TLDR version: Too many people can vote to close. People are overzealous when it comes to voting to close. Questions that get closed will very likely remain so because they attract little attention. This needs to be fixed.

As of last month, there are 6,279 users who can cast close votes, and the number will grow. Unfortunately, the chances of questions getting wrongfully (or not) closed will increase proportionally, since there is currently no way to counteract close votes besides voting to reopen after a question has been closed.

I think this goes against the community-driven model that SO follows. It's no longer the "Community" that can close the question; but a tiny minority of it - 5 (five) users, is all it takes. We now have the "tyranny of the minority." It is also impossible for someone to rescind their close vote even if they feel the question should no longer be closed. In the current setup, there is no way to go but down.

I know this has been suggested before, and has been ignored for unknown reasons, but it's starting to bother me. We should be able to either:

  • Rescind a close vote. Example: User posts a vague question. Close votes are cast. User adds sufficient detail to the question, but I can no longer rescind my vote and there are 4 close votes already. One more person comes along and votes to close. Question is closed. User gets demotivated. If it's a new user, might never come back.

  • Vote not to close: I disagree with the close votes being cast. I cast a vote not to close and this decreases the close vote count by some amount.

Or do both. The system as it is is broken IMHO. It was a year ago two years ago, it's even more so today, with more users having this ability. It's apparent that a good deal of stackers support these two suggestions. But for some reason Jeff doesn't like them. Perhaps you could explain the rationale on why they shouldn't be implemented?

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    Pick your poison. It may take 5 people to close, but it also takes only 5 people to reopen a question. And this can include the very people who voted to close. Once it gets reopened, those 5 users also can no longer vote to close that question again. Doesn't sound nearly as tyrannous to me. – Grace Note Aug 9 '10 at 21:02
  • I voted to reopen the R question. Although, if you Google R, the first match explains it. – user102937 Aug 9 '10 at 21:02
  • @Robert: Maybe surprisingly googling for "R" works perfectly. – sth Aug 9 '10 at 21:05
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    @Grace I've seen those before. That's why I said this needs to be "reconsidered." It already din't work a year ago; it's even more broken now with more users gaining the ability to closevote. I know they can be reopoened. Unfortunately closed questions don't get a lot of attention. – NullUserException อ_อ Aug 9 '10 at 21:05
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    "Questions that receive close votes are doomed." That's absolutely false. There are many examples of questions that probably should stay closed that don't. I would even go out on a limb and say that of those 3,149 users who can vote to close, the majority are probably more likely inclusionists who vote to reopen things more so than they vote to close. – gnostradamus Aug 9 '10 at 21:11
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    Saying "there are 49,467 users who can cast close votes" is extremely misleading. Being able to cast close votes on your own questions isn't much of a power. There are only 4 × 9 × 185 - 1 = 6659 users who have close votes "for real." (Although I admit sometimes it feels like there are 50,000!) EDIT: I have decided that this is alarming enough to edit your question. Let me know if you disagree. – Pops Sep 28 '11 at 20:07
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    @PopularDemand I looked at the wrong row – NullUserException อ_อ Sep 28 '11 at 20:13
  • Understandable; I had to look twice, myself. @NullUserExceptionஇ_இ – Pops Sep 28 '11 at 20:15
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    I like the "rescind" reccomendation, but there are many Python questions that are "too localized" that don't get closed, and many that are duplicates but no one spends the time to find the duplicate. I've only felt the need to cast a re-open vote on a few occasions, but there are times I've wanted to rescind a close vote because of an edit, because I misunderstood the question, or because I later thought of the search terms to find a duplicate. There are a lot of people who can vote to close, but there are also more questions every day, and at least for Python, many of them should be closed. – agf Sep 28 '11 at 20:21
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    @gnostradamus: Contrary to popular believe, "too many questions stay open that should be closed" is not a counterargument to "too many questions are closed that need to be open." This is just another manifestation of a broken system, leading to errors in both ways. – sbi Sep 28 '11 at 20:55
  • @Arjan Nope. – NullUserException อ_อ Oct 2 '11 at 9:13
  • @Arjan I didn't get any warning. – kiamlaluno Oct 2 '11 at 9:13
  • @kiamlaluno, and it seems you only added the ;, which probably did not take you 4 minutes? (Hence, I'd guess you started editing long after NullUserException saved, but already loaded the page before that save...) – Arjan Oct 2 '11 at 9:15
  • Or: did any of you edit again within the 5 minute grace period, @kiamlaluno et al? – Arjan Oct 2 '11 at 9:17
  • (I added a comment for waffles here, @kiamlaluno and NullUserException. Please add details if you have any. I will clean my above comments soon.) – Arjan Oct 2 '11 at 9:23

