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I'm from math.SE, and I just posted some questions here that were closed. They were downvoted, and so apparently they are not really appreciated by the community here. But there is something I don't understand, that is -

When I search a little, I find many very popular questions getting closed as non-constructive.

For example:

Why would you close those questions if it is very clear that the community appreciates them? It seems like questions that don't follow some criteria are closed by some autistic, automatic procedure.

I thought that StackExchange was about what the community wants, not what some moderator(s) think is constructive. I'm glad that those questions above got very good answers before they were closed, but what about other interesting questions that had less luck. Taking the question Examples of GoF Design Patterns we see 674 users and 1 moderator who closes it.

It may be the case that StackOverflow was originally not intended for questions like these. But who cares? This doesn't look like democracy to me.

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marked as duplicate by gnat, Lucifer, hims056, Martijn Pieters, Daniel Daranas Jun 14 '13 at 12:30

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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The fact is this: Popular questions are more likely to be closed due to their high traffic. The 5 votes to close system works for low-traffic questions, but for higher ones it really needs to be increased to be effective. –  Richard J. Ross III Jun 14 '13 at 0:13
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Also, only the 1st question you linked was closed by a moderator, the rest were by regular users. –  Richard J. Ross III Jun 14 '13 at 0:13
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Please read: "Good subjective, bad subjective." Also, remember that moderators are community elected. You're not going to get a good response calling them dictators. –  Emrakul Jun 14 '13 at 0:14
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Who ever said SE is a democracy? –  American Luke Jun 14 '13 at 0:14
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Those are shining beacons for the types of questions we absolutely do not answer here. That's why they are closed. Forums exist that love those questions. That ain't us and we ain't them. –  Anthony Pegram Jun 14 '13 at 0:15
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@Luke I don't know if it has ever been explicitly said, but the site's features sure to act like a democracy. There's voting everywhere, and we elect our officials (moderators). –  Richard J. Ross III Jun 14 '13 at 0:15
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If the community felt any of those questions needed to be reopened, they could do so. They haven't. QED. –  Michael Hampton Jun 14 '13 at 0:17
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@Kasper That's why we have meta: To correct the very occasional mistakes moderators make. And when we note something, we do so constructively. The moderators then give us constructive replies - occasionally reverting their previous decisions. –  Emrakul Jun 14 '13 at 0:18
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@MichaelHampton Ah, but it's a chicken and egg situation. Reopening a question is many times harder than closing it - closed questions inherently get less traffic, and most users coming from search engines don't have the ability to re-open. –  Richard J. Ross III Jun 14 '13 at 0:18
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@RichardJ.RossIII, your point about the help desk is valid which is why I strongly favor merciless downvoting and closure of questions. I'd guess 98% of what we get is nigh useless, duplicated, or both. But poll questions and list questions are purely against what we want here, and I don't care how many votes they get. People vote up a lot of crap, but it's still crap. –  Anthony Pegram Jun 14 '13 at 0:19
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@user414076 If you are saying that only 2% of our content is valid and helpful, why shouldn't we increase that to have more 'repository' type answers like that? SO is great for searching, and active voting ensures that good content stays on top. I really am against the closure system as a whole, even with the new overhauls in place. –  Richard J. Ross III Jun 14 '13 at 0:22
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Sorry @RichardJ.RossIII, this just isn't that kind of site. We're not everything for everybody, or even everything for every programmer. We have standards and rules. Plenty of sites exist for poll and information dump type questions. Stack Overflow does not need or wish to be another one of them. Closing is how we ensure, to the best of our ability, that we don't end up as one any sooner than it has to. (My strong opinion is that we're failing, but whatever.) –  Anthony Pegram Jun 14 '13 at 0:27
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@user414076 Maybe it's just me being optimistic, but I don't think we're failing. When a user comes to StackOverflow with a specific problem, there's no way to guarantee that it will not be useful for anyone in the future. Previously, when I've had issues, I've searched SO - even if I didn't find exactly what I was looking for, more often than not, I found something which was extraordinarily relevant, so helped me find a solution. –  Emrakul Jun 14 '13 at 0:30
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this question can be locked for historical significance its 3 years ago viewed 111659 times and Favorited by ~1100 users –  NullPoiиteя Jun 14 '13 at 2:45
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popularity doesn't mean question is a good fit for Stack Exchange Q&A model. Recommended reading: The Trouble With Popularity "what we try to do at Stack Exchange is make sure that questions and answers are popular for the right reasons — because they are amazing resources for learning from your peers... I hope you can understand why our community moderators are obliged to step in and protect the community from, well … itself." –  gnat Jun 14 '13 at 6:06

3 Answers 3

They were closed because they are not on topic for Stack Overflow. Please see this article in the help center, specifically:

  • practical, answerable problems that are unique to the programming profession

Your three examples are not answerable in any reasonable form.

  • The first asks for examples of a design pattern, which is not a specific problem; rather, it's asking for a list.
  • The second one asks for a comparison between to different languages; this is so situational as to make any answer not reasonably useful.
  • The third asks for a place to start with web development - this is not practical or answerable in any form.

That is why those questions are closed. I urge you to read "Good subjective, bad subjective," which explains many of the reasons for why these questions were closed.

