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While this is only my third question on SE, I've used the site for years. As an amateur science enthusiast, I Google frequently for answers to science questions and often find myself on one of the SE sites. What has struck me over the years is the frequency with which a question is closed for being too broad, claims to having it already been answered, or other reasons.

But more concerning was how often I thought that neither the question was too broad, nor the supposed other threads adequately answered the question. As a result, I've hesitated ever asking a question here, deeming it more trouble than it was worth. Lately I've been asking a bunch of science questions at my usual forum so to avoid wearing out my welcome, I decided to ask a question here - in Chemistry SE to be specific. I ALWAYS exhaustively search for an answer to my question before asking one.

Here is a link to the question for those interested (though I include it below):

How does the energy released during a bond formation typically manifest itself on atomic level?

The question received 6 upvotes and was answered twice (with one answer being unexplicably deleted at one point). Then I saw the question was closed for "having been answered elsewhere," with a message that I should edit the question. I edited the question indicating (with admittedly some frustration) why the other answer did not answer my question.

I come back a few hours later to find 5 people closed the question, citing it was too broad. My question was :

How does the energy released during a bond formation typically manifest itself on atomic level?

With a clarifying question inside asking:

"When two atoms of Hydrogen combine to form H2, how does the energy decrease manifest itself if their are no surrounding molecules?"

There are many other clarifications in the text.

As far as I can tell, this is not a broad question. If it is, then I'm not given any reason why. Perhaps it's my lack of understanding about the issue that makes it so broad, in which case someone could tell me why it's difficult to answer to increase my understanding and perhaps allow me to tighten the question. If it was closed in retribution to my very slight frustration, then that is also symptomatic of a toxic culture.

This leads to the fundamental issue at SE : it appears there's an elitist Comic Book Guy attitude here of finding any and all reasons to close a question. It's almost as if there is a competition amongst those with the power to close to be the most martinetish. I can totally understand the desire to maintain quality questions and answers and avoid re-anwering the same questions again and again, but it's become extreme. It appears people don't even mine the questions for subtleties and differentiators and instead just reflexively put the burden of proof on the asker of the question.

People are trying to learn here. How about giving them the benefit of the doubt and make the default action leaving the question open?

So my question (and I'm sure someone will link to another question claiming it's been answered - but as far as I can tell, there is a difference between complaining about the situation here and finding out who to contact about this issue) is :

Who can I contact to make the case that the culture here needs to change because it's currently hostile and antithetical to learning( whether through policy changes or some "culture statement")? Is there someone below the CEO who would have the willingness to listen and the oowermto initiate a change.

closed as off-topic by πάντα ῥεῖ, Glorfindel, Ward, Robert Longson, user1228 Aug 15 at 15:55

