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I had a recent experience where a question was closed by a set of moderators who had little or no expertise in the subject area of the question. It seems that this is fairly common, with users who have either knowledge of one of the tags (for instance, the programming language) but not the others (in my case, nonparametric statistics) assume that the question is unclear, asks for something that is not appropriate for the site, etc. - and this occurs even when the question is clear to anyone with the background in the tagged subjects. If moderators were discouraged from closing questions where they initially seem "bad," instead of commenting to have them clarified or revised, the experience would be less frustrating, especially for newbies or less involved users.

There have been suggestions, like this: Help us make "Not Constructive" and "Not a Real Question" closures more effective. Many similar problems have been posted, only to be dismissed my the meta-crowd (ie. the most involved users, those that are most likely to be closing questions.) For example, Require activity within a question's topic in order to cast close votes, where the top comment admits to closing questions based on little expertise in the topic; "most competent devs" can eyeball a question away from their area of expertise and see whether it should "go away". This is both dismissive and frustrating for users. The goal should not be to make questions "go away" but to either steer users to phrasing questions better, or at least towards finding a better forum.

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Are there really that many incidents where lack of domain knowledge actually results in wrongful closings? They surely occur from time to time, and that sucks, but are they frequent enough to warrant such a serious change to the system? I doubt it. Usually, you can spot a bad question very reliably even if it's about a field you know nothing about. –  Pëkka Nov 22 '13 at 18:53
    
I don't have experience outside of the areas I work, but in those areas, yes, it happens frequently - and would happen more, but most statistics/R people never use SE again, because it is so broken for question that require expertise in different areas. –  David Manheim Nov 22 '13 at 19:54
    
(Web programming is clearly different, which is why you never see this.) –  David Manheim Nov 22 '13 at 20:01

2 Answers 2

I think one of the problem in this case is that R questions are often different from the typical programming questions. Mathematica has it's own stackexchange. Maybe R should also have it's own site. I opened a proposal on Area51.

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Possibly, but fragmenting the community has significant disadvantages. The overlap between stats and stackoverflow in this subdomain is already large; perhaps a better strategy would be to expand the purview of that Stats SE site a bit more; this would really be about moving users and past questions about R to that site. –  David Manheim Nov 22 '13 at 19:57
    
Moving past questions is not going to happen @DavidManheim. –  Bart Nov 22 '13 at 20:49
    
Which is why it's not reasonable. –  David Manheim Dec 12 '13 at 18:16

The suggestion I would propose is to reduce the number of "bad" questions that are closed quickly; votes to close should be restricted to moderators with expertise in at least one tag.

Similarly, due to the increase in higher ranked users, many of whom are not necessarily involved in the moderation process generally, the threshold for voting to close might be better reserved for users that both have high rep, and have, for instance, had some number of useful flags, and some number of review actions in each category.

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The result of this suggestion would be that a fraction of the questions that should be closed actually getting closed. –  Oded Nov 22 '13 at 18:29
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I appreciate the response, instead of just a downvote. There needs to be a balance between closing questions that should be, and not frustrating users trying to contribute and get help from the site; it seems to me that the site is tilting towards unfriendliness and fewer new users; the proliferation of unclosed questions is in my mind certainly the lesser of two evils. –  David Manheim Nov 22 '13 at 18:34
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David, I'd be with you if you were talking about comments. "LOL! What a crappy question, are you high?! - those are a scourge, have been for a while. But, the question that presumably triggered this post was handled very respectfully - you fixed the problem that triggered the closure, and it's on the path to be talken off hold. Just cast my vote. Do you really see unfriendliness here, and if so, can you expand on why? –  Michael Petrotta Nov 22 '13 at 18:43
    
In particular, being put on hold, with the canned commentary presented below the question (and live commentary, if you're lucky, and you were) is what's done to "steer users to phrasing questions better". –  Michael Petrotta Nov 22 '13 at 18:45
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I agree that this was handled OK, if not well. I think the fact that it was closed by a panel with no understanding of the question is the problem. –  David Manheim Nov 22 '13 at 19:52
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Two problems. 1) You've assumed that the vote-to-closers didn't understand your question, based on... tag participation, I guess, and 2) this particular closure (asks for off-site resources) didn't require domain knowledge. –  Michael Petrotta Nov 22 '13 at 20:33

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