I've been trying to add comments on recent, bad questions to let the OP know the question will likely be closed, why, and what can be done to avoid/revert that. And many times I'm doing that instead of voting to close, to give the OP some time to fix things.

I know closure is reversible, but I also believe many users feel bad about having their questions closed (new users particularly). Shouldn't we try to educate the users first, then close/vote to close if it doesn't work? Take this question, for example. It was closed by casperOne 2 minutes after it was asked. Wasn't that a little too fast? Take a look at the comments. The OP was at least a little interested in knowing what was going on.

I guess my question is: should our effort to keep the site as clean as possible prevent us to help people that could be helped, if they edited their questions into something better? When the faq tells us to be nice, does it mean that being civil is enough?

  • 3
    Do you really think the linked question can be salvaged into something that's beneficial to the SO community?
    – Kerrek SB
    Aug 27, 2012 at 14:26
  • 6
    I personally prefer to close it and leave a comment explaining why and that I'd happily vote to reopen if those issues are addressed. (If that is possible of course)
    – Bart
    Aug 27, 2012 at 14:26
  • 1
    I think a big part of the problem is people that struggle with English in the first place. I too struggle with making great questions, and I think there could be more constructive ways to learn how to ask a question, than to have redirects to a vague FAQ that you won't really understand (I didn't at least) until you've learned many of the things the hard way, yourself.
    – Aske B.
    Aug 27, 2012 at 14:29
  • @KerrekSB Yes, but only by the OP himself. He could try to solve the problem, and come back with a more constructive question. Closure might have scared him away.
    – bfavaretto
    Aug 27, 2012 at 14:29
  • 10
    Waiting to close is really just providing more time for people to attempt to answer before it gets closed. Answering a question that's about to be closed can cause problems. If you can't fix the question into something that shouldn't be closed, then you should close it as soon as possible.
    – Servy
    Aug 27, 2012 at 14:29
  • @Servy you have a point. In fact closure is a good mechanism to deal with those problems, but I still feel it's not "nice" to new users. Now I'm thinking maybe a more friendly message on the question status box could change my mind... I guess my point is niceness versus civility, again.
    – bfavaretto
    Aug 27, 2012 at 14:41
  • 3
    There are a couple of posts somewhere asking to change the "closed" wording to something else. Aug 27, 2012 at 14:43
  • @bfavaretto I would say that if you want to be extra nice rather than not closing a question, you should just be commenting in addition to vote closing with what they need to do to fix the question, or possibly just a more detail explanation of why their question needs to be closed rather than answered.
    – Servy
    Aug 27, 2012 at 14:53
  • @BoltClock'saUnicorn not only floating around, but officially declined.
    – Pops
    Aug 27, 2012 at 14:58
  • fwiw - when I first started at SO I had a question closed and it was not at all clear to me that I could improve it and have it reopened. And before all the keyboard cowboys crow "FAQ" or whatever, reread my first sentence. The "closed message" looks pretty final - so a comment - either custom or boilerplate would help before giving a question the heave ho.
    – spring
    Aug 27, 2012 at 15:15
  • 1
    @PopularDemand Jeff's whole open or closed door analogy on that question is flawed if you asked me. While he considers it a simple "state" in common language (in my understanding) if the door is closed on a matter, this does not really indicate "but don't worry, it can be reopened". Perhaps it should be revisited. [Frozen] might be an alternative, though that's seemingly problematic when we truly mean to say that it's unlikely to be reopened.
    – Bart
    Aug 27, 2012 at 15:53
  • @PopularDemand I don't think we should use another word for it, but an explanation (and not with that tiny font size) would be very nice to have. I liked David Fullerton's suggestion of a "ressurection" badge, could be a nice incentive.
    – bfavaretto
    Aug 27, 2012 at 16:04

3 Answers 3


I don't disagree that closure is something that definitely has a harsh connotation to it; you get this big banner with a mini-ream of text in it that looks like your question was steamrolled.

This can be very disconcerting to new users; for those that aren't familiar with the Stack Exchange sites and closures, it's confusing, as it's not immediately obvious that the question can be reopened.

However, we get the influx we do on Stack Overflow because everyone from the top down is committed to quality (even though we disagree on what quality is at times). We get so many new users with so many questions because we have the ability to maintain a high level of quality on the site. While I'm definitely afraid of losing users, I'd be more concerned if it came at the cost of lowering quality.

Given that closures are completely reversible by the community (it's not something that is mod or SE-employee specific), it doesn't make sense to let bad content stay open. It's more likely that we'd let bad content slip through the cracks (assuming we did this manually) because we wouldn't remember to revisit the content later.

Also, the onus has to be placed back on the person asking the question at some point; we can't let low-quality contributions stay in place because the user isn't buying into (or doesn't know to buy into) the commitment to quality at Stack Overflow. Closures put it back on the user saying "hey, you need to do better".

I think that we could do better by having some text (or a link) indicating that a question can be reopened (it's not really obvious the way it is now) and that can help reduce some of the agitation that new users feel when their questions are closed.

  • 6
    +1 I definitely think there's something to be said for clarification of what "closed" means. Too often it's confused with "dead". Even if the closure text indicates otherwise.
    – Bart
    Aug 27, 2012 at 14:49
  • You are right. I'd feel much better voting to close immediately as I see a bad question if the closure message indicated more clearly what closure is (plus a link).
    – bfavaretto
    Aug 27, 2012 at 16:09

I've responded as a comment on a similar question before:

We've all seen Q&A sites and forums where helpful members spent pages trying to coax details out of a poorly written question. It's occasionally fruitful, but often a waste of time, and it leads to an infestation of help vampires and an exodus of qualified, helpful members. Closing a question helps prevent this, though the original poster can still improve and clarify his question.

StackOverflow works very hard to keep a high signal-to-noise ratio. That means it has to be unforgiving when it comes to questions that might be saved, but probably won't be.

  • I understand, but there must be a way to be "unforgiving" and not harsh at the same time.
    – bfavaretto
    Aug 27, 2012 at 16:05
  • I don't think closing a question quickly is harsh. I do agree, though: I make a point to include the phrase "Welcome to StackOverflow" in any comment I make on a question by a new member, however poor the question is. Aug 27, 2012 at 17:24

There are many types of poor questions:

Many of them are poor because they are good questions, but are not really worded well, or are not very descriptive (e.g: I have a problem with my database, I cannot insert 32.4 into my Amount Column. Why?) I notice that these questions are often asked by a newbie with low reputation who is new to the site and might not understand yet that more description is needed for the question to actually make sense. I noticed that the quality of my Q's have gotten significantly better as I have asked more of them.

From What I notice, closing/removing a question usually is reserved for those questions that:

A: Are flaming (flame-wars), offensive, or spam.

B: Have been given chances to improve but the asker never tries to improve them. This is the most common scenario.

C: The occasional question where there is just no hope at all to resurrect the question. Unless the question is spam,offensive etc., then this type of question is relatively rare.

I've asked quite a few low quality questions, and comments have been posted signifying how the question can be improved, but none of my questions have been closed.

Based on my experiences the answer is Yes.

  • Yes, too. Maybe my title was not good, I wrote the question too fast. But I think the example I gave is a case of (B), which was handled as (C).
    – bfavaretto
    Aug 27, 2012 at 16:07

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .