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Programmers.SE has a fairly high close/migration question rate (43% over the past month). However, when I posted a meta question asking what we could do to help lower that rate, one of the moderators told me that it is not a problem.

I don't want to try and fix something that isn't perceived as a problem, but also don't understand why this wouldn't be a problem.

Is it true that a high close ratio isn't a problem for SE sites? And why? (Or why not?)

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Taking things out of context again, are we? – Yannis May 4 '12 at 16:59
I don't see any reason why this should be downvoted, it's a valid question asked clearly and IMO honestly. @YahooAnswersenthusiast What context is missing here? I read everything on the original Programmers meta post and didn't see any important details that would be relevant here. – Matthew Read May 4 '12 at 17:04
@YahooAnswersenthusiast Please explain how this takes "Well, to be perfectly honest, it's not really a problem. It would be nice to have less closures, but our closing ratio is not an actual problem" out of context – Rachel May 4 '12 at 17:04
@MatthewRead - Votes are different on meta. Rachel has opined here that a high close ratio is a problem, and some people disagree. – Kevin Vermeer May 4 '12 at 17:08
@KevinVermeer I'm asking if something is true or not, and why/why not. The only opinion I stated was that I didn't understand why it's not a problem, which was my reason for asking the question. I'm not sure how that translates into an opinionated post – Rachel May 4 '12 at 17:11
@MatthewRead The missing context is that my comment was responding to Rachel wondering why people were downvoting her on Meta ProgSE. The ProgSE crowd is more than aware of our close rate, and doesn't perceive it as a problem, as although it might be a bit high this month, it's not far from our norm. – Yannis May 4 '12 at 17:14
OK, thanks for clarifying. @KevinVermeer No, she's asked whether it is a problem. People should go downvote the Programmers post if they disagree with it, not downvote this one. – Matthew Read May 4 '12 at 17:18
@MatthewRead To expand on that: We don't cater to beginners the way Stack Overflow does, we have set the bar a bit higher. That naturally leads to more closures, ProgSE regulars know and are accustomed to this, but for the MSO crowd our highish close rate may seem quite unreasonable. – Yannis May 4 '12 at 17:21
@YahooAnswersenthusiast Sure, I just don't think that it's unreasonable to question whether having so many closed questions has a negative effect. Being accustomed to it may be a problem. – Matthew Read May 4 '12 at 17:23
@YahooAnswersenthusiast Actually, based on many meta questions, some in the community do see this as a problem. It's just that you and some others do not. – Rachel May 4 '12 at 17:26
@Rachel All the answers to the questions you linked to say "no problem" and are upvoted. – Yannis May 4 '12 at 17:28
@YahooAnswersenthusiast: I applaud your high closure rate, hopefully SO will be there one day too. – user7116 May 4 '12 at 17:58
@sixlettervariables Hahaha, that's one way to look at it! :P – Matthew Read May 4 '12 at 18:00
@sixlettervariables Did you check? Are you certain SO has a lower closure rate? – Yannis May 4 '12 at 18:12
@sixlettervariables Hrrrmm that's roughly 4.5%, which is quite a bit lower than 43%. I can't even imagine the kind of work it would take to get a 43% close rate on SO – Rachel May 4 '12 at 18:25
up vote 7 down vote accepted

Is a high close/migration rate a problem for a SE site?


  • Dealing with questions outside the scope of the site is a waste of everyone's time. Instead of spending time making the Internet a better place and contributing in your site's area of expertise, you're wasting time reading, evaluating, arguing over, attempting to fix, closing, and deleting things that don't offer very much (if anything) to the site.

    • Note that attempting to fix questions is great if you succeed, but we're talking about a high close rate, not a high need-to-fix rate.

  • Seeing a bunch of closed questions when you visit a site does not generally leave a positive impression, at least not on me and most people I've talked to about it. The perception is often of an exclusive (in the negative sense) community or, at best, a page full of things that were crap or irrelevant.

    • The perception issue can be fixed by deleting closed questions faster, yes, but the need to do that work is still a problem; see (1).

  • Getting your question closed is rarely a good experience.

As for Programmers specifically, I haven't been actively recently but I'm somewhat familiar with the issues the site faces. I agree with other posters that it is absolutely expected and normal for Programmers to have higher closure and migration rates. I cannot agree that this is fine and dandy, though. Expecting a greater number of issues does not make the issues any less problematic.

I think the community's efforts would be better directed toward efforts that reduce the issues instead of deal with their effects. Reducing issues should reduce their effects, plus you get the bonus of a site that looks better to new users and is more helpful.

Again, I haven't been active recently so I don't know what has been tried and I certainly am not going to tell you what to do. I just have to disagree with the fundamental idea that problems are OK because they're expected and you've gotten used to them.