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

  • "This question's topic is only applicable to one specific site in the Stack Exchange Network. Questions on Meta Stack Exchange should relate to features or policies that commonly apply to the network or the software that drives it, within the guidelines defined in the help center. You should ask this question on the meta site where your concern originated." – Glorfindel, Robert Longson, Community
  • "This question does not appear to seek input and discussion from the community. If you have encountered a problem on one of our sites, please describe it in detail. See also: What is "meta"? How does it work?" – πάντα ῥεῖ, Ward
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • The CEO and the staff at SE HQ make the platform available. The communities at the respective sites agree among them over the consensus what is on-topic and how content is going to be moderated. If you're hoping you can find some with power that makes lasting changes to these sites and their communities on their own to just your liking then I don't expect you'll find one. – rene Aug 15 at 15:17
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    Your question was reopened 18 hours ago... the users on sites are people... they err. They're not "elitist", they're just human. I'm not quite sure I understand your frustration. No one closed it as a duplicate, they suggested that it might be a duplicate and no one agreed with that one person... one comment doesn't get something closed in most cases. Our system is quite confusing to newer users and we're working on improving that but, please, don't ascribe such mean intentions to people. – Catija Aug 15 at 15:18
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    As you did not reference any of the 2,000 plus posts about deleting duplicates meta.stackexchange.com/search?q=delete+duplicates I suspect you did not look at any of them before posting this question. Maybe it is not a community problem? – James Jenkins Aug 15 at 15:20
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    First, the "duplicate" notice you were seeing didn't mean that your question was actually closed as a duplicate, just that someone voted to close it as a duplicate. In the end, it wasn't closed as a duplicate, but as "too broad" instead. Then, following your edits, your question was reopened by a moderator. I agree that the guidance can be improved here (e.g. by modifying the proposed duplicate notice to make it more clear that the question has not been actually marked yet), but in the end, it seems like your whole situation was resolved. – Sonic the Reinstate Monica-hog Aug 15 at 15:22
  • The content you see when someone suggests a dupe is this: This question may already have an answer here: [Button to accept suggestion] [Title] [#] answers No, my question is different. I will edit to explain how. I dont think this is overly confusing. It states "might have" so nothing concluding there. – Luuklag Aug 15 at 15:40
  • Catija - my point is that they appear to err on the side of erring. As far as ascribing mean intentions, it's pretty hard not to in the closing of my question. – M D Aug 15 at 18:28
  • Hi Sonic - I figured "on hold" meant closed temporarily. Notice that my edits just asked why it was broad- there was no change to the question. 5 people voted to close a question that I can see no earthly reason for being called too broad. – M D Aug 15 at 18:32
  • For the record, I apologise for the Comic Book Guy remark. – M D Aug 15 at 18:48
  • You're asking two apparently distinct questions. Try and ask just one (i.e. only include one question mark in the question and copy the question sentence to the title). – user474678 Aug 15 at 19:45
  • Chemistry activity: 'The user has not cast any votes'. You are suggesting the mixing of unknown substances in unknown quantities while untrained and inexperienced. You should be aware that reactions can be violently exothermic:) – Martin James Aug 16 at 8:01
  • Jl2210 - thanks for being the only one to explain why my question was closed. It would be nice if someone could explain why rather than just close it. To me the other questions were just clarifiers. I guess I'm just wondering - and there may very well be a good answer- what's the harm in leaving it open and having people choose whether or not the question is too broad by clarifying or just not answering it? Someone answered so at least someone thought it was a reasonable question. – M D Aug 16 at 15:32
  • Maybe I shouldn't ask for clarification here, but what's the point of having up/down votes on a site dedicated to science? This is a sincere question. I'm not talking about on meta but about chemistry stack, etc. Why judge people on their questions? It only makes people less likely to ask for fear of being shamed. It just seems at first glance to be unnecessary. Science is about intellectual rigor and curiosity, not shame. – M D Aug 16 at 15:36
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    Users are not judged. Posts are. Votes are to denote quality; how, exactly, is someone supposed to denote a wrong answer, if not by downvoting? Or maintain quality standards by ignoring low-quality questions? – fbueckert Aug 16 at 15:41
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The best way to advocate for real change, in the simplest steps is:

  1. Join the community
  2. Spend time learning how it works. You can:
    • Asking and answering questions
    • Observing how other questions are asked
    • Noting how questions get closed, and reopened
    • Reading Meta
    • Voting on posts. Once you hit 3,000 rep, close and reopen votes, especially.
  3. Noting what you believe are pain points.
  4. Creating Meta posts pointing out what you believe is a problem, and why.
  5. (Optional) Answer your own Meta post with a potential solution.

Essentially, if you want to advocate for real change in the culture, you have to be part of the culture. Show that you've put in your time, and that understand and are part of the community. That doesn't guarantee that change will happen; communities are still made of people that can disagree with you. But it gives you the best chance to really make a difference.

Feedback should to be constructive, open-minded, and show a genuine belief that an aspect can be improved. The vast majority of complaints we get come from users who don't understand the workings of the site, and have made no attempt to do so. Those are incredibly easy to dismiss, and generally are. More often than not, because they aren't actually looking for change, but just to rant at the people they believe to be the problem.

Don't be that person. Be the one who wants to work to make the site the best it can, not just be a place where you can get free help. You didn't want to wear out your welcome elsewhere. That's good. It shows an understanding of that community. Now you need to understand this one.

