We have two tools for community moderation of questions: downvotes and close votes. Both are used to indicate a question is not "good", yet they work in isolation. Why is this?

The tooltip for a downvote says:

This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful.

I downvote questions that I don't welcome. Either because they are unclear (which ties nicely to a close reason) or because they show no research effort (not a close reason, but desired by many).

If a question has reached a score of -5, -7 or -10, is this really a question that should be open? It will probably be closed eventually, for reasons relating to the downvotes, but why do we have to act twice? Note: these scores are just examples, clearly different sites would have different typical scores for poor questions.

I'm beginning to wonder if a low question score should trigger a question to be on hold. I haven't figured out the finer details yet, it's just an early thought. But I wanted to start a discussion about the pros and cons of keeping the two moderation tools separate, as they are now. I'm not suggesting we do away with close votes, I'm just questioning whether a low question score is another way a question could be closed.

Based on a simple SEDE query looking at Stack Overflow, it seems there are thousands of questions with a negative score that are still open:

Score        Open Questions
 -4                  17,258
 -5                   7,116
 -6                   2,983 
 -7                   1,322
 -8                     693 
 -9                     261
 -10                    189

Does this data mean anything? I'm not sure. It perhaps proves there is a benefit to having open questions with a low score. Or perhaps this shows just how many crap questions could be closed if an auto-closure system kicked in.

Here's a similar query but for questions with at least one answer. The numbers are smaller but still significant.

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  • @gnat Are you suggesting they are duplicates or just interesting reading? I think they add to my case that it's confusing to have two different approaches to take, which aren't directly linked. Mar 17, 2015 at 10:42
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    Just because a question is on-topic, doesn't mean it is not of low quality. Just because a question is off-topic, doesn't mean it is not a quality question. Mar 17, 2015 at 12:29
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    I suggested these as related reading. I haven't yet made up my mind on whether there's a duplicate for your question
    – gnat
    Mar 17, 2015 at 12:29
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    @MartijnPieters And now referring to this discussion... I mostly agree with your comment. However, I struggle to imagine a -5 Stack Overflow question that is really worth keeping open. We have data from the votes - people think this question sucks. I'm just wondering if that should feed into what happens to that question (beyond stuff like auto-deletion, in the future). Mar 17, 2015 at 12:34
  • @Duncan: agreed, I acted too quickly, I reopened. Mar 17, 2015 at 13:54
  • @Duncan: how many questions can you show that are both downvoted past a threshold and are still open? Mar 17, 2015 at 13:55
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    @MartijnPieters I've used my weak T-SQL fu to drum up some numbers and added them to my question. I'll try and enhance that query to consider other factors, e.g. age, current vote count, etc. Mar 17, 2015 at 14:13
  • Note: I'm not 100% sure whether I'm accidentally counting deleted questions there... Mar 17, 2015 at 14:35
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    @Duncan Deleted questions don't show up in data.SE at all. If they did you'd see a lot more open questions with lots of downvotes. Lots more.
    – Servy
    Mar 17, 2015 at 16:56

1 Answer 1


Closing's main purpose is to prevent answers. It is reversible, and best applied to questions that actually cannot be answered as written - because they're vague, offtopic, missing vital information, or the like. It doesn't keep anyone from seeing the question or its answers, just from adding more.

What you're probably looking for is deleting. It is for questions that may be on topic and not a duplicate, but are just not good. That is, even if you fixed the grammar and spelling issues, and provided the missing information, you would not have a question that helps the site at all. This (as a side effect) prevents answers but it also takes the question away - utterly for those with less than 10K rep, and effectively for everyone else (unless that happened to retain a link to it.) The lower the score, the easier it is to delete the question. It can also happen automatically to negative score questions with no answers for 30 days.

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    Low scored questions are automatically deleted eventually if they aren't answered, but it takes quite some time. Closing such questions quickly, and then still allowing the automatic deletion to take place down the road if the question isn't improved seems like a viable option. As for it being reversible, it seems reasonable to let questions closed due to downvotes be reopened, just like questions closed due to other types of votes.
    – Servy
    Mar 17, 2015 at 16:58

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