Over the last couple of weeks, I have found myself wondering about the closure (or near-closure) of some questions on Meta. All of these questions were closed as "not constructive". And in each instance I thought "what exactly isn't constructive about this question?". Especially within the context of Meta.

Some recent examples of what I'm referring to are:

And I remember commenting on a couple of others. I'm not suggesting that this is a recent change on Meta. Perhaps nothing changed at all. It is merely something I noticed and paid attention to.

To be honest, I just don't get it. Not all of the questions are great, some have content I disagree with (and I have left comments indicating that), but I don't see how they are "not constructive". Especially on Meta, where discussion is allowed and welcomed (if on-topic).

So my questions are:

  • What makes these posts "not constructive"?
  • Should these really be closed? Or put in another way, what is the problem in leaving them opened?
  • Are we perhaps using this reason to replace/create a close reason we're missing?
  • Do we use it to indicate a question/discussion has "run its course"?
  • Are we perhaps using it to indicate disagreement?

I would love to hear your thoughts. I have been called out for close votes before which were misinterpreted, so who knows what I'm overlooking in this instance.

For reference, and for those who can't close - the Meta description for not constructive:

not constructive

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    Voting to close as "not constructive". Cheap shot. I know. – Oded Mar 8 '13 at 19:23
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    I have to say that it seems to me there should definitely be a higher bar for 'Not Constructive' here. I disagree with that closing reason for most of the posts you have linked, except one. – Andrew Barber Mar 8 '13 at 19:25
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    @Bart I think that was a joke; even if not, it was funny ;) But no; the one about countries and women. – Andrew Barber Mar 8 '13 at 19:27
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    @Oded No worries, I got that. – Bart Mar 8 '13 at 19:29
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    I'd vote to close the outreach question, disagree on the others. The outreach question isn't bad, but it blends two (imho) distinct issues in one, and that rarely works. The suggested edit one is borderline, I'm guessing some if not all of the close votes are for its first version. – yannis Mar 8 '13 at 19:30
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    Meta is probably the one place where "not constructive" can be taken literally and applied to questions that aren't asked in good faith. – Adam Lear Mar 8 '13 at 19:42
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    @AnnaLear Do any of the examples fail in that regard? – Bart Mar 8 '13 at 19:43
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    @AdamRackis Though that is so easily dismissed with a constructive answer and one of our lovely Meta specific "I disagree" downvotes. – Bart Mar 8 '13 at 19:49
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    "Not constructive" == "I don't like you or your question, and I want to see it closed." – Pëkka Mar 8 '13 at 19:59
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    @Pekka웃 I'm assuming there you mean "is used/abused as"? – Bart Mar 8 '13 at 20:02
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    @Anna may I ask what you are a native speaker of, if not English? I'm curious. – Pëkka Mar 8 '13 at 20:13
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    I thought "not constructive" was basically the new name of "noise or pointless". – BoltClock's a Unicorn Mar 8 '13 at 20:16
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    @LittleBobbyTables It's especially not constructive because he hasn't updated his profile image to reflect the -51 – Andrew Barber Mar 8 '13 at 20:29
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    @Pekka웃 Russian. – Adam Lear Mar 8 '13 at 21:23

Basically a Not Constructive close vote can mean any of the following:

It's in part used in these ways since there's no "not a real question" (or "noise or pointless") close reason, and, at least IMO, Meta really does need some way to close questions that aren't off topic (per se), aren't duplicates, but really just aren't... constructive questions. As Anna Lear said in a comment, it's basically being used literally on Meta, where otherwise it has a specific, SE defined purpose.

Sure, it's a big of a hack, but IMO Not Constructive matches many/most of the NC closures I see on Meta, certainly more than any other close reason.

As for those specific examples:

Does the tag system need revamping? is a pretty big question, almost just "do you think the tag system could be better" (can't everything be better?), though personally I wouldn't vote to close it.

Where can I find out more about the process of tag cleanup on a Stack Exchange site? Is just poorly asked, IMO. I doubt it would have as many/any close votes if the title were just "how should one go about a tag cleanup".

What do you think of this suggested edit? Reads 60% like "why did Indians vote on my suggested edit" and 40% or less "what was actually wrong with this suggested edit". Once again I think it's the poor wording that kills it.

What is done to extend outreach to other countries and, yes, women? I find it hard to read this question (and it's assorted friends) as "SO why you so white/male/racist/sexist/English/etc". There's no suggestion here and IMO it's a pretty ridiculous question since, to my knowledge, there's really no ethnically/gender based targeting SE does to snag users...in fact most of it is purely organic. And this question, like several others on the topic, quickly devolves into not constructive name calling, defensive posts and generally pure drama that helps no one. I have no problem with the closure, and while I think deletion is a but much, I haven't voted to undelete.

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    Nice answer, but does it not illustrate part of my point? The first examples to me as well are clear cases. Though the "60 day abstention" one might be more NARQ to me. However, the latter examples and your evaluation of them might seem to indicate that we're a bit too heavy-handed with or "not constructive" votes? Or perhaps I just more easily read through and ignore the crap (where perhaps I shouldn't?). – Bart Mar 8 '13 at 20:43
  • My parents are why I'm so "white/male/racist/sexist/English(though not the proper form)", so perhaps that one could be moved to Meta.Parenting.SE? Certainly sounds like their fault. – user7116 Mar 8 '13 at 20:44
  • @Bart Not all closures are clear cases, and, just like on the main site, I think some of these could have been saved by edits (especially the ones that aren't even closed). I think the majority of NC closures are probably right. There's some votes I don't really agree with, but I don't think it's being used incorrectly on the whole, or even most of the time – Ben Brocka Mar 8 '13 at 20:46
  • @Bart: I'm think all you've noted is that the rantier or more poorly worded they are the more likely they'll be closed. Perhaps a vote breakdown would reveal more of a spread than just pure NC. – user7116 Mar 8 '13 at 20:49
  • @sixlettervariables That might well be the case. Especially for the "suggested edit" example, which I did try to edit into shape to prevent exactly what happened (without much success). Perhaps my overall threshold for "not constructive" is just a bit higher. – Bart Mar 8 '13 at 20:53
  • @Bart: I've +1'd your question because ultimately I agree that we shut down some stuff too quickly. However, Ben's answer (+1) does a good job explaining the Why's. – user7116 Mar 8 '13 at 20:54

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