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Take for example, the question that brought me to this site, via Google.

http://stackoverflow.com/questions/12324881/why-after-installing-vmwaretools-the-vm-wont-enter-in-unity-mode

I have the exact same question. It is a perfectly reasonable question. It is not open-ended, although the OP forgot to mention it worked before upgrading; he clarified that in a comment.

As a reader and consumer of the product here, I don't find responses like "go ask the vendor" to be constructive. I don't find the canned message to be useful, and I doubt the original posters do either -- just which reason do the people voting think was violated?

After encountering this sort of thing repeatedly, I think that some people -- a critical mass -- have taken to closing questions with too much enthusiasm, and I think it creates a bad atmosphere. If it bugs me to see it as a reader, think how it must feel to people who get effectively stomped on. I think we're creating an unnecessarily repressive atmosphere here.

My question isn't about specific people, or specific questions, but rather, what changes can we make in policies, procedures, workflow, messaging, etc. that might make a positive difference?

As a user who came here with a question, and found it closed instead of answered, I find this cutting off of communications aggravating.

I believe I have a possible answer to the question, but now I cannot offer it.

This is far from the first time I've found perfectly good questions closed like this. In fact. I find some of the same names on the closing votes repeatedly, but I don't think that's the ultimate source of the problem, though I think there are opportunities for individuals to change their behavior in ways that would improve the situation.

Actual closures require multiple people voting to close. That can happen before people who actually DO understand the question, as written, get a chance to answer it.

Tomcat doesn't respond, threadump shows a blocked thread

As in the title, why do people vote to close questions, rather than alternatives, like perhaps asking questions, or accepting they may simply not have enough information to recognize what is being asked?

There certainly ARE ill-formed questions, but often any problems with a legitimate question can be easily cleared up (as with the first question above, as comments, before it was closed).

Why do people reach for the "close" hammer so readily, and what can be done to improve the process?

I have a few suggestions:

  1. Change the suggested policy, to be that before voting to close, you should offer (if it isn't already offered) your objection, and give the OP a chance to correct the problem.

  2. When voting to close, rather than the canned, uninformative message, ask the voter just WHICH reason or reasons to close are being invoked, and record those. I'd suggest making the aggregated set of voted reasons visible. It doesn't have to be tied to individuals, just let the OP (and spectators) know what set of issues are viewed as applying.

  3. Introduce a new state prior to close, perhaps called "On hold". Issues can be reopened, true, but "closed" sounds very final, and doesn't encourage people to fix their questions.

But I expect there are other things that can be done. In particular, what prompted the form of my question is that some questions that meet every criterion, out of the box, get voted to close. I would guess that these are people who simply did not understand the question properly -- if so, then why did they vote to close, rather than abstain?

Of course, my guess may be inaccurate -- that's why this is a question.

share|improve this question
5  
Herd mentality! Once one person starts the 'close' process, it is hard to stop it. Even pointed comments provided by those sympathetic to the question remaining open don't always stop the closure from occurring. –  Jonathan Leffler Nov 27 '12 at 6:55
9  
1) the question has nothing to do with programming 2) vague, not enough information to reproduce –  Jeff Nov 27 '12 at 6:56
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I don't think Ken was unhelpful or attacked the question. –  simchona Nov 27 '12 at 6:59
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It's also important to note, the close messages are "canned"-- you choose a reason out of a short list. sometimes the text that comes with it isn't exactly correct, but usually the decision to close is the right one –  Jeff Nov 27 '12 at 7:01
2  
Using words like "repressive behavior" and "attacking questions" doesn't help make your case. –  Robert Harvey Nov 27 '12 at 7:12
    
Closing good questions is repressing them, there's no escaping that. –  Bob Kerns Nov 27 '12 at 7:36
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I'll be honest: it doesn't seem like repression for comments to say "hey, maybe you should talk to the devs and here is why" –  simchona Nov 27 '12 at 7:37
    
To the people downvoting the question, let me ask you: Do you REALLY believe that the situation is optimal? I should perhaps clarify that I don't think most closed questions are closed in error. But it happens enough that I'm brought to this site specifically by questions that have been closed like this, that I think it's worth discussing whether something could be improved! –  Bob Kerns Nov 27 '12 at 7:39
1  
Most people probably bristle at your use of "repression", the idea that only you are right (that somehow Ken will see the light after reading this) , etc. Maybe try rewriting so it's more constructive--less against an individual and more about the phenomenon you're trying to get at –  simchona Nov 27 '12 at 7:41
1  
Hi @BobKerns, I've seen many questions get reopened, and in general, they're much better for it. The reopened question usually has been cleaned up a bit and polished, and the asker generally gets much better answers. It's not quite as bad as it may appear. ;) My advice is, if you find a question that you think should be reopened, bring it here to meta, but leave out the accusations. That takes the focus away from the actual question reopening and instead focuses it on less helpful things. Hope this helps! –  jmort253 Nov 27 '12 at 7:44
1  
I have asked for questions to be reopened in the past. But I intended this as a meta-question! As in, why does this happen, and what can be done to encourage a better process. I have some ideas, I'll add below. –  Bob Kerns Nov 27 '12 at 7:48
    
@simchona -- I debated whether or not to pick on poor Ken; on the one hand, with no hard examples of responses that I, as a user, do NOT like to see, it is all to abstract. But, as both I and you point out, it's NOT about Ken. Remember, these are NOT my questions that are being shot down. I am reporting here MY reaction on reading these responses, as a relative outsider here -- and as someone who has participated in online discussions for 40 years. I have been guilty of the same sort of response, but I really don't think it is helpful. Of course, you're arguing I'm doing it now... –  Bob Kerns Nov 27 '12 at 7:52
    
