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tl;dr:

  • New users aren't notified of close votes, and probably wouldn't know how to check for them
  • When a question is closed:
    • New users don't know what this means (it's valuable feedback!)
    • Limited guidance is provided about how to improve a question
  • New users should be given guidance (such as an on-boarding or tour) as soon as a close vote is cast on their question (and consider providing this same guidance to all users when a question is closed)

Background

Recently a new user asked an opinion-based question on Sustainability.SE, and promptly received two close votes and a downvote. As a moderator there, I agree that this opinion-based question, as written, should be closed. However -- there's a nugget of a good question in there. This user has been back to the site since those votes were cast (based on "last seen" in their profile), but unless they are paying close attention, they wouldn't see those close votes. I provided some feedback, but only because I noticed the question.

With help from @tinkeringbell and @terdon, I did a bit of a science experiment. First, what does a user see when their question gets a close vote? The answer is nothing, unless they're looking for it:

Question with a close vote

A user can click the "Close (1)" indicator on their own question to see which close reasons were provided, but this is not intuitive, and new users wouldn't have access to cast close votes anywhere else, so they might not know that this is even for. The resulting screen is also inscrutable for a new user -- you'd have to know that the boxed number indicates votes per close reason, or mouse over the number to see the tooltip -- otherwise it just looks like a way to close your own question:

Count of close votes by vote reason

Even if a new user got this far, as others have pointed out, Close reasons are a poor way to give advice on how to improve a post.

Once the question is closed, there is some (succinct) guidance:

Closed question

However, even this doesn't do much to explain what it means for a question to be closed, why it might be happening, and what the user can do.

The request

Upon receiving a close vote, new users should be provided with some information about what this means, and what they can do.

First, provide some context about what it means for a question to be closed, a unique feature of Stack Exchange that new users may not be familiar with. This could possibly just be a link to the help center page What does it mean if a question is "closed"?. The topics page or the "don't ask" page could also be linked.

The format could be a notification on screen, similar to the review queue on-boarding -- this would be a one-time feature for new users (though the closed question banner might also benefit from some of this additional detail).

Similar to the tour, there could also be value in each site providing an example of a question that was closed, edited, and then re-opened.

Why not wait until the question is actually closed?

Two reasons:

  1. Many sites struggle to actually close questions (hence the switch to three-vote closure being tested on some sites), but a close vote is still valuable feedback.
  2. By the time a question has five (or three) close votes, there are likely to be many downvotes. Providing guidance to a new user gives them the opportunity to improve their question before others see it and downvote it. This helps to make new users feel more welcome.

Some related questions:

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  • 8
    "By the time a question has five (or three) close votes, there are likely to be many downvotes." This happens a lot. A question is at -2 with 4 close-votes and OP wonders "Why the downvotes?". The 4 close votes should make that a lot more obvious, especially if accompanied with a helpful link (to the help center) helping out with what that means. Naturally, some people don't read either way, but it could help for the remainder.
    – Mast
    Jul 7 at 18:37
  • 2
    I actually agree that a user should see the close reasons, allowing them to understand the downvotes they might receive, because it certainly is not worth trying to explain a downvote on a question asking for a recommendation. (It's a zero sum action, the author of the question won't agree their question shouldn't be answered, and will often painfully disagree with any comment that says it should. Users who cast a close vote, should be hidden to the author of the contribution, until the contribution is actually closed to avoid targeting attacks (i.e. how it works today)
    – Ramhound
    Jul 7 at 20:24
  • 1
    This is already implemented for duplicates; perhaps a message could be patterned off of that? meta.stackexchange.com/q/250922/1017231
    – bobble
    Jul 7 at 21:29
  • I think I've seen this requested in several threads... 🤔
    – bad_coder
    Jul 8 at 0:29
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    @bad_coder I tried to find similar questions (had a few others helping too) but didn't come up with this, specifically.
    – LShaver
    Jul 8 at 2:25
  • @LShaver yes I'm wondering about that. I've seen this idea "floating around", perhaps it's time to create a sort of canonical FR post for the concept...
    – bad_coder
    Jul 8 at 2:44
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    Does this answer your question? Close reasons are a poor way to give advice on how to improve a post
    – bad_coder
    Jul 8 at 17:41
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    @bad_coder I think that is a very poor duplicate. As this post focusses specifically on providing feedback the moment the first CV is cast. The duplicate wants to provide better guidance then the current close reasons.
    – Luuklag
    Jul 9 at 7:00
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I've seen this idea "floating around" the meta sites.

The first subtlety is the Help Center doesn't (and perhaps can't) explain all the possible close reasons in-depth.

E.g., under Minimal, Reproducible Example it reads:

Complete

DO NOT use images of code. Copy the actual text from your code editor, paste it into the question, then format it as code. This helps others more easily read and test your code.

