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Since it is apparent that a consensus will never be reached on whether this question is an appropriate one for the site or not, I suggest giving moderators the ability to lock such questions against closing votes and deletion votes. This will allows users to continue to add answers without suffering the endless cycle of opening and closing.

Note that this is already done for questions with a bounty.

The question can always be fully locked later when it is apparent that no more benefit will be gained by leaving it open.

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How did I know from the front page that this would relate to that question ;-p – Marc Gravell Jan 7 '10 at 23:28

Actually, we can do everything you ask already. I've been reluctant to do this so far, as it also prevents voting on the question and adding comments, but heck - 'tis wiki and the +100 magic number has been passed long ago (and the comments are increasingly noise on that one - maybe I should clean them out too...).

So; I've locked it for now, but you can still add answers. Maybe it will be safe to unlock it in a day or so.

Edit: the main reason I am locking this is that because we are having to discuss it here, and because it keeps getting flagged etc, it is is being a distraction. While it is locked, people who don't like the current state can (frankly) move to the next question (or, like, do some work) without feeling the need to express their love/loathing of the question.

In short (for those that get the reference):

Marmite: love it or hate it

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43 Close Votes in 30 days, wow. Good decision locking it while leaving it open. – Michael Stum Jan 7 '10 at 23:53
Marmite isn't as good as Vegemite. – random Jan 8 '10 at 0:33
Of course, what you have done by locking the question is to take all the democracy out of it. We can no longer vote or add comments to the question. We can't vote to close it or open it. But worst of all, we can't vote to unlock it! – lkessler Jan 8 '10 at 1:51
@lkessler: Who said this was a democracy? A relatively small number of high-rep users have a disproportionate influence over the direction and management of StackOverflow. That's not a democracy, at least not in the way you are using the term. – Robert Harvey Jan 8 '10 at 2:46
Yeah, dammit - that's a democracy the way the ancient Greeks used the term! – Shog9 Jan 8 '10 at 4:29
@random - and Vegemite pales in comparison to the wonder of iSnack 2.0. – Dominic Rodger Jan 8 '10 at 9:09
By my count there are currently more than 2240 people with open/close privileges on SO (and more than 500 with access to the 10k tools). It is simply beyond the power of a small cabal to impose their will on the site unless a significant number of other people agree. – dmckee Jan 16 '10 at 22:25

It sounds so easy: "Just keep it open." The problem is people have a bias one way or the other and these "let's leave it open/let's leave it closed" solutions always expose that bias... not the actual voting.

There are two groups of people who vote on these things; the inclusionists (keep them open) and the exclusionists (close them). See the problem? Right now, if a question is open, you can only vote to close. If it's closed, you can only vote to reopen.

These so-called "close wars" are a misnomer for people waiting in line for their chance to vote five at a time (5-close, 5-reopen, 5-close, 5-reopen...). Hence the yo yo effect.

A Solution

Once someone votes to close, let everyone vote (close: yes, no). The total votes would be shown, as it is now. If the total votes reaches (-5) or less, the post is closed. If the total votes later reaches (+0) or more, the post is re-opened.

But it's way more likely that a general consensus will quickly be reached without forcing the question through the close-reopen-close-reopen cycle.

Its an beautiful, simple, elegant solution. So what am I am I missing?

Bonus: The system would no longer have to worry about aging votes (where close-votes eventually expire after a certain period of time). With the +/- votes shown, someone is free to counteract the random close-vote that accumulates over time.

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Bonus 2: I think it would be "informative" to see just how deep a closed vote goes (or how highly supported a controversial question goes). Capture the close-consensus of the whole voting community rather than cutting off the voting after 5 votes. – Robert Cartaino Jan 7 '10 at 23:37
BTW: You can only vote once. If you vote close and the question gets closed and reopened, you cannot vote close again. In Theory (and on most questions), that system balances itself. But there are always the few 1-in-10000 edge cases where a Moderator needs to make a judgement call. – Michael Stum Jan 7 '10 at 23:57
My "solution" would have likely resolved this a long time ago by quickly building the entire group consensus in one swoop rather than funneling users into blocks of five vote-to-reopen followed by five more vote-to-close, five vote-to-reopen, five vote-to-close... ad infinitum or until you just run out of people who care either way. – Robert Cartaino Jan 8 '10 at 0:01
+1 to this idea; I've long wished it worked like this. – Paul Nathan Jan 8 '10 at 0:49
You already have this system: it's called (simply) vote. If a question should be closed, it probably should be downvoted. – ilya n. Jan 8 '10 at 1:30
Then how would you built the consensus? How many users will you need? How long would you do the poll? And what about questions that are a year old and are now closed because "No longer relevant"? You would possibly do something as "First close vote starts a race" -now how to you inform other people that there is a race? What If I believe a question should be open but not on SO for a few days and therefore miss the race? – Michael Stum Jan 8 '10 at 2:01
@Michael Stum - What? I think you read way to much into my solution (or I described it poorly). Closing works almost exactly the way it does now. Only only difference is that everyone can vote yes/no (i.e. close, keep-open). If the total vote reaches -5 or less, question closes. If a question is closed, the total vote has to reach +0 to reopen. I tried to clarify it a bit. Read the "A Solution" section again and let me know if it isn't clearer now? – Robert Cartaino Jan 8 '10 at 3:22
Ah, indeed, I did misunderstand it. Basically you want people to be able to cancel close votes. That could actually work. – Michael Stum Jan 8 '10 at 3:23
@Michael Stum - I specifically avoided that wording. Much the same way I wouldn't say "I'm voting Republican to cancel your vote-for-Democrat." It just feels... wrong. Close-votes could just as easily be canceling votes-to-reopen. But, effectively, that is correct. – Robert Cartaino Jan 8 '10 at 3:40
+1 Very good suggestion. It won't eliminate the yo-yo effect entirely, but should make for much, much less frequency in opening/closing. – Pëkka Feb 8 '10 at 11:50
@ilya: About downvoting every time you close-vote: 1) Why should it cost my rep to close a question? 2) That uses up far too many of my daily up/downvotes that would be better spent elsewhere. 3) I'd never get the epic or legendary badges due to how the rep cap works. 4) Not every question is poorly asked, it might just be off-topic or need migrating -- I don't feel a downvote is appropriate. – Gnome Mar 18 '10 at 4:35
doesn't really factor in pity upvoting -- "oh, darn, someone wants to close this poor guy's question -- how mean! well, I can fix that! {click}". You'd see an epidemic of pity undo-close votes, to the point that nothing could ever be closed. That's way, way more toxic to our community than a few open-close wars. – Jeff Atwood Jul 20 '10 at 8:19