BTW, the reason I care about this issue is, that Stack Overflow and related sites are BY FAR the most likely to answer my most obscure questions -- and a lot of my routine ones as well. I think encouraging, maintaining, and improving that has a real impact! –  Bob Kerns Nov 27 '12 at 8:36
    
It is a perfectly reasonable question -> No, it's not. read this to know why it's nowhere close to being a reasonable question –  Sathya Nov 27 '12 at 11:14

1 Answer 1

First, none of Ken's comments really appear to "attack" the question. His tone is perhaps a bit incredulous, but that's understandable:

Yes, it can. The previous version supported it, the current doesn't (at least yet). You should probably be asking VMWare about what the issue might be, though. - Ken White Sep 7 at 21:31


Ok, but how do i do that, i'm a little new to VM:) – Carolik Sep 7 at 21:42


Where did you get (download) VMWare from? – Ken White Sep 7 at 22:15


I downloaded VM from the official site. – Carolik Sep 8 at 10:40


Then that's where you should contact them - through the support info on the official site. I would have thought my last three comments would have told you that already. :-) – Ken White Sep 8 at 14:14


The main point that I pulled from this interaction is that, not only was Ken quite helpful in pointing the asker to the official VMWare forums, it's also clear that the question is off-topic on Stack Overflow:

From the FAQ:

Stack Overflow is for professional and enthusiast programmers, people who write code because they love it. We feel the best Stack Overflow questions have a bit of source code in them, but if your question generally covers …

  • a specific programming problem
  • a software algorithm
  • software tools commonly used by programmers
  • practical, answerable problems that are unique to the programming profession

… then you’re in the right place to ask your question!

A question about how to get Unity to work with VMWare is not a programming question. It might be a question for Ask Ubuntu, but they'll likely close it as off-topic too since it's a support/bug question.

The reason questions like these are closed is to keep the site laser-focused on solving programming problems. If we start allowing just any question, then the site would lose it's focus and its purpose, leaving nothing but a cluttered mess.

share|improve this answer
    
Well, I disagree about Ken's responses. Go pay $$$ for support is hardly helpful, and hardly likely to encourage users. Your point about the focus of the site is more on target - but I'm not convinced. VMWare is specifically "software tools commonly used by programmers", which is exactly what I am doing. But if you insist on categorizing it as NOT a software tool commonly used by programmers -- then why not instead direct him to SuperUser instead? I found Ken's response to be a bit insulting, to a degree that would intimidate some users. But only enough to use it as an illustration. –  Bob Kerns Nov 27 '12 at 7:33
    
The actual point I was making was about the rush-to-close, not an individual unhelpful answer. I'm sure I've been guilty of unhelpful answers from time to time -- but they don't have the effect of closing off discussion! –  Bob Kerns Nov 27 '12 at 7:34
1  
This is the Internet, and it's easy to misinterpret people. I don't think Ken intended malice. With that said, I don't use the VMWare support forums, but I would think there is a place there to actually report bugs and get support -- for free -- in the forums. Is that true? Or must one really pay out of pocket to report "hey, this thing won't let me use Unity, what gives?" –  jmort253 Nov 27 '12 at 7:35
    
As an aside, if you think this question needs to be answered, and you have an answer, I suggest reposting the question on Ask Ubuntu or Unix and Linux, assuming using Virtualization with Linux would be on-topic there. Just so you know, it's perfectly okay to ask and answer your own question on Stack Exchange. Good luck! :) –  jmort253 Nov 27 '12 at 7:39
2  
Ken used a smiley in his comments. no one who's being rude uses a :-) –  Jeff Nov 27 '12 at 7:39
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@Jeff - Unless you're trying to send mixed signals ;[ –  jmort253 Nov 27 '12 at 7:41
    
@jmort253 -- well, it seems I'm not allowed to answer my own question here. I was about to do exactly that, but people just closed the question on me. –  Bob Kerns Nov 27 '12 at 7:54
1  
Bob, if you edit the question to make it a bit more constructive, like removing what could be construed as an attack on Ken, I'll happily vote to reopen, and I'm sure others will too. I think you raise good points, just your approach needs a lighter touch. Hope this helps. –  jmort253 Nov 27 '12 at 7:56
    
Anyway, what I would have offered as an answer, is this: Before reaching to close a question, first point out specifically why you think it is not appropriate in the current form. I'd suggest two changes to the closing procedure to help promote this: 1) When closing, offer a reminder that the user should have a chance to repair, prior to closing. I'd suggest even a time limit -- being locked out of answering here already is annoying. Though I appreciate the self-referential irony. 2) Require, and record in the comments, a specific reason. –  Bob Kerns Nov 27 '12 at 7:59
    
The idea here is that the closing process is trying to add accountability to the question asking, but there's really no accountability to the closing process. The ideal situation would be that the questions that do get closed, are the ones that wouldn't get fixed up. And also, I think this would better help the people asking defective questions. –  Bob Kerns Nov 27 '12 at 8:01
    
As an aside, @jmort253, could I trouble you to explain your reasoning about excluding it here, given that VMWare Workstation and friends are keep tools for programmers who actually test things in multiple environments. I'm of the opinion that most programmers should be using it as part of their regular test and development paradigm. I think we'd see a lot of bugs. But that's just context for my question. Perhaps I should rephrase as "How would you reword the FAQ to make this (your) dividing line more clear?" Or maybe that's worth a new question! –  Bob Kerns Nov 27 '12 at 8:08
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@jmort253 I just saw your offer to vote to reopen. I've been contemplating how to go about that all along -- I already amended the title. Still working on it... –  Bob Kerns Nov 27 '12 at 8:10
1  
@jmort253 edited. –  Bob Kerns Nov 27 '12 at 8:29

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