On Stack Exchanges, all users with 3,000 reputation or more can cast votes to close questions that they see as off-topic, or to reopen questions that they feel were wrongly closed. Ordinary users get a regular-strength close/reopen vote, 5 of which are necessary to close or reopen a question. In contrast, moderator close/reopen votes are an extra-strength variety, with just a single mod vote being sufficient to insta-close-or-reopen a question. All fine and dandy so far, as mods need to be able to nuke really-bad questions, or revive wrongly-closed ones, on occasion, but the mods don't have the ability to cast a normal-strength close/reopen vote in circumstances not requiring the use of the extra-strength vote.

Nearly eleven years ago, it was proposed to give mods the ability to "take off their mod hat" (so to speak) and cast a normal-strength close or reopen vote. The response was overwhelmingly "this is an amazing idea, why don't we have this already, this should be implemented ASAP" (lightly paraphrased), but it was unilaterally declined by @JeffAtwood in defiance of community consensus, claiming that mods should always use the bluntest instruments available to them (despite this [a] ignoring the fact that mods are users first and moderators second, and [b] being a clear violation of the principle of least privilege).

Since then, the ability for mods to cast a regular-strength close/reopen vote (or something with an even gentler touch) has been proposed again and again, as has a workaround to the problem,1 yet nothing has ever come of these proposals.

In this answer to a related question, @Shog9 made the argument that, for mods, (basically) the ability to insta-close or insta-reopen questions comes with a duty to use that ability whenever possible, just as an ordinary user uses their regular-strength close and reopen votes - despite the fact that a mod's insta-close or insta-reopen vote is a far blunter instrument than a regular close or reopen vote, and one never intended to be used except in extreme circumstances. Just because moderators are entrusted by the community with the use of such blunt instruments on the rare occasions that they are needed does not justify denying them the opportunity to use a lighter touch when the big hammer isn't called for. Their answer says

When you see a post you think should be closed, close it. When you see a post you think should be re-opened, re-open it. If you're not sure, don't do either.

But potentially-close-or-reopen-worthy questions usually aren't black-and-white, and treating them as if they are invites wrongful closings and reopenings - anyone can make mistakes, even mods, and the requirement for 5 ordinary close/reopen votes serves as a defence against mistaken question closings/reopenings, a defence which is lost when mods are forced to use their black-and-white hammers on greyscale questions.

As such, I hereby (as suggested in a comment on one of the earlier requests) re-request that moderators be granted the ability to cast regular-strength close/reopen votes if they so choose, instead of being restricted to the extra-strength variety.

1: This workaround received serious consideration despite the fact that using it would require the mod to [a] create a second account for this purpose, and then [b] get that account all the way up to 3,000 reputation, before it would allow them to cast normal-strength close/reopen votes; this should serve as an indication of the strength of the need for mods to be able to cast normal-strength close/reopen votes.

  • I'd guess this comment counts as an endorsement of the idea from a former CM too. I'd also suggest that in a sense - this is an attempt to revisit an old, potentially obsolete answer in the spirit of the current initiatives on SE. Its also the scariest thing for a new mod ;) – Journeyman Geek Mod Feb 19 at 2:44
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    Another tact is offered in the Q&A: "Empowering tag-badge holders part II - let's look at silver?", where silver tag badge holders could gain more responsibility; leaving less work for the moderators. – Rob Feb 19 at 2:45
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    As an aside, depending on how strictly you interpret the sock rules - a sock usually shouldn't allow you to do something your main account does not. This would mean getting 3k for a sock to to close might be in a bit of a grey area – Journeyman Geek Mod Feb 19 at 3:19
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    @JourneymanGeek I interpret the sock rules to mean "a sock shouldn't allow you to do more than (for the lack of a better word) what you could do with your main account". I believe it's a legitimate use of a sock to do something that's no longer possible with the main account due to higher privileges. Otherwise, it would also be against the rules to use a sock to suggest an edit, for example (which is something I believe most sock accounts have done at some point). I do agree though that that workaround shouldn't be the solution. – 41686d6564 Feb 19 at 3:50
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    I disagree. If you are not sure about your close or reopen vote, why are you voting at all. You should never hide your close and reopen votes behind the votes of others, and if you are unsure, trust your community to handle it instead. – Martijn Pieters Feb 19 at 8:15
  • Just a curious thought (since votes are anonymous), but I'm wondering how the votes would compare if you asked only moderators vs. if you only asked the communities they moderate. Is the wish for this really something moderators want? Or is there also a wish from the community to have more input? Are there people that aren't moderators yet/new-ish moderators that are a bit scared of making 'binding' decisions, or do long-time moderators also still hesitate to use their close-votes? – Tinkeringbell Mod Feb 19 at 9:55
  • @Tinkeringbell perhaps raise this topic in the separate moderator section. We as regular users should have no say at all in this matter. We don't have to live with the consequences of this change (besides the sites getting more crap that isn't closed or deleted) – Luuklag Feb 19 at 9:57
  • @Luuklag if moderators can push things into the close votes queue, you're going to have to live with it too, as long as you're still working in the review queue ... or are you saying you'd be going on strike if this is implemented, when you say 'more crap that isn't closed/deleted' ? :P But yeah, that thought might be a thing to put in a moderator-only space :-) – Tinkeringbell Mod Feb 19 at 10:00
  • Well @Tinkeringbell here for MSE it wouldn't have such an impact, as review queue's are mostly empty. On SO on the other hand.... – Luuklag Feb 19 at 10:04
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    The great irony of these requests is that I've seen them a lot more from non-mods, @tinkering - the logic seems to be that mods would close less if they had weaker votes, neglecting to observe that some of the most avid voters are not moderators. Good example of folks not quite grasping what they're really asking for, IMHO. Voting is no more a lighter touch than a firing squad is non-lethal. – Shog9 Feb 19 at 17:45