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If you mean with answerable that there is one unique right answer, then you're right. But even if there is not one unique right answer, it may still be the case that an answer is very useful. See the first question for example –  Kasper Jun 14 '13 at 0:34
    
@Kasper Do you disagree that those questions are off topic for StackOverflow as currently defined in the help center? –  Emrakul Jun 14 '13 at 0:36
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@KnightswhosayNi There is no denying that. What I question is how those rules are arbitrarily put down, when history has shown that those types of questions are what people want. At what point does the scope of the site become what the community wants, and not what was initially setup in the rules? Don't you agree that a site should evolve with time? –  Richard J. Ross III Jun 14 '13 at 0:38
    
@RichardJ.RossIII Please read "Good subjective, bad subjective." It answers rather explicitly exactly the question you're asking, which is why subjective discussion questions are not allowed. –  Emrakul Jun 14 '13 at 0:40
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People want a lot of things. It's not our job to hand it to them. If people want SO to be something that SO does not intend to be, those people are just going to have to learn to live with disappointment. –  Anthony Pegram Jun 14 '13 at 0:45
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Although this site does evolve. But it is simply evolving away from those kitchen sink type questions. –  Anthony Pegram Jun 14 '13 at 0:45
    
@user414076 You should check out Programmers. It's the StackExchange site which was created in response to this very concern. (Again, please read "Good subjective, bad subjective." This is raised in there.) –  Emrakul Jun 14 '13 at 0:51
    
@KnightswhosayNi And that was a failed experiment. Today, none of the OP's questions would be on topic on Programmers. –  Yannis Jun 14 '13 at 0:53
    
@Yannis Hmm. I don't know much about the history of Programmers... What caused it to fail? I feel like that's very relevant to this question. –  Emrakul Jun 14 '13 at 0:54
    
@KnightswhosayNi, Stack Overflow users thought (and still think) Programmers to be the Stack Overflow dumping ground. –  Anthony Pegram Jun 14 '13 at 0:54
    
@KnightswhosayNi Fact that although people love to rant about how much they love those questions no one actually cares enough to maintain them. –  Yannis Jun 14 '13 at 0:55
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@RichardJ.RossIII The infamous 6SG were introduced after NPR (the original Programmers) turned into a crapfest. Nothing arbitrary about it, we tried making those questions work, even created a dedicated site for them. Except for a tiny fraction, they didn't work. C'est la vie. Right now, two years after the failed NPR experiment there's only one answer to "people want this": If they really do, then people should set up their own Q&A site and host them. Good luck! - Sidenote: Stack Exchange is not a democracy. –  Yannis Jun 14 '13 at 1:00

Good Subjective, Bad Subjective has already been pointed out, but I think the key answer to your concern is that something can be popular with a group of people, and yet not be appropriate for a particular forum they all frequent. Popularity and appropriateness are not dependent variables.

I thought that StackExchange was about what the community wants

This is not actually correct. Stack Exchange is about forums with particular topical areas, not forums for particular groups of people. In the latter case, the forum should react only to the whim of the body politic. In the former, hewing to the topical area is more important (and the site will live or die on whether that has utility to it's visitors).

Voting is a way of saying something is an interesting, well-formulated question or answer. It does not ask participants to consider overmuch whether it is appropriate to the forum (though some, of course, do vote on this basis). It is, however, very much appropriate for the caretakers to close down questions that are not appropriate to the forum.

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SO is not a forum. It's a Q/A site. It specifically doesn't encourage extended discussion, which is a noticeable trait of a forum. Barring that, good answer. –  Servy Jun 14 '13 at 1:22
    
@Servy "SO is not a forum. It's a Q/A site" Well, it's part forum... –  Yannis Jun 14 '13 at 1:29
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Fair enough! I was using 'forum' in the Roman sense: that it is a 'gathering place' to 'discuss' 'stuff'. –  Nathaniel Ford Jun 14 '13 at 4:50
    
@Yannis It has some of the attributes of a forum. It is not a forum. –  Servy Jun 14 '13 at 14:58
    
@NathanielFord But that's just it. It's not a place to gather and discuss stuff. We don't want discussions, which is why the use of the word is generally discouraged to describe the site. –  Servy Jun 14 '13 at 14:59
    
From dictionary.com: "to consider or examine by argument, comment, etc.; talk over or write about, especially to explore solutions; debate." While I agree with the desire to avoid debate, and I understand wanting to discourage the use of the word 'discuss' within that context, I think the ironic quotes put it pretty far outside of that context. And I will not give up properly used language out of fear that less fluent readers will mistake it as cite-able material to justify being argumentative. That's taking semantic parsing too far and limiting our ability to be expressive. –  Nathaniel Ford Jun 14 '13 at 17:24

I thought that StackExchange was about what the community wants,

No, it's not. By design, there are certain kinds of questions that are appropriate on Stack Exchange sites, and other kinds that are not. Those categories don't always line up with what the community likes.

The community does get a lot of input on how to moderate the site, but that doesn't mean they get to override the basic guiding framework of Stack Exchange. Coming from math.SE, you might find this a little unexpected because my impression as an occasional visitor is that Math is pretty loose regarding what kinds of questions they allow. (Maybe I'm wrong about that.)

not what some moderator(s) think is constructive.

It's not about what some moderator thinks is constructive. It's about what actually is constructive or not. If you think a moderator's decision that a question wasn't constructive is incorrect (and make sure you know what "constructive" means first), then sure, you can complain about the moderation, but in general, blame the guidelines, not the moderators. Somebody has to enforce those guidelines, and moderators are just the best qualified to do it (as judged by their communities). You can bet that if there were a computer algorithm to determine whether a question is constructive or not, it'd be the computer doing the closing, not the users.

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A honest and fair thing to do for Stack Exchange, in particular on scientific sites, would be to much more clearly state (at the beginning of the guided tour) that the SE network is NOT intended to support and/or build any international (accademic) communities but to get a library of Q&As (useful for external viewers) written by volunteering contributors, to avoid luring people in under false premises who think to take part in an international academic community when signing up. This would avoid many disagreements. For example it took me more than two years to get this imortant point... –  Dilaton May 16 at 14:25

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