This question provoked a hail of downvotes and a rapid close. It looks to me as if people mistook Chinese characters in pathnames for Chinese error messsages. Furthermore, there was an almost-answerable question in there, dealing with iPhone SDK tools. So complaining of the lack of code was missing the poor OP's point. Couldn't this have been left open for, oh, 15 minutes and the OP given a fair chance to fix it up?

Rep being uninteresting on Meta, I'll just edit here and who cares if CW goes off.

Reading the answers, I would summarize under several headings.

  1. Close is not a kiss-of-death. Posters of closed questions are welcome to edit and expect a reopening.
  2. Just because one of the comments was confused about Chinese chars, that doesn't mean that all or any of the close voters were confused.
  3. There is still some divergence of opinion as to how rapidly defective questions should be closed, versus allowed to stay open in the hopes of a repair. That's not surprising.

For myself, I'd add the following thoughts.

  1. To us non- (not-yet-???) moderators, the close process is a bit opaque. As with some other rep-based activities, it's sometimes best to just trust that them with the rep haven't been replaced by Wikipedia editors and not worry too much. Still, it's hard not to feel some sympathy for the OP in a case like this.
  2. I see plenty of questions that are just as incoherent as this one -- once you read them carefully -- but which aren't closed. Rather than railing about some notion of unfairness, I theorize that people with close votes shoot at things that are obviously defective, but can't be expected to read a Java code posting in detail and discover that it's entirely incoherent.
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    The questions may not be in Chinese, but it's certainly not in English either "Affect the program to the app store I have to it?" – Kyle Cronin Dec 9 '09 at 15:51

13 hours later, and it was just reclosed. (I didn't cast one of the votes.) I can get the issue that this might be a hasty close -- I've been guilty of that when a question was so unintelligible that I couldn't make out what the OP wanted.

In this case, however, I think the Chinese characters are a straw man argument. I like to think the 10 different people who voted to close this question are literate, and able to tell that those are file paths.

The OP of the question obviously has a grasp of English based on the rest of the original question. It might not be the best, but it's enough to figure it out. Again, I like to think we're all smart here in SO-land, so we can figure out the difference between the file paths and the question content, even when it's an unformatted jumble.

The biggest argument made to keep this question open was to give the OP an opportunity to make changes and clarify. 13 hours later, and this is what I see:

  • 4 comments requesting clarification
  • 2 comments from people who saw all the Chinese characters and assumed the question wasn't in English (and BTW, don't seem to be close votes on it!)
  • 2 noisy LOLs.
  • ZERO responses from the OP.

There were mistakes made early on in the handling of this question on all sides, but the bottom line is this: The OP is obviously not interested enough to do anything to fix the question. Valid close.

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    The question was asked 13 hours ago: 8pm (assuming EST.) The OP was last seen 10 hrs ago, 1am. Maybe he posted the question, got some dinner, did a brief check before bed, and doesn't check SO while he's at work. "obviously not interested" is a dubious claim. At the heart of it is "how many hours is long enough" to tell if the OP plans to come back, and a new user in particular would have no way of knowing how quickly things move in SO-land. It just seems like there are tons of presuppositions that an asker must be aware of and that we are making a ton of assumptions about the user's situation – user3788 Dec 9 '09 at 16:12
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    Are you not presupposing this user's in the Eastern time zone, which I consider to be a far more dubious claim? He/she was seen 3 hours after the post was made, after all of the comments asking for clarification. Thus, the user actually came back, was notified via Big Top Bar, and did not clarify. I feel I'm pretty justified saying, "not interested." Or possibly "scared off" by the missteps in early handling. – John Rudy Dec 9 '09 at 16:16
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    I have to agree. It may have been hasty the first time, but with no new information from OP, it can't be answered. Reopen if they explain more. – C. Ross Dec 9 '09 at 16:20
  • Just for the record: I have no way of knowing how many people voted to close, I reacted to the comments I could see. – Rosinante Dec 10 '09 at 2:09
  • @bmargulies: Thank you for the accept; actually you should be able to see how many people voted to close by looking at the question's edit history. – John Rudy Dec 10 '09 at 2:13
  • I just discovered that, yes. – Rosinante Dec 10 '09 at 2:17

It looks to me as if people mistook Chinese characters in pathnames for Chinese error messsages

Probably because he forgot to include the error messages? Maybe those don't matter for iPhone developers, but that's what I would have expected to see in the question instead of, or at least prior to, a bunch of possibly-related build commands?

