Although This is obviously an exceptionally poor question, it still amazes me that 5 people can vote to close and yet not one of them leave a comment to help explain how the poster can improve their question.

I see loads of similar examples where questions from new users are closed and heavily voted down without anyone taking any effort to explain why - not a pleasant experience for new users.

Is there anything that can be done to encourage users to leave comments when voting to close?

  • 2
    No! I want to beat then with that stick! Feb 11, 2010 at 11:39
  • 1
    Noooooooo! Did someone vote to close my question and then not leave a comment just to be ironic or something?!
    – Justin
    Feb 11, 2010 at 11:42
  • 1
    In other words, "what's the carrot, here?"
    – pavium
    Feb 11, 2010 at 11:51
  • 1
    @pavium - huh?...
    – Justin
    Feb 11, 2010 at 11:53
  • 1
    +1 for any reason to beat someone with a stick.
    – user1228
    Feb 11, 2010 at 15:22
  • The question referred to has since been deleted. Apr 29, 2010 at 3:36

4 Answers 4


The close reason is the comment. The question page describes exactly what's wrong:

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form.

Would it really help for users to have added that as a comment too?

Now admittedly it doesn't help a new user if they receive close votes but can't see those votes until after the question is closed, but that's slightly different. (It's possible that the question owner can see close votes, regardless of reputation - if that's not the case, it possibly should be.)

  • 6
    "The question is ambiguous or vauge or rhetorical " - which is it? Yes close descriptions help, but they aren't a substitute for actual human interaction.
    – Justin
    Feb 11, 2010 at 12:05
  • @Kragen, they are. What's the alternative? Five people, two saying it's ambiguous, two it's vague and one that it's rhetorical. How would that help you?
    – Pekka
    Feb 11, 2010 at 12:11
  • @Kragen on the other hand, looking at the question at hand, I have to agree with you. A newbie deserves at least one actual comment.
    – Pekka
    Feb 11, 2010 at 12:14
  • @Pekka If you were to leave a comment against that question would you use any of the words "ambiguous", "vauge" or "rhetorical"? Or would you just use the word "unreadable"? It might technically fall under the bracket of "ambiguous, vauge or rhetorical", but "unreadable" is more specific (and therefore more helpful)
    – Justin
    Feb 11, 2010 at 12:20
  • 2
    @Kragen: I believe the message gives enough indication of the kinds of thing the user should be looking at. The first sentence is enough, to be honest.
    – Jon Skeet
    Feb 11, 2010 at 13:41
  • 2
    @Jon, it's not a question of correctness, it's one of tone and courtesy towards total newbies. In that, I think he has a point.
    – Pekka
    Feb 11, 2010 at 15:49
  • 3
    @Pekka: If you think you can say something helpful and manage to be polite and nice, then go ahead. Plenty of folks here who come off as a bit rough at first, probably better if they just leave the close reason stand in for them.
    – Shog9
    Feb 11, 2010 at 22:52
  • @[Jon Skeet] That doesn't help in all cases. For e.g. if a question is voted closed for being off-topic, that doesn't give a proper justification why it is off topic (when other users who regularly use the site feel it is on-topic). It would really help if the users who vote it closed gave a justification themselves.
    – Zesty
    Jan 8, 2013 at 6:02
  • 1
    @Zesty: Sometimes, maybe - especially if it's an edge case. But in many cases it's pretty clear, in which case (to answer this specific question) I feel it is acceptable to close a question without leaving a comment.
    – Jon Skeet
    Jan 8, 2013 at 6:53

I have to agree with Kragen.

While the close and the explanation given by the system were both perfectly valid, it's a matter of basic courtesy towards total newbies, or non-native speakers, to not run them over with the close vote, but at least leave a quick note explaining what's wrong.

Many newbies a) don't speak the language very well and b) may not be familiar with the concept of the site - in a chatroom, the way he put it may be a fully valid start of a long conversation.

If in doubt, please take the time to explain why something gets closed. People who get this on their first go are very likely not to come back, and understandably so.


Perhaps any question closed as "not a real question" should be accompanied by "How to Ask Questions the Smart Way".

  • 1
    i think that'd come across as pretty rude to a lot of those users
    – Kip
    Feb 12, 2010 at 1:18
  • 2
    @Kip: people have to be told somehow, if they don't already know!
    – Ether
    Feb 12, 2010 at 1:24

"Not a real question" is SO jargon. We know what it means, newbies are still just guessing.

We should be trying to clarify this reason, at least.

  • 5
    It is clarified: "It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form." No guesswork required.
    – Jon Skeet
    Feb 11, 2010 at 13:42

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