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I have noticed something as of late. Certain sub-communities(jQuery, MySQL) on this site glazing over questions giving them half a glance then down voting or voting to close. It seems it should be common sense that a vote to close particularly on grounds that "I am not sure what the OP is asking" should only come after considerable effort has been made to understand what the OP is asking. These offenders come in several varieties and I have taken the liberty of categorizing them below.

The "Be Clearer":

This person demands that the OP be "Clearer". Clearer How? If the question or solution was clear would the poster have resorted to asking strangers on the internet? Isn't the purpose of the comments section to help a poster hone their question into something that has community value? Not all starting points for solution possess the desirable amount of symmetry. Sometimes it takes someone with the appropriate skill set to orient the problem correctly to make it approachable.

The Aggressive "Post your Coder":

This person is a parrot. They look at a block of text and immediately respond with "Post your code" regardless of what the text says. Not all questions require that code be posted. Often a question is unrelated to a specific piece of code. When I ask "I would like to run an explain plan on a MySQL query sourced from a file. Is this possible from the command line client?" that doesn't require the specific query. The question is clear and self contained. If I post the query Select * from mysql.user does that put it over the top?

The Ghost:

The ghost doesn't even bother to ask clarifying questions. His or her knowledge of the subject matter is so extensive that they can immediately judge the relevance of a question without the trouble of even reading it thoroughly. Since their time would otherwise have been spent unraveling the mysteries of space and time the effort spent reviewing the posters question is tantamount to an insult. In fact, they are so offended that the poster has wasted their precious time that they immediately crusade to erase the question from the histories.

I am posting this because I used to enjoy participating in this community, but it now has become this place for arrogant individuals with superiority complexes to scoff at the plebs. The attitude of "if I can't immediately understand it, the poster is an idiot" is pervasive.

I can't help but feel like this is an artifact of the reputation system. Individuals just want to clear out what they perceive as the "Cruft" to make way for the low hanging fruit. Are the mods on Stackoverflow aware that this is happening? Are they aware that it is taking a community intended to facilitate the free and open dissemination of information and making it hostile and unapproachable? Are they aware that this is a whole class of programmers that avoid this site altogether for just those reasons?

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We need some caricatures for this. –  Shog9 Sep 20 '13 at 15:35
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Stack Overflow gets 7,000 new questions a day, the vast majority of them asked a thousand times already, or plain garbage. Closing unclear questions on sight is a self-defense mechanism. –  Pëkka Sep 20 '13 at 15:36
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The sentiment of the site is, "If I can't immediately understand it, the question should be improved so that I can immediately understand it." We work quite hard here to ensure that this is done politely, and without insulting the person asking the question. They aren't an idiot for asking a question that's not clear, but the question should still be closed (despite them not being an idiot) until it can be improved. It seems you're misunderstanding genuine attempts to improve a question as malice, when the malice just isn't there. –  Servy Sep 20 '13 at 15:38
    
Was your question about how to run an explain plan in MySQL actually closed? –  Bill the Lizard Sep 20 '13 at 15:38
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Part of this is due to the new on hold reasons. Is closing seems so final, putting it on hold to let the OP work out the issues is by design. –  psubsee2003 Sep 20 '13 at 15:42
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And closed as duplicate is a good thing for the OP because you get your answer straight away –  Richard Tingle Sep 20 '13 at 15:44
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Also, the idea that closing is done for reputation-gaining reasons is not only a bit insulting to those who care about the quality of the site; it also makes no sense at all. If you're here to gain rep from answering low-hanging fruit, there is zero incentive for you to close a question. Closing a question costs you time and clicks, with zero reputation gain. There's certainly a discussion to be had about whether we sometimes close questions too quickly, and whether that is bad for the site. But to suggest closing happens for reputation-gaining reasons is just ridiculous. –  Pëkka Sep 20 '13 at 15:44
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@JanDvorak Which is why we need to work to close poor questions quicker, so that people don't have time to get an answer in. –  Servy Sep 20 '13 at 15:47
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@nsfyn55 it needs to be closed so that it doesn't get bad answers before the good answerers have enough data to respond. If the post gets fixed, just get it reopened. –  Jan Dvorak Sep 20 '13 at 15:52
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@nsfyn55 But closing is not obliterating the question. All it's doing is preventing answers. Answers to poor quality questions are virtually always poor quality answers. This just reduces the overall value of a question, rather than improving it. It also incentives the author to improve the question, as they know they won't get answers until they do. Why are you opposed to having a question closed while it's being improved? How are you inhibited from improving it while it's closed? –  Servy Sep 20 '13 at 15:52
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@nsfyn closing provides an incentive for the user to improve their question. Because otherwise, the vast majority of them won't do it. Most people only care to put energy into their question if it's a prerequisite for getting an answer. That's my experience from providing 6,930 answers on this site. Closing questions is not elitist; it's a necessity. –  Pëkka Sep 20 '13 at 15:53
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@nsfyn55 if kicking some people out will improve the site quality, we will make them leave. –  Jan Dvorak Sep 20 '13 at 15:55
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@nsfyn55 Well, compare it to the vast majority of this site's competition. Almost none of them have more than rudimentary quality filters. Only spam and openly abusive content is removed/closed. Why aren't you using any of those sites instead of SO? Most likely it's because SO has better quality content. It has better quality content because it closes content that is of lower quality. If people aren't capable of posting quality content, or are unwilling to work with the system to improve their content, then I would rather them not participate than let them just post anything. –  Servy Sep 20 '13 at 15:58
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@Jan "if kicking some people out will improve the site quality, we will make them leave". I wonder if the consensus was that you leave if you'd be so flippant. –  nsfyn55 Sep 20 '13 at 16:06
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Things really are backwards now, in my opinion. Closing is constructive and temporary, but is viewed as destructive and final. It's the right thing to do for the site, but it takes forever and there are few incentives to do it. On the hand, answering poor questions invites more poor questions and is easy and often times rep-rewarding. And then there is downvoting questions, which is both easy and usually destructive. If we're going to improve quality and not drive people away, I think the incentives need to be revamped to encourage poor questions to be quickly put "on hold" (aka "closed"). –  Peter Alfvin Sep 20 '13 at 16:23
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1 Answer 1