When I was a new mod - this was the single scariest thing and the ability to make non binding closevotes is still something I'd feel useful. In some cases I'd rather defer to the community.

Interestingly as much as we need ways for mods to indicate something needs attention and to get an extra pair of eyes on something, it would be nice for us to hand over items of interest for community attention.

I'd suggest should this be considered - and that we should keep the default to be the closehammer, and the option to non bindingly close as an option,

Something like

enter image description here

I'd also suggest considering 'extending' the feature request to duplicate closures in the same manner, where a gold-badge holder can choose not to unilaterally close

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    I disagree. If you are not sure about your vote, don’t vote. If you want the community to handle voting, don’t vote. At most, leave a comment. The community is bigger than just you as a moderator. Trust that your community can handle the voting. – Martijn Pieters Feb 19 at 8:18
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    I take it you are no longer scared. How will a new mod ever get over this fear and come into their confidence if you get to cop out all the time and hide behind other voters? – Martijn Pieters Feb 19 at 8:23
  • I get annoyed and throw it into chat 😁 in some cases, or discuss first – Journeyman Geek Mod Feb 19 at 8:33
  • Why do you get annoyed? Sounds like you already know what outcome of a vote should be :-) – Martijn Pieters Feb 19 at 8:34
  • It sounds like you want a non-binding vote because you don’t want to have the discussion to affirm your position on a post then? – Martijn Pieters Feb 19 at 8:40
  • Or rather a way to get it attention without making a decision. I actually also have a post in mind of why this is a terrible idea ... 😁 – Journeyman Geek Mod Feb 19 at 8:46
  • As for the discussion - a close queue is a more formal avenue for the same end result - getting more eyes on the post. This just gives us a way to kick something into the queue – Journeyman Geek Mod Feb 19 at 9:06
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    Then this is the wrong feature request to support, as it can easily lead to indecision. Ask for a more direct avenue into the review queues or find other ways to attract attention? – Martijn Pieters Feb 19 at 9:17

There is no problem here to solve.

If you are unsure, don’t vote.

This applies to all close and reopen voting, regardless of how many votes it’ll take to get a post closed or reopened. It doesn’t matter if your vote is binding in this decision, you should never hide behind other voters. Because if everyone just voted with the herd as it were you’d get posts closed or reopened just because everyone just followed someone else’s lead.

If, as a moderator or a gold badge dupe hammer holder you are unsure or feel that the community needs to build some consensus, leave a comment expressing that thought. Then trust your community. If you are a member of your community as well as a moderator, then you are not essential in the process of voting for an individual post. There will be others that will vote, one way or another. Don’t take on this one post and leave it for others to vote on.

Close and reopen votes are also not a discussion. You can’t motivate your vote. Comments and meta posts and chats with other moderators or community members do let you motivate your opinion on a post, and let you form a decision one way or another. To me, this feature request sounds like you want to use a non-binding close or reopen vote to replace discussion.

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    On many sites, close review is effectively where consensuses are made, as there aren't that many people participating in meta or chat. No replacement is involved in that case. – Sonic the Anonymous Hedgehog Feb 19 at 8:41
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    @SonictheCuriouserHedgehog so? Us moderators implement the consensus. No consensus yet: build one with other tools or wait. – Martijn Pieters Feb 19 at 8:42
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    I can see it both ways. That being said, it's not necessarily "voting with the herd". In many cases, it's (as you indicated in the second to last paragraph) about reaching a consensus for cases where it's not clear-cut. If (in a perfect world) users are supposed to vote only when they're absolutely 100% certain that the post objectively deserves closing/reopening, then why not make votes from all users binding? If regular users can vote with some degree of uncertainty, it could be a valid argument that moderators and gold badge holders should have that option too, sometimes. – 41686d6564 Feb 19 at 11:56
  • @41686d6564 Giving all users binding close votes is an interesting thought experiment, and I'd say it won't work because a.) close-reopen wars between regular users, b.) someone new to voting could make a load of mistakes that require a load of correction from others, something I wouldn't expect a moderator to do, c.) distribution of responsibility can work well as an argument for a community, I wouldn't want to take it away from people that did not sign up for having it taken away. – Tinkeringbell Mod Feb 19 at 13:11
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    I remember when everyone had "binding" votes, @tinkering - the biggest problem was simply that the same people would close and reopen a question multiple times. Beyond that... I felt folks were more inclined to actually discuss problems and fix them - there wasn't this wearying figleaf of "the community has spoken" to hide behind, YOU closed the question not "the community", and if YOU screwed up then you could fix it. For 12 years I have lamented the loss of that accountability for voters; I'd hate to see it lost for mods as well. – Shog9 Feb 19 at 13:53
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    @Shog9 Interesting, I guess that's another way to look at it. Giving everyone just one close/reopen vote could've avoided people voting to close/reopen multiple times. To be honest, I wasn't thinking of using 'the community has spoken' as the only argument whenever challenged, just that it's nice to have a safety net of knowing you could technically mess up while still learning the ropes and be corrected before things go wrong, and well, if things still go wrong, you're still not alone. Doesn't take away the responsibility that you personally messed up, but it does soften the blow a bit. – Tinkeringbell Mod Feb 19 at 15:26
  • It's like... falling for a practical joke can make you feel very stupid, but seeing others fall for the same joke can make you feel a bit better about yourself (although also a bit less great about humanity as a whole). – Tinkeringbell Mod Feb 19 at 15:30
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    So... I'm sympathetic, @Tinkeringbell... But... I kinda think that feeling is a good thing. I'd rather folks weren't too comfortable closing things until they'd garnered enough experience to know the pitfalls and how to recover from them. To know... That sometimes the best thing you can do is say, "you're right, I missed that, reopened." That safety in numbers thing doesn't lend itself to those sorts of corrections as readily. – Shog9 Feb 19 at 17:42

the requirement for 5 ordinary close/reopen votes serves as a defence against mistaken question closings/reopenings,

One of the first things you'll learn (hopefully before becoming a moderator): It's okay to make mistakes. And it's okay to own up to those mistakes, and as a moderator you have perfect power to undo your unilateral closing/reopening of a post, if it turns out you were mistaken. Hopefully, before someone becomes a moderator, they've been part of the community for long enough to know how things work: What should be closed, what shouldn't, and what to use in cases of doubt: Comments, chat, meta.

Moderators don't usually work on their own, but in a team, so even if I would under no circumstance reopen a question, if both my fellow moderators say it should be reopened, I live with that. Besides that, the community can always raise a discussion on meta, presenting arguments the moderator has presumably missed. Again, if they say it should be reopened, I live with that. They can even override a closing/reopening done by a moderator themselves.

So there's little use for non-binding close votes as a defense mechanism against binding moderator votes, especially not if they're only optional. After all, a rogue mod isn't going to use optional non-binding votes.

As such, I hereby (as suggested in a comment on one of the earlier requests) re-request that moderators be granted the ability to cast regular-strength close/reopen votes if they so choose, instead of being restricted to the extra-strength variety.

A non-binding close vote seems like a bad idea to me. If only for the 'social' consequences it's likely to hold: People already come at you with accusations of bullying, being picked on, hostility, instead of improving their question. I don't want to add another layer of complaints/confusion to deal with on top of that, that of 'Why do you always close my blatantly off-topic troll posts unilaterally while you put a non-binding close vote on that other question that also ended up closed?'. Please spare us those discussions.

And I agree with the point raised in other answers: If you're not sure you should vote, don't vote. Again, you should've learned that before you became a moderator. Use other avenues (chat, comments, meta) to get some feedback, take some time to make up your mind. Perhaps in that time a few answers come in that confirm your hunch that this post is primarily opinion based. You can still use your binding vote then.

