Feedback is important. For it to be useful, it has to have three components:

  1. On time,
  2. On target,
  3. Proportional.

To give a textbook example, when you hit your thumb with a hammer (instead of hitting the nail), you get instant feedback. In about 200 ms you start to feel the pain, the pain is localized and depending on the force you applied the pain is more or less intensive. This 'negative' feedback is positive, because it stops you from hitting yourself time and again. When you actually hit the nail on the head, you get 'positive' feedback, because you feel the nail sinking in...

Stack Exchange has good 'positive' feedback. You get notified when you get an answer or a comment. But 'negative' feedback is avoided, in the sense that there are no notifications on deletions or closed questions.

I guess the reason to avoid negative feedback is to avoid flame wars. But closed questions have been around for a long time and there is nothing negative about the internal discussions to reopen those...

There are some questions on Meta Stack Overflow about closed and deleted questions and maybe these could be avoided by having a 'negative' feedback loop. In the end, all feedback is positive!

Clarification: There are questions on MSO about closed and deleted questions on main sites. This is not the most important issue, but a notification in these situations would be helpful.


3 Answers 3


I personally like the feedback bar that informs me when an answer of mine was migrated to another site. Despite the fact that users should regularly check on their questions, I could imagine a bar that says,

Your question Why is Blah Blah? was closed because it was Foo Bar. Please read the FAQ for more details.

The FAQ link would, of course, link to:

Why are some questions closed?

Questions that are not a good fit for this site may be voted closed by experienced community members. [...]

There's nothing wrong without pointing this "negative" thing out. Unfortunately (and this is the main problem I guess), the FAQ doesn't really address what to do in such a case. Users are left aggravated about the question being closed, and they don't really know what to do in order to have it reopened or why those evil people with >3k can just close it, et cetera.

This is why I suggested to have the FAQ be a bit more verbose: https://meta.superuser.com/q/2760/48078

  • The question GUI Junky is upset about wasn't a question on the main site, it was a Meta question that was deleted. This doesn't happen on the main site nearly as often or nearly as fast, so there is much more feedback available normally than what was available in this particular situation.
    – agf
    Aug 20, 2011 at 9:20
  • 3
    @agf I don't know what he was upset about and to be honest, this wasn't the scope of his question. This is a discussion about a broader topic. I'm referring to the daily process of users asking bad questions, not checking on them, and then repeatedly asking "Why was my question closed?". This particular process could use a bit more feedback.
    – slhck
    Aug 20, 2011 at 9:24
  • @agf: Hmm, I'd argue things the other way round. Questions get closed significantly faster and more often on the main site than they do on Meta. Mainly because of the sheer volume of users and questions. Aug 20, 2011 at 9:26
  • Closed faster, not deleted faster. The feeback is available after closing, but not after deletion.
    – agf
    Aug 20, 2011 at 9:27
  • 1
    @agf I still don't get your point. I am talking about reinforcing feedback on closing of questions altogether, whereas you're talking about a specific example the OP didn't even give. For what it's worth, I'm not against having a notification like this for deleted questions as well.
    – slhck
    Aug 20, 2011 at 9:29
  • My main point is that I think there is enough feedback to cover most of the cases. He posted a link to his deleted MSO post in a comment to my response, which was what I was referring to.
    – agf
    Aug 20, 2011 at 9:30
  • @agf, what I'm saying is that without notification, one important point about feedback is lacking.
    – GUI Junkie
    Aug 20, 2011 at 14:10

People like their reputation scores, and when they lose rep it annoys them. When questions/answers get downvoted this serves a purpose: By the loss of reputation you should be encouraged to fix/improve/... the bad/erroneous post that got downvoted.

But in cases where there is nothing you can do about the reputation loss, as few attention as possible is brought to it. If someone takes back a upvote or an accept, your score just goes down as if that vote had never been there in the first place. Without any special indication of what happened chances are you don't even realize and therefore don't get upset.

