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The Not Constructive close description currently says:

This question is not a good fit to our Q&A format. We expect answers to generally involve facts, references, or specific expertise; this question will likely solicit opinion, debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion.

I see it mostly used on questions which do not meet the quality standards we want to see in SE questions, even if the question might actually be constructive.

Can we change the title to more accurately represent the close reason, so instead of seeing

closed as not constructive by ...

users see

closed as not meeting site standards by ...

(Exact verbage up for discussion. Other suggestions include bad subjective or some variation of not a good fit for this site)

Not-constructive may make sense in some cases, but I see that close reason used more for posts that don't match the SE guidelines for how to ask a good question than anything else. Seeing a question closed as low-quality or as not a good fit for this specific site seems much more understandable then seeing what looks to be a constructive question closed as not-constructive.

Also, not sure if it matters, but I was thinking of this due to closed questions on smaller SE sites, not SO

Edit

To clarify, I am not referring to questions which are low quality because of the way they were written, but rather questions which are closed because they do not meet the SE question standard, such as How to Deal With Unreasonable Expectations? or How can I motivate myself to work on projects I don't believe in or care about? (both questions from Workplaces.SE)

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marked as duplicate by gnat, hims056, Martijn Pieters, Rory, Lucifer May 20 '13 at 11:33

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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Ah, but a question can be very high quality, yet still not constructive. Now matter how well-researched, for example, "please recommend a X" questions aren't constructive. –  Charles Apr 24 '12 at 15:42
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Perhaps some rephrasing of not a good fit rather than low-quality would make a better title? –  Oded Apr 24 '12 at 15:43
    
I agree (I hand you a +1 raincheck--vote limit) wrt smaller sites. Also allow modification of CV reason fulltexts for smaller sites for a similar reason. –  Manishearth Apr 24 '12 at 15:44
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I believe a question like "I don't like my job, what should I do?" is exactly the kind of question that cannot be correctly answered. Thus non-constructive. –  Bo Persson Apr 24 '12 at 16:12
    
@BoPersson There are questions which are rightfully closed as not-constructive, but I see far more questions which are closed as not-constructive because they don't meet the SE guidelines for good questions. I was thinking there must be some title we could use to cover both situations, particularly since the close reason description mentions it. –  Rachel Apr 24 '12 at 16:24
    
@Charles That depends on how you look at it. "Please recommend X based on this criteria" is very constructive for people who are looking for X, and since a large number of people who see the question in the future are looking for X, seeing it closed as not-constructive doesn't make as much sense as seeing it was closed because it doesn't match the site standards. –  Rachel Apr 24 '12 at 16:26
    
Ironically, one of the definitions for the word "constructive" is "to build up", which seems to fit fairly well with the notion of building a list. But you don't want to ask me what to replace "not constructive" with, because I'd go with something like "unacceptable". –  Cody Gray Apr 24 '12 at 17:40
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@TheEstablishment "Unacceptable" would actually be better then "not-constructive" in my opinion, because it shows the question isn't acceptable for the site it's asked on, not that its a not a constructive question. –  Rachel Apr 24 '12 at 18:09
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I think the idea is that it's not constructive relative to this community and our standards. It doesn't "build up" the community in the way that we expect questions to. I suppose the root of the problem is people's innate selfishness, resulting in arguments that it is constructive because I want to know the answer. I'm not sure how you fix that, though. I get the feeling that "unacceptable" would put a much more bitter taste in people's collective mouths. –  Cody Gray Apr 24 '12 at 18:11

6 Answers 6

I see it mostly used on questions which do not meet the quality standards we want to see in SE questions, even if the question might actually be constructive.

Then the problem isn't the name of the close reason, but its misapplication. Questions should be closed or flagged as "Not Constructive" when they aren't constructive questions that will lead to objective answers, regardless of quality. We already have a "Not a Real Question" close reason (it's difficult to tell what is being asked here) that can be used for questions that are simply low quality. Maybe "low quality" could be explicitly added to that title.

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Wait, what? I don't see a 'very low quality' close reason on Phy.SE or MSO. –  Manishearth Apr 24 '12 at 15:50
    
There is no "low quality" close reason - only a flag. A close vote is something immediately visible to most casters but flags are not - this is probably one reason why the "Not Constructive" close reason is being used. If there were a "low quality" close reason, that would certainly be used much more. –  Oded Apr 24 '12 at 15:50
    
@Oded D'oh! My bad, I was thinking of the flag. Shows you where I spend most of my time. See my edit. –  Bill the Lizard Apr 24 '12 at 15:54
    
@Manishearth You're right, I was thinking of the flag. See my edit. –  Bill the Lizard Apr 24 '12 at 15:55
    
Bill, please see the edit to the question to see the type of question I am referring to. Some of these are actually constructive questions, but do not meet the SE guidelines for a good question. Closing them as something like bad-subjective, low-quality, or not-a-good-fit-for-SE seems more accurate than not-constructive –  Rachel Apr 24 '12 at 16:02
    
@Rachel - bill is saying the users can already close the question as NARQ. It just so happens users sometimes misapply the not constructive reason. –  Adam Rackis Apr 24 '12 at 16:10
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Only sometimes? I'm looking at a whole list of NC flags that should all have been NARQs. –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Apr 24 '12 at 16:25
    
@BoltClock'saUnicorn I'm thinking more for smaller SE sites than SO, where frequently real questions get closed as not-constructive because they don't meet the SE guidelines for a good question. –  Rachel Apr 24 '12 at 16:37
    
@BoltClock'saUnicorn I have noticed recently (the past 2-3 weeks or so) that we're getting an abnormal number of "not constructive" flags on posts that really don't qualify. –  Bill the Lizard Apr 24 '12 at 17:42

"Not constructive" is (or should be) used primarily for list or recommendation questions, i.e. questions in a form not appropriate for SE, as the description says. Low-quality questions should use the "Not a real question" reason:

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form.