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Just a note: 43% includes migrations/duplicates. Although I agree that getting your question closed is not a good experience, that's not really true when it comes to migrations or duplicates. Some people may not like duplicates, but most will appreciate that they got fast answers to their question on the dupe. – Yannis May 4 '12 at 17:58
@YahooAnswersenthusiast Yes, that's fair to say. Thanks for clarifying the number. – Matthew Read May 4 '12 at 17:59
I just have to disagree with the fundamental idea that problems are OK because they're expected and you've gotten used to them. Some of the issues are out of our control, for example we can't do much for the 41% of incorrect migrations from Stack Overflow (other than close them as they come). It's something that we've grown accustomed to, but it does look strange (at least) to newcomers. Yet, Stack Overflow is huge, we can't really do much towards educating you guys to what ProgSE is about, can we? – Yannis May 4 '12 at 18:05
@YahooAnswersenthusiast Yeah that's exactly why is measurably going downhill bad migrations from clueless SO users. – Some Helpful Commenter May 4 '12 at 18:23
@SomeHelpfulCommenter So our steady growth is a lie? That query only measures voting behaviour nothing else... – Yannis May 4 '12 at 18:29
@YahooAnswersenthusiast There's always something that can be done. For the ones that come from SO, some example options would be to either remove the migration path entirely, or rephrase what it says so that users migrating questions are more informed as to what the Programmers site is actually about. Most users don't purposely send bad questions to Programmers – Rachel May 4 '12 at 18:30
@Rachel That we can agree on, there's always room for improvement. However, improvement won't come by always looking for problems, ProgSE is not perfect and will never be. If you love the site, start editing questions every day, comment on closed questions by new users explaining to them why their question is not a good fit for the site and what the site is actually about, stop wasting time arguing over things that no one really cares about (i.e. the name), etc. In short, stop talking and start doing. We are getting better every day, small steps and we'll get there. – Yannis May 4 '12 at 18:37
@YahooAnswersenthusiast Its much more efficient to go to the source of the problem than to just deal with the effects of it – Rachel May 4 '12 at 18:48
I would honestly support removing the migration path entirely. Let the mass of clueless SO users learn to read the FAQ before posting. – Matthew Read May 4 '12 at 18:48
@Rachel I lost you there? The source? If you mean SO, SO is part of the problem, but not the only problem. – Yannis May 4 '12 at 18:51
@Matthew It's something that we'll need to start discussing, but it's not an easy decision to make. Anecdotically most crap migrations we get are from users that don't even have an account on ProgSE (or have 101 accounts), and I honestly never understood why someone would vote to migrate to a site they know nothing about. – Yannis May 4 '12 at 18:53
@YahooAnswersenthusiast Unfortunately requiring rep on the target site is a declined feature request, but I've made another suggestion. – Matthew Read May 4 '12 at 19:45

I certainly can't (and won't) speak to the specifics of the programmers site, but would offer an analogy that helps me know when and how to close and migrate a question on the site where I'm in a position to do that work.

I look it your question as "Is it a problem that the police are writing tickets against 30% of the drivers on road X last month?"

No - the ticket writing isn't really a problem and instead you'll need to focus on the behavior of the drivers that is causing this ticket rate.

  • What percentage of the drivers being ticketed even went through training? (Are the guilty clearly breaking a rule)
  • What percentage of drivers are exceeding the posted limits? (Is enforcement getting most of the offenders)
  • Are the signs even clear about what the expected behavior is? (Even when you don't catch everyone, seeing those lights by the side of the road regularly helps to shape future behavior of the community)

So, this analogy gets a little strained - but looking deeper at your closure rate will illuminate the good and bad tradeoff that is happening in your specific site. The good of course is a low barrier of entry to ask a question. The bad is time and energy to deal with questions that didn't land "in bounds."

By seeing to where the good questions are migrating and from where the bad ones are originating, you'll start to have an answer if one or more problems exist by looking at these groups over time.

If the questions being closed are bad - then awesome! Selective moderation(in the sense that the community is correctly eliminating garbage and garbage only) is the lifeblood of good content on all of the SE sites.

Do you have a sense if the community is able to close these questions or this effort lies in moderators stepping in with a super vote to close? When the strain of moderation is so large that people are doing pointless work closing, then you might want to look at what sort of people are asking these questions and work on making the "rules of the road" more clear.

Having a high rate means the next step is to measure things a bit to determine if there are patterns to the closures. Once you write off the bad questions, you can then focus on the good questions that got asked in the wrong place for something actionable you can change or work on as a community.

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So a high close rate isn't really the problem, but its a sign that we should be looking for problems? – Rachel May 4 '12 at 17:32
I think a too low close rate would be a problem that needs to be understood. A high rate would simply merit understanding and slicing it up to see how it changes over time. When you have a real problem, it will smack you (and several others) over the head. You generally don't have to go looking for a problem, no? – bmike May 4 '12 at 17:36
I think you've misunderstood what was asked. This isn't about the "closure rate". This is about the rate of closing migrated questions. That is, questions that Stack Exchange community members looked at and said, "This belongs on Programmers.SE." And they're wrong. Now, that doesn't mean that a look at how clear things are on Prog.SE isn't warranted. But that's only going to go so far; people, especially new people, don't read the FAQ. There certainly is a sense among some on SO that Prog.SE is the dumping ground for any sort of crap. A FAQ update isn't necessarily going to change that. – Nicol Bolas May 4 '12 at 19:37
@NicolBolas No, the question was about the closure rate, and bmike provides a good answer and analogy. The comment thread on another answer is talking about the closure rate of questions migrated from SO to P.SE, however that is not what this question was about. – Rachel May 4 '12 at 20:16

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