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When I am in the editor writing an answer to a question, the system will notify me (in real time!) when another answer has been posted. This is presumably so I can see if the new answer may have rendered my post somewhat redundant.

Can we extend that same feature/courtesy to authors when a question is being voted to close?

[example notice]

The question you are answering has recently received vote(s) to be closed by the community. Please click to refresh this page to see if closure is likely, or if you can post your answer to another thread asking this question.

The notice can be more specific depending on the type of closure. It might even be prudent to include this warning whenever someone starts to answer a question with (even preexisting) close votes.

It's not reasonable to expect folks everywhere to have an innate understanding of when a post might not be the best fit for a site. This is an opportunity to head off an unfortunate situation and turn it into a bit of just-in-time learning rather than enabling a lot of unwanted content.

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    Would this just be for 3k users or all users? – Pikachu the Watermelon Wizard Jan 17 at 16:15
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    Currently <3k users can't even tell if there are any pending close votes if they're actively looking, other than checking for a possible duplicate comment. – Servy Jan 17 at 16:16
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    3k? No. This is for the benefit of everyone, especially newer users. – Robert Cartaino Jan 17 at 16:20
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    Would <3k users be able to see close votes like 3k users, or would they just get a notification that the question might be closed? – Pikachu the Watermelon Wizard Jan 17 at 16:21
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    This is where I think reason-specific guidance would be key, @pizza: "this question looks unclear and may be closed - please edit it to be clear in order to post an answer" / "this question may be a duplicate of [link] - if you agree, consider answering that question instead" / etc. – Shog9 Jan 17 at 16:23
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    I don't understand why we would keep that information from anyone ever. Why is it such a big secret (privileged) that a post may be unfit or need work... hidden until the post is actually closed? Maybe that's why so many people are answering questionable posts. Seems daft. – Robert Cartaino Jan 17 at 16:27
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    Perhaps, rather than a warning, we can a) expose the close vote count to all users, and b) make it stand out more and more as additional votes are accumulated. That could serve the same purpose, although it would take work to modify the close dialog to prevent votes from those not eligible. – fbueckert Jan 17 at 16:30
  • @fbueckert wouldn't exposing the VTC counts to everyone lead to some "new" users (who don't grasp the ropes yet) commenting "why is this VTCed? Seems ok to me", and leading to digression/flamewars when someone explains? Admittedly dupe-comments are visible to everyone, but at least they point to an answer somewhere. Off-topic/Too broad etc forbids the Q from having an answer (until it's edited and reopened, sure, but that's... unfortunately not something everyone is willing to understand) – Jenayah Jan 17 at 16:45
  • @Jenayah It certainly could. But...if we're trying to notify answerers that they're answering a question that is in the process of being closed, we have to tell them more than just that, which will lead to the same argument, regardless. At least we're telling them that, hey, there's a process going on that will prevent answers. Maybe check to see why and go from there. – fbueckert Jan 17 at 16:50
  • @fbueckert displaying it to answerers I'm fine with; my main concern is about passer-by whin... people who don't intend to improve the question/answer it. I'm being pessimistic, granted, but this is the Internet... :) – Jenayah Jan 17 at 16:54
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    @Jenayah That just seems more complicated. Wait until someone starts answering before telling them that the question is being closed? That's a pretty bad user experience. Users that don't have any stake can try to complain, but without 3k, they're functionally unable to do anything but leave comments, which can be ignored, flagged, and removed. There's no obligation to engage, especially with someone who's not trying to contribute in good faith. – fbueckert Jan 17 at 16:58
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  • @fbueckert fair point. – Jenayah Jan 17 at 17:04
  • @fbueckert if you've already voted, all the options are uncheckable. Just extend that state for <3k with a notice. – TheWanderer Jan 17 at 17:28
  • @TheWanderer Right, I forgot about that. Even easier, then! Mostly just need to make the close link angrier and angrier as it gets more votes, then. – fbueckert Jan 17 at 17:37
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Can we extend that same feature/courtesy to authors when a question is being voted to close?

The idea sounds great, it sounds like trying to make the site nicer and solve the problem of people writing answers just to suddenly find out they can't post them.

I'm wondering if there were any thoughts put into thinking about how vulnerable this might be to being interpreted/used the wrong way? If this would only be a problem for inexperienced users, perhaps it won't matter that much, and make them rethink/give up easily enough.

