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I know everybody has their own beefs with the close system. I think it's the best thing since sliced bread. Ever tried to cut a loaf just out of the oven? It invariably goes to bits! For years now my biggest gripe has had to do with existing answers on closed questions.

  • When I was a newbie I remember specifically trying to answer really fast so that my answer would "stick" and I could earn rep even if the question turned out to be a duplicate.

  • When I finally learned that that was less constructive than going out and looking for the duplicate myself and VTC'ing, I got grouchy over the other people sniping rep.

  • When I stopped caring about rep so much and started to be more idealist about what was good for the site, I started getting frustrated with these answers because they were often wrong or less than ideal, but one could no longer put up a correct answer.

  • When I started moding a site, it became more and more apparent that even otherwise good answers to closed questions were often counter productive.

Now my single biggest issue is that leaving answers on closed questions often works against the question closure/reopen cycle. A user who puts in a minimum amount of effort in their initial question often isn't motivated to put any effort into fixing it even when prompted. If they managed to pick up a half-baked answer before their question closed, too often that is "good enough for them" and they walk away without pursing it.

Here is a real dialogue from a few minutes ago that illustrates the problem perfectly.* After several comments asking for clarification, the fifth close vote came in with this comment:

I'm going to close this pending a response to the previous comments: are you asking about {redacted}, {redacted}, or {redacted}? — <site moderator>

The response from the user:

i was asking about all three and i did get my answer so it doesn't matter to me if it is closed — <recalcitrant user>

This is, unfortunately, not an isolated instance. I have seen many cases where a probably decent answer comes in to a really bad question. The user refuses to fix their question, accepts the extant answer and walks away from their closed question.

Question: Is there a way the question closure cycle could be modified so that OP's had more incentive to fix their questions rather than walk away from them in the case of having been put on hold?

* I'm not naming names or linking the question because this isn't about that question, it's about a pattern. I specifically pulled this from a site I don't even participate in so this wouldn't be about my pet peeve on my pet site.

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@sth Thanks for the other corrections, but the title was not a typo. See: define:extant. –  Caleb Jul 5 '13 at 11:44
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"Existing" is much more understood than "extant" though. I, as a native English speaker, have never heard of it before clicking your link. –  Danny Beckett Jul 5 '13 at 11:48
    
Related: Merge answers but not question when closing as duplicate (This question is mostly about questions that are not clear, not constructive or off topic. I previously raised the issue of duplicates which are a bit different.) –  Caleb Jul 5 '13 at 12:01

1 Answer 1

I suggest there is an easy good way to solve this:

Answers on questions that are put on hold should be automatically suspended. This would be a form of auto-delete that would revert as soon as the question was opened.

  1. This would motivate the OP to respond to requests for clarification and fix their question.
  2. This would motivate anybody who already answered and wants to keep their rep to pitch in to edit the question into shape. In the case of duplicates it would motivate them to post their answer on the still open question (which if their answer is actually any good is better for everybody).
  3. This would motivate people with foresight to spot issues with questions to fix them before answering so that

In the end more people would be answering questions on a level playing field, the question quality would be raised, less rep sniping would occur and potentially bad answers won't be left standing without the chance for good ones to keep them company.

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This would penalize the people who answer the question also, in terms of reputation loss. If people worry that the question they answered is going to be closed, they won't answer. And if the question doesn't in fact get closed, then the community will have lost some potentially useful answers. I don't think we should do anything that could cause less answers... –  user000001 Jul 5 '13 at 11:39
    
@user000001 Not necessary. The only penalty is potential rep loss, with a usually clear path fix it. The is especially relevant to "not constructive" or "off topic" questions that really should not be answered: the point is to encourage the kind of answers we want to see on the kinds of questions we want to see, not just any answers to any questions. –  Caleb Jul 5 '13 at 11:49
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@user000001 if someone replies to an offtopic question, he should get that rep removed. I'm unsure about to broad and unclear if answer was actually to the good interpretation (and how to tell it was?). For duplicates, well, I'd say reputation should be kept if there is no evidence one who answered knew it is a duplicate question (don't know how to judge that). –  Mołot Jul 5 '13 at 11:57
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@Mołot I have previously proposed that answers to duplicates be merged. I don't have a problem with good-faith answers to good questions that turn out to be duplicates. The issue here is with questions that should be fixed and are not because the system doesn't incentivize re-opening enough. –  Caleb Jul 5 '13 at 12:00
    
On Drupal I've seen different answers to duplicate questions only once, and moderators was able to move them all right. I agree it should be a default behavior. –  Mołot Jul 5 '13 at 12:02
    
@Mołot The really bad off-topic (and not constructive) questions get deleted anyway, and the reputation is in fact removed. In the marginal cases rep loss is not really nesessary –  user000001 Jul 5 '13 at 12:02
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@user000001 You are correct really bad cases get deleted anyway. This is about adding incentive to fix the marginal cases so they are good an not just marginal. I think this would be a win-win for all parties involved. Good questions that have had their issues fixed will bring in more rep for the people answering them too. –  Caleb Jul 5 '13 at 12:03
    
@user000001 maybe not strictly necessary, but I can't see how can it hurt. It would discourage answering bad questions a tiny bit more than now. Why not? Especially if closed-not-deleted offtopics are marginal cases anyway. –  Mołot Jul 5 '13 at 12:04
    
@Mołot Still though why penalize instead of rewarding? For example perhaps give some rep to someone (other than the OP) that manages to fix a closed question to the point of being reopened... (just a thought) –  user000001 Jul 5 '13 at 12:08
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@user000001 I see it other way - now site is rewarding answering bad question. So it wouldn't be a penalty, it would be removal of unjust reward. –  Mołot Jul 5 '13 at 12:10
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I like the idea of incentivizing all involved to fix bad questions. Not all closures are the same. You've identified dupes already for different treatment; to that I would add questions that are closed (but intentionally kept) for scope change (this used to be on-topic but isn't now) and other kinds of "too localized". For example, Mi Yodeya allows Purim Torah questions for about two weeks a year and then closes them; some of those are highly-voted and among people's favorites (including anonymous feedback). We want to keep those w/answers. –  Monica Cellio Jul 5 '13 at 14:27
    
I'd like this solution better if it were easy to migrate answers to other questions. In cases where the asker would rather their question be deleted than fixed, it would be nice to have a way to move otherwise good answers to unclear or too broad questions to questions that actual ask what's being answered. –  Jon Ericson Jul 5 '13 at 17:10

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