I've been using S.O. for a few years, and one thing which I have noticed these last few quarters, is that more and more questions get closed faster and faster.

The questions closed are not just the typical "do my homework for me" from some kind of "reputation 0" guy. They can be very interesting, come with references, explain what has been found so far, missing points, guidance, etc. More and more often, I stumble upon interesting questions I can't even answer due to them being closed "on sight".

This is happening especially on S.O. proper. I'm not commenting for affiliate sites.

My theory is that S.O. may be experiencing the equivalent of a money devaluation problem. It's kind of inevitable, since the system distributes much more points than it takes away. Simply said, too many points have been accumulated overtime. As a consequence, it's becoming too easy for too many people to lock others. And some of them just "experience their right to silence others". It's no longer a pondered choice, rather along the line : "I don't like that, let's annoy the guy, after all it's free, I still have a gazillion points to use."

I know there are a few limitations to avoid extreme behaviors, but you get the idea : too many points distributed = too many people having the cheap right to use their power against others (and typically against newcomers).

So, now to the question : if it is an inflation problem, maybe inflation rules could be used? For instance, instead of having a fixed threshold to get some offensive powers, and a fixed cost, maybe these threshold and cost could evolve overtime, taking into consideration the amount of "money" (points) available on the site?

[Edit] Sorry, I wasn't accurate enough. I meant "closing", not locking. But the question is more about dealing with inflating number of points accumulated and using offensive powers.

  • 8
    Can you provide examples? Also, are you talking about locking or closing?
    – Shog9
    Commented Apr 25, 2013 at 16:42
  • 4
    Ah, but we need more users with close privs to handle more questions being created, don't we? Even if there was "inflation," it's certainly working as intended. Remember, closing a question isn't permanent.
    – Charles
    Commented Apr 25, 2013 at 16:43
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    Yes, the standards of what is acceptable or not has changed over time to be more restrictive, and there are now Review Queues where users can go find questions that have close votes, and add their vote if they agree with the close reason. Things you might have seen tolerated a few years ago are no longer considered acceptable, and more users are using the Review Queues to help out with the task of closing questions according to the current standards.
    – Rachel
    Commented Apr 25, 2013 at 16:46
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    Is this an example of what you are talking about?
    – Antony
    Commented Apr 25, 2013 at 16:49
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    Without examples, this is a pointless rant.
    – user164207
    Commented Apr 25, 2013 at 17:01
  • I'm trying to find back these examples. But since I could not answer them, they are not in my list of "answers", obviously. That makes the search quite difficult.
    – Cyan
    Commented Apr 25, 2013 at 17:05
  • See also: It is too easy to close inconvenient questions
    – ale
    Commented Apr 25, 2013 at 17:18
  • 1
  • 1
    Do you mean "offensive" as opposed to "pleasant" or as opposed to "defensive"?
    – Pops
    Commented Apr 25, 2013 at 19:04
  • The latter, I'm sure. And as a consequence of that, apparently also the former, @PopularDemand. Commented Apr 25, 2013 at 19:06

3 Answers 3


Stack Overflow suffers from a scalability problem. In the early days, when the site only attracted software professionals, folks could be counted on to stay more or less on-topic, and the rules were more relaxed.

But today people with all sorts of backgrounds want to participate, including people for whom English is a second language, people who are underage, students wanting help with their homework, and people with little to no programming experience trying to write the next Angry Birds and get rich. Many of these folks don't get our primary mission, which is to be a repository for quality programming knowledge. Many of their behaviors are not consistent with that mission.

Consequently, it has become necessary to follow a stricter interpretation of the rules, and to put in automated safeguards. Some of us remember when the site was being flooded with low-quality questions; tightening the rules was part of the response to that.

I'm not sure that "since more people now have close privileges, questions are getting closed too easily" is a defensible position. If anything, the increasing size and diversity of the user base demands greater participation from the community to maintain a reasonable state of order.

