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“not a real question” close trigger happy?
Aggressive closing of questions suggestion

Consider this question: http://stackoverflow.com/posts/14262913/revisions

As originally asked, it was not that great of a question, but legitimate. I have a function in JavaScript, and I want to convert it to ColdFusion. How do I do that?

I spoke with Al Everett, the first to vote to close the question, and he originally cast his close vote because of the low-quality way in which the question was asked. He then changed his mind and tried to edit the question into something answerable, and answer it. (If he could have rescinded his close vote, he would have.) His answer garnered 9 upvotes as of this writing (which is a lot for questions tagged CF), but still 4 other people found it worth closing as "not a real question."

Al has significant history in the ColdFusion tag -- it's his highest rated tag at 298 points currently.

Then 4 more people, none of whom have any experience in the ColdFusion tag, decided to vote to close.

Note how ColdFusion doesn't show up in any of their tags, even once. Clearly this was an actual question. How do I get from point A to point B? It may not have been well asked, but it is about as clear and concrete as you can get.

It appears as though there's dog-piling going on here. Someone is watching a feed of questions that have been voted against and rallies the troops to shut it down, regardless of whether or not it's a legitimate question.

As I commented on the original question:

If I go over to cooking.SE and get enough rep from Baking questions does that make me qualified to close a question about Chili recipes as "not a real question"? It's very possible that chili cooks have their own vernacular that bakers don't understand.

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marked as duplicate by Asad, Josh Caswell, gnat, Bart, Toon Krijthe Jan 11 '13 at 19:33

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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Are you suggesting anything? –  juergen d Jan 11 '13 at 17:09
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I'm suggesting that it's a big problem that the smart minds behind SO should consider addressing. Does every bug report have to come with a patch, now? –  Adam Tuttle Jan 11 '13 at 17:10
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Isn't this more of a discussion than support? –  LittleBobbyTables Jan 11 '13 at 17:10
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@Shog9: Whether or not it's true, the above comment indicates it took extra effort on Twitter to get the question reopened. Is that the preferred protocol? –  Wesley Murch Jan 11 '13 at 17:14
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How is it accidental? You have to go through a menu. There's no way you could trip, fall, and accidentally vote to close. People voted to close because they didn't understand and/or didn't care to improve. Just because you don't have the energy or motivation to improve a question doesn't make it a question that should be closed. –  Adam Tuttle Jan 11 '13 at 17:16
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Have you considered that you might have asked this in a more constructive manner rather than throwing around accusations? As the question stands I would probably downvote and maybe vote to close. It's basically asks "please re-code this for me". I don't need domain knowledge in order to see this and I don't agree that this is a "good" question. –  ben is uǝq backwards Jan 11 '13 at 17:19
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Hang around a but @scott, you'll see a number of disagreements with the overlords; however, occasionally people agree. You've entered one thread and found some. Judging by the closing and reopening of the question you.can see there are people out there with differing views. –  ben is uǝq backwards Jan 11 '13 at 17:27
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[waits for Godwin's Law to be invoked] –  Robert Harvey Jan 11 '13 at 17:27
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You know who else closed questions without prior tag experience? –  LittleBobbyTables Jan 11 '13 at 17:29
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This was not a legitimate question. Stack Overflow is not a code writing factory. Closing code requests with zero own effort is totally standard fare and does not require knowledge of the tag. –  Pëkka Jan 11 '13 at 17:57
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I can't believe there's been this much discussion over a code-translation question. –  Mike B Jan 11 '13 at 18:01
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Does every bug report have to come with a patch, now? <- No, it should come with expected behavior, which you have not provided. Instead, you have used loaded language to complain about the voting behavior of users on SO. Help us out; give us some ideas on what can be done about the problem you perceive. –  Asad Jan 11 '13 at 18:09
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I saw the title and so badly wanted to upvote this, until I read the body –  Michael Mrozek Jan 11 '13 at 18:35
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5  
@ScottStroz You keep writing of the StackOverlords, and I keep not figuring out who you mean. Do you mean everybody with >= n rep (in that case, what's n?), or do you mean moderators, or whom? –  Daniel Fischer Jan 11 '13 at 21:59

5 Answers 5

Actually everybody here is human (maybe Jon Skeet isn't). 5 people are necessary to close a question and they all need a fair amount of rep.

So I would say all possible is done and yes - sometimes a question gets closed that shouldn't have. If you see one - cast a reopen vote and leave a comment why.

