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So, we are having this discussion on Physics Meta, which has been had in different forms in the past.

Two points keep coming up:

  • If a policy objectively says that a post is closeable (not closeable), can a user who disagrees with the policy vote to reopen (close) the post, knowing that it is objectively closeable (not closeable)?
  • When a post is reopened without edits by five people, should this simply be allowed to pass or should it in general be brought to Meta and discussed?
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    Reopen votes are like any other vote; they reflect that individual's opinion on the post. You can try to educate the user, but unless there is malicious intent (trolling) I don't see why that should be prevented. – Martijn Pieters Mar 1 '14 at 10:09
  • @MartijnPieters Note that I'm talking about knowingly voting against policy here. If there is a policy, shouldn't everyone follow it on main (and if necessary oppose it on meta)? – Manishearth Mar 1 '14 at 10:12
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    So the user disagrees with the policy. So? You cannot force everyone to agree, ever. – Martijn Pieters Mar 1 '14 at 10:12
  • @MartijnPieters And every time the user (in this case two) sees a question that is closed by that policy, they cast reopen votes. In this particular case, the policy is one that has been painstakingly formulated with a lot of community input, such that we allow some portion of book questions. They seem to now vote to reopen all book questions. – Manishearth Mar 1 '14 at 10:14
  • @MartijnPieters Sure. But shouldn't they express the disagreement on meta and not via the 3k moderation tools? – Manishearth Mar 1 '14 at 10:15
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    You need to make it clearer in your question here that you are dealing with a user (or two users) that are flying in the face of the community deliberately (apparently). I'd call that trolling, and that's up to the moderators perhaps to deal with the behaviour. Have these users expressed directly that they do this to protest the policy? – Martijn Pieters Mar 1 '14 at 10:18
  • @MartijnPieters yes, but I wanted a more general assessment of the issue of expressing disagreement with policy by voting against it. – Manishearth Mar 1 '14 at 10:18
  • At some point such behaviour can become disruptive and could be seen as trolling instead. But a moderator would need to tell them that. – Martijn Pieters Mar 1 '14 at 10:18
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    It's an interesting situation though @MartijnPieters. What if there would be a great contingent of active SO users who keep voting to reopen recommendation/shopping questions, because they believe they are perfectly fine? – Bart Mar 1 '14 at 10:19
  • I don't think there can be any 'general assessment' on such behaviour. I think that would be rare enough and you need to handle it on a case by case basis instead. – Martijn Pieters Mar 1 '14 at 10:19
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    @Bart: But there isn't. So this is a purely hypothetical situation among many hypotheticals, in my view. And from what I've understood so far, the Physics community has got some.. strong individual characters among them? – Martijn Pieters Mar 1 '14 at 10:21
  • Sure @MartijnPieters. Purely hypothetical on my part. And perhaps my comment was somewhat delayed in my response to your "you cannot force everyone to agree". Which is absolutely true. – Bart Mar 1 '14 at 10:23
  • Just curious if the collaborative lock exists there and if this would be considered an option for this question? – user213963 Mar 1 '14 at 13:41
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Every user is entitled to his or her own opinion and vote according to his or her perspective.

If a question is reopened by five different users, it means that those five users see the question as answerable and on-topic. In that case, leave it be.

If a post is off-topic by definition (as defined in the help-center), it should be closed regardless. (But I doubt that's where the problem lies).

If you see a question is closed and reopened multiple times, that's the time to intervene with a moderator flag and a meta discussion.

  • Manishearth is a mod on Physics.SE, so one is already involved. – psubsee2003 Mar 1 '14 at 10:18
  • @psubsee2003: I know Manishearth is a mod on Physics, I'm answering generally for future visitors. – Madara Uchiha Mar 1 '14 at 10:18
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    In this case, the post is off topic by definition, as defined on meta. We have some more complicated policies which won't fit in the help center and have been kept on meta. I think this is where the problem lies. – Manishearth Mar 1 '14 at 10:20
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    @Manishearth: If it's on meta but not in the help center it does not exist, and is questionable (Meta is the place for discussion after all). If you've made a decision, make sure your help center reflects that. If it's undoubtedly unambiguously off-topic, then it should be closed. I'd close it and leave a comment for reopeners to go to meta to discuss it if they wish. But it should be closed by default, until proven on-topic. – Madara Uchiha Mar 1 '14 at 10:22
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    @SecondRikudo It does exist. We link to meta policies in close reasons and all, because help centers cannot tell a user how to improve the post. Everyone on the site considers these policies official, because we made official meta-faq posts after discussing them. – Manishearth Mar 1 '14 at 10:24
  • @Manishearth: Sure thing, in which case, close the question, and have them discuss on meta if they want. If they don't want, keep on closing. – Madara Uchiha Mar 1 '14 at 10:29
  • Also, for the specific situation, the posts are in fact more off topic according to the help center, since the help center by default disallows list-y and subjective posts. – Manishearth Mar 1 '14 at 10:29
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I think that Martin's on the money on this one. A user's votes reflect their opinion on a particular matter, and this includes votes to close and reopen. You may disagree, and indeed the user's opinions may disagree with almost everyone else in the community, but you cannot force them to agree.