It doesn't excuse those who got it wrong, but I wouldn't encourage anyone to re-open this unless they can actually make sense of it (or the OP returns with more info).

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  • Precisely. I was just about to add a comment pointing this out and asking him/her to fix it up, when it was closed, cutting off all further communications. – Rosinante Dec 9 '09 at 12:30
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    Eh? You can leave comments on closed questions - I did. And the OP can still edit his question, even though it's closed. Closing just prevents people from posting answers, not necessarily a bad thing if the question is unclear... – Shog9 Dec 9 '09 at 15:04
  • In my experience closed questions disappear where I can't find them, but I guess I have something to learn. – Rosinante Dec 9 '09 at 15:25
  • @Shog9: there was a comment or answer complaining about the Chinese. – Rosinante Dec 9 '09 at 15:26
  • Two days after being closed, a question can be deleted by normal users. Some of them are, at which point they become difficult to find... But otherwise, closed questions act more or less like open questions, they just can't be answered. See: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/10582/… – Shog9 Dec 9 '09 at 15:28

I edited the question ~60 seconds after it was posted to try and knock it into shape. By the time I was done (~2 mins later), it'd been closed.

I think this is another example of how the community can be a tiny bit over-zealous with the close button when a new and non-english speaker posts a question and it's far from perfect.

The question survived for all of three minutes and not one of the users who voted to close (all with enough rep to edit) even attempted to knock the question into shape or solicit more info from the OP.

How well would we fair if there was an excellent site like this based in China and the main language of use was Cantonese?

But I think the damage is probably done and the OP has most likely deserted the question (and Stack Overflow) due to the overly hasty work by the rapid response team.

I think folks should try and get more info from the OP, wait a bit longer (say an hour or so at least) before bombing questions such as these out of existence.