  • 10
    +1 for "people with little to no programming experience trying to write the next Angry Birds and get rich". Just recently closed as not constructive of someone trying to write the next Facebook.
    – Antony
    Commented Apr 25, 2013 at 16:53
  • Well, I like the answer. Funny and instructive. But judging from the downvotes, there are apparently questions which should not be asked on SO, nor MSO.
    – Cyan
    Commented Apr 25, 2013 at 16:57
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    @Cyan Meta downvotes are different. People simply disagree with what you said.
    – Antony
    Commented Apr 25, 2013 at 16:58
  • @Cyan Antony is correct. Have a look at the FAQ entry on Meta voting: meta.stackoverflow.com/faq#vote-differences
    – Bart
    Commented Apr 25, 2013 at 17:16
  • "people who are underage": what's the age limit for SO? Commented Apr 25, 2013 at 17:21
  • @Gabriel 13, unless you have the consent of your guardian, so a 15 year old is still allowed to use the site, but they are still not legally an adult (in most countries) and hence are "underage".
    – Servy
    Commented Apr 25, 2013 at 17:23
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    @Gabriel 93 - people who are overage
    – Antony
    Commented Apr 25, 2013 at 17:24
  • Me awarding a bounty to you for this answer seems pointless given your enormous collection of unicorn dollars, but this really is an extremely important statement to have on Meta, and not just as a reply to this particular question. This post clearly and gracefully elaborates the reason behind the increasingly strict enforcement of standards that catches so many people off guard and raises so many hackles. I wish it was more visible than an answer to a closed question.
    – jscs
    Commented May 14, 2013 at 20:56

I have to agree that I think it is too easy to close a question. The second question I asked here (how to use a Java SDK to establish a connection to a local service) was closed as 'off topic', yet one of the people who flagged the question as "off topic" has asked a question about "empirical technical reasons not to use jQuery?" and that is still alive and active.

From the About SO page, a user should "Focus on questions about an actual problem you have faced. Include details about what you have tried and exactly what you are trying to do." - I think I meet the criteria with my question; feel free to look. The jQuery question has none of that in it.

The question that was posed about not using jQuery sounds like it would be a better fit for the Programmers SE site, given it's charter is "Q&A for professional programmers interested in conceptual questions about software development"

  • 2
    If I'm looking at the question you are talking about, then you might want to focus more on the problem you face and how to solve it. Don't merely ask for code samples, which is what you seem to be doing now.
    – Bart
    Commented Apr 25, 2013 at 18:34

Your underlying point about the devaluation of reputation is valid. Privilege thresholds should be raised gradually to keep the value of the privileges in sync with the value of overall reputation in general. If the thresholds remain static as the overall number of points increase, one can envision a future in which large percentage of users have access to high-level privileges without the necessity of maintaining regular activity on the site.

Stated another way: Should an intermittently-active user who joined the site many years ago have the same privileges as one who is actively involved on the site on a daily basis now? Is there not a possibility of abuse as old, highly-ranked users come back on a whim?

  • Well, exactly. Especially for offensive privileges. It's one thing if the highest 1000 S.O. users get the privilege to shut down questions, it's another one if 50 000 S.O. users get the same right.
    – Cyan
    Commented Apr 25, 2013 at 17:08
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    This assumes the userbase stays static. The underlying user base is growing and with it the number of questions and answers. We need more users with the ability to shut down questions, not less.
    – user7116
    Commented Apr 25, 2013 at 17:20
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    @Cyan That doesn't make sense at all, because the number of users is proportional to the number of close-worthy questions asked. The more users, the more questions needing closure. The only real suggestion that would make sense based on George's concerns is if everyone lost just a little bit of rep over time while inactive, as an inactive user (even if they were once active) is likely to be worthy of at least a bit less trust than when they were active, due to the site changing, and them forgetting, but I don't think that would go over well, so I sure wouldn't suggest it.
    – Servy
    Commented Apr 25, 2013 at 17:21

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