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I see very often poorly written questions being closed put in hold without the minimum attempt by the voters to improve them.

For instance the OP has not included enough details, the question gets put in hold, but nobody even cared explaining what details where missing.

The outcome is likely to be a new user who didn't not understand how the question could have been improved. This is also likely to have to same user posting a similar question later.

My proposal would be a sort of anti-lazy check, preventing people to vote for closing when the question has no comments. It probably applies only to some closing reasons, namely:

  • unclear what you are asking
  • too broad
  • off-topic -> Questions concerning problems with code you've written must describe the specific problem — and include valid code to reproduce it — in the question itself

To wrap it up, when someone votes to close a question with no comments for one of the reasons above, a message like

Thanks for you vote. Before completing this action, would you mind adding comment explaining how this question could be improved?

will be displayed, forcing the voter to add a comment.

  • 3
    But in the event that a question is closed, there is a provided explanation as to why it was closed. This explanation would be better than any comment trying to explain why something will/is closed. – Josh Crozier Oct 23 '13 at 20:03
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    I guess my first thought is, if they aren't going to put any effort into the question, why should I put effort into fixing it for them? Put it on hold and let them fix it or not on their own. – asawyer Oct 23 '13 at 20:03
  • That's a general explanation that's likely to be of no use to a new user, in my opinion. – Gabriele Petronella Oct 23 '13 at 20:04
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    @asawyer Very often, it's not a matter of effort, but rather a user who doesn't know which information to include to make its question answerable. A simple comment from an experienced person can make a big difference. – Gabriele Petronella Oct 23 '13 at 20:05
  • @GabrielePetronella Well - if that would be considered of 'no use' what would be? What more could be said in a comment..? – Josh Crozier Oct 23 '13 at 20:05
  • A comment can point out exactly what's missing. Like "the code you posted is not relevant, you should show the code you use to do this other thing otherwise the question is hard to answer" – Gabriele Petronella Oct 23 '13 at 20:07
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    Stack Overflow gets 7,000+ new questions every day. Providing tailor-made pieces of advice for each one of them that gets closed simply isn't possible. It would also be a torturously repetitive task - a complete waste of the volunteers' time that keep these sites running. New users have the responsibility to research and understand what kind of questions can be asked here. – Pekka supports GoFundMonica Oct 23 '13 at 20:07
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    @GabrielePetronella The last time I left a helpful comment on a bad question I was accused of trolling and a mod deleted the whole conversation. /shrug – asawyer Oct 23 '13 at 20:08
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    Quite frequently, users do provide useful and relevant comments. – MikeTheLiar Oct 23 '13 at 20:09
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    @probablyPekka That's why I limited the scope of my proposal to certain kind of questions. If someone votes "Unclear what you are asking" without explaining why, it's probably not very constructive. – Gabriele Petronella Oct 23 '13 at 20:10
  • @Gabriele I can see some merit to that, but forcing comments still sounds like a bad idea. People often enough do provide helpful comments. And if your question was closed for being too unclear, you can find out what makes a good question on the site's support resources - if you care enough to find out. – Pekka supports GoFundMonica Oct 23 '13 at 20:11
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    @probablyPekka this is what you're looking for. See the second sub-heading. – Servy Oct 23 '13 at 20:23
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    @Servy thanks for posting it. Too bad I cannot downvote the help center – Gabriele Petronella Oct 23 '13 at 20:24
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    lol @ down vote the help centre. That's a funny thought...although... – James Oct 23 '13 at 20:26
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    I see some possible merit to the idea, but only under certain situations - like if the user fixes the question up significantly, then it is at 4 close votes. Perhaps to force the last vote-close to be explained, but only based on fact that the question was maybe fixed. Could be just a threshold, like "OK there were 200 characters added... initiate the explanation" – Adel Oct 23 '13 at 22:16
13

First off, if it's not a good question, it should be closed to prevent poor quality answers being posted to it. It's important to keep in mind, at the end of the day, what closing is there for. It's not to chastise users asking a question, it's to prevent answers to questions that don't belong here. That someone hasn't taken the time to explain to the author why a question doesn't belong doesn't mean the question should be answered until such explanation is given.

Next, there are plenty of cases where no comment is needed; the close vote text itself, the resources they often link to, and the further information in the help center, the FAQ, and throughout the rest of the site/meta (and internet at large) will, in a fair number of cases, be enough.

