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I am glad SO is rationalizing the close policy. I had been repeatedly admonishing closers, and looks like I was not the only one.

On to the topic, is there a reputational incentive to vote to close? Anytime I see people going overboard with something I wonder what is their specific motivatation (other than altruism). There are points for good answers and questions, and these points seemed to have acquired reputational value outside SO.

I could not find any other source of point awards other than q/a votes. What motivates close votes? More generally, if not points, what motivates closing, deleting, copy-editing, and other such activities?

I know there are badges but I am not sure they are as valuable as points.

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    The only incentive is keeping the site clean. :) – animuson Jun 25 '13 at 20:47
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    That, and the sweet, sweet rush you get from closing questions. Speaking of which, my buzz is fading, time to go close some more... – LittleBobbyTables Jun 25 '13 at 20:49
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    We also close questions to summon Lance – LittleBobbyTables Jun 25 '13 at 20:59
  • Yeah, the feeling that you're superior to the guy who posted the question. That's why we have so many people closing perfectly legit questions. – Mehrdad Jul 9 '13 at 21:44
  • @Mehrdad also a sense of insecurity "if i can't answer it, may be the question is wrong". see: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/187938/… – agks mehx Jul 9 '13 at 22:00
  • @agksmehx: Oh yeah, you're definitely right -- I've seen that countless times, it annoys the hell out of me. Thanks for the link. – Mehrdad Jul 9 '13 at 22:34
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Is there an Incentive to vote to close?

Power!

Everyone wants to be part of that elite team of people who can be one of the five to completely destroy someone's hope of getting an answer.

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    Nah, that's the delete privilege. :P – animuson Jun 25 '13 at 20:53
  • @animuson If you want to go down that road, it's the Jeff Atwood privilege :) – Undo Jun 25 '13 at 20:54
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    -1 for suggesting close voters are on a power trip. +1 because, unfortunately, sometimes that's quite true. – yannis Jun 25 '13 at 20:59
  • I wanted a compelling example before accepting your answer. It came to me today: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/187938/… However, I would add a nuance to your answer for completeness (no fair answering myself and accepting). The nuance is that people are usually not that bad to trivially power trip. My strong suspicion is that some members feel challenged by a question and try to find a way to blame it on the question. Closing it prevents an answer that could perhaps make them feel uncomfortable. – agks mehx Jul 9 '13 at 20:52
  • The problem with this answer is the equation of "question closed" with "no answer for you" instead of with "hang on; nobody answer while it's a mess, let's get this made right so it can be answered." – Kate Gregory Jul 9 '13 at 23:26
  • @KateGregory If somebody had answered that sometimes the incentive is "let's get this made right", and at other times the privilege is abused (see my example in comment above), then I would have accepted that answer. This is the only answer that includes the significant amount of abusive closing. The other answers take a victorian approach which denies the reality. – agks mehx Jul 10 '13 at 0:04
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What motivates close votes? More generally, if not points, what motivates closing, deleting, copy-editing, and other such activities?

There's no reputation gained for closing and deleting questions. Keeping the site clean and on-topic is my primary motivation for these activities. If we let off-topic questions stay open and get answers, they'll attract more off-topic questions and Stack Overflow won't be about programming anymore.

  • And it's neat to see your name below a bad question as one of the burninators. Just sayin' – Undo Jun 25 '13 at 20:54
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    @Undo If I wanted to see my name below a bad question I could just ask one. ;p – Bill the Lizard Jun 25 '13 at 20:55
  • @Undo: Only when it's before Tim Stone's name. – animuson Jun 25 '13 at 20:55
  • Thanks for an authoritative answer to whether there is a reputational benefit or not, and for sharing your primary motivation. + Good work on your part and whoever else was involved in the recent improvements to the process. There does seem to be something behavioral that then explains the runaway process that desperately needed correction. – agks mehx Jun 25 '13 at 21:42
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    I think I could get a whiff of the behavioral aspect on a wrongly closed question today. Accordingly I accepted a different answer to this question today, that was closest to the behavioral issue. I added my observation as a comment since it would not be fair to answer my own question and accept it. Thank you again for your own kind and nice answer, and for not ignoring the issue! – agks mehx Jul 9 '13 at 20:58
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You do not get reputation for closing questions.

You do not get badges for closing questions. (I think. If there is one that doesn't come to mind, then it's not the primary motivator for most people closing posts.)

For most people, they're voting to close to make the site, and thus indirectly the whole internet, a better place.

Closing questions really does help a lot in order to ensure quality content. A lot of time/effort has gone into working to determine what types of questions result in quality content and what does not, and to close questions that have a high probability of generating very low quality answers and a low probability of generating high quality answers.

It doesn't always seem obvious to new users (and even some old ones) just how profound of an improvement this can make, but as you spend more and more time on the site you really begin to notice questions that don't get closed that meet the close criteria and what actually happens to most of them. It's not pretty. It often takes a lot more time and effort to deal with the problems that arise from leaving these questions around than to just nip them in the bud right when they pop up. It's not only better for people curating the site or answering questions, but it's usually better for the person asking a question; having an opportunity to fix a problematic question without it being cluttered with very low quality answers makes it more likely to get good answers when it's finally improved.

  • You can get Custodian, Reviewer and Steward badges from reviewing items in the Close Vote queue, FWIW. – LittleBobbyTables Jun 25 '13 at 20:54
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    @LBT You can also get those badges in that queue without voting to close a single question ;) – Servy Jun 25 '13 at 20:57
  • My mind is blown – LittleBobbyTables Jun 25 '13 at 20:57
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    @LBT: Uh oh, did you watch the infinity times infinity commercial?? – animuson Jun 25 '13 at 20:59

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