Stack Exchange sites are generally concerned with asking and answering questions that can be answered in a fact based manner. Meta is entirely different. Meta allows, and even encourages, questions that are opinion oriented. Questions in the form of "I think X should be true/modified/created. Do others agree?" These questions don't lend themselves to a universally "correct" answer. Furthermore opinions can evolve unlike facts.

Duplicates on meta are not the same as duplicates on the main site

I completely agree that a few people or one moderator should be able to close questions on Stack Exchange sites, but I feel the bar should be much higher on Meta. If gold badges/moderators aggressively close questions on Meta it stifles people's ability to discuss issues. Some questions are rightly closed as duplicates like my first question.

There are also questions that are shut down by people who feel that an old solution is sufficient or a previous discussion should remain cannon eternally. This is encouraged by the Q&A format, after all if the question has been asked and already answered why should it be asked again? The voting system that is so effective for factual answers also serves to inhibit evolving opinions over time. For example if I post a new opinion to a Meta question with 10+ answers a year later my opinion will realistically never be heard. This is especially true when gold badges/moderators tend to aggressively close a new version of the question as a duplicate, and actively encourage people to post answers that won't be viewed.

This very question is an illustration of the problem

This question was aggressively closed in minutes (~15, and before I could respond to a comment mentioning the duplicate) because a gold badge thought my question was a duplicate. Notice that I mentioned that quick closes, and allowing space for opinions to evolve are in my question but not in the duplicate. I brought these new reasons to my question but it was still closed. This highlights why I think single person closes are antithetical to the goals of Meta (also in my original question and not in the duplicate). As such I feel my question is a clear example of a "shallow" duplicate that was needlessly closed.

Also as enderland mentioned in the comments below: I understand this is currently the best tool we have. Just because this is the best we have doesn't mean we can't talk about the best tool to replace the current tool, even though replacement will naturally take a good amount of time....

Proposed solution: meta should be moved to a forum-based system rather than Q&A

Due to these reasons and more I suggest that Meta moves away from a Q&A format to a format that encourages discussion, and away from a format that encourages immutable canon answers. A solution like Discourse comes to mind as an option, but I don't think that is ideal either.

Edits based on responses by others:

Hamlet made an excellent point when he said that Meta exists for two interrelated purposes. It exists to discuss policy, and to document policy. My question is scoped at duplicate-closing when discussing reconsidering current policy.

In a comment below James asked:

[W]ould you say re-open by "one moderator" is ok? Surely it's the same logic, even if just a different problem. Close by 1 user = no discussion (or democracy); Re-open by one user = no democracy or allowance for "no" discussion from the people you want to "not" allow to close.

For full disclosure, this question was reopened by a moderator and James supported closing it. I do think that it should be easier to reopen questions than to close them on Meta. Obviously issues in Meta/Stack Exchange aren't nearly as important as criminal cases in the USA, but I'm going to use an analogy that I think is relevant. In the United States one judge or a handful of judges can reverse a decision made by twelve jurors, and other judges. This is true, at least in part, because there is a recognition that a wrong conviction is more damaging than overturning a valid conviction. The reason I support more arduous duplicate closing and easy reopening is for a similar reason. I think it is more valuable to the site and the users to have a discussion that may eventually be merged into another question as a duplicate than to prevent the discussion from happening.

Also in the comments Nathan Tuggy made a great point when he observed that:

For what it's worth, meta dupehammers are far easier to come by (since all questions must have at least one of four tags, and are therefore vulnerable to gold badges on those tags, which are for the same reason also much easier to get).

This is very accurate. A byproduct of Meta's design makes it far easier for active users to earn the power to wield the "dupe-hammer" on Meta than a normal Stack Exchange site. To paraphrase a common expression: "When you have a hammer in your hand every idea you disagree with is in danger of becoming a dupe." When questions can be closed off-hand immediately by one person without considering the (potential) nuance of question everyone loses.

To support the age old saying that, "There is nothing new under the sun" random kindly suggested no less than 5 duplicates of the latest version of this question in a single comment. I assume this question wasn't re-closed as a duplicate of one of those due to the respect that Shog9 (who provided a great edit that refocused the question on the issue that caused me to pose the question initially) has in the community.

Should duplicate standards be different on Meta?

Good title match, but a bug duplicate is a very different question than evolving policy questions. One of the answers to this question suggests offering a bounty on an existing question, but that doesn't work if you feel your question is distinct from an existing question, or if a duplicate question to yours was incorrectly closed as a duplicate to another question due to superficial resemblances.

