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A new Stack Overflow user recently asked how he could improve a question that was not well received: Why am I receiving down votes for this question and how can I improve it?

I told the user to click Close(3) to see why the community was not receiving the question well. @psubsee2003 corrected me with:

The OP doesn't have 250 rep, so can't see the "Close(3)" link

I think that's a bad strategy. The close reasons are important feedback for a user, and I'm having trouble understanding why the feedback would be with held from them.

The current strategy of denying feedback and allowing the question to whither and die does not seem like a good one. It clutters the site with poor questions, it does not reinforce user training of site features, it causes the creation of duplicate questions that don't materially improve, and it creates a poor user experience.

In fact, the cited question is an example of creation of duplicate questions that don't materially improve. The poster originally asked a similar question that was closed too.

And, here's another one that would have benefitted from a user learning what was going on:

Notice they do not suffer the "false, misleading or fictitious reason" as argued by some others below.

Request: Please allow new users to view close reasons on their questions.


Related to withholding close reasons, a custom off-topic close message is displayed immediately. So immediately providing feedback has a precedent. (You can see an example of the immediate feedback on countless questions, like Cabal install uses old versioned binary).

If withholding information is the strategy, then it seems to me the custom close message should be with held too.


Related: View an Alert on Close Votes for New Users. But the request in this question is less encompassing than the related question.

marked as duplicate by Josh Caswell, Community Apr 24 '15 at 2:05

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • Is it really feedback, though? Until the question gets closed, close votes have zero impact. And then, when it is closed, they know why. – fbueckert Apr 23 '15 at 22:28
  • single close vote may be random, and showing it may rather confuse newcomer. When there are 3-4 votes though, it can be solid enough... – gnat Apr 23 '15 at 22:31
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    @fbueckert - "Is it really feedback, though?" - absolutely. – user173448 Apr 23 '15 at 22:33
  • @gnat - "... single close vote may be random" - OK, so the site has handled 0.1% of the use cases. Now how about the other 99.9%? If that's the reason, then it sounds like its a solution for a problem that does not exist. – user173448 Apr 23 '15 at 22:34
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    We should show them if they have at least 3, so they have a chance to fix it before it gets closed. – ASCIIThenANSI Apr 23 '15 at 22:37
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    99.9% of these remaining 99.9% (solid, non-random close votes) will eventually get to 3-4 votes... at which moment I think it could be beneficial to let asker know about what's going on. @ASCIIThenANSI fixing after closure is not a bad thing either – gnat Apr 23 '15 at 22:37
  • Potentially related: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/188821/… – Toomai Apr 23 '15 at 22:42
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    @Josh - yes, this question appears to be a duplicate of the cited question. Sorry about that. Interestingly, the cited question was closed as a duplicate, buts it's cited dup is not a dup. – user173448 Apr 24 '15 at 2:05
  • No need to apologize. It's an old one; it's not the worst thing to re-propose reasonable ideas from time to time. (Actually I almost think I should have dupe-voted in the other direction.) I myself have always been on the fence about this idea. – Josh Caswell Apr 24 '15 at 2:08
  • You know what's really great? That this question is marked duplicate of a duplicate. 10/10 for the mod who closed this (not pointing fingers at Josh Caswell). – boxspah Apr 29 '15 at 22:20
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    @DominatorX "duplicate" is not a transitive property – gnat Apr 30 '15 at 23:08
  • @gnat - users treat it like it is. And they treat its as a subset match. So maybe the question matches, maybe one of the answers match, and maybe part of an answer matches. (Not arguing; just saying how its used in practice). – user173448 Apr 30 '15 at 23:27
  • well in my experience this only looks so because typically, duplicates tend to be simply close enough between each other. But there are cases when it matters. Users who voted to re-open and then re-close to a better dupe this question didn't treat it as transitive – gnat Apr 30 '15 at 23:34
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The close reasons are important feedback for a user, and I'm having trouble understanding why the feedback would be with held from them.

Close votes are not feedback. You've had the idea that they might potentially used for informational purposes, and new ideas are fine, but then you wonder why we're "stopping/hiding" it.

The close votes are not designed for feedback, and trying to use it as such is "shoehorning".

This can sometimes work out, but not in this case as any number of changes and votes might take place from the first few votes.
The question might end up being left open, or the outcome (close reason) is different from what the first few votes flagged for.

All users see the close reason once the question is put on-hold/closed, before that there is no outcome and so votes are not useful.

So no-one should use the current close votes as an indication of why a question is not fit for the site.

The current strategy of denying feedback and allowing the question to whither and die does not seem like a good one. It clutters the site with poor questions, it does not reinforce user training of site features, it causes the creation of duplicate questions that don't materially improve, and it creates a poor user experience.

But someone not seeing the current votes to close has no bearing whatsoever on the issues you raised.
A user can resolve their question at any time, even after it's been placed on-hold or closed.

But before community have made a final decision, there is no "feedback" to be had from close votes, and until a final outcome they are likely to be misleading.

Other potential issues

Instead of using this "info" to resolve their question, a lot of users would just start commenting asking why USERNAME has flagged it, and debating it.
This means their time is not spent resolving the question, but also, rightly or wrongly, people will vote to close because they have kicked up a stink about the question being flagged.

Perhaps a user sees close votes and starts to change their question, but those close votes were not accurate and are overruled by enough further votes/reviews to leave the question open, or completely change the reason for it being closed.
So then a question which was ok might be ruined, or even just "changed" which might make comments useless, or make answers obsolete.

It might be initially flagged by a few users as "Too Broad", but then in the review queue someone finds a dupe.
So the OP frantically changing their question to try to resolve "too broad" to keep it open is futile, as they'll likely never change it from being a dupe unless they change the entire question.

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    "Close votes are not feedback" and "... before that there is no outcome and so votes are not useful...." - I absolutely disagree. They are valuable in providing feedback for poorly received questions. – user173448 Apr 23 '15 at 23:22
  • I know you disagree, because I disagreed with you first :P They are not valuable. Did you read the "Other potential issues"? So 2 votes showing "off topic" are valuable, when those two votes are by idiots, or people in a bad mood? And then reviewers all vote "Leave open" how useful where those initial votes to someone who might change their question based on them? – James Apr 23 '15 at 23:25
  • "A user can resolve their question at any time" - remember, we are talking about new users here. They often don't know how to use the site properly, craft a question properly, etc. But the whole premise seems questionable - if they could resolve (improve) it at any time, then why wait? Why did they not ask an improved question in the first place? – user173448 Apr 23 '15 at 23:25
  • A user being new does not mean they A) should not have read Tour/Help Center and understand how to use the site; B) Be held by the hand. I'm all for helping others, and more so new users (just see some of my comments/posts I do try to help newer users a little more) but you are trying to use a function designed for a very specific reason to do something it is not designed for and would be useless at - potentially harmful, as per my answer. – James Apr 23 '15 at 23:26