Based on the discussion on this question, should poorly formulated questions be closed and reopened if fixed, or should we request the OP to fix and wait to see if he does?

My problem with the current method (close immediately and re-open if reformulated) is that questions are rarely reopened. You could say, "that's because no one reformulates", but that's a chicken-egg problem; why reformulate if it won't be addressed?

I suppose there could be a feature that all "not a real question" closings are delayed by a few minutes to give the guy time to fix it, but that's can be a different post. I'm more curious, which is the favored approach, give time to fix, or close and reopen if necessary?


Close and reopen is the preferred method. 99% of the time, this results in a close and no further action, while leaving the post to be closed the next day results in more junk on the site, more comments requesting that it be fixed, a slew of downvotes for the poster, and broken windows on our front page.

You're right, reopening is rare. However, if you're willing to put forth some effort, we're more than happy to reopen it. Here's my anecdotal experience with reopening close-and-fix questions:

I am a mod on an SE 2.0 site which recieves a few dozen questions a day. This is a markedly different situation from SO, where one question isn't really considered valuable because you have so many.

Whenever I feel that there's a hint of a quality question underneath the close candidate, I take the time to write a comment explaining why the post will be closed. Especially if the questions shows potential or the user is new, I want that question to be reopened and to generate traffic and more experts. Often, I'll edit it 90% of the way to completion - fix posts made with CAPS LOCK on and paragraph breaks on every line, translating some of the most opaque pseudo-english you've ever read into great grammar, generating schematics, linking datasheets, formatting code and quotes, summarizing linked articles, retagging, generating tags, etc. Then, I leave a comment directing the user on how to give the one little piece of information that we need to answer the question, in the friendliest tone possible, and request to just click "flag" and request mod attention to get it reopened.

Most of the time, I never hear back from these people. Sometimes, I get a comment or flag for attention requesting a reopen without making any change to the question, or after reverting to the original.

I've closed 156 questions in my stint as a community mod thus far. As far as I remember, I've had the requested positive response and reopened the post all of three times. It's for this reason that I close first and reopen later.

  • +1 for the lol's. No matter what you do, some people just can't work the Interwebs. – Sparky Oct 5 '11 at 2:21

Generally, I will vote to close if I think a question isn't right for the site. If a question is improved before it reaches the required close votes, it will probably survive. If it doesn't or it is edited afterwards, flag it for mod attention and they can make the executive decision.

As I said in a comment on the same question:

"moderators can reopen a question with a single vote. I'd suggest that, if the question is edited after being closed, then flag for moderator attention and explain the situation. For the current question, it's NARQ (IMO). Questions on SO should be "stand alone" and not requiring links off-site to make them a valid question. If those sites go down, the question becomes completely useless to others."

In this case the links off-site were to JSFiddle, a site which, as wonderfully useful as it is, doesn't exactly have a great track record for uptime.

  • I didn't want to ask this on the main site, but what's NARQ? – eykanal Oct 4 '11 at 16:25
  • 1
    NARQ is simply an abbreviation for Not a Real Question ;) – BoltClock's a Unicorn Oct 4 '11 at 16:26

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