Define a duplicate in the context of Meta and Aggressively closing duplicate questions

Another couple good title matches, but the questions and responses are clearly scoped to the Stack Exchange sites.

My question was marked as a duplicate, but the referenced question only has comments

The title says it all. This question is pondering the validity of a specific closure.

Discussions should not be marked as duplicate which was actually closed as a duplicate of Aggressively closing duplicate questions.

This question is pretty damn good duplicate of my question. It captures the rage I've seen expressed in chat about meta, and the apparent futility of fighting for something on Meta. The problem with this as a duplicate is two-fold. One I can't respond to/bounty/interact meaningfully to/with it because it was mistakenly (in my opinion) closed as a duplicate for a question with a different scope. Secondly the OP sounds like they want to endlessly debate due to the wording of their question as captured in the response by Shog9. I'm not suggesting that people should endlessly debate. I'm suggesting that we allow people space to develop an idea without being prematurely shutdown based on a superficial appraisal.

A person's question might be a duplicate, but for continuity of the discussion, and moral in general it is important that the right duplicate be found. False duplicates only mislead, and frustrate users.

  • 4
    If there was actually anything new or different under a rewritten request, then it would be heard. Saying "this should be bumped but I can't be arsed doing it properly" doesn't protect a duplicate from being a duplicate – random Sep 14 '15 at 21:06
  • 1
    @random It is ironic that I asked a question that specifically pointed out rapid closing of duplicates as a reason why this is an invalid format in addition to several other reasons that were not mentioned in the duplicate, and you closed my question as a duplicate. In my opinion your actions demonstrate why the Q&A model is a bad fit (in a manner that wasn't even broached in the duplicate). I did bring new information but I was shut out regardless. – Erik Sep 14 '15 at 21:15
  • 4
    No, it's not suited, but the reality is it's not going to really change anytime soon. – enderland Sep 14 '15 at 21:29
  • possible duplicate of What is a meta for? – gnat Sep 14 '15 at 21:55
  • @Erik - then maybe you should collect your thoughts in a cogent argument as to why Meta should change, and post that as an answer under the duplicate question. – JohnP Sep 14 '15 at 22:07
  • 6
    I don't see why this is a dupe. The other question was a very simple, shoot from the hip one with no thought or effort put into it. This one raises specific concerns that we might want to discuss. In any case, the other was asked 5 years ago when the network and volume of meta traffic were both much, much smaller. Why would any consensus arrived at then still be relevant today? – terdon Sep 14 '15 at 22:08
  • @Erik - The edit is to allow people to substantially change the question. The original question only has 2 answers, so I don't think a well written precis of why the QA format for meta is bad would get lost. Whether I disagree or agree with some of the other statements, the system is what it is. – JohnP Sep 14 '15 at 22:14
  • 3
  • 2
    This is a dupe, because it asks/discusses the same thing. As always, place your comments on the other question, or an answer if you have a substantial idea or argument to put forward. You can also place a bounty. I don't see why this is hard to understand. You are just duping things and then arguing it's not a dupe because you want your own question. Ask something different if you don't want a dupe. We want all discussions relevant to the same topic/idea/bug/feature request/etc in the same question so it's collated. – James Sep 14 '15 at 22:26
  • @James So we should close the 3 posts listed by random too? Collation like any other tool has benefits and drawbacks. I've presented a reason why collation isn't ideal for discussion in a Q&A format (old votes hide new ideas). – Erik Sep 14 '15 at 22:31
  • 3
    For what it's worth, meta dupehammers are far easier to come by (since all questions must have at least one of four tags, and are therefore vulnerable to gold badges on those tags, which are for the same reason also much easier to get). – Nathan Tuggy Sep 14 '15 at 22:33
  • "old votes hide new ideas" That's not entirely true. There is no real correlation between old votes and new ideas as old votes are old, and on old ideas. Add your question content here as an answer to the dupe, it will get bumped to the Front Page and many new eyes will see it and vote on the new and old content. Then place a bounty after a few hours of it being on the front page, and you will get more new activity and votes. It's simple. If it doesn't work then so be it. It's a "request" not a demand, and many good and popular feature requests have just faded away... – James Sep 14 '15 at 22:53
  • 1
    @James I agree it's a request and not a demand. I'm sure many worthy ideas have faded away as well. I also think that it is highly optimistic to believe that most users will scroll past a dozen (potentially) answers with lots of votes to read a new opinion on an old issue. Finally I believe that good questions gather good answers. Without a chameleon-esque edit the question I was duped with will never be a great question. – Erik Sep 14 '15 at 23:51
  • @Erik "I completely agree that a few people or one moderator should be able to close questions on Stack Exchange sites, but I feel the bar should be much higher on Meta. If gold badges/ moderators aggressively close questions on Meta it stifles people's ability to discuss issues" And would you say re-open by "one moderator" is ok? Surely it's the same logic, even if just a different problem. Close by 1 user = no discussion (or democracy); Re-open by one user = no democracy or allowance for "no" discussion from the people you want to "not" allow to close. Can't have it both ways. – James Sep 15 '15 at 1:06
  • 3
    The bold text in Shog's answer is all that is necessary to explain why the other posts are closed. They offered nothing new beyond "it's 2015 and that's my entire argument" – random Sep 15 '15 at 16:05