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3  
I think you missed the point. 4 of the 5 StackOverlords who 'voted to close' have 0 rep in the tagged technology. I hope someday that I get 'enough rep' so I can start randomly voting to close questions based on technology I have no experience with, because it does seem like that is how its done. –  Scott Stroz Jan 11 '13 at 17:20
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You don't need rep in a particular area to see if a question should be closed. To see if a question is ok can most of the times be seen in a few seconds IMO. –  juergen d Jan 11 '13 at 17:22
    
I think that was @ScottStroz's point, juergen. –  Adam Cameron Jan 11 '13 at 17:26
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@AdamCameron: I detected a bit of sarcasm in Scott's point. –  Robert Harvey Jan 11 '13 at 17:28
    
The comment is definitely very important, particularly after an edit + reopen vote. It explains to other users why you think the question should not be closed, and can help sway their opinion –  Rachel Jan 11 '13 at 17:31
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@Scott you don't need experience in the Cold Fusion tag to determine that a code writing request is not a good fit for Stack Overflow. Requests like that are off topic in all tags. Period. –  Pëkka Jan 11 '13 at 17:59
    
Wouldn't any question on SO that needs code in the answer technically be be a 'code writing request'? –  Scott Stroz Jan 11 '13 at 18:08
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@Scott no. There's a huge difference between "I have this huge code, plz translate it for me" and "how do I y the z in this jQuery code?". Or "I am translating this huge code into ColdFusion, but x doesn't have an equivalent in CF. Which function should I use?" –  Pëkka Jan 11 '13 at 18:15
    
How so? Each is asking for code on how to accomplish something. –  Scott Stroz Jan 11 '13 at 18:16
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There a a difference in: Give me the code for my problem and Can you help me find the error in my code. BTW the answer to the second request does not necessarily need to contain code. –  juergen d Jan 11 '13 at 18:19
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@ScottStroz Could you please stop using "StackOverlords" instead of users? It doesn't help the discussion, and it's more keystrokes. –  Asad Jan 11 '13 at 18:20
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I unfortunately have ColdFusion experience and VB experience and COBOL experience...but I don't go out looking for those questions to answer because I'd rather not have to use them ever again. However, I have the chops necessary to vote to close something in any of those tags, even though I do not participate in them. Using someone's "experience" in a tag is a worthless metric. (QED) –  user7116 Jan 11 '13 at 18:28
    
@Asad - I don't view them as 'users', they are moderators, who, in my opinion, frequently abuse their 'power' as such, and more importantly, hand down judgement rather inconsistently- hence the StackOverlord monicker. –  Scott Stroz Jan 11 '13 at 21:28
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@Scott there are 12,600 "moderators" then. Stack Overflow is a community moderated site, users closing questions is an important part of the janitorial process here... with those numbers, some inconsistency is to be expected. Also incorrect closings (which happen occasionally) can be reverted. But then, I get the feeling you're not really interested in a conversation. –  Pëkka Jan 11 '13 at 22:57
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Anyway, I'm interested to see whether your views will remain the same once you've built as big a track record, and helped as many people, as the users you accuse of being "elitist douchebags" here, "handing down judgements"... at the moment, all I'm seing from you is self-righteous hot air. –  Pëkka Jan 11 '13 at 22:59

That question should have been closed, in my opinion, and it should have stayed closed. It's asking us to translate code without showing us what was tried so far. The edit doesn't improve upon that. The close voters don't need to have any experience in ColdFusion to see that.

