Questions that are closed as "not a real question" and "off topic" (without being migrated) already receive an automatic downvote.

But this treatment doesn't currently apply to questions that get closed as "not constructive".

Is there a good reason for that? Because I can't think of one. The most likely explanation seems to me that the "not constructive" close reason was added more recently than the automatic downvote feature was implemented, and it got missed. It needs to be revisited.

Questions that are closed as "not constructive" are no better than those closed as "not a real question". They're just two special cases of the same problem. Both are equally deserving of automatic downvotes.


  • 3
    I like Shog's answer on that question. Make close votes carry a -1 with them.
    – animuson StaffMod
    May 9, 2012 at 4:29
  • 1
    Personally I dislike the whole auto downvote thing.
    – ɥʇǝS
    May 13, 2013 at 1:50

2 Answers 2


I disagree!

Wait, first off - you're right, the "not constructive" came later. At the time this was proposed and implemented, it was still "subjective and argumentative". Which, IMHO, was a lot more downvote-worthy... But I'll get to that in a minute.

I don't think "not constructive" should imply a down-vote, because these aren't necessarily bad questions... They're just not good questions for our sites. Opinions, debates, arguments, polling and extended discussion are a part of most of what we spend our lives saying and writing; learning to ask a question that doesn't encourage them is not always easy. Neither is learning to recognize a question that demands them.

There's a big fat section of the FAQ dedicated to explaining this, but all too often I find that neither the people voting to close nor those trying to re-open have read it. Or even that bit of text on the close dialog itself.

So for these questions, I'd much rather see folks put more effort into evaluating them on their merits, attempting to edit them into a more constructive form, and voting to close when that's not possible. And making a conscious decision to down-vote the question and poor answers when that's clearly deserved: when the question is clearly subjective and argumentative.

Off-topic and NaRQ are less excusable: you should be able to know what's on-topic for the site you're asking, and learn how to ask a real question merely by reading what has already been asked and answered. When those basic requirements are met, learning to do so constructively is something we can and should be able to teach.

  • What about the case of the off-topic question that's not migrated specifically because it would be closed as "not constructive" on the destination site? Those get penalized, but I feel like it's pretty similar to your more direct "not constructive" case.
    – Tim Stone
    May 9, 2012 at 5:36
  • If it's off-topic, closing it as such is still appropriate even when it's also not constructive. Again, you should be able to gauge the scope of a site just by looking around a bit, so if you can't be bothered to do that you're just increasing the noise level by being lazy. Being non-constructive about it just adds insult to injury.
    – Shog9
    May 9, 2012 at 5:40
  • Right, but we don't penalize questions which are successfully migrated. And you don't want to penalize questions which are not constructive. But we are penalizing questions which are intentionally not successfully migrated because we know they're not constructive, and don't want to needlessly boot them over to another site. I assume the existence of migration paths imply there's a good-faith expectation people might get it wrong, even if they should be able to figure it out before posting.
    – Tim Stone
    May 9, 2012 at 5:51
  • That said, I doubt it makes too much difference with question down votes being free. If it's just all-around bad, a question closed as "not constructive" tends to get down votes with or without system intervention (at least in my limited experience).
    – Tim Stone
    May 9, 2012 at 5:53
  • So basically, we view the "not constructive" problem as fixable, but that's not so much the case for off-topic and NARQ? Sounds reasonable to me, I suppose. Although I find myself downvoting almost all the questions I close as "not constructive" manually, since they show little or no attempt to read the FAQ and don't appear salvageable. I wouldn't vote to close in the first place (especially as a moderator) if I could see how it could be improved and brought into compliance with our guidelines; I'd just edit. Perhaps I'm the exception and not the norm. May 11, 2012 at 4:53
  • @TheEstablishment: More of, I'd like folks to actually think about NC a bit more (as you're doing). A lot of them are crap too, and worth down-voting... But the ones that aren't can often be fixed by anyone able to close (vs. a question that's missing crucial details or simply isn't about programming). So this leaves the choice in your hands: fix it if you want to, down-vote it if you'd prefer to do that.
    – Shog9
    May 11, 2012 at 5:07

FWIW, I proposed to subdivide "not constructive" questions into "fault" and "no-fault" categories:

Should we have "fault" and "no fault" versions of "not constructive" closes?

"Subjective and argumentative" would be the "fault" category and carry a downvote.

The "no fault" category would be much smaller, and cover cases when a questioner "stumbled" on a topic in which a question could not be reasonably answered, basically through no fault of his or her own.

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