Similar for deleted posts, there the deletion has not immediate effect on the displayed reputation, so that you probably don't realize that you just lost rep.

Losing even small amounts of rep makes people angry, but if they aren't told they stay happy and continue to like Stack Overflow.

In the case of questions the case is similar, I guess a lot of people would get mad if they were notified that some old question of theirs got deleted, even though they won't realize if it's simply gone.

On closures the situation is similar, but there at least would be an educational aspect to it like with downvotes which could justify a notification.

  • I can see your point about rep loss, but I don't think that's a good enough reason not to give feedback. Adults should be able to take it, and this is a site for adults (in my case nearly adult).
    – GUI Junkie
    Aug 20, 2011 at 23:39
  • 1
    I agree that deletions should not carry a notification because, as you mentioned, there's nothing to be done about it. But such is not the case for closure. The reason in closing a question (at least in theory) is so that the person who posted it can edit it for compliance. Aug 21, 2011 at 7:04

Edit 2: The question GUI Junky is asking about isn't a question on SO, ServerFault, etc., it's a Meta question. On SO, questions are almost never deleted immediately, so there is much more feedback. This site is here to support the main site, and I don't see any problem with questions which don't do that being deleted.

That makes this a Meta Meta Question, as was How can I ask polling questions regarding the UI on SE sites without them getting closed? which GUI Junky asked just a few hours ago, relating to the same topic, which was closed.

All of what I say below relates to the main site, not necessarily Meta.

  1. When they try and visit their question, they're notified. How much sooner could they get the feedback? This happens on their next interaction with the question. It's also proportional and directed right at the negative behavior.

    Edit from a comment:

    I think that the important moment for feedback on the question is when you care about the question, which is when you next visit it. That's when you're most invested in the outcome.

  2. If they continue to post bad questions, they're restricted from posting more. While this may be less timely, it certainly seems proportional and it's targeted at the behavior we're trying to modify.

  3. People post comments on bad questions -- that is targeted and timely, as people are notified immediately in their Inboxes. If I vote to close a question, there isn't already a comment, and it's not a duplicate, I do this almost every single time.

In almost every case that someone posts on Meta about a closed question, there was enough information available for them to figure out why it was closed. I also think they know that, by the community standards, they've done something wrong, they just don't like the feeling.

Point to some specific instances where you think people should have had more notification.

What more do you think we should do?

Because I think the system works pretty well.

  • 2
    I agree with what you're saying, and I'm not discussing #2 and #3 because I think that's very well done. But #1 should be 'when the question was closed / deleted'. Suppose I post a question somewhere where I'm not a regular user and I rely in the notification system to see comments and answers... I won't see that the question was voted down, closed or deleted. Not because I don't care, but because the system didn't notify me.
    – GUI Junkie
    Aug 20, 2011 at 8:58
  • I don't agree. I think that the important moment for feedback on the question is when you care about the question, which is when you next visit it. That's when you're most invested in the outcome.
    – agf
    Aug 20, 2011 at 9:02
  • Let's agree to not agree. This happened to me and is a specific example of not having a notification.
    – GUI Junkie
    Aug 20, 2011 at 9:11
  • That isn't an example at all. That's not a question on the main site. That simply doesn't happen on the main site -- questions are almost never deleted right way, so you have much more feedback.
    – agf
    Aug 20, 2011 at 9:15
  • I'm actually not upset about anything. My reasoning is like this, there are some questions here at MSO about questions on SO and the theme is 'feedback'. For SE to have a great user experience, feedback is a must! This is the most Meta question I've asked, and probably can ask. It's got nothing to do with the other question. Let me ask you a simple question: Is there a notification on SO when a question is closed or deleted? If there is, then you may be right about this being a MetaMeta question, if not, I'm not getting what you're angry about. I didn't vote you down, if that's what bugs you.
    – GUI Junkie
    Aug 20, 2011 at 14:08

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