weed vs. what is a flower. Questions can be considered 'clutter' to one individual and something of importance to the user that submitted the question. –  Charles Y. Jul 17 '09 at 21:34
    
The gardener decides, what are weeds and what are flowers. If you don't like roses, rip them out. We have a lot of gardeners on SO ;-) –  Ladybug Killer Jul 18 '09 at 13:56
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Downvoting.

It's an interesting theme, why people are so eager to close bad questions. The 2 main reason I can find are:

1) Prevent the bad questions from littering the questions page.

2) Prevent the bad questions from appearing before the better ones in the google search.

When it goes to point 1, the downvoted questions are already pushed out of the main page, they could be also more efficiently pushed out of tag queues.

With point 2, it's a good question, what a SO team does to give them a lower rank than the upvoted ones. For Google, the links are the key, so if bad question is linked to many others, it could in worst case overperform the upvoted questions. This is a question to SE team, what could be done to push them down. Maybe removing them from tag pages visible to Google would be enough?

It's very frustrating to google for solution to your problem and finding only crap, but it's still better to find some crap with some not very helpful answer, than finding completely nothing. So if the downvoted content would appear on the end of all searches, maybe it wouldn't be disturbing so much?

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Your premises are wrong. Questions are closed to prevent new answers, not to limit the question's visibility. You are correct that downvotes are the appropriate way of reducing visibility to content that the site finds "not worthy of attention". The point of a closed question is that it shouldn't be answered; that allowing answers would cause more problems than it would solve. The reason that answering such a question would be bad varies widely between close reasons; explaining each can't really be done in a comment. –  Servy Jun 27 '13 at 20:55
    
I don't know what are the premises of the most people, but for me the answers to the questions I don't see are like snow from the last winter - they don't bother me because they don't affect me in any way. In the past, it was annoying to me that the people gain reputation from answering such questions... but on the other side, if they really want to spend time in such way for a bit of rep... I don't care. I care that crap questions are distracting users from the good ones. –  Łukasz 웃 L ツ Jun 27 '13 at 20:59
    
Then you are thinking that more questions should be deleted? There has been a push in ghat direction to delete more unanswered closed questions sooner than they used to be. That change went a month ago or so if I remember. –  Servy Jun 27 '13 at 21:01
    
Well, no, for me the deletion is only the mean, not the goal. –  Łukasz 웃 L ツ Jun 27 '13 at 21:07
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