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Does the close process need revamping given the growing number of community members with the close privilege?

I am inspired to ask this question because I saw a legitimate question close within 3 minutes because 5 people came along who couldn't understand the broken English in which the question was written. Looking at the user's previous questions it is obvious he has difficulty with English but is asking questions to the best of his ability. Initial comments kindly asked for clarifications, but 5 moderators closed the question in such an unreasonably short amount of time that the OP could not possibly have made edits or clarifications.

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That's a legitimate question? I see no indication that anyone who commented or answered actually understood what he was asking, and the author certainly hasn't returned to clarify. A shining example of a question that should have been closed, IMHO. The user returned to ask another question an hour later, and got some helpful answers - I'd say this ended well for everyone. –  Shogging through the snow Jan 17 '11 at 17:40
    
@Shog9 I disagree completely. In fact, part of the user's second question contains information gleaned from the initial question prior to it's closing. This is in fact a defacto case where aggressively closing did NOT work. The OP likely saw editing his closed question fruitless and so created a duplicate of his own question (with an extremely similar title). –  Tim Bender Jan 17 '11 at 18:15
    
So what? The original question can now be deleted. If it had stayed open, it might well have collected even more unhelpful answers during the hour that followed. This isn't even close to a borderline case - this is the problem closing was designed to solve. –  Shogging through the snow Jan 17 '11 at 18:29

3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

The point of closing is not to stop editing. In fact, closing vague, ambiguous, or rhetorical questions is often done to help prompt edits and clarifications. A question that is bad will not get good answers if it's left open and is still bad. I like Aarobot's explanation on Seasoned Advice, which comes with a cute analogy if you know cooking. ♪

Vague/subjective questions are like a big pile of raw ground chuck. You want to make hamburgers, but just realized that you don't have any onions in the house, or eggs, or flour, or salt, or any of the things that are normally required to make a hamburger from scratch. What do you do?

Well, you can raid the pantry and start throwing a bunch of random crap into the pan with it and see if it comes out OK once it's cooked. It probably won't, though. Or, you can freeze it, go and get the ingredients you need, and then thaw it when you're actually ready to cook it.

So that's what we're doing here. When we close a question, we're saying that it can't be answered well because it's missing details (ingredients). Once those details are added, we can pick up where we left off. On the other hand, if that never happens, and the question just sits around forever and goes rancid, then we will actually delete it, and that is generally final.

As far as there being a lot more closers, remember that everyone closing is also capable of reopening - you have just as many people capable of reversing the closure post-clarification. Remember, we're not closing unclear and vague questions because we simply dislike them. Many closers will happily wait for a question to be salvaged, and will assist in reopening the question.

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Will editing a closed question re-open it? No. Will it notify the moderators who closed it that there is new activity and they may wish to change their minds? I doubt it, but I don't have the privilege so I don't know. I see 2 possible outcomes in this situation. 1. The OP asks as another post. 2. The OP asks somewhere else. I've definitely seen outcome 1 before. Sometimes it involves some rather colorful commentary and outrage at having to post a second time. To borrow the analogy, whilst picking up the toppings, they just buy more meat to keep the meal fresh. –  Tim Bender Jan 17 '11 at 15:34
    
@Tim Editing a closed question can lead to its reopening. It doesn't notify people, no. However, many users are invested in this not to be some sort of "close police", but because we're interested in creating good questions. We do return to reopen questions after they've been revised. If people don't seem to return to reopen, it's not a bad idea to try bringing attention to it (say, a Meta question, or a flag). Try communicating with us, instead of deriving that the tools need work. You'll learn that when it comes to material that should be reopened, we're typically very polite about it. –  Grace Note Jan 17 '11 at 15:37
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Well, actually, let me clarify. There's not necessarily a special notification sent out. But when a post gets edited, it is bumped back to the front of the Active sort. As well, if a comment reply is possible that's also a fine avenue to use. These, as well as simple vigilance on the part of closers, often result in questions being reopened post-revision. –  Grace Note Jan 17 '11 at 15:43
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+1 Excellent answer. Closing is a service to the OP and the community: bad questions lead to bad answers (I'm also thinking in duplicates), and both are unuseful content in the internet. –  user150068 Jan 17 '11 at 23:00

First, it doesn't matter if the OP is working to the best of his ability, it matters what the question is.

Second, if a question is closed, it's possible for the OP to continue clarifying it, and then the question can be reopened.

Third, if the OP doesn't clarify a bad question, I'd rather have it closed than open, and there's really no good way to keep track of a question and close it later.

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Do you often read questions marked [closed]? I don't. I trust the community to have accurately portrayed the question as not answerable/answer worthy. –  Tim Bender Jan 17 '11 at 15:25
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@TimBender You should, especially if you have edit/closing privs, since questions can and do get edited into shape and reopened all the time. –  Yi Jiang Jan 17 '11 at 15:30
    
@Tim Bender: I frequently do. I've voted to reopen questions I voted to close on quite a few occasions. –  David Thornley Jan 17 '11 at 15:51

Yes, the current closing process is wrong as it exposes questions to being overly aggressively closed.

If a question is truly "not a real question" then it will elicit no answers. Unless being closed as offensive or argumentative, questions should be protected for some reasonable period (an hour, or possibly a day depending on the number of total users). After that time, having few or no candidate answers posted, the question could be safely closed as unlikely to receive further clarifications.

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Since your example elicited an answer (based on a wild guess at what the OP was asking), I'm not sure how you can argue that NaRQ can be dealt with effectively by not being answered. As for your proposed solution, see: Let questions stay open for a minimum amount of time before being closed –  Shogging through the snow Jan 17 '11 at 18:37

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