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Is the policy concerning visibility of close vote count documented somewhere? I gather that the count is visible to the submitter and the >3k crowd, but not to others. If so, is the rationale documented anywhere?

Related question: Display close votes for all users

Update: Appreciate the opinions and dialog about the rationale around the policy, but still interested in clarification about the policy itself and whether's there's any "official" documentation on it. In particular, I'm looking for pointers to documentation on what the >3k folks can see relative to the close votes. Can they see who voted to close? Can they see the reasons for closing?

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    You should be able to tell if the question is good or not.... – Doorknob Jun 26 '13 at 13:15
  • Why would it be useful to anyone who can't vote to close how others are voting to close (with the exception of the OP)? – yannis Jun 26 '13 at 13:15
  • @Yannis And you can view CVs on your own question at 250 rep, so that's good – Doorknob Jun 26 '13 at 13:16
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    Currently, time is being wasted by people answering questions that ultimately get closed and deleted. I'd say that's incentive enough to stop answering bad questions. – LittleBobbyTables Jun 26 '13 at 13:18
  • @Yannis - Not sure I can state the usefulness any more clearly than in the last two sentences of my question. Can you be more specific about what is not clear in those sentences? – Peter Alfvin Jun 26 '13 at 13:22
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    @Doorknob - You (and LBT) seem to believe that there is some consensus as to what constitutes a "bad question". Perhaps there is amongst a subset of the population, but there seems to be a lot of ambiguity/subjectivity from my perspective. In any event, seeing the close votes would help the "rest of us" come to understand what the subset apparently agrees upon. Better still would be the ability to see the reasons for the close votes. – Peter Alfvin Jun 26 '13 at 13:26
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    Wow, five quick downvotes on a question asking about documentation on a policy. I'm guessing the downvotes are on the opinion I expressed about the policy, but who knows? Is the documentation readily available and the downvotes mean that I should have found it? Should the policy and have rationale have been obvious to me? – Peter Alfvin Jun 26 '13 at 13:28
  • A bad question usually gets downvotes and critical comments in minutes. Isn't that a good enough hint that it might not be worth your time. As for the downvotes, although I didn't downvote, this isn't just a question about documentation. There's a bit of opinion in there, and it's tagged discussion. Enough to warrant a disagreement downvote, I think (that's how voting usually works on Meta). – yannis Jun 26 '13 at 13:32
  • @Yannis - In my limited experience with this, I believe the voting on the question remained net positive through it's short lifetime, but I'm not sure. You can't see downvotes on a question, per se, can you? There were no negative comments on the question, one constructive comment and 8 upvotes on the single answer I gave. The question is discussed in meta.stackexchange.com/questions/185842/… – Peter Alfvin Jun 26 '13 at 13:40
  • @Yannis - Thanks for supporting my suspicion that the downvotes were on the opinion I expressed. I'll try to be careful not to mix opinion with questions next time. We're down to net -6 on this question now. :-) – Peter Alfvin Jun 26 '13 at 13:41
  • For the record, this question originally ended ended with the following commentary. "Currently, time is being wasted by people answering questions that ultimately get closed and deleted. If everyone could see the close vote count, at least answerers would be given an indication of the risk involved in spending time on the question." – Peter Alfvin Jun 26 '13 at 13:47
  • @Doorknob maybe this is an edge case but what about when you consider a question good but it get's closed anyway? I've had that happen once or twice. – Daniel Jun 26 '13 at 13:48
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    @Daniel If it happens just occasionally then it shouldn't be a major problem. If it's happening constantly it means that your views on quality differ radically from the community here, and you'll need to adjust to that and learn to at least understand what the community's standards are, even if you don't agree with them. – Servy Jun 26 '13 at 14:16
  • @LBT "I'd say that's incentive enough to stop answering bad questions." I wish. In many cases the site mechanics encourage answering of obvious duplicates and general reference question. The answer gets a few quick points and the OP learns that they can get what they want by ignoring the rules. Fey! – dmckee Jun 26 '13 at 15:26
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    to answer questions about what 3K users see, 1) they see number of votes cast for particular reason in close dialog (dialog screen shot eg here); 2) if (if) CV was cast from review queue then anyone can see see it in user activity tab; 3) if CV was cast from outside of review queue, it remains anonymous until question is closed – gnat Jun 26 '13 at 18:56
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Here is the rationale:

  • most people are irritated by seeing something going on they cannot be part of. Since <3K can't cast close votes or "leave open" votes, showing them the progress could be either confusing or frustrating
  • one close vote doesn't mean a question is going to be closed. Some people are wrong and vtc in error. Showing that, especially to people not super familiar with the close process, could scare you off from answering a good question
  • sometimes a bad question hasn't yet attracted any close votes - but it will! An absence of close votes will never mean "go ahead and answer this"
  • sometimes a bad question gets a close vote and is then edited to be a good question again. It might even get 4 close votes and then be edited. Should it be closed by getting a 5th vote, it can be reopened (because it has been edited into a good question.) But since close votes tend to hang around even though they technically can be retracted, it may sit with 1 (or 4) close votes for days until they expire, even though it is now a good question. Showing inexperienced users the close votes on this question might really confuse them.

