In https://stackoverflow.com/questions/7379816/how-do-i-play-flv-video-on-android the original wording had a lot of superfluous text:

Title: Sir plz tell me how to develop flv player aplication or is there any api or any thing from which i can make my application

Actually sir i have got a project to develop flv player in android and i am not able to start it because in android it only support 3gp,mp4 etc file format so plz tell me .how i can play flv file directly.

Thank You.

It was closed by a moderator (Bill the Lizard) as "not a real question," but there's a perfectly good question in there; namely, "How do I play FLV video on Android?"

The close reason description for "not a real question" states:

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form.

I would argue that this is not the case; the question can be answered; it's just that it does not conform to Stack Overflow's preferred format for questions. It's not even asking us to do the work for OP!

The moderator should have simply edited the question to match SO's preferred format (I myself did this edit as well, but by the time it was done, the mod had closed the question without any discussion, and without telling the OP why it was closed).

In the end, the question was a duplicate, so it should probably remain closed, but I am very concerned by inappropriate moderator closures, as they can happen too quickly for an editor to rescue the question. Moderators should set a good example for other users by editing posts when possible rather than closing, and by commenting on closures on questions made in good faith, so that the OP knows what to do, or not to do next time.

Edit: I'm not necessarily saying that every mod should edit any poor quality question they see rather than closing them. But they do need to at least give enough time for someone else to edit the question before pushing the close button, and they do need to choose a close reason that actually matches the problem. This question was closed only two minutes after being opened, and was closed for "not a real question" despite being a real question. What is the OP supposed to think when they see this? :/


4 Answers 4


The close reason serves as a comment as to why it was closed. I'm sorry, but we just don't have time to edit every question that gets flagged for a moderator's attention any more. Since anyone can edit now, it really needs to be done by someone else instead of flagging.

Still, this was closed for the wrong reason, which was my fault. It's now closed for the correct reason (twice, because I pulled the hair trigger on this thing again).

  • Yes, asking for others to edit is fine. The problem is when the question is modclosed before anyone has a chance to edit it... :/
    – bdonlan
    Sep 11, 2011 at 18:59
  • Also, I would argue that a new close reason is needed for... whatever reason you intended to close the question for. No matter how you look at it, it's not "not a real question", and the close reason comment is completely unhelpful for the OP.
    – bdonlan
    Sep 11, 2011 at 19:01
  • 2
    @bdonlan: Questions can be reopened after they're edited. I agree with your second comment though. Unfortunately there's a "very low quality" flag, but no close reason to go along with it. Sep 11, 2011 at 19:11

I mod-flagged it as "Very low quality" but when it was closed wondered whether I had been too harsh.

In hindsight, maybe I could have been more caring, edited it as you did, and maybe voted to close without flagging. (I'm just not voting to reopen in this case because there's a dupe.)

However, in general, with 4000 new questions a day, there is no way to educate each asker individually, and questions that have the signs of a low quality question , are at great risk of being closed. Moderators process hundreds of flags a day, they can't start digging for good questions underneath a pile of what looks like a bad question. That's simply the way it is - SO is a big city now.

  • I'll send you a bottle of BRUT with a shiny new sticker.
    – user50049
    Sep 11, 2011 at 17:54
  • @Tim please do! Let me know when you need the mailing address.
    – Pekka
    Sep 11, 2011 at 18:36
  • It's fine that mods don't necessarily have to do the digging for a real question under all the "dear sir", but they should leave time for others to do so...
    – bdonlan
    Sep 11, 2011 at 19:04
  • 4
    @bdonlan nope - as said, with 4,000 new questions every day, waiting whether a kind soul might salvage a broken question simply is not an option. The proper way is for it to get reopened after it's been fixed. That doesn't happen very often, though
    – Pekka
    Sep 11, 2011 at 19:07
  • @Pekka, a 'delayed closure' mod tool might work here - the mod marks a question for closure after X minutes, but if an answer is added or the question edited, the closure is cancelled (but an auto-mod-flag placed for reexamination)
    – bdonlan
    Sep 11, 2011 at 19:11
  • 1
    @bdonlan I had a similar suggestion once on the user side: Introduce timed downvotes You can start a feature request to that end, but I'm 99.999% sure the response will be "It's too much work, we have enough to do already". SO's official stance is that the site can't help everyone and I agree
    – Pekka
    Sep 11, 2011 at 19:15
  • @Pekka, posted: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/105832/…
    – bdonlan
    Sep 11, 2011 at 20:42

The question and flag volume on SO is just far too high to expect moderators to regularly perform substantial edits on posts. Editing is something you don't need a moderator for, you don't even need any rep to suggest an edit.

Closing is also reversible, you could e.g. yourself have edited the closed question into shape and flagged it for reopening (if it weren't a duplicate). That would be the preferred method to deal with it as it just scales far better than having the few moderators perform everything.


The original text of the question was barely intelligible. It's not just a question of “preferred format”: the text of the question is not immediately comprehensible to someone with a basic grasp of English. Hence, “not a real question” is the correct close reason.

It's true that if you spend time wading through the original text, you will find a legitimate question. It's up to you to spend this time, as a user of Stack Overflow with edit rights (i.e. anyone on the Internet, except that you need 2000 reputation until 10 minutes have passed since the question was posted). Once you've edited the question into something comprehensible, cast a vote to reopen if you can, and flag it to have a moderator reopen it (as it's quite rare for a question to get reopened by the community alone).

To reiterate: if a moderator sees an incomprehensible question, the normal action is to close it. Sometimes moderators will spend time improving a question so that it can stay open, but it is not their job as a moderator, it is their job as a community member (which they have limited time for due to their additional duties as moderators, especially on Stack Overflow).

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