Good grief, this is long... It was long when I edited it, and it's longer still now; I feel bad answering it, because there's no way I can possibly address everything you've raised here...

So I'm just gonna say that there's a time and a place for discussion, and sometimes Meta is that place. But that is neither the be-all nor the end-all of Meta, nor is Meta the beginning nor end of discussion. Others have already touched on the myriad purposes that Meta attempts to lend itself to, and those who know its history know of the more specialized systems it replaced - but of course it did not replace them completely. The best discussions on Meta neither arise here nor end here... They often begin in conversations elsewhere, in comment threads, in chat, in hallways and over beers, in fevered imaginations and insanely bright minds racing to construct an understanding of these systems in which their peers collaborate daily... For all these purposes and from all these sources, Meta attempts to provide a record and a venue, but like a town hall meeting and the minutes which follow it is merely a pin in a vast web of interconnected discussions and vacillating opinions. As an entrypoint by which those new and old can find their way into the mazes of larger discussions, it serves its purpose... But it does not - nor can it ever hope to - fully contain much less enable them alone.

I've been here for 6 years now, and I've watched an awful lot of hard problems debated and discussed. I know Meta's strengths and failings better than most; I would be the last to ever promise you safe passage through this land... But I can say with confidence that, should you venture to speak up here, your voice will eventually be heard - as long as you have something novel to say. This itself is something worth treasuring.

And as the final sunset rolls behind the Earth and the clock is finally dead
I'll look at you, you'll look at me and we'll cry a lot but this will be what we say
This will be what we say

Look where all this talking got us, baby

-- Live, White, Discussion

See also:


Meta sites serve two purposes:

  1. They serve as a place to discuss what the site policy should be on a certain issue. For example, in this question we are discussing Stack Exchange's policy on a certain issue.

  2. They serve as documentation of a site's policy on certain issues. For example, questions on meta sites tagged serve as canonical documentation of a communities current policy regarding an issue.

As you brought up, if you think of meta as a site to discuss site policy, it doesn't make sense to close a question asking a community to reconsider a long-standing policy. This hinders discussion, and makes it much harder for a community to hear feedback from users who weren't present when the decision was made.

However, if you think of meta as a place to document site-policy, closing questions as duplicates makes a lot of sense. It can be very confusing to determine what a site's position on thing x is if there are five meta posts talking about thing x, especially if a community's position on thing x has changed over time. Closing those five meta posts as a duplicate of a canonical meta post that documents the "official" policy on thing x eliminates clutter and makes it easier explain site policies to new users.

I don't think it's necessary to redesign the meta sites, but I think there are a few things that communities can do to reduce the conflict between the two purposes of meta:

  1. Canonical posts that detail site policy should be tagged as , so that it's clear to everyone that the question represents the official position on an issue.
  2. If you want to use meta to ask a community to reconsider an official site policy, you should do the following:

    1. Bring up the issue on chat first and see if others agree with you.
    2. Ask yourself if anything has changed since the issue was originally considered. If, for example, a site policy is driving a significant percentage of users away from that site, then that would be good grounds for reconsidering an issue. However, if nothing has changed, and you're just bringing up the issue again because you personally don't like the policy, you should ask yourself whether you're wasting other people's time.
  3. Meta posts that reconsider a policy should have some version of the phrase "Reconsidering issue x" in their title, so that it's clear that the meta post isn't official policy (yet).

tldr: this is a problem, but proper organization of meta sites can fix this.

  • 2
    @Erik, that one is a terrible example for you to cite. It absolutely did not follow these guidelines. The question did not bring any new information to the table. Ask yourself if anything has changed since the original question; well, that question sure didn't suggest anything specific that has changed, other than "the times they are a changing and that was six years ago" (seriously?). A good "reconsidering" post should understand all the prior reasons, summarize them, engage with them, and bring new data (or some really novel insight) to show why those reasons were wrong. – D.W. Sep 15 '15 at 8:24

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .