On Mathematics Stack Exchange, Burak asked the following wonderful question:

What are some counter-intuitive results in mathematics that involve only finite objects?

The question is clearly subject to opinion: what appears counter-intuitive to me may be bonehead obvious to someone who knows more about the mathematics involved. The question is extremely broad. The answers to it come from just about any field of mathematics you can think of. Obviously, Burak did do some research, but if he had not, it would still have been a wonderful question.

On English Language & Usage Stack Exchange, similar questions about English are routinely stomped on. (Curiously, on EL&U people use the weird English: "down voted" or "subtracting reputations".) I believe there would be less disparity about the interpretation of the ground rules between Stack Exchange sites and that the entire community would be better served if negative actions required much experience (i.e. a high reputation). Do you agree?

closed as off-topic by Servy, gnat, Brad Larson, Patrick Hofman, Ward Dec 5 '16 at 18:36

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "This question pertains only to a specific site in the Stack Exchange Network. Questions on Meta Stack Exchange should pertain to our network or software that drives it as a whole, within the guidelines defined in the help center. You should ask this question on the meta site where your concern originated." – gnat, Brad Larson
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • @Burak I thought you should be told that your posting is being used as an example. – Airymouse Dec 5 '16 at 15:18
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    Good question != good fit for Stack Exchange. – Catija Dec 5 '16 at 15:18
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    You can't ping someone like that. Only the editors and commenters and OP get notified of pings. – Catija Dec 5 '16 at 15:19
  • I see. I can just make the same comment back on his posting. – Airymouse Dec 5 '16 at 15:21
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    The title of your posts asks a very different question than the body. Do you want to know who determines if a post is too broad, or are you proposing that the rep requirement for downvotes be increased? They're radically different questions. – Servy Dec 5 '16 at 15:22
  • I believe Reputation requirement for downvotes be increased. – user2728397 Dec 5 '16 at 15:24
  • @Servy Good point. It's a bit like the TV show, Jeopardy, where the answers must be given as a question. The truth is I'm not asking a question; I'm stating an opinion that I hope others will support. And I'm trying to justify this opinion. Feel free to edit my "question." – Airymouse Dec 5 '16 at 15:31
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    No, what you need to do is have a single coherent thought as opposed to this stream of triggered consciousness that's going on – random Dec 5 '16 at 15:34
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    @Airymouse But you're not stating an opinion without asking a question. You simply asked two completely different questions. Either ask one, or the other, but not both. I have no idea which question you're actually trying to ask. – Servy Dec 5 '16 at 15:34
  • How much reputation do you think is high enough to justify a negative action? What makes you think their actions are negative? They might have tried to help you and the community. Don't you think so? – Rathony Dec 5 '16 at 15:57
  • Negative actions do require a high reputation: 125 for downvoting, 2000 (or 3000? I forget) for closevoting. Also, what's "weird" about the English of "down voting"? – Dan Bron Dec 6 '16 at 2:54
  • @Dan Bron I deleted the sentence to which you refer in my attempt to edit the question. I say "attempt," because I'm inept at anything dealing with the internet, and it appears my edit either didn't arrive or was not accepted.The remark was clearly off of the topic, but if you like I'll open a chat room in ELU tomorrow morning and and chat about "down voting" and "reputations." I'm sorry, but I'm busy today. – Airymouse Dec 6 '16 at 14:34
  • @Airymouse Don't worry about it, the observation didn't bug me, just piqued my interest. Clearly "reputations" is unidiomatic, but I don't see anything particularly strange about "down voting". – Dan Bron Dec 6 '16 at 17:07

Who interprets the rules about questions such as they can't be too broad, unresearched or subject to opinion?

Well, it's very simple: the site's community does. It takes five regular users to close a question as too broad, and five to reopen it again. Apparently, people on Mathematics SE like long lists more than on English Language & Usage.

Still, there's a lot of difference between a broad/opinion-based question like 'what subject of mathematics is the one you find the most difficult' and the one you mentioned. I'm convinced the former would be shot down on first sight. And EL&U has its own kind of broad questions: single word requests.


Downvoting and closing are different

Downvoting is not used to determine whether a question is “too broad, unclear or subject to opinion”. (Note that “unresearched” is not the same thing as “unclear”.) Those judgements are used for deciding whether a question should exist on the site, not what its vote score should be.

Downvoting means

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

A question can be narrow, clear, and answerable only objectively and still be deemed “not useful” by voters.

The point of voting is to sort questions according to usefulness to other readers. Downvoting is just as important as upvoting, so the reputation required to downvote is not very high so that all voting is encouraged. The more voting occurs, the closer a question's score gets to being an accurate measure of its usefulness.

In practice people do still downvote questions they think off topic (maybe because they don't have the authority to cast close votes), but downvotes still don't determine whether a question is on topic or not… even if some voters wish they could.

Too broad, unclear or subject to opinion

Meanwhile, “too broad, unclear or subject to opinion” has to do with whether the community deems a question to be answerable in the Stack Exchange, vote-driven system we have. This is used to decide whether a question should be put on hold or not. This is completely separate from whether a question is considered good and useful!

  • A question can be useful, but still too broad, opinion-based, or unclear. Questions that are popular (highly upvoted) are put on hold every day.
  • A question can be useless, but narrow, clear, and objectively-answerable. There are many, many low-voted or downvoted questions which are still acceptably on-topic for SE sites. There are many questions across the network that have low or even negative scores, but which remain open because they're acceptable to ask here.

Downvoting and close-voting are completely independent of each other because their votes measure completely different things.

Experience needed for each is different

Those who judge whether a question is “too broad, unclear or subject to opinion” already require much more experience than others: 3k is required on a non-beta site to cast hold/close and reopen votes.

Meanwhile, downvoting is not considered to need much experience. We don't need people to have a good understanding of how SE works to judge whether a question is useful. Voting doesn't require understanding how SE works, it only requires having an interest in the subject of a site.

  • I disagree with you're first point. Questions that are "too broad, unresearched or subject to opinion" are certainly downvoted as such. (Not to mention that you then say "Downvoting means... does not show any research", which contradicts the previous paragraph) – Cai Dec 5 '16 at 17:49
  • @Cai My apologies for the error. My answer was repeating the question's mixing up of “unresearched” and “unclear”, but I've now applied coffee to the problem. :) – SevenSidedDie Dec 5 '16 at 17:53
  • Coffee makes everything better! I still disagree that downvotes aren't for broad etc questions, I agree with your general point though :) – Cai Dec 5 '16 at 17:57
  • @Cai I did a second edit to that part — you're right that they're related in practice (because people do downvote questions for being off topic) — but those votes aren't used by the site for determining whether it gets closed. I think that intention is a bit clearer in the answer now. Thanks for taking a stick to it! – SevenSidedDie Dec 5 '16 at 18:00

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