This has been discussed quite a few times. What I think needs to happen is that we need a second dimension of true voting. For instance right now there is "Interesting and Uninteresting(or right/wrong for answers)" for up and down votes respectively. What needs to happen is a second dimension for "Belongs here and Doesn't belong here".

The number of close votes each person has per day should stay the same but they should be able to cast a "keep open" vote. It would still come out of their close vote count but it'd be the equivalent of a reopen vote. In this way you wouldn't have the mayhem of popular yet subjective questions where the question closes and reopens 10 times in an hour.

So basically whenever the open score reaches -5 then it should be closed, and if it's closed then the open score should have to reach +5 to reopen. In this way forcing a question to flip flop between open and closed is much more difficult and requires many more votes. Also, we need a way to undo our close/reopen votes.

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    Which is exactly what I am suggesting. – NullUserException อ_อ Aug 9 '10 at 21:15
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    I agree with none of this except for that last sentence. It would be nice to retract a close vote if the author or someone else edits it into shape (originally, this was possible... because there was no voting). As for the rest, this just makes closing even less effective, by effectively holding questions "open" until everyone who thinks they're appropriate has gotten their shots in. If you can't shut down an off-topic question right away, you're gonna have a much harder time later on. – Shog9 Aug 9 '10 at 21:27
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    I've been making do with "I disown my close vote" comments and casting re-opens when appropriate. But it is a poor substitute for the real thing. – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Aug 9 '10 at 21:43
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    @Shog I'm in the boat that some of us are too trigger happy when it comes to closing. And reopening is usually much harder than closing a question. (due to lack of activity etc etc) – Earlz Aug 9 '10 at 22:50
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    keep in mind, the yo-yo close/open/close questions are on the fringe - they're generally borderline or blatantly off-topic questions that are popular enough to gain support in spite of that. There are many questions that don't get enough attention to close or re-open: for instance, I often waste votes on duplicates that never get enough eyeballs to get shut down. Attention for closed/open questions is a separate issue (there have been proposals to open up the 10K page listing these). – Shog9 Aug 9 '10 at 23:15
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    "Also, we need a way to undo our close/reopen votes." So true! – sbi Sep 28 '11 at 20:53
  • @Earlz The problem with this is that voting then becomes this weird complicated thing. Voting has one specific purpose right now, and we should keep it that way. Not to mention, It's really hard to get things closed right now. Since posts default to open, it takes people who actually care about pruning the cruft from the site to close. Given the number of questions under review at any given time, there are far more questions that need closing than there are people who want to close questions. – George Stocker Nov 16 '11 at 0:38

I noted that you voted to re-open, but you didn't edit the question.

What is the R? was the original title. If I saw that I would say, "What the heck is that? Are they even talking about programming?"

You could have edited the question and made it better for others, so that someone else who may come along could vote to re-open, or an original closer could see the actual question and vote to re-open.

You have the power to close, and that means you have the power to edit. Use them in tandem. Before you vote to close under those grounds, see if you can clean up the question first.

