I've seen a few questions (not many, thankfully, but enough) that a few people don't like, so they pounce on it and get it closed. That's their right, but there are also people who do find it useful, so they vote to reopen it.

Problem is, once they've got it reopened, the original voters are still around, and depending on how passionate everyone is about whether or not this is a question we ought to be discussing on here, it can easily degenerate into an ugly condition resembling a Wikipedia edit war. Closed! Reopened! Closed! Reopened! Duck season! Rabbit season!

This is kinda ridiculous, IMO. Seems to me that once a question has been reopened, by the votes of five respected members of the community, that ought to be the end of it. Especially since the only people who are going to vote to reopen a question are the ones who actually care about the subject matter, whereas anyone at all can vote to close.

I see this occasionally in the Delphi tag. Sometimes 3, 4 or even all 5 of the people who voted to close don't even have the Delphi tag anywhere in the tag list on their profiles. Even if they've earned the right to vote to close questions in general on StackOverflow, they shouldn't have the right to overrule the judgment of those of us who actually know the subject matter. I'm sure users of other less-popular tags have had similar experiences.

Can we get it added to the business rules of the site that a reopened question is reopened permanently, and do away with the pointless reopen wars?

Presumably prompted by: Should I move from Java programming to Delphi programming? [closed].

  • 2
    I thought you could only vote to close a question once - irrespective of how many times it's been reopened.
    – ChrisF Mod
    Jun 10, 2010 at 13:53
  • 1
    If that's still true, then you can only vote to reopen once too.
    – ChrisF Mod
    Jun 10, 2010 at 13:58
  • Could be, but I've still seen this scenario happen. Jun 10, 2010 at 14:04
  • 12
    @Mason: Not to put too fine a point on it, but what @ChrisF is saying is that it's not the original voters who are involved in a close/open war. After you vote to close a question once and it gets reopened, you can't vote to close it again. If it's seesawing back and forth it's because different people are voting, which is by design. Jun 10, 2010 at 14:08
  • (I believe you mean "Wabbit season") Don't agree with the "reopened permanently" bit. Maybe make it increasingly harder.
    – squillman
    Jun 10, 2010 at 14:10
  • @Bill: It still seems like kinda bad design, though, especially when all or almost all of the close votes are coming from people with no experience in this tag. It almost feels like hordes of outsiders are invading and vandalizing our territory, y'know? And I'm getting sick of it. If the original voters can't vote to close twice, that means that there are even more of them doing it, which makes it even worse. Jun 10, 2010 at 14:12
  • 2
    @Mason "vandalizing our territory". This is not a turf war. StackOverflow is owned by the entire community, not just those who agree with you. This is not a forum for you and your cohorts to examine technical topics away from the prying eyes of the rest of the world. If you want control over the environment you are having your discussions in, then you should create a Google Group, or set up a forum, or an IRC channel, or a mailing list, or a delphi klatch. All of those things entail a smaller group of people in a more controlled environment.
    – devinb
    Jun 10, 2010 at 14:24
  • @Mason: links would go a long way to helping your point. Where are these questions that have been closed, reopened and subsequently closed again? Then at least the community and/or moderators here can decide if you have a point or not. Also, votes to close rarely depend on the question's category. That's what re-tagging is for, unless the question doesn't belong in a specific tag in which case it's probably off-topic.
    – Andy E
    Jun 10, 2010 at 14:28
  • 4
    Would you kindly link us to a couple of examples of what you're talking about?
    – Welbog
    Jun 10, 2010 at 14:30
  • @Mason: Take a look at the current numbers: 97 50 question pages of open questions tagged delphi. Less than 1 page of closed questions tagged delphi, which following cursory overview look as though most of them should have been closed. Even if "turf" meant something, I don't think anyone could be accused of invading it. Jun 10, 2010 at 14:37
  • @Jason: Yes, like I said, it happens infrequently. But I have seen it happen a few times. (And SO's still not all that old.) Is there any way to search for questions that have been closed more than once? Jun 10, 2010 at 14:40
  • @Mason: There doesn't appear to be. Jun 10, 2010 at 14:43
  • @Mason: If you have 10k+ rep, you can get a partial list of multiply closed question in the last 30 days on the 10k tools page (look at both most close and most reopen votes, BTW). It's not going to be a large or enlightening sample, however. Don't know if the data dumps contain enough edit history to find a list that way. Jun 10, 2010 at 15:23
  • Rolled back the "presumably prompted by" edit because it makes it look like this is some sort of isolated incident. That was one time I've seen this happen, but not the only one. Jun 10, 2010 at 16:07
  • 2
    @Mason: If you are to get any action on this you're going to have to show meta something that looks like abuse. Jun 10, 2010 at 16:31

4 Answers 4


This is kinda ridiculous, IMO. Seems to me that once a question has been reopened, by the votes of five respected members of the community, that ought to be the end of it

It was also closed by five respected members of the community, that ought to be the end of it

  • If that was the intention, the Reopen command wouldn't exist in the first place. Jun 10, 2010 at 14:03
  • 8
    @Mason: It's like I can hear the wheels in your head whirring and they just ground to a halt.
    – Welbog
    Jun 10, 2010 at 14:17
  • 1
    @Mason: If close didn't exist, re-open wouldn't exist, and re-close wouldn't exist and re-re-open wouldn't exist and re-re-close wouldn't exist!
    – Andy E
    Jun 10, 2010 at 14:22
  • Like the "trace buster buster" youtube.com/watch?v=Iw3G80bplTg
    – tim
    Jun 10, 2010 at 19:01

By your logic, if 50,000 people think a question should be closed and 6 people want it open, it should stay open.

