Is there a policy or guidance concerning criteria moderators should apply before unilaterally closing questions?

Obviously, if a question is blatantly off-topic or has another problem the moderator would be justified in closing it.

However, in a few rare cases I have seen moderators unilaterally closing questions with no vote even though the question was potentially valid. For example, in one case the moderator commented "I'm not sure this is on topic." So, the moderator explicitly said they were unsure whether it was a valid question, nevertheless they closed the topic without allowing a vote.

  • Unfortunately, mods can't opt to cast a non-binding close vote. – John Dvorak Mar 17 '16 at 22:40
  • I know that. That's not my question. My discussion point is whether there is guidance or a consensus about criteria for unilateral closings. – Tyler Durden Mar 17 '16 at 22:44
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  • @random is this a random closed question from around SE? – Shadow Wizard is Ear For You Mar 18 '16 at 7:22
  • The parenting question is the one that triggered this Meta concern @sha – random Mar 18 '16 at 12:56
  • @random oh, didn't notice due to OP different identity there, lol – Shadow Wizard is Ear For You Mar 18 '16 at 13:02

Moderators follow the same rules as all of us do when closing a question. A moderator vote is always binding so they have to use it with care. Still, the community has the power to reopen it.

The comment you mention isn't really supporting the case of the moderator, but we can't know since we don't have all the details. Even if we had, discussions on the closing of questions should be placed on the per-site meta since there the site community can have its word.

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There is a saying "When in doubt, there's no doubt" (or something along those words) so in this case, when moderator believes there is a good chance a question is off topic, closing it might be the best course of action, to prevent answers that will stick around and send wrong signal. If the question is really on topic, people can comment-reply the moderator and persuade him/her, and reopening is one click away.

The above is my own humble opinion. I'm afraid there is no official policy for that, and there shouldn't be. The only policy IMO should be "Use your common sense".

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  • Common sense... Let me look into that. – Patrick Hofman Mar 17 '16 at 22:55
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    I thought it was "when in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout"... – Diminutive Colossus Mar 18 '16 at 4:20

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