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    This is the problem. I'm not sure how easy it is to write a SEDE query to list active closers versus active editors, but I'm positive the former vastly outweighs the latter. Even people that vote to reopen and comment with "this question is so obvious, he's asking X" don't even think to edit the question to actually say "X", and I'm not sure why/if there's a way to help fix that – Michael Mrozek Aug 9 '10 at 21:30
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    This is a bit of a derailment. The question about R was meant to be an example, that's about it. I am not basing my argument on that question. – NullUserException อ_อ Aug 9 '10 at 21:33
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    @Michael: Not everyone is interested in editing. I used to be a very heavy editor -- editing way more than closing. It was, for quite some time, my #1 contribution to SO. Now, though, I've grown so tired of bad questions and broken English that I've completely lost the motivation to do it ... Even with the new Copy Editor gold badge. – John Rudy Aug 9 '10 at 21:33
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    @Michael: If I put my mind to it, I have no trouble burning all my close votes on questions which don't need rewriting, but simply need closing. My other observation is that "they obviously mean X" simply isn't always true: often then might well mean X, but possibly Y, so I usually comment that a clarification is in order. Then I return later to see if closing/re-opening is in order. If the OP doesn't respond in some way, I assume they weren't really interested after all. – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Aug 9 '10 at 21:35
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    @Null: Hehe. I helps to have circa 3 example when you open this kind of discussion. Besides, it shows that you've been thinking about it long enough to accumulate a little list... – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Aug 9 '10 at 21:37
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    @I That's fine, but they should leave the question for someone else to edit then, not close it because they don't feel like fixing it. I can't see ever closing a confusing question as NaRQ if I actually do understand it and can tell that there's a real question in there – Michael Mrozek Aug 9 '10 at 21:37
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    @Michael: Broken windows. – John Rudy Aug 9 '10 at 21:51
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    @George - How is "What is the R" unclear? Anyone familiar with R will understand it. Sure there's a gratuitous "the", but that's only there because the OP doesn't know what (the) R is. – Peter Ajtai Aug 9 '10 at 22:36
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    @Peter: which brings us to John Rudy's comment below: if he didn't know what R was, why was he asking about it on a programming website? Presumably he knew R was a language or tool of some sort, and really just wanted to know what sort of language/tool, what problems it's intended to solve, etc. - the sort of specificity that makes all the difference between an overly-broad question and one that can be effectively answered. – Shog9 Aug 9 '10 at 22:45

Compare and contrast: Should we encourage more closing?

Needless to say, I disagree with your feeling that too many questions are being closed. We need some quality control (with crowd sourcing that is always an issue), but we also need more questions closed and faster with fewer inappropriate re-openings if possible.


Let me see if I can dissect this. The original question, as closed, read thusly:

What is the R ?

There are a lot of questions about R.

What is R?

That's a direct copy-and-paste. That's what got closed. While I'd agree that the accepted answer was rude, the original question was poorly-worded, vague and open-ended. I would have voted to close it, too. About the only actually decent content on that entire page is Shane's answer. Yes, it's a copy-and-paste from the FAQ, but at least it contributes something more than a link to the site.

It's been argued in the past, by myself and others, that there are frankly not enough questions getting closed. Even as rewritten by George Stocker (which happened after the reopening), I'd still vote to close it as NaRQ. And have. (And reopening was irrelevant anyway; the OP got his needed answer and more.)

I would not say that closed questions are doomed -- the community has a long history of reopening incorrectly-closed questions. (And also reopening correctly-closed questions; pobody's nerfect.)

In short, correct closure, and if there's any adjustment to the system that I think ought to be made, it'd be bumping up the rep requirement to vote for reopening, while leaving the ability to close at 3,000. (Except on one's own posts, of course.)

