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How soon should I “vote to close”?

Given a question that is not clear at first, which satisfies the criterion for being "not a real question":

"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."

should that question be closed immediately, or should the OP get a chance to improve the quality of his question.

My modus operandi is this:
When I encounter a question which is "not a real question", I respond via a comment - I might ask one or more counter-questions (about the issue), I might comment that I don't understand the question. So, I let the OP know that his question should be improved. I then give the OP say 15 minutes to respond (and in most cases the OP does respond). However, if the OP doesn't respond, then I consider voting for "not a real question".

Is this how SO should work?

I have witnessed in the past several questions for which I saw potential, being closed immediately, and I wonder if that is appropriate.

Edit: Of course, questions that are duplicates should be closed immediately, and off-topic questions should also be moved / closed immediately. In this question I am specifically referring to those questions which "have potential" (which could be corrected / improved)..

  • I have a similar modus operandi to yours, though the timing may be slightly different.
    – Oded
    Commented Dec 10, 2011 at 20:45
  • This is definitely the correct modus operandi, the OP should definitely be given the chance to improve their post. Commented Dec 10, 2011 at 20:48
  • I largely agree as well, but keep in mind that closure is not necessarily permanent either.
    – Bart
    Commented Dec 10, 2011 at 20:57
  • This is the way I do it as well, but technically we are supposed to close questions straight away. A closed question has a chance of being improved and reopened (although I'm not sure how often this actually happens).
    – Pekka
    Commented Dec 10, 2011 at 21:04

2 Answers 2


Your question effectively shows a common misunderstanding: closed doesn't mean "go away". Closed questions can be reopened if they are improved. But until they are improved, they remain closed.

The root of this problem is the fact that "closed until improved" and "closed because it's a duplicate/not really a question/etc" are all under the heading, "closed". That is a problem that needs to be resolved.

  • 1
    Yes, but that system is flawed. I believe that when a new user posts his first question and it is flawed (this happens all the time with new users), if that question then gets down-voted and closed immediately, he is less likely to improve it, not more. So, closing the question is counterproductive. There should be a better way to convey to the OP that he should improve his question... Commented Dec 10, 2011 at 21:34
  • 2
    @ŠimeVidas: That's the point of the question I linked you to. The question should still be closed, but what you call "closed" for these cases or how you display this to the user is what matters. The question needs to be closed so that it prevents people from posting answers when the question hasn't been well-defined. But when a question is potentially redeemable, there needs to be a way to encourage the user to redeem it. Commented Dec 10, 2011 at 21:51
  • Regarding the "closed" issue - see this too: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/109543/… Commented Dec 11, 2011 at 0:12

Yes, I think that's a good practice. Sometimes a new user posts a question that cannot be answered because he's left off important details (e.g. the error message and/or the relevant code). A comment can and often does trigger him to add in the relevant information, at which point the question becomes answerable. In such cases, the question really shouldn't be closed based on how it started.

As a side note, this is why I wish we were able to remove close votes after an edit to the question is made. Given that inability, I think waiting a bit to see if the OP will bring the question up to an answerable state is the correct thing to do.

Note that we also have the ability to cast re-open votes, but those seem to progress much more slowly than the close votes. Given that, I try to be a bit more reserved with my close votes if the question has potential.


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