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Let questions stay open for a minimum amount of time before being closed

I'm a stackoverflow user for a little more than one year now, and I have the feeling that the site quality to get answer to questions and usefull programming related stuff is currently entering a fast degradation process, at least by my standards.

For some kind of questions the site is becoming useless - at least for me - because questions are closed faster than answered.

Two examples from my own questions: some weeks ago I stumbled on a (very good) old programming book from the seventies : "Programming Proverbs" from H. Ledgard. OK, to me it looked like very good stuff, but a bit oudated. So I asked on Stack Overflow what is the current state of the art about this kind of practical programming rules of thumb. Which works, which do not. Apparently there was some likely minded fellows as I got some answers, but nevertheless it was closed in a matter of minutes "belongs to programmers". Maybe... but on programmers the question was also closed fast enough (as duplicate for "great programming quotes" which isn't true, it's like if a question asking about "names of mammals" was closed as duplicate of a question about "dictionnary words"). Worse, the answers I got from "programmers" were indeed useless junk (that comforted me in my feeling it was definitely not the right place to ask it).

OK. I assumed the way I asked my question was bad, that it missed a bit of context examples, etc. OK, my fault.

In the last weeks I also asked two other questions, very narrow focused and specific. Those were not immediately closed, but I didn't get much useful stuff either in answers.

Now I asked another question today, which is about a problem encountered by a fellow programmer. He has to remotely change a password on a Windows Box from some ACL program running on a linux box. Any programming language available on linux would do. After googling a few minutes I also found out that the problem was likely to be solved by calling some samba code (either through command line tools, python wrapper library wmi-client, or maybe some other entry point I have no idea about). This one was also closed fast enough (a matter of hours) as "off-topic".

What I'm feeling that there is people on SO who are spending their time to close as many questions as they have close points (is there a badge for that ?). We may call them the "Closing Patrol". They are laso doing it with very low standards. I'm wondering if they even bother to carefully read questions before voting to close. There also seems to be a "sheep" effect. As soon as a question get a first close vote, it is not long before it gets the other four close vote (maybe subsequents closers feels less guilty ?).

The problem is that there is no similar effect for reopening questions new questions have some kind of visibility, but old closed questions are just buried.

Now I invested some time answering other's questions on SO or upvoting good questions and answers. I'm really pissed to see that a handful of people can so easily forbid be to ask questions.

In any community as large as SO there will be people with varying standards on what should or should not be asked. The problem is that people with the most exclusive standard will always rule. Even having read the FAQ on close policy is not mandatory to close ! I feel this is not contributing to overall site quality.

OK, that is the problem. Now, I have something to suggest to solve that problem. When closing a question time is of the essence. Why not let questions live for some time before letting people vote to close them ? This time could easily be made a parameter, say as many minutes as the user has points. That would make questions from Jon Skeet impossible to close for a year, or mine stay alive for a few days, but I do not really see that effect as a problem.

EDIT: I'm answering here to some comments, as I have not enough reputation to comment back...

I'm not pretending my questions should not be closed. And I can as easily point out closed questions of other people. In another thread on meta I even complained some questions by others where closed while I was editing my answer to them. I'm definitely shocked by this overall "fast close" behavior. I see very little benefit in close feature. I understand when in some cases a question has too many answers it should not get more.

But If a question belongs to another StackExchange site it should not be closed but migrated (or if it belongs nowhere or is spam deleted)... and in that case migraters should certainly read the questions they move to some other site or they will come back.

Duplicates are in some cases a precious ressource, at it attracts attention to subjects whose answers are often incomplete (the question got out of visibility before getting good answers) or outdated.

The main effect of closing questions is forbidding people willing to answer some question to do it. As if downvoting the question to make it less visible was not enough ? Are people doing this believing that by forbidding answers to some questions "ressources" will answer to some other question ? At least for me that is not true. When questions are closed as I am typing an answer or willing to (and this is really getting more frequent) I'm pissed of, and usually go away from SO for some time. I wonder if I am the only one to react this way.

And I agree, getting a reputation of a few thousand points is not hard. I also depends on subjects people interrested in .net or Java are getting point more easily as community are bigger. But it usually means some kind of involvment anyway.

Considering the current closing policy I'm even wondering if I shouldn't create some puppet account to ask questions. Or if my policy should be to always put a bounty when asking a serious question and wanting to avoid immediate close ?