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    I do think there are times when moderators would be interested in seeing what the community thinks about closing or reopening a question without posting a meta discussion about it. Being able to put a question in front of the community for review would be a useful tool for moderators. – ColleenV Feb 19 at 12:10
  • @ColleenV even if you're not wanting to make a full meta post, there's always the possibility of dropping a quick message in chat, or just writing a comment. If there really are moderators that need other avenues, I'm curious to see their answers, preferably backed up with use cases where chat, comments, and meta have proven to have been insufficient. – Tinkeringbell Mod Feb 19 at 12:25
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    The first part about moderators' ability to easily correct their mistakes is a valid counterargument, IMO. However, the part where you say "especially not if they're only optional", I disagree with. I presume that this feature request is not for "rogue mods" (hopefully, we don't have those) but quite the opposite. I don't think anyone expects this to prevent mods from causing harm if they wanted to, but rather enable mods who might sometimes need a second opinion from the community without creating a separate discission. – 41686d6564 Feb 19 at 12:26
  • @41686d6564 Of course it's not for rogue mods, but it adds to the argument that a non-binding close vote offers no protection at all against mistaken (or in this case, wrongful) (re)openings. As for 'creating a separate discussion': putting something in the review queue is just one way of 'creating' this discussion, and it's IMO the lousiest option. In chat or on meta, people are encouraged to reply and give counterarguments, opinions on why things should be the way they should be. 1/2 – Tinkeringbell Mod Feb 19 at 12:32
  • By dropping a question in the close vote queue, all you get is a boolean, without reasoning you can possibly use to inform your decision next time... and without creating a community-wide consensus. So now 3/5 people have decided it should be closed, next time 3/5 people might decide it needs to remain open, and there's still no clear reasoning as to why either of the two should happen. Moderators are supposed to be examples, lead by example... so encouraging them to use chat, comments and meta instead of the queues by forcing them to use chat/meta/comments isn't too bad, IMO. 2/2 – Tinkeringbell Mod Feb 19 at 12:34
  • @Tinkeringbell On ELL, moderator involvement is a very weighty thing. I think the language barrier contributes a bit. The chat room isn't active. Meta discussions can take weeks to get traction. I don't anticipate that the tool would be needed every day, but it would be really handy in some situations to just toss a question into a close or reopen queue without expressing an opinion with the weight of being a mod behind it. – ColleenV Feb 19 at 12:38
  • @ColleenV by putting a close or reopen vote on a question, binding or not, you're already 'expressing an opinion with the weight of being a mod behind it'. Unless you're close-voting without explaining what should be improved in a question to get it reopened (which I usually only limit to users that have had the same explanations over and over), you are expressing your opinion just as much with a binding as with a non-binding vote. – Tinkeringbell Mod Feb 19 at 12:45
  • If you doubt whether a question should be closed, it's at least not bad enough to need immediate closure. In that case you can wait for your community to start the process or your meta discussion to gain traction, and be informed next time a similar case comes around, and point your users to the reasoning why their posts are closed/bad fit for the site, instead of just presenting them with a closed post without anyone really understanding why and what needs to be done to get it reopened (if possible). – Tinkeringbell Mod Feb 19 at 12:46
  • @Tinkeringbell I agree with you that mods don't need a non-binding vote. I do think it would be useful to be able to put a question in a review queue without sticking a moderator's opinion to it. – ColleenV Feb 19 at 12:55
  • @ColleenV but that functionality already exists: It's exactly what the community can do by flagging or close voting, so if it's not urgent or clear-cut it can wait for that. By putting it in a queue we're already sticking an opinion to it, after all the queues are called 'Close Votes' and 'Reopen Votes', so by putting something in there you're having people take a look at it with the expectation that there's a reason for that post to be in that particular queue! It even shows you that reason. – Tinkeringbell Mod Feb 19 at 13:01
  • @Tinkeringbell The functionality for a mod to add a question to a review queue without expressing an opinion on it does not exist. If I want the community to look at something as a mod my alternatives are wait around and hope they notice it or tell them a moderator thinks they should express their opinion on it. That's like the judge saying "the jury will disregard what was just said". Most of the jury never really disregards it. Mod involvement can shift the focus from the content of the post to the mod's interest in it. – ColleenV Feb 19 at 13:10
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    @ColleenV There's also no option for a community member to add a question to a review queue without expressing an opinion on what's wrong with it, like I said, you have to chose a reason and that reason is shown to others. If it's not urgent, it can wait for your community to pick up on it. If your community consistently isn't starting these discussions themselves, it is your job as a moderator to encourage them to have such discussions for themselves. Teach your community to fish instead of keeping them depending on you feeding them fish one by one through a review queue. – Tinkeringbell Mod Feb 19 at 13:20
  • @Tinkeringbell Members can't do many things mods can, like move comments to chat. Mods sometimes need tools regular community members don't. Putting a question into a review queue is not doing the community's work for them. It's just a way to have reviewers in a community look at a question that should for some reason be reviewed instead of overlooked. Having an opinion about a vote is different from asking for something to be voted on. If a mod thinks a question should be closed, they should close it. It wouldn't be a tool used every day, but there are situations where it would be helpful. – ColleenV Feb 22 at 23:16

