Downvoting requires a small rep sacrifice. The thinking goes that if you are going to penalize someone with a downvote you should be committed to it, and the small rep sacrifice goes a long way to achieving this.

Shouldn't closing questions require the same sacrifice? It's a small cost to pay, and it would help to keep people from jumping the gun on closing questions.

A recent study found that wikipedia contributors do not have very high levels of agreeableness. If stackoverflow shares some of those traits, this tendency pushes people to be as exclusionary as possible and on topic questions are closed by the group before the group of openers can react. Consider that it's more likely that a group of users spontaneously forms to close, than that a group forms to reopen (regardless of the question's content) because the act of silencing someone else fulfills this antisocial desire (whereas opening does not do the same).

Even a 1 point rep sacrifice would go a long way to ensuring that questions that should be closed are still closed, while those that should not be are not.

  • 1
    So why is this community wiki? This is the meta site.
    Jun 30, 2009 at 13:28
  • 4
    So you can't downvote me :P Jun 30, 2009 at 13:28
  • 1
    +1 Good question, this is a problem, don't know why there are so many downvotes?
    – user3788
    Jun 30, 2009 at 13:59
  • No personal attacks, please.
    – Tom Ritter
    Jun 30, 2009 at 13:59
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    @rascher: Because it is missing the point. There is no problem with closing. There is only a problem with not closing enough.
    Jun 30, 2009 at 14:01
  • Should there be a rep bonus for voting to close? Jun 30, 2009 at 14:35
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    @Tom: No rep should come from editing or moderation. They are separate issues and separate systems. That has been the entire point since the beginning. It is surprising that we have users that still don't understand this.
    Jun 30, 2009 at 14:47
  • @Rich But I feel like one problem (not really big problem, but something that happens nonetheless) that /does/ exist is superfluous closing. Questions which are short or not directly programming related - but that have merit, and often have many answers - are closed. 6 answers on a question means "6 people didn't want to close it and thought it was decent" - so why should 5 mods (if we can agree that there might be a little bit of elitism) be able to close such a question?
    – user3788
    Jun 30, 2009 at 17:27
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    @rascher: or it could mean 6 people didn't realize or didn't care that the question is a duplicate, or 6 people who thought they understood the incomprehensible question, and have answered the wrong question six different ways. Jul 16, 2009 at 3:26
  • @RichB "not closing enough". So we have concrete proof that there are people here who want to turn SO et al into a second Wikipedia desaster. Jan 14, 2010 at 6:40
  • 1
    @rascher: or 6 people thought easy rep!. @jae: is wikipedia a disaster? Also, Rich B is not representative of the community.
    – perbert
    Jan 14, 2010 at 7:19

7 Answers 7


I tend to think not.

Downvotes are a problem because they can be used tactically and punitively. There's always a cost to the recipient. Close votes OTOH are meaningless individually and 5 is quite a high barrier for an effect. I also strongly feel that the market forces mechanism of close/reopen resolves 90%+ of problems.

  • 4
    Not only that, but DVs cannot be taken away by the community, while posts can always be reopened. Take that and the fact that it takes multiple people to close, but not to downvote, and you have very separate issues.
    Jun 30, 2009 at 13:32
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    5 a high barrier? shakes with laughter Jan 14, 2010 at 6:41

This is a good way to ensure that nothing gets closed. We've seen how the trend is towards people to specifically not vote down things just so they don't lose rep.

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    By that argument, shouldn't we remove the rep sacrifice on downvotes then? Jun 30, 2009 at 13:28
  • @Michael: No, they are two very different systems.
    Jun 30, 2009 at 13:28
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    Michael Pryor: The only reason I advocate for rep sacrifice on the downvotes is because you are knocking rep off the user by downvoting as well. Closing a question will not negatively effect the rep of a question. In fact, many people will go in and upvote a question out of sheer sympathy or as a show of their disapproval of it being closed down. So in the end you'll still see more often than not a net gain of rep even when a question is closed.
    – TheTXI
    Jun 30, 2009 at 13:29
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    Downvoting tends to give the receiver a rep boost. Certainly when I see an answer with a negative score, I will often upvote it if I don't think it is so bad. Jun 30, 2009 at 14:38
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    @Tom: Let me personally thank you for adding to the pollution of SO.com then. We needed more useless users with high rep and bad posts voted to the top. That is a real benefit to the community.
    Jun 30, 2009 at 14:46

No. Closing is an important part of the community policing of noise. There are already too many disincentives to being a closer, if you start penalizing them more, the noise will drastically increase on the site. SO.com has enough noise to begin with, we sure don't need any more.

  • What are the disincentives to being a closer? Jun 30, 2009 at 13:29
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    @Michael: Whiny cry babies constantly making more and more noise about their "What is your favorite cereal as a programmer?" questions being closed? Or the fact that the system is skewed to allow reopen votes easier?
    Jun 30, 2009 at 13:30
  • Isn't it the same number of votes to reopen a question as it is to close? how does that skew it to make it easier? Jun 30, 2009 at 13:34
  • Disincentives to be a closer? A lone "closer" can't close. Not even four "closers" can close a question. Jun 30, 2009 at 13:35
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    @Michael: Nope. It is one less. The OP can reopen their own question. We have been over this before.
    Jun 30, 2009 at 13:36
  • @Stu: Your argument is based on an argument that isn't there. No one is saying or implying it takes one person to close. But being a part of closing can still have drawbacks.
    Jun 30, 2009 at 13:37
  • what about (fast) closing being a counter incentive to being an answerer ? That's how it works for me.
    – kriss
    Dec 2, 2010 at 21:10

I think the downvote system and the closing system are meaningfully different. At 100 rep you can downvote, while it takes 3000 to vote to close. I believe this is because up and down voting is at the heart of what SO is providing it's end users. It is providing a way of more easily determining what answer to a question is correct. However, I do believe the disincentive of a slight loss of rep for the down-voter is necessary to keep people from using downvotes as part of an overall "reputation game" or to target other members of the community.

