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I recently had a question which attracted 1 close vote. I don't know why this vote was cast. If I have not conformed to the site's protocol in any way I am left 'none the wiser'.

Should it be made mandatory for a user to comment on why they are voting to close a question?

If this site is to remain 'clean', part of this will be achieved incorporating processes that educate users.

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What is the vote for? Migration, dupe, not programming? –  random Nov 13 '09 at 5:30
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The vote in question appears to be for "migrate to serverfault.com". –  Greg Hewgill Nov 13 '09 at 5:38
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@random...exactly...I don't know... –  user138895 Nov 13 '09 at 5:56
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I disagree with requiring that people add comments for downvotes/close votes/what have you, but I generally leave them anyway (or at least upvote a comment that I wholly agree with). –  Super Long Names are Hilarious Nov 13 '09 at 6:06
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OK, I only just discovered that by clicking on the "close" link displays to vote count for the reason for closure. I thought by clicking it I would vote to close my own question... I recommend that this is more obvious, eg making a list reasons for closure next to the question. Is there any accountability for people who vote for a question to be closed? There could be a point deduction if they vote for a question to be closed and it doesn't get closed after a time period. –  user138895 Nov 14 '09 at 20:47
    
"Should it be made mandatory for a user to comment on why they are voting to close a question?" No. No, it should not. Next question, please. –  Jack Maney Feb 3 '13 at 18:01
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I personally would prefer it, but always? No. Maybe for lower rep people? –  Cole Johnson Feb 3 '13 at 22:23
    
@JackManey: how in the spirit of the question to explain exactly why "No. No, it should not."! </sarcasm> –  Dan Dascalescu Feb 23 at 22:39
    
@ColeJohnson: I tried suggesting that but as expected, the suggestion was shot down. –  Dan Dascalescu Feb 24 at 1:00
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5 Answers 5

No. It has been suggested and declined repeatedly in the past. You did the right thing in requesting that someone clarify the vote for you in the comments. Remember, though, that it requires 5 people who agree that the question should be closed before it actually is closed (or migrated, if that's the majority close reason).

However, many mods do leave a comment to give the person who posted the question a chance to change their question if needed.

With over 1,800 people who can vote to close, it's not uncommon to see one or two votes to close with no comments on questions that might be remotely related to a server or hardware issue, so just ask politely why people are voting to close and you should get an answer before too many people vote to close it.

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It seems a bit backwards that the onus is on the op to find out why another user has voted to close their question. As in my case, the user has not responded to the request. –  user138895 Nov 14 '09 at 20:46
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There is a balance between making moderation easy enough for people that they'll actually do it without getting paid for it, or rep, or any other extrinsic benefit, and making it difficult to abuse. You know the close reason they chose. It's already visible. You are free to disagree, but as your question AMPLY demonstrates, the system is working as designed. Your question isn't closed. In fact the close vote is cleared after two days of no further close activity. Other moderators gave you possible reasons, and suggestions on how to improve it. What is the problem, exactly? –  Adam Davis Nov 16 '09 at 16:56
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Generally-speaking, this isn't something we want to rub folks' faces in unless and until a question is actually closed.

That said, in certain scenarios it can be worthwhile. So we generate comments automatically when someone votes to close as a duplicate, including a link to the duplicate question. And we prompt folks voting to close for a reason that's not already represented in the system for an explanation, and generate a comment for that as well. In both of those cases, there are two good reasons to let the asker know early:

  • They may be able to correct the problem (by editing) or make use of the linked information (for duplicates).

  • If they (or others) disagree with the rationale for closing, they can dispute it ahead of time (duplicates and obscure rules tend to be somewhat more controversial).

Of course, nothing stops any close voter from commenting to provide advice or guidance should he feel it would benefit the asker - but in most cases, this isn't necessary and just contributes overhead.

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I actually feel that it's sometimes a bad idea to leave such comments. Consider a situation when a relatively new user posts a question that is arguably off-topic (and might be more on topic on SuperUser, CodeReview or elsewhere).

If the question is off-topic, it will be closed/migrated anyway. But the close-voter can't know it in advance. Receiving a comment like "This should have been asked on X.SE" or "This is off-topic" or just a link to another SE site doesn't really help the OP, and, I imagine, doesn't give the best impression. While such a comment can be incorrect, it can cause the poster to delete the question, with or without reposting it on another site.

This prevents the natural course of events, i.e. migration of the question, or, in the worst case, an eligible question is deleted and the user is not helped.

So, at least in the described situation, I think posting such a comment does more harm than it does good. The comment could be verbose enough to explain the situation in a proper way, but people don't care enough to do it. I usually refrain from posting such short comments, because it's not clear what the OP should do with it, anyway. And if someone has already posted such a comment, I usually post another one explaining how the situation should be handled.

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<<Receiving a comment like "This should have been asked on X.SE" or "This is off-topic" or just a link to another SE site doesn't really help the OP>> - I think that would help new users figure out the layout of SE. Most know about SO, but far fewer know about Programmers, SoftwareRecs, or CodeReview (I've been active for 5 years and only learned about the latter two yesterday). –  Dan Dascalescu Feb 23 at 22:42
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The reason (non-mod) users have to vote to close a question is that whether or not a question should be closed is often debatable (as is re-opening them once they are closed).

If someone has voted to close your question and left no comment, even after you have commented asking for an explanation, you can still try to figure out why they voted to close.

  • Click close (as though you were going to vote to close your own question)
    • (I'm not sure if you can "vote" on your on question, or if it will just close. If the latter, ask in a comment for another user to look at the close dialog)
  • When presented with choices for the reason to close, there will be a counter next to reasons selected by other voters indicating how many votes that reason has.
  • Read the reasons that have been voted, and try to see your question as fitting that description.
  • Remember, somebody voted to close because their opinion is that your question should be closed for this reason. They could very well be wrong. The thing to remember here is that your question will not be closed because of it unless other users agree.
  • If you think the close-voter may have a case (you disagree but it is a grey area), try to edit your question to improve it in that aspect to prevent other users who may agree with the close vote from voting to close as well.

Most importantly, remember that even if your question does get closed, you will either get pointed to a duplicate (Presto! You now have an answer), get your question migrated to a site where other users will be better suited to provide you a quality answer, or have the opportunity to improve your question and get it reopened!

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I tend to only vote to close questions because they're exact duplicates, in which case the comment is fairly explanatory.

I imagine that others who don't give explanations either can't be bothered discussing the issue if someone disagrees with their vote to close, or think that the onus should be on the OP to Read The Friendly FAQ. While I can sympathize with such a point of view a little, I don't think it's a very good attitude.

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