My question got closed: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/3539810/how-does-ruby-make-profit-closed

While this other question got a lot of answers: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/263723/developing-a-software-idea-into-a-business

  • Another example from today. Closed vs Not Closed: "Is C# becoming harder to read? [closed]" vs. "How popular is ITIL in the rest of the world?" I personally found the 1st interesting, while the second is "not constructive" – Paul Jun 4 '12 at 13:12

You're also comparing two questions two years apart. Community consensus changes over a long enough time period, especially considering the advent of multiple Stack Exchange sites.

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    The rules - both written and unwritten change over time. What was allowed no longer is and older questions don't get seen so they don't get closed as "off topic". There is a chance that the older question will now get closed. – ChrisF Aug 22 '10 at 18:08
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    Moreover the "consensus" isn't something that people actually agree on en masse, rather it is the result of the pitched close battle de jour. Not that I have any questions in mind, just now. Oh, heavens! No! – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Aug 22 '10 at 23:17

There are many reasons why relatively equivalent (similar but not duplicate) questions get closed.


Community Evolution

As mentioned by Mark Trapp

[You are] comparing two questions two years apart. Community consensus changes over [...] time.

In the "glory days" before Meta existed, questions were simply posted and then fought over until a moderator locked the post. While this still happens, there is now a 'behind the curtains' area to discuss and decide on a consensus, rather than fighting on the question itself. Questions created before and after this divide had very different acceptability criteria.

Because the community changes over time, the most recent decision is the right one.*

* That doesn't mean we can't change our minds tomorrow though


Even when community consensus has shifted, older posts will tend to remain open. The old questions contain a lot of quality content despite the fact that the content is not strictly appropriate for StackOverflow. "Best Programming Book" or "Programmer Joke" are examples of this. The questions are venerable at this point, but they are certainly not the type of question that could be asked now.

Community Moderation

Community Consensus

All of the StackExchange sites are moderated mainly by the 3k users. This means that even though 5 users may agree that a question needs to be close, a different 5 users may agree that it shouldn't. Depending on the question topic, you will get different users deciding it's fate.

Although unfair, this is a side-effect of community moderation. One rule of thumb to remember: if your question is closed and a similar one is not, the most likely result is that both questionable posts should be removed and not that they should both stay.

Drive-By (Spare Time) Policing

Another side effect of the community moderation is that it varies drastically depending on the time of day and who is online. During peak hours, there are more eyes on each questions which means more opportunities to close it. However, a question in off-peak hours on an obscure topic has a much greater chance of slipping through without being closed even though it should be.

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