If you see others closing questions with the incorrect reason, you should encourage them to use the correct reason.

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2  
I've seen a lot of questions that have been closed as not constructive, but should have been closed as not a real question. –  Dennis Apr 24 '12 at 15:50
    
The phrasing of the close reason is bad - many low quality question are very clear and are a question so people shy from using it. –  Oded Apr 24 '12 at 15:52
    
@Dennis and you should tell the closers to use the right question. –  Kevin Apr 24 '12 at 15:52
    
Kevin, please see the edit to the question to see the type of question I am referring to. Some of these are actually constructive questions, but do not meet the SE guidelines for a good question –  Rachel Apr 24 '12 at 16:00
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@Kevin: That's five comments. And you can't really tell who voted not constructive. –  Dennis Apr 24 '12 at 16:08

The term Not Constructive is already adequately defined in the descriptive text that accompanies the closure:

This question is not a good fit to our Q&A format. We expect answers to generally involve facts, references, or specific expertise; this question will likely solicit opinion, debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion.

So "Not Constructive" means any question that asks for opinions, solicits debate, provokes an argument, is a "list of all things," or is an attempt to engage in extended conversation.

The problem is not that people don't know what "Not Constructive" means. The problem is people don't read.


The term "constructive" is entirely appropriate:

con·struc·tive     adjective 1. helping to improve; promoting further development or advancement (opposed to destructive): constructive criticism.

In the sense that we use it here, it means asking questions that can benefit the community overall. Requiring people to adhere to a Q&A format is the very heart and soul of SE: it raises the signal to noise ratio by avoiding the forum trap, and makes the sites more useful for everyone.

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1  
I think your definition shows why it's so confusing. Closing questions that help a user improve themselves or their situation as not-constructive just because it doesn't meet the SE guidelines for good questions is very confusing. –  Rachel Apr 24 '12 at 18:08
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And also very necessary. There's a certain minimum amount of effort we require new users to make to understand the community; those who insist on asking bikeshed questions don't make that effort, don't care about the community, and are indifferent to the wording of the close reasons. They only care about their own agenda, whatever that is. In short, they're selfish. –  Robert Harvey Apr 24 '12 at 18:30
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To put it another way, if they can't get their mind around "Not Constructive," they probably don't qualify to ask a question on SE. –  Robert Harvey Apr 24 '12 at 18:38

I had a brief conversation in comments with a very high reputation and trusted user over closing an old question as Not Constructive. I won't say who it was, but his last name rhymes with sheet.

The point that he made was basically this, paraphrased from memory:

I agree that this doesn't meet today's site guidelines, but this question was very much constructive. Some really useful information was compiled here, and it will probably help people avoid pitfalls in the future.

Edit Thanks to an anonymous comment, the question can be found here.

He was 100% correct. The question, while extremely broad and subjective did attract a series of outstanding answers which were maintained over time. The only problem I have with not constructive is that it negates any possibility that a new question might actually not turn out to be some gigantic 'insect light' on the Internet.

If any change would be made to the close reason, I'd say Not Likely To Be Constructive would be appropriate, since the summary text alludes to things that might happen in the future based upon our experience. But, that's a slippery slope, as it opens the door to arguments that every subjective question could be well maintained without additional moderation overhead, which is why I never proposed the change for Stack Overflow. I don't like unilateral guidelines when it comes to user contributions, but this is one that we really need. Subjective questions almost always turn into Internet bug lights.

However, with or without a change in semantics, constructive is really the best operative word that I can think of. I don't see a compelling reason to change it.

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2  
Perhaps we need a Chuck Norris Exemption. I concur with "Subjective questions almost always turn into Internet bug lights." As in 99% of the time. –  Robert Harvey Apr 24 '12 at 17:50
    
+1 for the anonymity. Oh, and the other stuff. –  animuson Apr 24 '12 at 18:09
    
I was going to change my username to bansheet, but I see it's better I don't do it. ;) –  kiamlaluno Apr 24 '12 at 21:19

To clarify, I am not referring to questions which are low quality because of the way they were written, but rather questions which are closed because they do not meet the SE question standard

First off, there's no single "SE question standard". There are a bunch of rules and guidelines, crafted and refined over the years as we've learned what works and what doesn't - but in the end, it comes down to a judgement call, the goal being to encourage useful answers. Keep this in mind...

Second, "Not constructive" is already extremely broad in what it covers, to the point where it's almost too easy to apply it in cases where the closer should really just be editing to clarify instead. It's also one of the hardest reasons to explain to the author of the post being closed - the description is pretty good, and links to the FAQ which elaborates... But at first glance, it's already too close to "we don't like your question, kthanksbye". I'm firmly against any changes that make it even more vague.

Finally, the core problem with your two examples is that there's no clear explanation of the specific problems in the comments; there is a decent meta discussion, but the confusion could have been mitigated more easily if the close-voters had simply been more clear as to what they found troublesome about these questions. Because of the breadth of scope (see above), Not Constructive tends to require more of this than, say, "Not a real question" or "Exact Duplicate". The alternative solution would be to break it up into multiple close reasons... But we've seen this cause problems in the past; encouraging closers to explain their rationale tends to produce more thoughtful closing.

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I'm not a huge fan of 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."

"Not constructive" is a SITE definition that means "The question does not lend itself well to one best answer." It could actually refer to an otherwise "good" question that attracts too many "pretty good" possible answers but no one that stands out from all the rest.

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