I just answered a C# question that was asked by someone who clearly doesn't know C#. The question was almost immediately closed. I don't have a problem with the question being closed, but I do have a problem with the reason. It was closed as "not a real question".

It is on topic by SO standards, as evidenced by the fact that the suggested duplicate (in a comment) was a successful question with 12 upvotes to the question and 50 upvotes to the selected answer. It should instead have been closed as a "duplicate", which would result in a giant link to the other post that could benefit many other C# beginners by acting as a pointer.

Is it worth it to consider making "close reasons" contestable? I do have the option to vote to reopen the question, but this doesn't seem appropriate, since it should actually be closed. In general, how should this be addressed?

  • Note: The question in question is: stackoverflow.com/questions/16366354/… – smartcaveman May 3 '13 at 20:02
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    Flag as "other" and explain. Moderator can reopen then close again in a few seconds. – Shadow The Vaccinated Wizard May 3 '13 at 20:04
  • Vote to delete and it will soon be gone. – juergen d May 3 '13 at 20:05
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    @juergend - why? If we can get the proper redirect link, then it would be helpful (overall) – smartcaveman May 3 '13 at 20:07
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    I don't think we really need that duplicate. But that is just me. – juergen d May 3 '13 at 20:09
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    Looks like @juergend won. :) – Shadow The Vaccinated Wizard May 3 '13 at 20:10
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    @juergend, Yea, I agree. Was just kinda hoping that if it sat there for a couple years I'd get a reversal badge :-( – smartcaveman May 3 '13 at 20:11

In general, no, we don't really care which reason is selected if something is closed as one of the reasons which mean "invalid" or "doesn't belong on the site", meaning any of the four besides "duplicate". They all boil down to the same thing - "doesn't belong here." All close reasons have the same basic effect of prohibiting further answers.

However, there are different reasons for closing a question as a duplicate vs. as a non-duplicate reason. With non-duplicate reasons, it's because the question isn't suitable for the site, and we don't want this information cluttering the site or the precedent that those questions should go on the site. With duplicates, on the other hand, it's merely because answers already exist on another question and we'd like to keep them unified.

Duplicates are a closer cousin to valid questions that just happen to be answered by a link than they are to the other types of closed questions. I would suggest, if you think it's a legitimate question in its own right - viz. ask "if it weren't a duplicate, would it be a good question?" - vote to reopen, then vote to close as duplicate. This is because for the OP and future visitors, we want this question to be a lead to finding a correct answer. Think of closing as duplicate as a form of answering, not a form of closing. Then vote to close as duplicate, which is more like voting to reopen and answering than it is like voting to reopen and closing.

For the other cases, we are actively saying we that for the OP and future visitors, if they Google this question and wind up on Stack Exchange, they should turn back to the search results page. Because that question doesn't belong on the site, and this is our policy.

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    I agree in principle, but I don't really understand your last paragraph. Closing is indeed about marking questions for site suitability, but there are many closed questions that never get deleted which nevertheless contain useful information. Closing doesn't remove a question from Google; deletion does. – user102937 May 3 '13 at 20:37
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    @RobertHarvey I don't really know when a NARQ/NC question should be closed but not deleted. Any blog or meta explanation of this? – djechlin May 3 '13 at 20:39
  • The community decides that by using (or not using) their delete votes. – user102937 May 3 '13 at 20:41
  • @RobertHarvey based on what criteria? – djechlin May 3 '13 at 20:41
  • See When should I vote to delete? – user102937 May 3 '13 at 20:46
  • @RobertHarvey yeah, I'm reading. I might open a question on the topic since they all come down to ill-defined words like "useful" or "helpful" and boil down to "use your judgment." We don't seem to have cohesive theory on this distinction yet. "This question is useful but we don't want other people contributing to it" is kind of a weird policy and I think my last paragraph is more of a consequence of the problematic line. – djechlin May 3 '13 at 20:48
  • It may seem strange to you, but the community really does get to decide what they want to keep and what they want to throw into the trash bin. Once a question gets closed, it's really not that hard to figure out which ones are really worth keeping, and which ones are not. Hint: the keepers are the ones that managed to attract a really good answer in spite of the question being a poor one. – user102937 May 3 '13 at 20:51

In it's current form, it wasn't a real question. The code sample the op included looked to be syntactically incorrect due to a mismatched { and ], and as a result it wasn't clear if there was a variable passed in as the second argument or if the {0} was actually included by itself. I don't know enough about C# to know if Console.WriteLine("Length: {0}"); is valid or not, but it's not immediately clear what the context the user is seeing this command.

However, the closure and subsequent deletion, at least as not a real question, is a bit hasty. A simple

"hey bro, can you include more of the code or make sure you're showing us the actual code you're seeing"

would likely correct the largest problem with the question and may or may not have differentiated it from the duplicate. Other than that, asking for explanations of how something works is by no means off-topic, and the question would be quite valid with some clarifying comments and edits.

As for the duplicate issue, if it's been closed for the wrong reason, just flag it for moderator attention. The moderators can quickly and swiftly reopen a question and close it under the correct close reason. Use the "other" reason so that you can paste the link to the duplicate and explain the situation.

Of course, closing it as a duplicate should really only apply if the post is edited and cleaned up a bit. I suggest undeleting it so that the op has time to fix the problems.

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