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@MattBusche: Moderation does not require experience in the tags. It doesn't take an expert to figure out that the OP is asking for a language translation. –  Robert Harvey Jan 11 '13 at 17:23
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How does "without showing us what was tried so far" translate to "you're saying is that newbies are not welcome", @Adam? –  Arjan Jan 11 '13 at 17:28
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@AdamTuttle I don't know how you translated my answer into that. We're not a code translation service. If the OP showed what they tried, that question would be fine. –  Bill the Lizard Jan 11 '13 at 17:28
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@AdamTuttle: After The Great "What Stack Overflow Is Not" Wars of 2012, and the ensuing Summer Of Love, I'm more inclined to simply let the close reasons speak for themselves. –  Robert Harvey Jan 11 '13 at 17:30
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@AdamCameron: They get that chance when their question is closed. Closure merely stops answering, giving the OP time to clarify and clean up their question so that it can be reopened. –  Robert Harvey Jan 11 '13 at 17:32
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@AdamCameron The help they provide is keeping the site clean and free of poor questions. –  Robert Harvey Jan 11 '13 at 17:34
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@ScottStroz: "This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form." –  Robert Harvey Jan 11 '13 at 17:39
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@AdamTuttle: Nobody can answer a closed question, so nobody (or, barely anyone) looks at them. -- A fine motivator for people getting their questions right the first time. –  Robert Harvey Jan 11 '13 at 17:42
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@AdamTuttle the question is put into "time-out" and answers aren't allowed That's exactly what closed means. It's not deleted. All of what you just said is allowed when a question is closed. –  Bill the Lizard Jan 11 '13 at 17:43
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@ScottStroz: Nice try, but maybe constructive discussion works better here, hm? –  Robert Harvey Jan 11 '13 at 17:46
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@AdamTuttle: What you might be missing here is that there is a substantial percentage of new folks who want to use the site any way they want, and are not interested in being educated about how SE works. There are significant frictional barriers erected for those folks; an automated low-quality filter, question bans, and the like. There's no need to make it any easier for them. For those questions that are borderline (like the one we're discussing), reopen votes exist as a safety valve, but the community still has a say in what they consider on-topic or not. –  Robert Harvey Jan 11 '13 at 18:03
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To put it another way, this is why we can't have nice things. –  Robert Harvey Jan 11 '13 at 18:07
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@LanceRoberts: I have this highly-localized code in VB. What is the equivalent code in C#? –  Robert Harvey Jan 11 '13 at 18:10
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@ScottStroz: Which is why I'm not particularly thrilled that asking "what have you tried" has become such a habit with the SO community. I'd much rather see a large collection of "here's how you do this particular thing" posts over the usual, "why doesn't this work" fare. –  Robert Harvey Jan 11 '13 at 18:20
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@AdamTuttle In case you weren't aware, this isn't a brand new topic. Pretty much everything in this discussion has been thoroughly discussed before. Your complaints are not new, and some come up fairly regularly. That doesn't mean they aren't welcome, but (among other things) it does indicate that you didn't research this issue much on meta before coming here to pick up where previous discussions left off. –  Servy Jan 11 '13 at 18:25

It's likely these close votes came from people using the "Close Votes" review queue:

It's a big list of questions that have close votes, and it shows you posts that aren't in your tags as well as ones that are. Currently it's loaded with 47,000 or so questions.

However there also exists a "Reopen Votes" review queue with posts that have 1 or more reopen vote. I think it is very effective.

There's a lot of close votes to review, so once in a while a post will get closed when maybe it should not have, but it if gets a reopen vote it will get reviewed fast. I mean, just look at these numbers:

enter image description here

I'd say no additional action is needed.

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Being below the 10k threshold myself, I wasn't aware of this feature. It seems reasonable. I think that possibly the threshold should be considered, though. 10k seems pretty high to me. –  Adam Tuttle Jan 11 '13 at 17:24
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10K seems about right to me, it ensures the reviews are all by experienced users (meaning mostly, experienced at Stack Overflow itself). "Reputation" is the only way we have currently to judge how to "trust" a user to moderate the site. –  Wesley Murch Jan 11 '13 at 17:26
    
@AdamTuttle this is almost certainly why this happened. I see close votes all the time or I see inappropriate "what have you tried" comments from people that don't have a prayer of answering the question on questions that in the close queue. –  Some Helpful Commenter Jan 11 '13 at 17:43
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I don't think that 10k is the threshold, at least not anymore. I'm just a little over 5K, and I can see that queue –  Sam I am Jan 11 '13 at 17:51
    
Indeed! I do have the feature, myself. It's just buried (small, cluttered) up in the header. –  Adam Tuttle Jan 11 '13 at 17:53
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Ah it may be 3K even, the feature came out after I was 10K already and I can't actually find anything about it under /privileges. I figured it was bundled with access to moderator tools. –  Wesley Murch Jan 11 '13 at 17:55
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You can access the queue as soon as you have the privilage of close voting, which is at 3k. (The old version of the queue required a higher level of rep, which may be the source of the confusion.) –  Servy Jan 11 '13 at 18:01

First off, this can be a real problem - I don't want to down-play the danger of stuff getting shut down without due consideration.

That said, I think you hit on the key problem with that particular question here:

Then any of the 5 people that voted to close could have simply left a comment to that effect, instead of closing. [...]

Actually, there were several comments there until about an hour ago. Originally, this comment was posted:

  • "Convert this code for me" questions are generally off-topic.

This was then removed when the question was edited, but nothing was added to replace it until about four hours ago with someone's rather bitter comment, but still no one really defended the question - they just griped about the question being closed and answered, which frankly seems rather petty and certainly wasn't productive if the goal was to see the question re-opened.

Let's face it: the question had problems, someone identified those problems and both answered the question and did his best to fix them - but he also did not feel that the question was appropriate and voted to close it. If you disagree, voting to re-open and stating your reason for disagreement should have been your first step.

Griping about the people who closed the question rather than stating the merits of the question itself is unlikely to change the mind of anyone thinking about voting to close or re-open it.

