Please read fully before blindly closing/downvoting/tagging/duplicating
On SO, binding moderator votes work well. There is usually not a lot of grumbling, and those that do get a good answer. SO is very well defined and has a set purpose, goal, and vision. Therefor mods can confidently vote to close. Its a very good system.
However on beta sites, things can get a little iffy. Sites can be not well defined, controversial, and have a conflicting goal and purpose. For the benefit of discussion I'm going to focus on Programmers.SE
Programmers.SE has issues with being defined. Jeff says what the rules are, the community likes and dislikes. People on Meta.SO try to come up with a list, the community likes and dislikes. And if you look, the argument is pretty even on both sides. But that debate isn't the focus here. All you need to know is that the site is pretty controversial here.
Which leads me to this: On a controversial site where the definition isn't what you would call exact and is hotly debated, you have stuff like this:
No real explanation, just a link to a generic blog post about what might get a question closed. Which one does it violate? Why would it be closed? We don't know. For all we know bigown could of coughed and clicked it.
And you have the Programmers.SO classic:
To this day, we have no idea why it was closed. What was the only lesson learned? Jeff doesn't like religion. How did the community benefit from it? It didn't
So whats good? I consider this to be an extremely good close.
A comment and close vote. And there's even TomWij to back him up. I'm perfectly fine with the mod vote here.
Here's my point: On a site where its definition is still not clear, binding moderator votes become a huge issue. On SO everybody can (usually) agree on the site definition, and can vote to close confidently. However on a Beta.SE site, close votes come from how the closer interprets the rules. There is (not much) guidelines on whats off topic and whats on topic.
We have many ways this can be solved, all that would be specific to moderators on Beta.SE sites. These are only suggestions.
- When there is only 1 or 2 close votes, force a comment - If a mod comes along and closes a question with no feedback, then everybody is left scratching their head wondering what the heck caused it to get closed, as I've said above. The comment clears this confusion. But once you get 3 or more people closing, then its more of a community decision and can convey to the OP that the community doesn't want this.
- Limit the effectivness of a moderator vote - Yes this is unpopular among mods, but thats simply because they are loosing power. This comes from everybody interpreting the rules differently. A mod does the same thing, except has a more power. If they come along and think "This should be closed" when the community says it should stay open, then people get angry.
So what if a mods effective vote could be limited. You could give mods the ability to cast a non-binding vote which sorta fixes the problem, or you could actually fix the problem and limit the number of votes a mod vote carries. Now they are mods so they opinion does matter, so how about 1 mod vote = 2-3 votes? Simple, easy, and completely solves the problem here.
- The community can learn - What does a single mod vote with no comment teach? Nothing! How do we know not to repeat the same mistake again? How do we get closer to defining whats off topic? How do we know whats good and whats bad? We don't. But if a closer commented, then we could answer all those questions and become a better community as a whole
- Less resentment of mods - Binding mod votes are unpopular and can lead a moderator to be hated. Comments however explain whats going on and gives the OP and the community a change to debate about the close. Things could actually be discussed instead of abandoned.
- Debates aren't dragged to other question comments or meta - We don't need a meta question for every mod closed question, yet there are many of them. Why can't that say in comments? Things should only be moved to meta when a lock/delete is in effect or the comments have grown so large or biased that it gets out of hand. And then you have some commenters who will try and say "Well this was closed, so why not this one?" trying to assume what the mod meant.
- Many more
But what about reopen votes?
That argument works well for SO, but not on beta sites. There aren't that many people who have the power to vote, let alone vote at all. The community is small vs the masses on SO. Many people aren't going to spend the time doing maintenance outside of mods.
And besides, getting questions reopened is always a very hard thing to accomplish. Once a question is closed nobody pays attention to it, even the people that can reopen. I know I don't; I just watch what comes through the mod tools.
Relying solely on 5 reopen votes from a small community is asking a lot.