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    s/rapid response/rabid response/ – quack quixote Dec 9 '09 at 5:23
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    how about 24 hrs? Not everyone lives at their PC. This is why there is a checkbox "Notify me at [email]" so it gives you daily updates. – Brian Dec 9 '09 at 5:56
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    Seems like the close function is starting to get abused by people with Wikipedian moderating standards which is extremely bad because it causes exactly this, rapid closing of questions etc. and related non-constructive behaviour such as rapid downvoting to make sure no one actually uses the site for its intended purpose (share knowledge etc.). I don't know if there's any (significant) penalty for closing a question but if there isn't, maybe it's time to add one? – Esko Dec 9 '09 at 9:07
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    @Roboto: Why is it too much to expect someone to hang around for a few minutes after asking a question? Or include the most relevant details in their question from the outset? If you're going to suggest a waiting period, you might as well suggest that the feature be abolished entirely in favor of a "vote to delete" option. @Esko: if you have any data to back this up, post a separate suggestion. – Shog9 Dec 9 '09 at 15:13
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    @Esko: This isn't Wikipedian moderating standards. It's a recognition of the fact that the question, as asked, cannot be answered. Since this is a Q&A site, one would think it obvious that the primary requirement on a Q is that it allow an A. The closed question is an extremely bad one for knowledge sharing. To give a car analogy: I got about 32 miles to the gallon of gas on my last fill. How can I shorten my commute? – David Thornley Dec 9 '09 at 15:18
  • It would have taken a trivial edit from the OP to render it answerable. It is not unlikely that the missing critical bit (the error message) was omitted due to a mistake. – Rosinante Dec 9 '09 at 15:24
  • @bmargulies - and he still can add that trivial bit of information. And it will go back to the front page. And if it's closed, it will be re-opened, probably far more quickly than the three minutes it took to close it originally. I still don't see a problem with closing something that is not a real question. – Pollyanna Dec 9 '09 at 15:44
  • @bmargulies: indeed, and it's quite possible that he left discouraged by the other comments before this was even pointed out. Unfortunately, there's not much we can do about that now, but in the future please don't hesitate to leave comments pointing this stuff out on the question itself. – Shog9 Dec 9 '09 at 15:47
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    David, it's not a very healthy attitude to turn something down immediately if it doesn't meet some high standards, especially if ANYONE can improve it by spending a single thought for it. Closing questions because they're not 100% clear and readily chewn for you is the lazy way of handling the issue and while all developers are lazy in their hearts, improvement rarely occurs when one's lazy. – Esko Dec 9 '09 at 15:52
  • @Esko: The only improvement that could be made to that question logically, by anyone other than its OP, was the edit Kev did. And it still wasn't a real question. – John Rudy Dec 9 '09 at 16:18
  • @Shog9: If we all had a crystal ball, I could tell you why he did not hang around but at least a 24 hr 'cooling off' period before closing (just like answering your own question) would be more ideal than how it works now – Brian Dec 9 '09 at 17:03
  • IF everyone had the same rights, we wouldn't have these issues – Brian Dec 9 '09 at 17:05
  • @Roboto: Wha? If everyone had the same rights ... ? Not sure what you're getting at, but if it's about the tiered moderation levels on the Trilogy, no, if everyone had the same rights, we'd have utter and complete chaos. There would be no point to even trying to clean up the mess that would be made. – John Rudy Dec 9 '09 at 17:23
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    @Roboto: What, exactly, would leaving it open accomplish? There seems to be a trend in certain users that closure is somehow a negative thing to happen to any question. Not so. It simply prevents answers (likely to be incorrect) from being posted. OP can edit and clarify, comments can be added, and discussions had to get the question re-openable. Where is the harm? – John Rudy Dec 9 '09 at 19:17
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    @Esko: I'm not talking about high standards. I'm talking about there being enough information to make a stab at answering the question. I could perhaps improve the question IF I had telepathic abilities and a mind-link to the OP, but I simply don't know the information needed to make this a real question. If you think you can improve it sufficiently, do so. If you don't have edit rights, I do, so leave your proposed changes as comments and if they make sense I'll put them in. Moreover, laziness is one of the Three Cardinal Virtues of programming. – David Thornley Dec 9 '09 at 20:20

An over-hasty close?

No. For the reasons I've explained elsewhere, the question is not a real question, and is a perfect example of why that vote to close reason exists.

there was an almost-answerable question in there

If you post something that is almost a question, then it will almost stay open.

Couldn't this have been left open for, oh, 15 minutes

No. After 15 minutes it leaves the radar of the vast majority of users and moderators, and becomes an unanswered, unanswerable dead weight in the database. You cannot assume it's going to be edited to become a better question without feedback to the OP, and even if you are a great moderator and bookmark the question for later moderation (ie, give them 15, 60, 720, or more minutes) then you have to expect 4 other moderators to do the same thing - otherwise your close votes expire, and the question remains a dud in the system.

One might think this isn't a real problem, why not leave it in the database? We are indexed very aggressively by Google and other search engines, and given a very high rank for some of these more esoteric topics. It would add one more completely useless hit on the front page of a google search that would only serve to frustrate others when they see that it's useless, which would probably be a worse blot for more potential users than losing one because they didn't understand that a vote to close was merely an explicit notice that they must fix their question before it's presented to the community again.

and the OP given a fair chance to fix it up?

The OP can fix it up while closed, and every edit brings it back to the front page to be re-opened.

Leaving it open for a certain amount of time will not help in this case, will result in a lot of dangling 'bad' questions as explained above, and even worse will clutter the front page with a lot of dross that should be removed very quickly.

Perhaps you might feel that this question shouldn't have been closed quickly, but what about the dozens of questions a day that should be closed with prejudice? The system can't differentiate, and so it's up to the community.