Your criteria for answering is simple: is it a good and answerable question? And, I suppose, do you know the answer? If the question is off topic for the site, too broad, missing information that you need to answer, and so on - don't answer it!

When you are new to the site, you probably aren't sure how to tell if something is a good question or not. That's why you don't have close vote privileges. So you might answer a question that gets closed, or hold back from answering and later revisit the question and discover it was not closed and other people have written answers similar to those you might have written. You might take a wild guess at "psychic debugging" and answer a question that was missing details, then after the question was put on hold and later edited, people might downvote your answer or leave you comments saying you're totally wrong. These things sting a little, but in this way, you will get better at spotting "good" and "bad" questions for yourself. If you could see that one unknown person thinks it should be closed, or 4 do, you could just blindly rely on their judgement instead of developing your own. While I have not seen this reasoning written down anywhere, I believe it applies.

Your question, as originally written, implied you'd be perfectly happy to answer very poor questions if they were to happen to escape attention and not get closed. I don't think that's a good strategy. If you're just about rep, know you can get upvotes for answers to a closed question, so go on ahead and answer everything, good or bad, likely to be closed or not, etc. But if you're about helping people and making the internet better, don't answer bad questions. If you can see that it's bad, that's all you need to know. Whether other people have already drawn that conclusion or not is irrelevant.

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    The criteria for answering is not as simple as it looks. "Good" is hard to understand for a newbie. So is "off topic for the site". – Manishearth Jun 26 '13 at 14:07
  • Thank you for your response and for sharing your understanding of the rationale. Should I assume that, as far as you know, the current policy and rationale is not documented anywhere else? Also, FWIW, it was not my intent to imply that I'd be happy to answer bad questions. I do not want to do that because I do not want to encourage bad questions. I'm also not (just ;-) about rep. That said, my primary concern is about spending time answering questions that get deleted. I admit to being frustrated by that. – Peter Alfvin Jun 26 '13 at 14:08
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    @Manishearth good point and I've added a paragraph about developing that judgement over time – Kate Gregory Jun 26 '13 at 14:15
  • @PeterAlfvin the good news is that the judgement to spot "likely to be deleted" is easier to acquire than "likely to be on hold a while and emerge after a good edit" – Kate Gregory Jun 26 '13 at 14:16
  • @KateGregory Yes, but in the meantime, it's a bad experience for users to answer stuff only to have the question closed. – Manishearth Jun 26 '13 at 16:24
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    @Manishearth closed <> deleted. And will they have more disappointment if they avoid questions with a close vote / answer those without or it they avoid questions they are starting to learn are bad / answer those they are starting to learn are good? Random other close voters are not definitely correct - that's why we need 5 votes – Kate Gregory Jun 26 '13 at 16:55
  • @KateGregory Yes, but I've seen a lot of people whining about it. Also people whine when they start to write an answer and the question suddently gets closed halfway through. Also, see my proposal -- it's a chance to teach them, and good phrasing (as well as triggering it after 2 or 3 votes) will not be a deterrent to answering if they try to understand. – Manishearth Jun 26 '13 at 17:03
  • consider editing the obsolete statement that "close votes cannot be cancelled" - less than a month after this answer system was changed to allow retracting (I'd rephrase it to something like "voters may forget or miss retracting" - I think many indeed do) – gnat Jul 21 '15 at 9:33
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I actually agree here, in part.

I only see the following (unconvincing) reasons to not make the current close vote count public:

  • To avoid excessive whining
  • To possibly avoid flag-farming from visiting users. Users with <3k rep can flag to close, if the close votes were displayed some may use it to quickly determine if a question needs closing and artificially inflate flag weight
  • It's useless, why is it necessary? It clogs up the view.

Note that the contents of the close dialog (along with the break up of close votes) is available via AJAX (I have a bookmarklet somewhere that can tally close votes on a site which I don't have enough reputation on).

The first two reasons seem pretty hollow to me.

Of course, there still is the following question:

Why should we show it? What's the need?

I do see a need here. A major one. Maybe not for the exact feature you propose, but for something that accomplishes the task better.

"What is acceptable for this site" is not a very clear concept, especially to newbies. I've seen people answer closed questions all the time. And then they end up disappointed that the question is closed. This is a rather bad experience, IMO. Even worse is when a question gets closed as you are halfway through writing an answer for it.

What if we showed a "Be warned, this question may get closed" dialog (using the blue callout, maybe) for questions with 2+ recent close votes. Something like:

There is a chance that this question does not follow the rules, and may get put on hold. You may want to consider waiting a while or checking if it indeed doesn't fit the rules before posting.

It may be a good idea to pepper it with links on what makes a good question/what these mystical "rules" are. Alternatively, add a link that opens a dialog which lists the currently selected close reasons (which clearly describe the post issues).

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    While your response didn't answer my question about where the documentation is on this ;-), I upvoted it because I agree with your position on the issue. When in Rome .... – Peter Alfvin Jun 26 '13 at 14:24

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