  • I think I've done all those steps. Like I said, I've lurked for a long time. I've seen it in action. That's why I haven't participated. Do you believe my OP was a rant? Maybe the comic book guy reference was unnecessary, I'll give you that, but the rest was honestly trying to figure out who to contact. 5 people have already voted this be put on hold. Why? I looked through the help section before I posted this and I met all the criteria. I wrote this after seeing all the other posts from experienced users asking why the site isnt friendly to new users. – M D Aug 15 at 18:20
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    You have one question on Chemistry.SE. Not even a Meta account (that gets created the first time you check it out). And you don't have the rep to vote in any sense. The most you've done is observe a bit and maybe note some stuff. You're not really part of the community; you're an unknown user who asked one question (two, if you count your Physics one), and came to M.SE to try to change the system after the latest one got closed. I don't call that doing all those steps. – fbueckert Aug 15 at 18:54
  • @MD As far as the help pages on this site, they could definitely use some improvement. It's also worth noting that up/down/close-voting here on this site (and some per-site metas, to a degree) tends to be rather fickle, with downvotes often being used to indicate disagreement rather than bad quality. Personally, I have a lot of bones to pick with this system, but for now, that's how it works. – Sonic the Reinstate Monica-hog Aug 15 at 23:54
  • Fbeuckert - one doesn't need to participate in a system to make an observation on how it works. Ive read at least 100 questions here over the years, many of which seems closed unnecessarily. I didn't expect to be able to make changes from within the community which is why I asked who is generally responsible for running the site day-to-day. – M D Aug 16 at 15:26
  • You asked for the best way to advocate for real change. That's what I suggested. Those that don't (and won't) participate don't have the perspective to really understand why things work the way they do. Like I said, it's easy to dismiss those people. Don't be that person. Get your hands dirty before saying the system doesn't work. – fbueckert Aug 16 at 15:39
  • Fbeuckert - lastly, before I wrote this post, I googled "stack exchange rude" to see if I was missing something. It appears based on the results that I wasn't. Take a look for yourself. – M D Aug 16 at 15:41
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    Yeah, there's that perception. And I'm done apologizing to those who refuse to interact within the system, instead of complaining about it outside of it. We have quality standards, and that's why I stick around. We're not Quora, or Yahoo Answers. – fbueckert Aug 16 at 15:43
  • Fbuekert - but when I complain inside the system, look at the response I get. I have no axe to grind here. The quality standards are unnecessarily harsh and the manner in which they are enforced are completely in violation of the spirit of science and learning. – M D Aug 23 at 15:42
  • Uh. Re-read my suggestion. Of those steps, tell me what you did. Because I don't see the vast majority of them. Before you complain, show your understanding of the system. It's like asking Harvard to lower their standards because it's too hard to get in. – fbueckert Aug 23 at 15:44
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If it was closed in retribution to my very slight frustration, then that is also symptomatic of a toxic culture.

We never close a post out of frustration. Why would we? We assume good faith as a starting point and go from there. I give you it might deteriorate a bit when we're called toxic.

This leads to the fundamental issue at SE : it appears there's an elitist Comic Book Guy attitude here of finding any and all reasons to close a question. It's almost as if there is a competition amongst those with the power to close to be the most martinetish. I can totally understand the desire to maintain quality questions and answers and avoid re-anwering the same questions again and again, but it's become extreme. It appears people don't even mine the questions for subtleties and differentiators and instead just reflexively put the burden of proof on the asker of the question.

No, you find the finest experts on these sites that have worked with many contributors to make the sites into what it is today, content wise. In that process not all content is accepted and either send back to the author for further improvement or simply deleted because it didn't fit within the scope or didn't add a new perspective to the content already present. That is a difference between SE sites and other sites. We don't optimize to facilitate the needs for the original poster but for the many visitors that follow them and are going to find that post.

People are trying to learn here. How about giving them the benefit of the doubt and make the default action leaving the question open?

Questions are by default open. All posts get the benefit of the doubt. And even if a post goes south there are enough users that can spot a pearl. As has happened with your post.

Who can I contact to make the case that the culture here needs to change because it's currently hostile and antithetical to learning( whether through policy changes or some "culture statement")? Is there someone below the CEO who would have the willingness to listen and the oowermto initiate a change.

You can participate on Meta (this very site) or on a per-site Meta once you reached 5 reputation. Do know that we are all humans here (and a few bots) and work hard in our free time to keep the content as good and useful as it is today as well as for the years to come. We do that in good faith and often in good spirit. Lately it has been a popular trend to call each and everyone that is participating on these sites hostile and toxic and what not. Demanding a change and asserting that no one has the willingness to listen is not a great opener to me for a productive discussion about the shape and form of the changes you obviously have in your mind but have not yet made concrete.

Looking forward to a fruitful restart of the cooperation between new and long time users to steer the Q/A model to new heights in the next 6 to 8 years.