Notably, this one was left open for the full time it was on the front page of SO. This is three times longer than really abusive questions.

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    Regarding Google Pollution: this is my most frequent irritation with ExSex (apart from the whole "scroll to the bottom" thing)... I'll search for some obscure error message or API, a ExSex question will show up, I'll load and scroll... only to find a vague question with equally vague answers, most of which are just futile requests for clarification from the OP. Big waste of time... – Shog9 Dec 9 '09 at 15:36
  • Closed does not make it disappear from Google – Brian Dec 9 '09 at 16:56
  • Deleted probably does make it disappear from Google. Not that I'd try deleting before the OP had a reasonable amount of time (maybe two days) to fix the question. – David Thornley Dec 9 '09 at 20:21
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    Deleting cannot be done immediately, so the OP can edit their post to be more acceptable. The moderators have lists of closed but not deleted questions they can go and delete. I believe there are some circumstances where some closed questions are automatically deleted as well. But if the question isn't closed, it won't show up on the lists ready for deletion, and will pollute google for far longer. – Pollyanna Dec 9 '09 at 22:06

The close is valid. It's not a real question, even after having been edited.

A build log (with no warnings or errors) and the question, "Why am I getting a code signing error? What is the problem?" is absolutely unanswerable.

There are a million reasons one might receive a code signing error (especially with Apple's obtuse code signing process) and beyond the words, "code signing error," the reader has absolutely no clue what they are being asked to diagnose. The phrase, "code signing error," unfortunately can mean many things in this context.

It is good that such questions are closed quickly - it gives the OP instant feedback that their question is not reasonable, and the comments give enough information to the OP as to how they need to change their question so people can actually help them.

The OP has not taken the opportunity to do so. Others have helped, but unfortunately it's still not a real question (specific, answerable, etc).

Even when closed the OP can edit, others can edit, and people can leave questions and suggestions via comment to help the OP get the question in shape.

I'd rather have instant feedback and the opportunity to change my post than a tumbleweed that's open, but unattended because it is completely useless as a question.