It sounds so easy: "Just keep it open." The problem is people have a bias one way or the other and these "let's leave it open/let's leave it closed" solutions always expose that bias... not the actual voting.

It's funny how you renamed the democratic nature of the vote, "reopen wars."

  • Yes, as unlikely as such a contrived example is in real life, that's exactly my logic. If it's helpful and useful to those 6 people, enough so that they actively vote to reopen it after it's already been closed, then what right does anyone else have to try to censor discussion on the topic? The point of Stack Overflow is to answer questions that will help people, not to keep people from answering them. Jun 10, 2010 at 16:04
  • 2
    Not if those questions are not within the boundaries of the site. That's why there are close reasons. There’s nothing more toxic to a community than not being able to set boundaries around it. The close reasons are the way to enforce those boundaries. If the criteria becomes "anything that will help people," the site fails. blog.stackoverflow.com/2009/07/why-cant-you-have-just-one-site Jun 10, 2010 at 16:33

Open/close wars are a necessary part of democracy. As Juan noted, 5 respected members of the community voted to close it. As you noted the people who vote to close don't necessarily have Delphi anywhere in their tags. Although, the people who vote to open don't necessarily have it either.

It takes 5 users to close, but of course it is unfair for any 5 users to represent the final opinion of the thousands of users who use the site. Similarly, it is just as unfair to have 6 people (5 + OP) decide that they are the accurate representation of everyone else. The only way to ensure that it is fair is to have the cycle continue until one side gets tired or bored. Or a moderator comes in an locks the post.

More open-close cycles are generally between people who think that "interesting at all == belongs on SO" vs. the people who think that "subjective at all == doesn't belong on SO", and because both side are so entrenched, it takes a moderator to come in and in an unbiased manner (as much as is possible) lock the post one way or the other.

So, yes, this method isn't perfect. However, the method you describe means that any 5 users could band together, and force their will upon the entire community. This will ultimately mean a lot more invalidly open questions.

  • @Juan: Flagged for making me raise an eyebrow at your vote justification.
    – Welbog
    Jun 10, 2010 at 14:26
  • But the people who vote to open it are a lot more likely to actually know and care about the subject matter, though. To me, this isn't a matter of "interesting vs. subjective," it's a matter of "people who know about the subject matter in question vs. people who are trying to censor certain topics for whatever reason." And since StackOverflow was designed explicitly for the purpose of being a site for experts to exchange information, I don't see anything at all wrong with letting the experts' voice count for more than the censors' voice. Pure "democracy" is not necessarily always better. Jun 10, 2010 at 14:27
  • 1
    @Mason As I mentioned in my comment on the question itself. StackOverflow is about the community. Which means it is not about what the people of any one sector think. I'm sure a lot of Lisp enthusiasts would love question that said "Why is LISP the best? State a few of your favorite features!" However, that doesn't make it appropriate for the site.
    – devinb
    Jun 10, 2010 at 14:32
  • This is why voting reasons should be anonymous @the (and btw, I did not actually vote)
    – juan
    Jun 10, 2010 at 14:34
  • 2
    @Juan: Then why didn't you keep it anonymous? You're making my eyebrows rise again.
    – Welbog
    Jun 10, 2010 at 14:39
  • @Juan you were ambushed. Someone else downvoted for you :p
    – devinb
    Jun 10, 2010 at 14:43
  • Because I like to see you raise your eyebrows @the
    – juan
    Jun 10, 2010 at 15:07
  • You might be due for a name change, @The Eyebrow Raiser.
    – perbert
    Jun 11, 2010 at 20:39

Concerning the OP claim that activity in a tag ought to give some kind of priority or privilege in the matter of opening/closing.

I have occasionally seen people vote to close questions because they didn't understand them or how they were programming related or still relevant or ..., but it does not happen often. Off the top of my head, I can only think of two instances in which the question was well written. In both cases a series of comments from people who knew the subject was sufficient to deter further closing activity from the ignorant.

I think this issue is a little more common if the question is badly constructed, but I haven't been keeping statistics or anything. I'll go out on a limb and suggest that for ill constructed questions a good edit plus some well informed comments will generally do the trick.

In short, I don't vote to close on subject-content outside of my areas of competence, but I can detect a broad spectrum of junk regardless of it being tagged with subject I don't know.

  • "..., but it does not happen often." - yeah and it happens even less often that such questions would be reopened and then closed again.
    – Andy E
    Jun 10, 2010 at 18:58

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