I think it would be better for moderators to have a tool to add a question they want the community to look at to a review queue rather than give them two types of votes. Wanting to put something in a queue for review is different from thinking it should be closed or should be reopened.

When I was a moderator I was not afraid to use my binding vote. There were times though when I wanted to let others handle it because I wanted to write an answer for a question, or the mod team had already been heavily involved, or I had some other reason to believe a mod acting unilaterally would cause unnecessary angst.

It would have been nice to be able to draw the community’s attention to a question without highlighting that it was a moderator asking for their attention.

  • Ok, removing previous comment, I can get why putting in attention without a "mod weight" on it could be usefull. – Tensibai Feb 19 at 12:53
  • @Tensibai Flagging something to be put in a queue without casting a vote on it so it "gets its day in court" is different from "I, a moderator, think this question should probably be closed but I'm not really sure, so you folks should go ahead an disagree with me if you think otherwise". I think a moderator should use their binding vote or not. A second type of vote just muddies the waters and opens the door for mistakes and unnecessary disruption. – ColleenV Feb 19 at 12:53
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    I disagree with the last statement, a Mod should be able to act as a normal user too. If not the logical (caricatural) consequence would be that a mod answer should be auto accepted, and a mod question not closeable nor downvotable. (Yes, caricatural, but that's to press the point of why mod vote shouldn't always be "super vote", a Mod power is to handle moderation actions, stripping mods of their normal status is wrong IMHO, even if a mod opinion will always carry a bit more weight somehow) – Tensibai Feb 19 at 12:56
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    @Tensibai A mod can never act as a normal user because the community knows they aren't. Should we allow mods to remove their diamond to hide the fact that they are also a moderator? A moderator should always feel the weight of their office, so that they consider carefully how their actions affect their community. – ColleenV Feb 19 at 13:03
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    I'm pretty sure people are smart enought to understand that if a mod cast a "normal close vote" that means they're asking the community to make their view known. Akin when we ask on Meta for community feedback, the point is not to be brushed in confirmation but to get the real community view before taking a decision. – Tensibai Feb 19 at 13:15
  • So, an interesting note - mods can do this, for answers - if I think an answer is not an answer but I want the community to decide, I can flag as NAA and it will go into review. This isn't such a bad idea. There's some simplicity in a flag as a flag can be easily followed by a binding vote to close (or delete, in the case of answers) rather than having to make it possible for a mod to cast both a single close vote and a binding close vote. – Catija ModStaff Feb 20 at 6:12
  • @Catija There's a huge difference between moderator delete votes and moderator close votes though: A community can not override the first, and deleted then edited NAAs don't end up in a queue for community review. Comparing NAA flags and mod delete votes to close flags and mod close votes is a bit like comparing apples and oranges. As for close vote flags, even as a regular user once you have the close vote privilege you can no longer raise such flags, as according to the help center: "It is your responsibility to vote now"... – Tinkeringbell Mod Feb 20 at 11:07
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    @Tinkeringbell on some sites they are the same. If you need five users to override a mod, the question may as well be permanently closed because there's just not enough people to vote to reopen. There's a huge difference between a single vote and a unilateral vote. – Catija ModStaff Feb 20 at 14:29
  • @Catija The privilege levels for closing and reopening are the same, so if there aren't enough people to vote to reopen, there aren't enough people to vote to close... that's a problem that you don't just fix by giving a moderator a way to flag. – Tinkeringbell Mod Feb 20 at 14:56
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    @Tinkeringbell it can be. If one of the reasons no one is voting to close is that there's not enough in review to ask them to participate (turning the indicator on) then people don't get alerts to review but if mods can kick things into review that users just don't flag or vote to close. There's no one solution - the whole system needs work - but I could see a benefit to this in some cases. We need more people participating and there's a ton of sites where mods are doing most of the work. – Catija ModStaff Feb 20 at 15:22

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