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In this comment, someone mentioned how hard it is to get a question reopened. This is a problem.

Many new users, upon learning that their question is closed, will ask it again in a new post. This leads to duplicated questions, and does not usually lead to a significant increase in quality.

Users should be able to get their question fairly reviewed for reopening, if they have edited the question, and believe that it is now acceptable. However, there are several reasons why this almost never happens.

Decreased visibility on closed questions is the main reason. There is also a tendency to 'let closed questions lie.'

The FAQ makes it sound as if closed questions can be reopened by editing the question to be more appropriate. This is much harder than it sounds.

Of course, there are cases where a question should remain closed, such as off topic questions. But there are plenty of cases where a question was asked twice because the first one was closed. I think we need to make it easier for users to 'request' a question reopening, to encourage them to improve their questions, and hopefully learn more about question quality.

What can we do to remove the barrier to reopening questions?

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All the user needs to do is flag the post and explain what they've done and why they think it should be re-opened. They can also @reply anyone who left a comment about close voting, though flagging is likely more efficient. Users really shouldn't have so many closed questions that this is a recurring problem, we all have to learn to search and understand the FAQ and so on. –  Matthew Read Jul 5 '12 at 22:17
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@MatthewRead: How will new users know that they should flag their own post? To most people that would seem counter-productive. –  Kendall Frey Jul 5 '12 at 22:28
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New users tend to abuse flags quite readily when they have posts closed, in my experience, I'm sure a legitimate use is not beyond them. –  Matthew Read Jul 5 '12 at 22:38
    
"Users should be able to get their question fairly reviewed for reopening, if they have edited the question, and believe that it is now acceptable." I thought editing a closed question within 5 days automatically puts it in the reopen queue. Am I wrong? –  Louis Jan 28 at 14:47
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2 Answers 2

up vote 15 down vote accepted

If we really wanted to make reopening questions viable, we could add them to /review.

Imagine a /review pane dedicated to questions that were closed, but subsequently edited. Aggregating them and distinguishing between "closed and forgotten" and "trying to improve" would make a huge difference in their chances of being reopened. Given the "trying to improve" aspect, I'd expect it to be a well-serviced part of review too.

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That seems like a very feasible, useful solution. –  Kendall Frey Jul 5 '12 at 23:04
    
Great idea; there'd have to be an "ignore" or "not worth re-opening" button for this list. –  Josh Caswell Jul 5 '12 at 23:37
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I think the rush to close questions is overwhelming, and as soon as one person has VtC, everyone piles on (and often there is no comment). I don't know of many cases where a user has had sufficient feedback to even understand why their question is of low quality, never mind the time (and probably the know-how) to improve it before that fifth (or moderator) hammer comes down.

Sure, we could expect everyone to read the FAQ to avoid the problem in the first place, but nobody's going to do that, and no amount of "Read the FAQ n00b!" is going to prevent it from continuing to happen. And we could post a what have you tried link and wipe our hands of it, thinking we've taught the user something, but they won't have time to read that resource and fix the question before everyone else VtC.

What I think we can do as a community to lower this barrier is to give folks more opportunity to improve their questions before we all pile on them and close them. I'm as guilty as the next guy but I'm trying to be better. I think if we all try to be a bit better about using constructive criticism and education rather than reprimanding them, this will become less of an issue. Nothing formal obviously, but if you find an answer of low quality, leave a comment suggesting how they should improve their question to make it answerable, and only VtC after considerable time has passed and they've done nothing about it (or have argued with you, which is a self-induced form of barrier that should remain in place - if they are intentionally defiant of your advice to improve their question, there's not much else you can do about that).

I say "considerable time" to be purposely vague, as that is up to you; just keep in mind that people in different time zones may not see your comment until tomorrow, even if it's the beginning of your day. I also understand that the likelihood of you checking up later on someone you gave a chance to is minimal, but if 5 people VtC immediately because none of them will check back later...

As an aside, it's always puzzled me that down-voting a question doesn't cost rep. I don't want to re-open old and dragged-out discussions on the topic, so I'm not linking to any on purpose, but I have to wonder if this would be less of a problem if down-voting questions had some impact on rep. I realize that we don't want any barriers to down-voting crappy questions, either, but perhaps:

  • The 5th down-voter is the only one who pays (thereby at least potentially delaying that nail in the coffin, giving the user time to scramble and improve their question, while still allowing folks to indicate their dissatisfaction with the original question unscathed).

  • Or perhaps we could make it easier (err, possible) to un-VtC if we observe that someone has made a sufficient effort to improve the question. We can vote to re-open after the question has been closed, but until then the question is headed downhill with no brakes...

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Very true, but unfortunately, unless we can get a large number of users to act upon it, nothing will change. –  Kendall Frey Jul 5 '12 at 22:40
    
@KendallFrey understood, but unless veteran users in general are more tolerant of the set of new users who are willing to listen and change, and they actually give them an opportunity set themselves apart by demonstrating their willingness to do that, it seems like a stalemate to me. –  Aaron Bertrand Jul 5 '12 at 22:41
    
Free question downvotes is quite a recent development: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/90324/… The idea that "closing happens too fast for the poster to edit" has been hashed and rehashed on Meta many times. Here's one: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/125295/… and see "Similar" links in the sidebar. Editing can and should still happen after closing. –  Josh Caswell Jul 5 '12 at 22:57
    
@Josh yes, I understand, and I explicitly stated I didn't want to re-hash those discussions, because in general I agree with them. But I somehow doubt that "editing after closing" is magically just going to start happening, and I don't see any easy mechanism for us to reverse our votes before closure (or be notified after closure) that a question has been edited and deserves another shot. Flagging for a moderator is often going to be a coin toss, depending on who gets the flag first (and quality of edit of course), just trying to offer some alternate approaches. –  Aaron Bertrand Jul 5 '12 at 23:00
    
You can say that you don't want to re-hash them, but everything you've said in this post has been said before on Meta. I don't see how you can have it both ways. –  Josh Caswell Jul 5 '12 at 23:20
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