We all know the problem with the close votes queue, but it seems the problem is people not reviewing enough. Whenever I had time, I would go through all 40 that I was given, but by then I wanted to do more. Would raising that limit of 40 and not counting Close Votes queue votes towards your daily close vote allowance help?
Instead of increasing the review limit for everyone, I suggest incrementally increase it based on current rep, somewhat similar to the system of number of post flags per day based on rep. This would be the best balance.
- 40 for > 3k rep
- 50 for > 5k rep
- 60 for > 10k rep
- 80 for > 20k rep
- Unlimited for trusted users (25k rep, after all they are trusted)
The real problem is that too many questions that probably should be closed are on the site and need to be dealt with by up to 5 users - and then they get edited and enter yet another queue when the OP tries to get it re-opened. This ends up taking up a lot of reviewers' time. We also have the problem of so, so, so many duplicate questions getting introduced, and in a lot of cases people just answer them because that is easier than finding a duplicate (I am certainly guilty of that).
What if we had an additional queue to prevent bad questions from appearing in the first place? Let's say a "new question" queue where posts meeting any of the following criteria are placed before they appear on the site, or at least before you can answer:
- low quality filter (obviously)
- posts from users with < x rep
- posts from users that have had more than x% of their questions closed
- posts from users who have never asked a question
Perhaps they only appear to users with certain rep until they are approved, like deleted posts are only visible to 10K. But if they meet any of these criteria, you should be able to comment on them but not answer, until they are approved. For folks wanting to answer the question and earn rep, this is motivation to approve them.
This spreads out these questions into two review queues: bad questions that were posted and then community members marked them as bad, and potentially good questions that need to be approved. This buys reviewers time to find duplicates, too, before anyone wastes any time posting answers. Now, how will this decrease the workload? Perhaps it only requires three certain-rep users to approve a question. How will we motivate this queue to be processed as quickly as it is populated? Give more rep and/or additional badges, and make its daily limit much higher. Preventing answering the question (just as if it were closed or locked) would be motivation as well.
I firmly believe that raising the cap would help tremendously. I frequently max out the cap, and so do dozens of other folks. It isn't that hard to do, especially if you filter the queue to streamline your review -- most close votes are either so easy I can decide them in 15 seconds or less or are far enough outside my expertise that the obvious move is to skip the question and move to the next one. I would review more if I didn't get capped at 40.
Is there really a problem? If so, what?
I have only been active on SO for a few months, and I obviously have only been able to access the review tools for part of that time. During that time I have nonetheless watched the queue grow from about 90k to more than 110k. That kind of number verges on the realm of the ain't-gonna-happen. But having 100k+ potentially bad questions on here drags down the quality of the site, so it needs to get fixed.
Why raise the cap?
The fundamental question here is: why cap it? Nobody wants to see a bunch of reviewers get trigger-happy and close tons of good questions. But the point here is this: these questions have already been flagged for closure. We're not talking about allowing newbs to go all Lone Ranger and unilaterally close the most famous questions on SO; we're talking about letting trusted users cast one of five votes necessary to close a question that has already gotten at least one of those votes or been flagged by the system as probable junk.
[Edit: Cole's comments raise the opposite concern, that of badge-whores auto-voting to leave bad questions open. This is a legitimate concern, too, but that's the entire purpose of the audit system; it puts the brakes on when it becomes clear that people are on autopilot and not paying attention. Besides, no one (non-moderator) voter can keep the question open. Again, the point here is that these are supposed to be trusted users. If we can't trust users to review responsibly, the entire SO/SE model is broken. I don't think it is, and I don't think others who are bothering looking at meta in the first place think it's broken, either.]
I agree with Samuel that tying the cap to reputation makes sense. This helps limit the Lone Ranger problem and ensures that reviewers have significant experience with the site before they can go too crazy with close votes. But Samuel's point and mine are the same in this respect: the cap should be raised.
Aaron's suggestion is appealing at first glance, and an approval queue for new questions by new users may become necessary. That said, I agree with the comments on his answer that such a queue would frustrate new users and reduce or eliminate one of the best values of this site: the ability to get high-quality answers very quickly. An approval queue would also lead to gamesmanship: a reputation-seeking reviewer has an incentive to craft a great answer, then vote to approve the question, then post the answer within seconds of the question going "live." New users -- who lack access to the approval queue -- would find it nearly impossible to compete with this except on the most difficult questions, further driving down their incentive to participate actively on the site.
One more suggestion
There is no reason the number of votes required to close needs to be five in all circumstances. That number should be lower if, for example, the question already has significant downvotes. Likewise, if it is flagged by multiple users as a duplicate and the system can detect substantial similarities between the question and its duplicate with some simple statistics, that should reduce the number of votes required. There are probably other examples that have not come to mind.