Yet it seems the MSO question you link to isn't written by someone that's all that inexperienced, and they do seem to be able to see close-votes already.

How would this prevent giving a message that's interpreted as 'If you spent too much time writing this answer, you may not be able to post it' and people rapidly finishing up an answer/posting an unfinished answer for later editing?

The person that asked the question about this on MSO, which you link to in your suggestion, seems already aware of this too:

You can mitigate this by submitting a quick incomplete answer, and then editing it to improve it, but this is not always acceptable, and IMO is a poor practice to mitigate a very poor UX.

How can we be sure this will turn into 'just in time learning', and make sure that what's learned is not 'if I post my answer now, it can still be posted/edited at leisure while if I wait I might not be able to post at all'?

  • Yes, it's curious; what is the incentive to post to questions which may (knowingly) be closed and/or removed soonest? This is about transparency and knowing what's going on with a post. If reputation is an incentive, then posting hastily written answers just to get in under the wire would seem to be counter productive. It's easy enough to detect these patterns of behavior if users are made aware that something might not be the best course of action. <more> – Robert Cartaino Jan 17 at 21:34
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    IMO, the system should be methodically throttling back a user's abilities if they (habitually) keep doing the wrong thing (with full transparency, guidance). That works both ways though (if you're good at something, you get to do more of it). But watching your abilities slowly whittled away with each encounter gives folks a chance to slow down and learn for next time. We have a tendency to impose on everyone else at the slightest possibility of a few bad actors. I'm more inclined to make the the system more approachable and discoverable for everyone else, but that's another conversation. – Robert Cartaino Jan 17 at 21:34
  • @RobertCartaino What is the incentive to post to questions which may (knowingly) be closed and/or removed soonest? > Gambling for rep? I don't know about SO (it seems it's quite downvote happy) but on other (especially smaller) sites: Questions with a postive scoring/accepted answer aren't automatically deleted. So you get 15 for having it accepted, that means there's going to be 8 downvotes needed to offset that rep gain (and those may never arrive), and you get to keep whatever is left if no-one deletes the question before it's 60 days old. 1/2 – Tinkeringbell Jan 18 at 8:44
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    Throttling users that habitually answer questions that end up closed (If I understand correctly, you're suggesting something like that above?) might help counteract this, this makes the message have a consequence instead of just being another bit of information that people can use to circumvent the system. That sounds like a good solution to me. – Tinkeringbell Jan 18 at 8:48
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    @RobertCartaino what is the incentive to post to questions which may (knowingly) be closed and/or removed soonest? Hi, I'm the OP of the question you linked. My personal incentive is helping the person who is asking the question. I'm not too bothered about rep, but it's no use to anyone if my answer is blocked from being submitted. If I've started answering before a question is closed, I'd appreciate being given time to finish up and submit. It's especially frustrating when the question has been closed erroneously, it then involves back and forth with meta, and becomes way too much effort. – Doctor Jones Jan 18 at 10:46
  • @RobertCartaino it's also not always clear that the question is going to be closed. This is especially true when a question is marked as an erroneous dupe, or if an over zealous gold badge comes along and hammers it instantly. In my question over on the other meta, everyone assumed that this always happens on very low quality questions that do no belong on the site, but it does happen to good questions with a good MCVE. People do make mistakes, and other people can get caught in the crossfire. – Doctor Jones Jan 18 at 10:50
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What you describe sounds to me pretty close to annotations: an optional set of anonymous meta notes on the post that can be picked from some predefined list.

As discussed in comments, it doesn't make much sense to limit access to these annotations to only answerers - because otherwise users would quickly learn a simple workaround for that and they would start (ab)using the system by starting "draft" of the answer with sole purpose to read annotations.

I think what you would need instead is to give anyone who reads the post an option to access these annotations that wouldn't stand in the way of their primary goal. Most of them would probably want to just read the post (as they promise in the tour, "questions, answers, no distractions") and only minority would be curious to learn extra meta details. For these folks annotations would better be presented as some non-intrusive collapsed / expandable UI element.

For the answerers, these details may be very important and because of that they probably deserve more explicit presentation, up to maybe some modal popup to click-through prior to starting their answer.


Implementation of this feature can start with simply generating annotations based on votes and flags to close.

And if it goes well, you can consider further experiments and enhancements, for example supplying additional predefined set of notes reflecting typical reasons to downvote and / or allowing votes on annotations (only up or maybe both up and down).

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