To the average StackOverflow (and I'm probably one of those), when I first saw the question was "locked", it sounded like it was being closed.

The word "locked" in forums has that sort of connotation.

Maybe just what it is called should be changed. I don't have a good name but something along the lines of "no closing", "closing prevented" or "always open".

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Or maybe "This question was locked by a moderator, so you can't edit, vote or post comments on the question, but you can still post an answer if you wish." A mouseover (over the word "Locked") with this verbiage would be nice. – Robert Harvey Jan 8 '10 at 0:29
Most people don't know what it means (or don't care) that a question has been locked. The solution would be to remove the general notice and just show a descriptive popup if someone tries to click the link of a "locked function." In this case, clicking on the close link pops up: "A moderator has disabled closing this question. [click to dismiss]" No confusion. No clutter. – Robert Cartaino Jan 8 '10 at 1:16
@robert no, I don't think so -- broken windows means we have to visibly show "this wasn't acceptable for {x} reason" signs. – Jeff Atwood Feb 8 '10 at 10:50

Huh. So in spite of moderators stepping in to re-open it, it keeps getting closed. That's a lot of close votes... Most questions never see anything close to that many close votes.

But Team SO wants it open, because it's fun, and we all need a bit of fun now and then. As Marc notes, this feature you're asking for already exists: it's called locking the post without closing it. Jeff could easily have used it when he made that blog post lauding it up...

Given that it was still unlocked 'till you posted this, I don't see why it bothers you that folks saw it as fair game. After all, if there was any fun to be had in that question, it was the fun inherent in expressing a controversial opinion and seeing how others react...

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Don't forget, it got as many reopen votes as it did close votes. And apparently Jeff and company thought that asking the community to keep it open was good enough. Guess not. – Robert Harvey Jan 8 '10 at 0:36
@Robert: no, it didn't. Unless you actually count Jeff and Marc's votes four times each. And that's my point: they wanted it open, they had a tool to nail it open, and instead they (kinda sorta) left it up to the community (until now). – Shog9 Jan 8 '10 at 0:42
Shog9: Good point. That's how I feel about it too. Basically, Jeff's blog entry can be summarized as "hey guys, this is my site and I like this question and I want this thing to stay open and I don't need to convince you. period." Not locking it was simply a diplomatic way to pretend it's the choice made according to community's standard rules and it's not effectively forced by Jeff. Too bad we're gonna have to see it for a couple months each time we see the home page. – xmm0 Jan 8 '10 at 4:39
Apparently people are not reading the blog entry. There's far more to it than just, "We want some fun on the site." – Robert Harvey Jan 9 '10 at 20:53
@Robert: indeed - there's also that long rambling rant about eggs. – Shog9 Jan 12 '10 at 22:51

Another idea: How about any question that gets closed some number of times (maybe 3) times and reopened the same number of times, can get automatically into the "cannot be closed again" state.

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But why are you assuming that close-votes are somehow "less legitimate" than reopen-votes. Why doesn't your suggestion read, "automatically go into the cannot-be-reopened again state?" instead of "cannot be closed again?" The problem is people have a bias one way or the other and these "let's leave it open/let's leave it closed" solutions always expose that bias... not the actual voting. Just saying. – Robert Cartaino Jan 8 '10 at 1:26
Robert: That's a valid thought. However, the simple idea that any post that is closed and then reopened several times over has practically as many people who think it should be opened as those who think it should be closed. Then why let this interference with the question continue? Simply leave it open. After 3 or so cycles, all you're doing is making it more inconvenient for the question to be answered, since half the time it is closed. – lkessler Jan 8 '10 at 1:39
Hence my suggestion:…. For example - If you have 1000 people who would vote-to-close and just 20 vote-to-open, there's no contest: probably should be closed. But your suggestion would leave it open because of the bias I described above. – Robert Cartaino Jan 8 '10 at 2:09

If we can only vote to close once and I assume we can only vote to reopen once; then what's the problem with the Yo-yo thing? I mean, eventually we will run out of users and it will stay on one of the two states.

Wasn't the system designed to work this way?

Plus, Yo-yo's are fun in first place. :) :) :)

I think having it locked was the best at the end. And it's good to know user can still post new "answers".

( btw at the end I joined the fun with this one : Issue9 uppercase )

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Locking a question now disallows new answers from being provided.

No other changes to lock, just that new ability.

This is largely to prevent the redundant "lock, then decide on a BS close reason to prevent new answers" on some of the really popular old questions.

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Is there still any way for mods to lock a question from edits and comments, but still allowing answers to be added? – perbert Feb 8 '10 at 19:00

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