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    Is it impossible that, since the OP didn't understand the problem with his code, he wouldn't have known the important parts to post, which is why he came to SO in the first place? "Closing" the question helps who, exactly? – user3788 Dec 9 '09 at 5:40
  • Thanks for the long diatribe, but your reasons are false. The OP needs to be given an opportunity to improve the question or maybe the great 'closers' can edit the entry unlike the rest of us and fix it since you already seem to know where the problem is – Brian Dec 9 '09 at 5:48
  • Two hours after first post this would be a valid argument. – Rosinante Dec 9 '09 at 12:30
  • If after say 12 hours or some other amount of time that suits the ebb and flow of Q&A's on SO I'd probably agree, but 3 minutes and not one attempt to help the OP get his question right? – Kev Dec 9 '09 at 13:42
  • It should be like Experts Exchange where after a while, a moderator comes through for cleanup and marks questions pending-deletion/close. If no one responds, then an answer is forcefully accepted and question is closed. – Brian Dec 9 '09 at 13:55
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    @rascher - closing is instant feedback. Notably the question is open, and there is no answer. Making people wait to close means fewer questions will get closed (unless someone specifically goes through old questions and gets 4 other moderators to help them close them on the same day before the close votes expire), and useless questions like this SHOULD be closed and deleted from the system unless the OP takes the time to tend to their question. The OP can change their post even when closed. There is no reason to leave an unanswerable question open - no one can answer it anyway. – Pollyanna Dec 9 '09 at 15:08
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    @Roboto - The OP has the opportunity to fix it while closed, and when they edit it it goes back on the front page, and people will reopen it if it turns into a real question. NO ONE knows what the problem is - IT'S NOT A REAL QUESTION. It's absurdly broad and completely unanswerable. – Pollyanna Dec 9 '09 at 15:10
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    @rascher: Closing hurts who, exactly? Closing prevents people from posting answers. Since there's no answerable question there, what's wrong with that? @Roboto: We can tell where the problem with the question is: it's missing vitally needed information, which is absolutely necessary to provide a useful answer. That doesn't mean we can correct it by making up information. – David Thornley Dec 9 '09 at 15:12
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    @kev - After 3 minutes it's off the front page. Except for those SO users who have RSS feeds for tags, it might as well not exist in the system at all. Further, what do you suggest others do to turn the question into a real question? If you can figure out what the error is, why don't you edit it or leave a comment? No one else has because there is NO possible way to turn this non-question into an answerable question. – Pollyanna Dec 9 '09 at 15:13
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    @Roboto: well, that's just stupid. If we're gonna start using EE as a model for how SO should work, we might as well all just go home. I can't believe you're actually suggesting that it's a good idea to pollute the site with vague questions and randomly-selected guesses... WTF?! And again: the OP can edit his question at any time, closed or open. Indeed, it's one of the quickest ways to get your question re-opened... – Shog9 Dec 9 '09 at 15:17
  • @pollyana - we're supposed to be clever people here. I don't know much about apple iphone development which is why I didn't ask for more info. Those in the know would know which questions to ask of the OP to clarify the question. This just seems to be the usual knee jerk reaction of people who have the power to close without making any effort. We're supposed to be helpful, not judgemental. – Kev Dec 9 '09 at 15:50
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    @Kev: Yes, people should have asked for clarification earlier, and the early judgmental comments were unjustified. However, the bottom line is that the question, as written, was unanswerable and thus a valid close. It can get reopened as long as it's answerable. What harm does closing really do? – John Rudy Dec 9 '09 at 15:59
  • @Shog: simply asking for clarification in the message does not give pretense for closing – Brian Dec 9 '09 at 16:58
  • @Roboto: You're relatively new here (46 days), so can understand that you might not grasp all the nuances of these sites. However, closing is good for us. It keeps the sites clean, appropriately on-target, and filled with answerable, legible questions. There should, frankly, be more question closures, not fewer. – John Rudy Dec 9 '09 at 17:25
  • @Smurf: I'm not new... I was in Beta, I just have a new username – Brian Dec 9 '09 at 17:32

I totally agree with the close because the question was unanswerable. The rationale presented (at length) by others for why rapid closes are necessary are justified and correct. However, in this particular case, there is something being overlooked:

At the time of close, the first few comments blast the OP for not using "all English", when in fact all of the relevant parts of the message (of which there were admittedly few) were in English. Only the path names were in Chinese, and they might as well have said "foo bar baz" for all of the relevance they had.

Here's the comments that were present at the time of close:

Hi, This needs to be in all english for most people on this site to understand it. – bobobobo 13 hours ago

English, please, and please include some code, not just the error messages. – John Saunders 13 hours ago

What were they expecting from this question? – ChaosPandion 13 hours ago

Hey at least it proves SO uses unicode! – George 13 hours ago

haha @ George's comment. :) – Alex 13 hours ago

These comments amount to little more than laughing at the OP, with the exception of John's asking for some code, right after he (nonsensically) demands English. If we are going to rapidly close questions with the expectation that the OP fix them up before re-opening, we need to be giving accurate and helpful feedback in the comments.

That is not what happened here, and so I would not be surprised if the OP deserted his question for just that reason. Why bother fixing a question when the only feedback he received was so far off the mark?

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  • Which leads into the suggestion that moderators should leave useful feedback when they vote to close, which has been rejected time and time again. It's a social problem with no good technical solution. – Pollyanna Dec 9 '09 at 15:50
  • I agree, a technical solution is not possible. That's why I posted this answer: to apply effort towards a social solution. Baby steps, you know. ;) – ベレアー アダム Dec 9 '09 at 15:53
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    I think you're right, but... It took me some careful reading to figure out what that list was, as the title led me to expect an error message. My first thought was, "What a long and hard to read error!" followed quickly by, "Where's the error? Is it in Chinese?" Kev's edit made this much more clear, but at that point it was already closed. Frankly, this whole thing was ugly. – Shog9 Dec 9 '09 at 15:56

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