This person demands that the OP be "Clearer". Clearer How? If the question or solution was clear would the poster have resorted to asking strangers on the internet?

Research. Doing your own research will help you figure out what it is you want to ask. Doing your own research, trying something, and failing, will give you the background necessary to ask a good question.

Sometimes it takes someone with the appropriate skill set to orient the problem correctly to make it approachable.

That doesn't mean the question shouldn't be closed. It just means that perhaps a user with the right skill set and the willingness to help could come in, adjust the question and vote to reopen. And in the mean time nobody has stepped into the trap of answering a question that wasn't all that clear.

Not all questions require that code be posted.

True. And if the question really doesn't require the code to be answerable, and the question is still on-topic, vote to reopen. It's as simple as that. Mistakes are made, but we have ways to undo them. In most cases however, code is a requirement. If only to show us what has been tried and what failed.

The ghost doesn't even bother to ask clarifying questions. His or her knowledge of the subject matter is so extensive that they can immediately judge the relevance of a question without the trouble of even reading it thoroughly.

Meh, now you're reading something into a situation that you simply can't know for sure. I don't know if this stems from the idea that closure is a negative thing. It is not. In fact, it's one of the more useful tools we have to keep the site as good as it is. Sure, it's not always applied appropriately and mistakes are made. But by and large I would assume that the users caring enough to vote to close don't do so out of some sort of misplaced arrogance or vindictiveness.

Close votes are not personal. Close votes are not definitive. If it happens to you, see if you can address the concerns, improve the post and then have it reopened.

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Research. Doing your own research will help you figure out what it is you want to ask. Absolutely. I can't tell you how often I'll have a problem and start writing a question and find the solution myself while doing my due diligence in writing a good question. –  asawyer Sep 20 '13 at 16:36
    
@asawyer Indeed! –  Alenanno Sep 20 '13 at 16:54
    
@Bart - look at this post stackoverflow.com/questions/18918040/…. What do I see? I see I guy with a limited grasp on english and markdown. Look at the first comment. Does that bro sound like he has any interest in helping Fabio? I know there is a question in there, fabio is just struggling to get it out. –  nsfyn55 Sep 20 '13 at 16:58
    
In addition to that. This complex quality system that you have created may appear perfectly reasonable to you, but to someone trying to learn CSS all they see is a bunch of jerks slamming doors in their face. –  nsfyn55 Sep 20 '13 at 17:02
    
@nsfyn55 So what is the question the OP is asking? I didn't see it. Until I looked through its horribly formatted mess of a question and found that the actual questions were hidden in the code. If you have a problem with that question being closed, address its issues. Surely you see those. The best way to prevent closure is to make it an actual good question. –  Bart Sep 20 '13 at 17:04
    
@Bart You are missing the point. Its responders tone. Its not "Listen we are having some trouble understanding your question. Please refer to these guidelines...." its this high-handed, judgmental attitude that clearly communicates "I am better than you". Fabio just wants to get his question answered and if he can do it and advance the goals of the site I'm sure he'd be happy to reword. But his first encounter is with a brick wall –  nsfyn55 Sep 20 '13 at 17:08
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Then flag the comment as not constructive. Still doesn't mean that closure is the problem here. –  Bart Sep 20 '13 at 17:09
    
its a problem when people don't understand what it means to have their question closed. I have been using this site for 3 years, I have 3,500 reputation, and am a top 10% contributor to a popular tag. It wasn't clear to me till 2 hours ago –  nsfyn55 Sep 20 '13 at 17:15
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Which is why we have a message below each question that is closed or on hold with links to various pages of valuable information. Or, instead of arguing with the other commenter, you can pop in and address the issues you see and lead by example. Doing so, since recently, will push the question in the reopen queue once edited. –  Bart Sep 20 '13 at 17:16
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