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I've had the question open since 9 or 10 am (US-Eastern) and never saw that comment. I'm sure you have more access than I do, but deleted comments don't really help. –  Adam Tuttle Jan 11 '13 at 18:01
    
Ack, I apologize - most of those comments were removed an hour ago, but the first one was removed a day ago - just before the edit was submitted. –  Shogging through the snow Jan 11 '13 at 18:07
    
No sweat. Thanks for clarifying. :) –  Adam Tuttle Jan 11 '13 at 18:14
    
"the danger of stuff getting shut down without due consideration" -> Herd mentality closure of questions "...4 other users agreed that your question wasn't a duplicate and reopened your post." –  gnat Jan 11 '13 at 19:44

I think Adam has a point in so much as he points out that the first person he communicated with had a significant history in the technology/field this question was related to.

And the people who voted to close it did not, even though maybe he could have phrased his question better and possibly uploaded some sample of what he has done so far on the topic.

Still, as another member has pointed out, maybe a comment could have been added rather than to vote to close a topic because of insufficient knowledge of the subject/technology.

@Adam... In my experience I have found some similar views as you have, where-by there is a hive mentality but its is one of the bad sides of the internet. I guess its the modern form of bullying, but no one likes to admit to being a bully. Also with regards to what some of the other members have said, they too are right and correct within their space.

I often think about time and how easily it is wasted. I also think the best option is to lay this topic to rest and to move on and not to waste valuable time debating the pro's and con's of who is right and who is wrong.

I'm sure many people will agree that the big wheel keeps on rolling regardless of how many innocents are trampled in the act.

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4  
If you think it's wasting your valuable time to debate the value of this topic then why post an answer to the discussion of this topic? That said, I disagree that it's wasted time. Meta is here specifically to discuss such issues. If you aren't interested in discussing them (constructively), then don't come to meta to begin with. –  Servy Jan 11 '13 at 18:49
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The thing is that in many many cases, subject-knowledge is completely irrelevant in evaluating the quality of a question. Without knowing the answer, you can still gather the "kind of thing" being asked, which is more than often enough to evaluate whether or not it should have been voted on to close. Subject specific knowledge is nice, but not necessarily a requirement at all. –  Bart Jan 11 '13 at 18:49
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@Servy - thats a very aggressive attitude you have. My meaning was that Adam could proabbly use his time more product fully to reesolve his issue than to argue with people who have already decided an outcome because the question does not suit them in one way or another. –  Zaf Khan Jan 11 '13 at 18:55
    
@Bart - Thank you yes i appreciate thatsubject knowledge may not alwyas be relavent but didnt Adam update his question? and add whatever bit code he had? after all the website SO exists to help those who need help with their coding right? –  Zaf Khan Jan 11 '13 at 18:57
    
Yes, but if and only if their question falls within the strict boundaries of an appropriate question for the site as outlined within the FAQ. And in my opinion the question does not fall within those boundaries. –  Bart Jan 11 '13 at 18:58
    
@ZafKhan I disagree with your premise that the community is unwilling to have a constructive discussion on topics such as this, or that they are unwilling to change their opinions as a result of an adapting community. Being a member for just 31 days, I can see why you wouldn't have had enough time to notice the community adapting, but I can assure you that it has; dramatically, changed over time. Usually at the root of such changes are discussions not too unlike this one. –  Servy Jan 11 '13 at 18:59
    
@ZafKhan It wasn't Adam's question btw. –  Asad Jan 11 '13 at 18:59
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Evaluating questions on their merit and topicality is the very essence of Stack Exchange. It seems specious to dismiss that kind of activity as a time-waster. On the other hand, posting a comment (as an answer, btw) about how the discussion is being carried out, rather than attempting to constructively advance the discussion, well... –  Robert Harvey Jan 11 '13 at 18:59
    
@Servy Okay point taken in so much that YES i am a new member and maybe i havnt been a member long enough but all too often there is a bullying and hive mentality online. And one often finds if you fit dont fit the clique than your not in. –  Zaf Khan Jan 11 '13 at 19:04
    
@ZafKhan So because other people elsewhere on the internet do it, it automatically means that it's a problem here? I'm sorry, but no, that's not a valid argument. –  Servy Jan 11 '13 at 19:06
    
@Asad Thank you, my mistake, I mean the author of the question is it Deetu? I'm still getting used to the layout of the website and its not my first mistake. Apologies. –  Zaf Khan Jan 11 '13 at 19:06
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@ZafKhan Hive? Clique? Bullying? Please do hang around a bit longer before you settle on an opinion of the site and its community. Community moderation is one of the main aspects of this site that keeps it at the quality it is, or even improves it. –  Bart Jan 11 '13 at 19:06
    
@ZafKhan That's okay, things tend to get pretty muddled in long meta discussions like this one. –  Asad Jan 11 '13 at 19:09

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