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    Discrepancy in the responsibilities you receive is a bad idea. As you acknowledge, people do wrongly close things. You shouldn't need additional reputation to fix a mistaken closing that you were a part of. – Grace Note Aug 9 '10 at 21:19
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    Perhaps you're right. I just see too much of the inclusionist streak these days. "Why did you close an 11-word question?" Gah. – John Rudy Aug 9 '10 at 21:20
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    This particular question might've not been the best example, but it is just that. An example. – NullUserException อ_อ Aug 9 '10 at 21:22
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    What's wrong with being succint ? If she asked "What is R?" that's a 3 word question and still a valid question IMO. – NullUserException อ_อ Aug 9 '10 at 21:23
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    How is it poorly-worded, vague, or open-ended? It seems like it should be very straightforward, unambiguous, and easily understood by anyone with the knowledge of what R is (which is who should be answering the question). People are using "not a real question" criteria as if they mean "this is not a good question" (or, perhaps more accurately, "I don't like this question being on SO"). That is not at all their meaning. – Nicholas Knight Aug 9 '10 at 21:23
  • @NullUser: What is the "correct" answer to, "What is R?" A well-formulated question will be specific and have one answer. I can answer it right now: "A programming language." (Snarkily) "The letter before S." @Nicholas: It is absolutely vague and open-ended. "There are a lot of questions about R. What is R?" How about asking some of those "lot of questions" about it? And NaRQ has always meant "this is not a good question." – John Rudy Aug 9 '10 at 21:29
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    WTF? Programming questions rarely have one answer. And "Not a Real Question"'s criteria are spelled out rather clearly and are not a blanket "not a good question". – Nicholas Knight Aug 9 '10 at 21:45
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    "It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form." (Emphasis mine.) – John Rudy Aug 9 '10 at 21:48
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    None of which makes it a blanket "not a good question", and certainly the question being used as an example here is not vague or incomplete. Just because you might not know what a question is about does not mean the question is vague or incomplete. It may just mean it's not something you know about and thus you probably shouldn't be answering it or voting on it. If you do want to express your view that something is not a good question, that is what downvotes and comments are for. – Nicholas Knight Aug 9 '10 at 21:50
  • @Nicholas: It meets two of four requirements for NaRQ. And NaRQ (unlike S&A) is an or condition. Can I figure out that the question is about the R programming language? Sure. But does that make the question less vague and ambiguous? NO. It's a broken window. – John Rudy Aug 9 '10 at 21:54
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    WHAT is vague or ambiguous about it? I don't think you understand what those words mean. The question is very clear. He sees talk of something called "R". He asks what it is. If you know what R is, the answer is clear. At a minimum, "A programming language" is absolutely a valid and complete answer. A better answer would include a link to more information about it. A great answer might include a description of its target audience and problem domain. How is any of this vague or ambiguous? – Nicholas Knight Aug 9 '10 at 21:58
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    "I've heard about the R programming language" would only make sense if he knew it was a programming language. Why do you assume he already knew that? – Nicholas Knight Aug 9 '10 at 21:59
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    This is getting ridiculous. If you can't see what's vague about the question, "what is R?," then I can't really argue with you. Any question which is best answered with nothing more than a link and a snarky comment hasn't provided content of value to the site. It's about the quality of the content on the site -- and apparently some users are content to have bad questions with equally bad answers, and enough of them that eventually we look like the geek equivalent of Yahoo! Answers. – John Rudy Aug 9 '10 at 22:03
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    "Why do you assume he already knew that?" Because he asked it on a programming question and answer site? – John Rudy Aug 9 '10 at 22:04
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    Nothing is best answered with a link and snarky comment. If you think snark is ever the right answer to a question on SO, you need to back away from the question and not get involved. And not all nouns on SO are programming languages. .NET isn't a programming language, XML isn't a programming language, SOAP isn't a programming language, jquery, iphone, linux, django, silverlight, WCF, android, ... – Nicholas Knight Aug 9 '10 at 22:08

Questions that receive close votes are doomed.

Absolutely not! They can be reopened just as easily.

It's no longer the "Community" that can close the question; but a tiny minority of it - 5 (five) users, it's all it takes

I think you should be able to cast a re-open vote before a question is closed (or an "unvote" to close). That way we could avoid the question bouncing between closed/open while we sort it out.

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