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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?

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  • Note: The question in question is: stackoverflow.com/questions/16366354/… May 3, 2013 at 20:02
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    Flag as "other" and explain. Moderator can reopen then close again in a few seconds. May 3, 2013 at 20:04
  • Vote to delete and it will soon be gone.
    – juergen d
    May 3, 2013 at 20:05
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    @juergend - why? If we can get the proper redirect link, then it would be helpful (overall) May 3, 2013 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, 2013 at 20:09
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    Looks like @juergend won. :) May 3, 2013 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 :-( May 3, 2013 at 20:11

3 Answers 3

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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 an internal 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 a 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 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, 2013 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, 2013 at 20:39
  • The community decides that by using (or not using) their delete votes.
    – user102937
    May 3, 2013 at 20:41
  • @RobertHarvey based on what criteria?
    – djechlin
    May 3, 2013 at 20:41
  • See When should I vote to delete?
    – user102937
    May 3, 2013 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, 2013 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, 2013 at 20:51
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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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For good or bad, questions with the wrong close reason are left closed: https://meta.stackexchange.com/a/207220/282094.

If it should be closed as a duplicate you can leave a comment, hoping that someone with a dupehammer see it, or you can flag for a moderator to re-close it for the correct reason.

It's not thought worth involving two quorums to reopen and re-close an incorrectly closed question.

Simply having a link in a comment places the question into the linked list in the right column, this bidirectional link is still helpful, and eventually someone will fix it correctly.

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    Dupehammer users cannot change a close reason for a question closed for a non-duplicate reason unless they are a moderator. Nov 22, 2022 at 9:21
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    Also, it's useful to have the link in a much clearer spot, rather than in a sidebar which people are unlikely to notice. If the question is closed as a duplicate, anonymous users will be automatically redirected to the answered version if the duplicate doesn't have an answer, and for registered users and if someone did answer the dupe, the link will be in a much clearer spot at the top clearly pointing to the canonical answer. Nov 22, 2022 at 9:23

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