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While perusing the Close Votes queue that is nearing 90k questions, I found that I was marking a good number of the questions with this reason:

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.

These questions are usually very low quality and people rarely bother to compose an answer. Often they will have comments explaining why it's a bad question, or how to improve it.

I thought, "Oh well we are closing these because they aren't useful and we don't want to pollute our question pool", but then realized that putting them on hold doesn't remove them from SO at all, it just restricts some activity until they are improved.

So what are we actually achieving by putting these questions on-hold?

Other users don't appear to be wasting time answering them, so we aren't saving others time. We are, however, spending time flagging and reviewing them.

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    I've seen a handful of times where someone comes back and edits the question into something relatively good. I think those times, as seldom as they may be, are worth it. Nov 5, 2013 at 21:09
  • @AndrewBarber I've seen those too. However, as I mentioned, these questions usually already have comments explaining why there are no answers and how to improve it. To me that seems like it may be sufficient to encourage the user to improve the question. It's just a hunch though, at this point.
    – Cory Klein
    Nov 5, 2013 at 21:11
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    For one thing, closing a question like this puts it on a fast path to deletion by the system. If the user happens to improve it, great, if not, no one needs to worry about it again. Nov 5, 2013 at 21:20
  • Are we just supposed to leave them open? They are placed on hold (for all intents and purposes closed) in order to remove them from the system. Here is one example that I came across recently (just before you asked actually).
    – Travis J
    Nov 5, 2013 at 21:56
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    @TravisJ Placing them on hold does not remove them from the system, and that was my reasoning behind asking this question. Fortunately, Brad Larson pointed out that these questions actually will get completely deleted and removed from the system at a later time.
    – Cory Klein
    Nov 5, 2013 at 22:03
  • @CoryKlein - Sorry for not being clear in my comment. Placing a question on hold will not immediately remove it from the system. Removing anything from a system so intent on holding on to it is non trivial. So naturally there is a process which has a start and an end point. The first step is placing the question on hold (aside from egregious questions).
    – Travis J
    Nov 5, 2013 at 22:06
  • @CoryKlein It may result in the questions deletion, depending on whether it has answers, the score of all posts, it's age, and possibly some other factors. But being closed is one of those requirements, yes.
    – Servy
    Nov 5, 2013 at 22:10
  • @Servy Correct, my phrasing "these questions" was too inclusive. I think the other requirements for deletion are reasonable, though.
    – Cory Klein
    Nov 5, 2013 at 22:13

1 Answer 1

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There are several reasons to close such questions:

  1. It's a sign to the person who posted it that there is a problem. Yes, many such questions get comments, but not all. Some people simply need this hint to tell them that there is a problem that needs fixing. A close banner also provides more "authority" than user comments, so authors may take the advice given a bit more seriously.

  2. It gives the author a reason to improve the question. The fact that one person said that they should improve their question is one thing, but to prevent answers from the question entirely until it's fixed, and for the author to know that, is much stronger motivation for them to actually fix their content.

  3. It prevents people from trying to answer very low quality questions that just don't have enough information, or otherwise won't or are unlikely to result in high quality answers. Having a question burdened with several very low quality answers, possibly even answers that are fairly off the mark for what the real question is about, makes it a lot harder to improve questions. It confuses future readers, brings up issues with question edits invalidating answers, etc. Yes, many of these go unanswered, but many don't.

  4. It feeds the question banned algorithm. It's one thing for a reader to know that there's a problem with a question, it's another for the system to have an effective means of knowing that. Closing the question allows the system to understand both that the question has problems, and also (to some degree) what those problems are, so that they can be weighted appropriately towards the question ban.

  5. It feeds the automatic question deletion scripts, as well as creating paths for deletion by humans. If the author and/or the community doesn't fix up the post using the opportunity given to them, and the question has no value indicated through votes, then we can just nuke it entirely, either manually or even automatically.

  6. It's a signpost to future visitors. When other people see poor quality questions closed it tells them what not to do; conversely, when people see bad questions that are open they can take it as a sign that such questions are appropriate.

  7. Because closing these questions gives me a warm fuzzy feeling.

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  • @aug Closing and putting on hold are essentially the same thing. It's just for the first few days after closing they're called "on hold" and are treated slightly differently. Nov 5, 2013 at 21:41

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