The problem is the complete rational behind this one sentence is rather extensive...So it begs the questions:

  1. How much information you can or want to cram into a given Help Center article?

  2. There isn't a "Needs MRE" close reason, only a "Needs debugging details" which is even more encompassing.

  3. Close voters would have to choose from a sub-list mapping the close reason more precisely.

  4. But mapping to the Help Center would end up leading to the "one sentence in a haystack". That still doesn't contain the full rationale...

What could be even more instructive would be a link to the edit history of a re-opened question -- an example of a question with that close reason that was edited and reopened.

  1. I think this is great. But finding a duplicate is hard enough. I don't know if I can handle searching a knowledge base of successfully closed, edited, and reopened questions to find a pedagogical canonical that fits the use case of the OP just right.

  2. I'm honestly confused at this point. An OP resilient enough to make sense of all this has my admiration.

Upon receiving a close vote, new users should be provided with some information about what this means, and what they should do.

  1. Yes, but how?

By the time a question has five (or three) close votes, there are likely to be many downvotes.

  1. This takes me to another feature request by a prominent contributor: Allow an edit to notify downvoters: “I think I've fixed the issue now - please check”.

EDIT. After Luuklag's following comment:

Perhaps we can modify the help centre to include links to FAQ posts. In that way the info in the help centre can be succinct, making it easier to find exactly what part you need

  1. Looking at Introducing a brand new, consolidated, Help Center, it seems things weren't organized having detailed guidance about post closure in mind.

  2. Another issue is Help Center pages don't have anchors, so if a close reason or comment references a Help Center article it's referencing a haystack page, not a pinpoint close reason.

  3. Although it should be technically possible to (...) have anchors for the bullets in the [help/on-topic] list?. However, this last option was recently marked status-declined, so for the time being that's where things are at.

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  • Perhaps we can modify the help centre to include links to FAQ posts. In that way the info in the help centre can be succinct, making it easier to find exactly what part you need, and at the same time offer the in-depth details needed to provide authors with guidance on how to improve their question.
    – Luuklag
    Jul 8 at 7:21
  • @Luuklag updated the answer.
    – bad_coder
    Jul 8 at 8:21
  • Or, we could allow reviewers to offer more advice than a single close reason instead of trying to solve everything with more detailed text. The problem isn’t that there’s not enough detail in the help center; the problem is that the close reasons/help center information is not customized to reflect exactly what is wrong with the question at hand.
    – ColleenV
    Jul 8 at 12:03
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    In general, I'm not advocating that close voters have to do more work when voting to close a new user's question. I'm suggesting that the system provide more/better feedback to new users when there is a close vote. It takes some time to understand how the close/re-open system works, and what it means. The system should provide this education to a new user as soon as they get a close vote. Right now there is no notification, and even when the question is closed, there is minimal guidance. That's the problem I propose fixing.
    – LShaver
    Jul 8 at 14:22
  • @LShaver and that's the real problem, this FR expresses intentions, and proposes changing the Help Center. I summed up the status quo around your ideas, and pointed to the concrete difficulties.
    – bad_coder
    Jul 8 at 17:57
  • @ColleenV yes and I upvoted your post when you first published it. In the meanwhile I've posted thousands of canned comments and will likely post thousands more.
    – bad_coder
    Jul 8 at 18:01
  • I edited the question to clarify how this is different -- new users need a "close vote tour," which could like lots of different things -- at this point I'm indifferent to how the feature is implemented. TBH I'm having trouble following your answer here, particularly number 6. What does that refer to?
    – LShaver
    Jul 8 at 19:06
  • Let's take a step back -- do you agree that new users don't understand what a close vote means and what they should do about it, and that the system could do a better job to inform them?
    – LShaver
    Jul 8 at 21:14
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    @LShaver The 1 key idea your FR brings that's new: Giving the users guidance the moment the 1st CV is cast. I like that concept - timing! The remaining aspects have been posted previously (like in ColleenV's post). At this point creating a community-wiki index that maps the several proposals (which are all variations on the same concept of fine-grained close reason feedback) is probably the only way to make some sense to all the contributions written on this topic. Now, don't get me wrong. If this were an easy issue you'd have 20 answers already, but it's a complex problem to tackle.
    – bad_coder
    Jul 8 at 21:40
  • So, of course the Q&A format on Meta is a bit upended, but I don't really think this answer is a good "meta answer" to the question. It serves as an extended comment and offers some opinion, but it seems mostly orthogonal to the original issue posed even if there are well-reasoned points raised. Yeah, some of this stuff has been on Meta before, but I think it's okay to revisit and OP did an extensive job of collecting resources to make a case. I also might ask you check what en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begging_the_question means. Jul 10 at 0:27
  • @BryanKrause first off I'm not begging anything, and it's not a "petitio principii". I addressed numerous issues the OP raised in the original version of his question directly, if the current version of the question stands as it does I was likely a prime contributor to focusing it on several points. (What your comments suggest is that you didn't read or understand neither the answer nor the question, which was initially multi-dimensional but certainly not orthogonal). In any case, your comment added noise.
    – bad_coder
    Jul 10 at 13:01

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