Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe SO needs to revisit its policy concerning how moderators can act. In the past few months I've noticed that nearly half of the very useful, very relevant questions I've come across via Google search have been closed for being "irrelevant," "not constructive," etc., etc.

Here's a question for you: if a question is closed for being "Not constructive," then why do so many people find it in Google and flock to it for answers?

Here's an excellent example: Cross-browser jquery ajax history with window.history.pushState and fallback

A very useful, well-constructed question with a couple great answers and excellent examples that I'll be using once I'm done with this rant. Yet it is closed as "not constructive."

How is a question that deals with exactly the problem I'm trying to solve today, and has answers that have exposed me to techniques I wasn't aware of, "not constructive"?


Here's another example: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/4986918/storm-cloud-servers-anybody-used-them-any-reviews-and-or-advice

I asked that question previous to being aware that ServerFault existed. Now, aware that any questions about infrastructure should be posted to SeverFault, I can see why this question is 'off-topic' for SO. But, rather than move the question to SF, or even post a comment about the correct course of action, it's closed with no useful explanation.

This doesn't prevent the question from being found via Google though, which makes me wonder what the point of 'closing' questions is in the first place, it simply sends an ambigous message to the OP that they've done something 'off-topic'.

Perhaps that problem isn't so much zealotry amongst the ranks of the mods as much as the moderation procedure, as it currently exists, is not constructive due to the fact that it provides no useful error messages.

  • 20
    If you think there is a general problem with moderation, post about that (and include more than just one example). If you just want this question to be opened, post about that, and focus on the merits of the question. All the anger / ranting / accusation just distracts from your point. – Josh Darnell Apr 10 '13 at 21:08
  • 10
    Stack Overflow is not really the place to get "exposed to techniques you weren't aware of", it's a place to get solutions to specific programming problems. If that also exposes you to techniques you weren't aware of, that's great, but it's not the site's primary goal. – yannis Apr 10 '13 at 21:11
  • 6
    Everyone flocks to Youtube to watch silly videos and leave inane, bigoted comments that have turned the internet into a cesspool. Clearly this is because Youtube is the most productive use of their time. – Asad Saeeduddin Apr 10 '13 at 21:11
  • 8
    1) Can you give more than one example of this, so we can figure out exactly what your problem is? 2) The question you linked was closed nearly a year ago, and the person who closed it isn't even a moderator anymore, so perhaps a more current example would be useful? 3) Moderators are humans--we can make mistakes. If you find a question you think was closed by mistake, you can always flag it for moderator attention and explain. – WendiKidd Apr 10 '13 at 21:12
  • 10
    On the flip side, this is a question that's obviously received a huge number of views (though not a huge number of upvotes) and is barely readable. If it's going to attract that degree of traffic, perhaps someone should edit it so that you can read the thing (I'd do it myself, but I don't trust my own ability to understand what's being said). – Ben Barden Apr 10 '13 at 21:17
  • 2
    The team knows that "not constructive" is not ideal wording for what they mean to express, and changes are in the works. The short answer for you is that the close reason might better be written as "this is not necessarily a bad question, but it doesn't align with our site's philosophy." – Pops Apr 10 '13 at 21:17
  • 7
    @AJB I can't imagine where you got the idea that SO is for exposing you to new techniques. It's for helping people with their programming problems; that part isn't really in dispute – Michael Mrozek Apr 10 '13 at 21:22
  • 3
    @RobertHarvey oh, sure. I'm just trying to explain the logic - "It's been viewed a whole bunch of times" => "It's helped a whole bunch of people (including the OP" => "It's obviously an awesome question" => "Why has it been closed?" => "Obviously there is something wrong with the mods". I personally find some of the connections a bit tenuous, but I can see where the thought comes from. – Ben Barden Apr 10 '13 at 21:22
  • 1
    Ben Barden: Yes, the question is very popular. I don't why you feel that it's 'unreadable'. I read it just fine. And it was exactly the same problem I was trying to solve today. This is common occurance on SO anymore. I literally don't have the time to sort through every SO question I've come across that falls into this same cateogry. – AJB Apr 10 '13 at 21:22
  • 2
    Popularity alone doesn't make a question good, nor does it guarantee that a question is well-formed. Some of the most popular questions in the history of Stack Overflow were questions like "What is your favorite programmer cartoon?" Or this mundane but incredibly popular question, made legendary by Bobince's epic answer. – user102937 Apr 10 '13 at 21:30
  • 11
    @AJB but you do have time to come here and call for a general overhaul of the mod system based on a single, outdated example? Also, I believe that this is the community as a whole following your initial request, and correcting you. – Ben Barden Apr 10 '13 at 21:36
  • 8
    The point, of course, being that the closure in no way prevented you from getting help. – user102937 Apr 10 '13 at 21:45
  • 6
    I'm reopening this question with minor edits for constructiveness. This isn't about Lasse or any other moderator or close-voting user, and it's certainly not about the USSR. – Adam Lear Apr 10 '13 at 22:05
  • 4
    The Stack Exchange network of sites do not exist to expose you, @AJB, to new ideas. These sites are not about you. Get over yourself. – user164207 Apr 10 '13 at 22:14
  • 5
    @AJB - People who wish to ask useful, well-researched questions and who want to give detailed, useful answers to those questions ("useful" as per the FAQ). Notice that this list of people does not solely consist of you. – user164207 Apr 10 '13 at 22:16

That question received five moderator flags on four link-only answers that moderators subsequently deleted. I imagine that contributed to the decision to close it as Not Constructive. We can't babysit these things forever, you know.