There are however cases where the close reason is a bit general, and a message personalized to the specific question can be helpful. We do want to encourage comments in such cases, but we want to do so without preventing the question from being closed in the process.

I'd also like to point out that I find a rather large percentage of closed questions that I come across do have comments indicating the problem, especially in cases where it's not immediately clear why it might not be an appropriate question, so before looking to technical solutions first verify that there really is a problem here.

Next, there are automatic flags that are generated when questions are closed without any comments; this provides a mechanism for high rep users/mods to evaluate if specialized guidance is needed in the event that the users that closed the question didn't provide any.

Many very poor questions also aren't asked by people with any willingness to spend time and effort improving their questions or even bothering to figure out why it isn't a good question. In cases where an author has indicated confusion as to why a question was or is being closed, and is seeking further clarification as to what they need to improve, users virtually always respond with what can be done. We love to see users willing to improve their own content (because it's sadly rather rare).

There are also questions that simply are past salvation. They are either so inherently against the design of the site, are so incomprehensible, or are lacking so much in detail that it's simply not possible to explain to a user how to fix the question into one that could be reopened.

Your proposal is also open to abuse. You'll see lots of people that will just post garbage comments that don't really say anything just to get past the check, or use one of the close reasons that doesn't have a check even though it doesn't apply. Both of those (especially the latter) can be very confusing/harmful.

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    Thank you for disagreeing in the form of an answer and not with a downvote (is the question so poorly written to deserve a -8?). I see your point and you raised some aspects I didn't consider. +1 – Gabriele Petronella Oct 23 '13 at 20:19
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    @GabrielePetronella don't worry about DownVotes here on Meta. It just means people disagree with your suggestion. You proposed a feature request, and quite a radical one at that, so people will vote heavily as it could potentially affect a very important function in the site :) – James Oct 23 '13 at 20:25
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    Not worried, I just find the mechanism kind of confusing as I tend to consider votes as a way to evaluate the quality of the question/answer, rather than expressing an opinion and I think it should be kept coherent. But hey, that's another proposal to be downvoted ;) – Gabriele Petronella Oct 23 '13 at 20:31
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    there are automatic flags that are generated when questions are closed without any comments. I wasn't aware of this, good to know @Servy. – Gabriele Petronella Oct 23 '13 at 20:35
6

When a question is closed, the reason selected is already given. That reason is "signed" by the people who voted for that close reason, and it contains a relevant link to information on what to do next. For example:

"Questions asking for code must demonstrate a minimal understanding of the problem being solved. Include attempted solutions, why they didn't work, and the expected results. See also: Stack Overflow question checklist" – Wooble, Ethan Furman, Robᵩ, Kevin, Haidro

If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question or leave a comment.

That's already a lot of instruction by default, in addition to the links that the user already saw in the sidebar on the Ask a Question page. It shouldn't be necessary for every close voter to leave even more instructions, given all of the information that's already provided.

4

when someone votes to close a question with no comments - before completing this action, force the voter to add a comment.

So essentially you want to stop people using the close votes system unless they comment?

Or better put, you want to "break" the close vote system?

Close votes are quick to do, and so they should be. Make it long winded or confusing and people will not bother doing it.

If you implement this, overnight, loads of (probably at least half) the bad questions which would have been cleaned up will instead remain as people can't be bothered to comment or can't think of anything to say.

If people were going to comment to help, they would have already done it.

Besides, forcing people to comment is never a good thing. As said, people either wont bother voting, or the comment they're forced to write will be nonsense, or unhelpful, or trashy.
In these scenarios, it's more work for devs to clean up noise too.

Closed questions do get a message for the questioner telling them why it's closed, which in itself informs how to fix/improve it and thus what not to do next time too.
Sometimes the message is not perfect, but if a user can't be bothered to take heed of their question being closed and them being prompted to read a bit more in the help section etc, nothing will change them, not even comments as you suggest.

Your proposing a potential improvement is great, but this not really a good idea tbh.

  • thanks for clearly exposing the issues with my proposal – Gabriele Petronella Oct 23 '13 at 20:25
  • @GabrielePetronella Many users here have suggested potential improvements in feature requests. Some good, some bad. Sometimes it takes a public discussion to thrash it out to make certain things clear that we did not originally think of. – James Oct 23 '13 at 20:28
  • I totally agree on it. I'm glad that people like took time to make me understand why my proposal could lead to more issues than benefits and I have a much clearer overview of the problem now. Thank you again. – Gabriele Petronella Oct 23 '13 at 20:33

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