On the other hand, voting to close I believe is a service to the community. It helps keep question that do not have a place on SO from being there. Additionally, I believe the voting system, vs allowing a single person with the necessary rep being able to close a question, is also a good choice, because it helps limit the close/reopen wars (limit, not eliminate) and keeps any one user's opinion of what a valid question is from caring too much weight. But still, as a service to the community, I don't believe it should carry any loss of rep with the action.

  • 1
    Agreed. I think the difference is that you can -1 vote anything, but it takes a consensus to close. So, there's the crux of how they're different.
    – zanlok
    Dec 2, 2010 at 16:45

I'm surprised to see that on this issue everybody is speaking of rep and nobody of the fundamental Goal of SO (or so it seems to me) : ask questions and give answers.

Closing not only has a negative effect on Questioners (they won't get answers), it also have a negative effect on people that answer.

Standards are very variables between users, some seems to vote to close any questions they even slightly dislike, or even downvote people based on low acceptation rate an previous history. It is a system bias that should be expected, because the close policy is de facto decided by the less tolerant people, with the lower rejection level. And not wanting to close a question is not the same as wanting to reopen it, no confusion here.

What is very disappointing for me is starting to work on a detailed answer to some question, trying to set up context to explain things, and finally find out that I can't post my answer because some other people decided to close the questions after 5 minutes. What is even worse is when this question is closed for being impossible to answer or too vague... of dear, nice to learn I was doing something impossible. And Indeed, now it is impossible to answer to the question. Not because of the question itself but because it was closed... (basically because some other peoples decided I shouldn't answer to that question).

Every times it happens I wonder if I should start again to write a detailed answer on anything, as there is a risk to just be loosing my time.

Another thing that bother me is that I'm just one year old on SO, but I notice a trend on lowering closing standards, closing more questions and faster.

But probably rep cost is indeed not a good way to manage closing policy. Other ways could be possible. Maybe something like allowing users with a given amount of rep, and if questions have not already too much answers (I perfectly understand that questions that allready have 100 answers should probably not get more) say less than ten, answers should be added even for closed questions. I believe that would totally void the problem with people forbidding others to answer some questions because they have lower standards.

  • The goal is to "make the internet a better place" by getting expert answers to good questions. The problem that you'll see recently is we're so large that if we don't fight against stupid questions (and there ARE stupid questions) it lowers the perceived quality of the site. My views have changed a bit since I originally asked this question. Dec 3, 2010 at 2:24
  • @Michael Pryor: I agree with you, but what I point out is that the way we are doing it now tends to select the poorest / most excluding possible standard for what is a stupid question. Actual behavior of closers is much more restrictive than theorical closing guidelines. But once a question is closed it is unlikely it will be reopened if it does not also have high upvotes. As closing a question does not remove it from the site what would be the drawback to let high rep people answer to closed questions ? How forbidding them to answer makes Internet a better place ?
    – kriss
    Dec 3, 2010 at 3:35
  • Given that you can edit an answer on a closed question, it may be best to post a short quick answer then edit it when you have writen the complete answer. Dec 3, 2010 at 9:21
  • @Ian Ringrose: never thought about it that way, but indeed it's a good idea.
    – kriss
    Dec 3, 2010 at 13:35

By the time you have enough rep to downvote, you are unlickly to care about a small rep sacrifice, so I don't see the point.

However we need more people to vote to close, so how about:

  • Cost of cashing one of the first 3 votes to close 5 rep.
  • If the questions is closed and you casted one of the first 3 votes, you get given 50 rep.
  • 1
    I think giving rep is an even worse can of worms than costing rep.
    – mmyers
    Dec 2, 2010 at 17:33

I know I'm very late to the party, but I think it should cost rep. More recent developments (not surprising, looking at some of the comments here) clearly show that closing/opening wars are starting to become a problem (and if you disagree, just you wait).

Though I'm not sure if I should propose anything, as it also seems we're moving into a state of contrition on the part of the devs (signs are visible, if you've seen similar scenarios often enough. Of course, I could be wrong).

One idea would be a pretty punitive rep cost (okay, not really bad looking at the current high-rep people). For both closing and opening. First thought was... 1% of the rep of the highest-repped (that even a word? ;-)). On SO currently it would be about 1300.

Combined with simultanous open and close voting (as quite a number of users have suggested). You'd be able to vote to close/open repeatedly, but with a set delay (at least an hour between votes, I'd say... probably much more, so one person can's close a question on his own, in a slow period).

Oh, another idea was to make each vote cost as much as the number of upvotes on the question. So, the recent brouhaha would need about 360 rep per close vote (and per open vote too).

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