As to the justification for the closure, the OP is asking for examples, automatically making the question "List All the Things." A classic example of Not Constructive.

In any case, some community members have graciously taken a bit of time out of their day to edit the question to make it more constructive, so I cast a reopen vote, put the "insufficient explanation" banner on it, and protected it so that only users with 10 reputation or more can post new answers.

OK, I saw the new example you posted, and it seems pretty clear that you have a basic misunderstanding of what Stack Exchange is all about.

There are any number of sites where people can go to discuss shopping recommendations. Stack Exchange is not one of those places. In an effort to improve the signal-to-noise ratio and do our small part to improve the Internet, we've decided, as a community, to exclude whole categories of popular, but unproductive practices. We've chosen to give our sites a singular focus, and require all contributors to do the same. If that means that some material is excluded to further that end, then so be it.

The new question you linked is neither constructive, nor on-topic for Stack Overflow. It was closed accordingly.

The close reasons that are placed onto closed questions are deliberately somewhat ambiguous. We don't want to, nor should we have to, write a detailed explanation every time a question is closed. There is ample information, both here and on the main site, for users to quickly become productive without running afoul of the rules.

  • Why would I go to Amazon.com to seek reliable advice on one of their competitors? Why wouldn't I use a service that I already know is overflowing with reliable, expert opinions? Also, I don't believe I've ever posted anything about how much beer I've consumed or turtles. I can understand you deal with this day-in, day-out, but perhaps you should try to keep your own posts a little more 'on-topic'. – AJB Apr 10 '13 at 23:41
  • 1
    Edited to satisfy your objections. To find out more about why shopping recommendations are not allowed, please read QA is Hard, Let's Go Shopping! – user102937 Apr 10 '13 at 23:42
  • And, I really can't help it but, the last paragraph of your post, about 'users quickly becoming productive without running afoul of the rules.' Not gonna lie to you, that really doesn't read so well. I think you might want to start thinking about your users as the only reason your business exists rather than an inconvenience that needs to be trained. – AJB Apr 10 '13 at 23:43
  • 10
    There's nothing objectionable in the last paragraph. There is no training; new users either figure it out, or they wash out. That's not inconvenient, unfair or cruel; it's just the way it is. Stack Overflow has far too many visitors for us to individually hand-hold each person. – user102937 Apr 10 '13 at 23:45
  • 1
    +1 for the last paragraph alone. And not only do new users either figure it out or wash out, but if they wash out, there are plenty of other new users to take their place. – user164207 Apr 11 '13 at 0:32
  • @Robertharvey: Wow. I didn't realise that I had to join the Marines to get help with my Javascript problem. Anyhow, this is exhausting. You're right. I've successfully had a poor experience on StackOverflow. You win. – AJB Apr 11 '13 at 2:07

“Are there any examples of …” is a bit of a red flag on Stack Exchange. Stack Exchange is not a discussion forum or a link collection, it's a questions and answers site. The question had attracted many answers of the form: “yes, there's an example at URL”. These pseudo-answers are not useful: you have to go off-site and fish for content (they all point to large libraries, not even to a specific hunk of code that actually solves the problem).

On the other hand, the question is a fundamentally good one at the core: it has a precise goal and even an attempt at a solution. I've edited it to fit more into the Stack Exchange way of doing things, and voted to reopen.

Keep in minds that moderators on Stack Overflow handle hundreds of flags per day. They don't have time to babysit each and every post. Anyone on the Internet could have edited the question like I did — yes, even you. (I don't even know anything about the subject matter — I hope I didn't mangle anything.) If you see a poor or ill-fitting but salvageable question, edit it. It's far more useful all around than just complaining about it.

Whatever you think of moderators' actions, there's no call for insults. Keep civil. Be nice.

  • Hi @Gilles, I see your point, and I understand why there needs to be some structure. But anymore it seems as though almost every question is "a bit of a red flag on [StackOverflow]". – AJB Apr 10 '13 at 21:41
  • 7
    @AJB Since there are many questions asked here daily that remain open and obtain useful answers, I disagree with that assessment. Asking for tutorials and examples is outside the site scope, and most questions of this sort are closed. Fortunately, this wasn't a "Tutorial please" question per se, only phrased as one, so it was edited and reopened. – Asad Saeeduddin Apr 10 '13 at 21:45


There should be more help in the way of regurgitating these questions into a queue where they can be deleted and thus stop future users coming in with false expectations or views askew of what questions should be left open.

That no other user has wanted to fix up the question into a manner less inclined invariably leads other users to complain about the question being closed instead of spending a minute or two fixing it up into something that isn't just asking for a grab bag of whatchadongs.

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