If someone is consistently voting against a policy that was agreed upon by the community and which is explicitly stated either there or in the help center, in which case it may warrant a calling out (of the behaviour) in the site's meta. There are indeed disadvantages to having community moderation depart from the stated policy, as it can be very confusing to newcomers, and these can be pointed out.

It can also happen that the user in question voiced their dissent at the time of the discussions. If they were constructive and polite in stating their opinions, then that is all one can ask of them: they don't agree, they have explained why, and they have not been convinced by the arguments before. If the user is particularly unconstructive, and will not even agree to disagree, then moderator intervention is necessary. Otherwise, this is a form of voicing opinions as well.


Regarding your second question, I have stated it on Physics but I will state it here again:

  • The role of moderators is to enact community consensus. When there isn't one - which includes multiple users voting against stated policy -, their role is to bring the question formally for community consideration on the site's meta, so that a communal decision can be taken.

A good example of what I consider successful moderator handling of such a situation (albeit with some delay) is this question. There a moderator noticed exactly this behaviour, and they brought it up on meta, with an explanation of why those votes were against stated policy, and prompting the 'dissenters' to explain their opinions. Nothing wrong with a bit more clarity on the moderators' part, and particularly so on smaller sites.

  • Agreed, though in the second point I wasn't asking for that (I know and agree with that); others had mentioned that "it is very bureaucratic to get a post reopened as it has to go to meta" -- I wanted to know if we were being off by insisting on meta review for unedited reopens. – Manishearth Mar 3 '14 at 20:52
  • @Manishearth by generally insisting on bringing every unedited question to meta, before anybody is allowed to cast a reopen vote, you assume that closevoters are always right by definition and never make any mistake. But this assumption is wrong, they can make mistakes, in particular when reviewing questions outside their domain of physics knowledge. Closevoters are not infallible Gods. Your demanding that everybody should ask for permission on meta before casting a reopen vote incapacitates >3k users and kills the whole purpose of community moderation by overemphasizing bureaucracy. – Dilaton Mar 7 '14 at 23:39
  • @Dilaton No, I am not making that assumption here. And I am not asking for everyone to go to meta before casting reopen votes, it is only after it gets reopened (or is about to be). Do not put words in my mouth, I was very specific about this on the post on Physics Meta. I am saying this: If 5 people close the post, and another five reopen it, then there is some issue with the post that is best discussed in a better place (instead of just close-warring), and that is meta. I don't mind if the post is kept open while things are being discussed. – Manishearth Mar 7 '14 at 23:46
  • But on Physics (and many other sites), the 5-close-5-open situation is rare enough to be discussed on meta when it happens. Also, you keep repeating "domain of physics knowledge" and use it to back up your points. Ironically, the one person who was a domain expert on that thread was Chris, and he had close voted. – Manishearth Mar 7 '14 at 23:48
  • @Dilaton here we are, found that comment: meta.physics.stackexchange.com/questions/5563/… . – Manishearth Mar 9 '14 at 7:06
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Executive Summary: Community users enforce community policy with their close/reopen votes. When that process fails, moderators step in and enforce community policy. Where that policy is already established by Stack Exchange guidelines and community consensus, I don't see the need to rehash it over every closed/reopened question.


Stack Exchange sites always have questions that illustrate exceptions to the rules, for various reasons. Sometimes questions don't get closed when they should because they don't attract the necessary views. Sometimes questions get reopened because people find them interesting, even though they clearly violate some moderation principle.

The reason we have five close/reopen votes is so that the community can do most of this sorting out themselves. When the community cannot come to an agreement, and a user asks for a moderator review via a flag, the moderator can step in and make a binding decision if they wish.

But there are still going to be edge cases.

Should every unedited question go to meta for review before being reopened? Sure, if you feel like it. On Stack Overflow, we would find such a process completely onerous, and I wouldn't recommend doing that unless a user feels like bringing it up for discussion on meta. In the specific, there's no system function that supports or enforces discussing unedited questions on Meta before they get reopened.

It's worth noting that the hypothetical you're discussing is just that; a hypothetical (so long as it never gets two more open votes, it will stay closed in accordance with the guidelines).

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