  • Thanks for the in depth response. I've modded before and appreciate the frustrations. As far as the retributive closing, I don't see how anyone could possibly see my question as too vague. Given what ive seen on this site before asking, I worked very hard to avoid all the hazards. – M D Aug 15 at 18:23
  • @MD when someone is new to a problem / context and looks at it with fresh eyes they might notice / wonder about aspects you have already taken for granted. It can be helpful to work together with a couple of people in the comments so anyone can experience and grasp the dilemma you've put so much effort in. When it succeeds it will be rewarding although it can't be ruled out you will sometimes find a topic is too big/ too overwhelming to be captured in the strict question and answer format. When you can't make it fly, other venues exist, think a blog or an open discussion forum. – rene Aug 15 at 18:35
  • I see this now has 5 votes to close as off topic. I specifically looked at posting guidelines before posting. My only guess is that's is considered a rant? There's a pretty big difference between expressing frustration and a rant. I'm genuinely asking for something to be done. There are questions from experienced users complaining about the same issue 7 years ago and nothing has been done. I'm sure people are thinking "who is this new user to come and tell us how to do things?" Ive lurked forever and didn't join for the reasons cited. I join, ask a good question, yet still get spanked. – M D Aug 15 at 18:41
  • @MD yes, it is a rant. That is why I answered as I like these kind of exchanges. First: you better had started on the per-site meta. Those are best equipped to answer the specifics about why a post was moderated as it was. Second: Your post here is not actionable, is accusing members of this community and making unrealistic demands. It simply shows you have not understood yet well enough how the Q/A model of SE works and why the communities here are so successful with curating content. – rene Aug 15 at 18:51
  • We can use guidance to become better at handling those case where moderation didn't went well. But that needs two to tango and your question didn't read as an invitation to dance. – rene Aug 15 at 18:51
  • Hi Rene - It is actionable. I very specifically asked who was responsible for running the site and/or who was most willing/able to make changes in how it runs. You may disagree with my thoughts about the site but that doesn't mean the question isn't actionable. – M D Aug 16 at 15:21
  • @MD This Is there someone below the CEO who would have the willingness to listen and the oowermto initiate a change. is not a question, at least not one in my book that deserves an answer. So no, that is not actionable, no matter how you like to spin it. – rene Aug 16 at 16:24
  • Rene how is that not actionable? Perhaps you just don't like the question? I'm pretty sure there is someone who would be concerned about the perception of SE outside the community enough to reconsider policies. Have you googled "stack exchange rude?". – M D Aug 23 at 15:38
  • @MD yes, I know what everyone outside of the SE network thinks of me and my actions. If anything, changes do come from within the community and are facilitated by the platform with offering better tools. That won't happen over night but obviously lots of people on the internet are a bit impatient. Nothing/nobody can help that, CEO or not. – rene Aug 23 at 17:14
  • I wasn't singling you out. I was looking at multiple posts from long-time community members, some going back to 2011, which called for a cultural change here. They were all closed as off-topic and refuted in the comments. It seems pretty clear nothing has changed here in all that time, at least culturally speaking. I completely understand that this place isn't intended to be Quora or, god forbid, Ask Yahoo. I appreciate the high standards, but they can be enforced civilly and helpfully. There aren't enough STEM people as it is - no need to discourage people further. – M D Aug 23 at 22:00
  • @MD You are singling me out. I'm part of this community. I made it what it is today and will help evolve it into whatever I and others envision it to be in the future. I'm more then civil and helpful and so are many, many others. Somehow that doesn't get payed back. It doesn't matter we and I have grown accustomed to that. – rene Aug 23 at 22:04
  • Rene - (for some reason it's preventing me from using @ prefixed) The fact that you've "grown accustomed to that" is the problem. It seems that rather than respond to feedback, the community has decided to circle the wagons. It's really a shame because there are a lot of knowledgeable people here who I'm sure would be willing to be helpful but whose hands are tied by the martinets. – M D Aug 24 at 11:25
  • I'm the OP, those never need to be @ as I'll get notified for each new comment, whether I like that or not ... – rene Aug 24 at 11:35
  • @MD Don't turn the argument around. I'm responding to feedback and so are many of my peers. I can't help it that the feedback falls flat at the receiver. Y'day I was told by another new user that the guidance post I linked them to was too long. I curated that "long post" over the years to help users like them, yet I'm told that the info needs to be bite size. Not longer then a tweet. And for sure that new users tweeted about their awful experience. I can't win from users like that and I don't blame myself for moving on quickly from so much entitlement. – rene Aug 24 at 11:45
  • That is the same I will do with this endless discussion. Good luck! – rene Aug 24 at 11:45

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