  • 7
    This sounds a lot like, "Close all the discussions and noise, the site is dying. But my posts aren't discussions at all! Let's discuss."
    – random
    Jun 6 '11 at 21:01
  • TL;DR where's the code, vote to close! Oops this isn't SO. Can we get links to these questions you feel were closed inappropriately? Your first question sounds subjective (hence belongs on Programmers). Your second question could be on-topic but I can't tell from your description.
    – user7116
    Jun 6 '11 at 21:04
  • 1
    @kriss I've edited the windows password question so it's blatantly obvious that it's a programming question. I suggest you review it and edit it further in case I made any mistakes, as I made some rather drastic changes. Hopefully this helps.
    – Pollyanna
    Jun 6 '11 at 21:14
  • @kriss you may also consider editing/deleting your comment on that password question as well now that it has been reopened Jun 6 '11 at 21:33
  • Introducing a delay during which answers can be posted defeats the very purpose of closing. See answers/discussion on the question now linked to at top.
    – Shog9
    Jun 6 '11 at 21:39
  • 1
    You have plenty of rep to comment
    – random
    Jun 6 '11 at 22:16
  • 2
    "not enough reputation to comment back" .. what are you talking about? even a user with 1 rep can always comment on their own posts and answers to their questions, and regardless, you have well over the 50 rep necessary to comment. Jun 6 '11 at 22:18
  • I'm sympathetic, I've seen horrible questions closed within two or three minutes of being asked; some users will post comments asking for details, and well before those details could be edited into the question, the question is closed. Re-opening is much harder, and not guaranteed to happen. If the user tries again, their second post sometimes get closed as a duplicate of the first closed post.
    – sarnold
    Jun 6 '11 at 22:48
  • @Jeff Atwood: I guess it was a temporary problem all comments buttons had stopped to work for me. I didn't double checked and thought I needed more rep to do that. My mistake. And now it's working again. Sorry I have no hint of what was causing the effect.
    – kriss
    Jun 6 '11 at 22:59

The core community is who is doing all the closing and those users by-and-large represent the most trusted members and are simply living up to their responsibilities when they vote to close a question.

Individual questions do sometimes get closed due to a misunderstanding and those questions can and have been reopened upon appeal. But the policies are clear and high-reputation askers should not be above the law: all questions should meet the same basic standards.

I think what you really want is a change in the policy, not a change in the procedure. You want a change that would allow different kinds of questions to be asked and not be closed. That should be argued separately. But closing inappropriate questions is essential, lest we be drowned in noise, and with that need comes some risk of closing questions that shouldn't be closed. It's not perfect but the alternative is much worse.

  • I mostly agree with you. Except that I'm quite sure that not two members of that "core" community really agree on the specific policy. The effect I'm pointing out is about an ongoing change of policy like it or not, that mechanically restricts the perimeters of which questions are permissible or not. Permissible questions becomes the least common denominator for all core users. And SE get new users, this gets smaller everyday. But I agree this will first be noticable for fringe questions, those not merely RTFM. And as SO becomes boring, I come less often and participate less.
    – kriss
    Sep 22 '11 at 14:14

I agree that time is of the essence upon closing, and in fact, it's important that we must be able to quickly remove bad questions. The more cluttered with bad questions the site becomes, the less likely people are to stick around (new or old folks).

Now, to address your specific points.

If you feel a question was wrongly closed, you can bring it up here. Your programmers question was arguably incorrectly matched to a duplicate (yes, proverbs and quotes aren't the same thing in the way you used them) but ultimately the quotes question was closed and I fear your proverbs question might also be closed for similar reasoning. The reality is, for that particular question you're better off discussing that in chat or in a forum. Not on a question-and-answer site.

Your password-changing question is a good candidate for reopening and I've voted to reopen it.

What I'm feeling that there is people on SO who are spending their time to close as many questions as they have close points (is there a badge for that ?). We may call them the "Closing Patrol". They are laso doing it with very low standards.

I have sometimes been pretty heavy in close-voting on some days, but the whole point is to improve the quality of the site. Duplicate questions need to be marked as such so that there's a consolidation of answers. Off-topic questions need to be removed so as not to reduce the quality of the questions in the feeds. And so on. If you feel that some folks are routinely incorrectly close-voting at a high-volume, then a post here identifying them is one way to deal with it and emailing the team using the "contact us" link at the bottom of the page is also appropriate if you don't want to air it out in public.

Now, I have something to suggest to solve that problem. When closing a question time is of the essence. Why not let questions live for some time before letting people vote to close them ?

So, I'm sensitive to your pleading and I agree that sometimes folks are heavy-handed with close votes, but I am against this mechanism (for the reasons described above).


I do not feel having questions live for a fixed interval is in the best interest of the site. The signal to noise ratio is shrinking and a lot of questions need attention before someone could even hazard a guess as to a roughly correct answer.

When I see long questions on SO, without any code, I am far less likely to withhold a vote to close to see where the answers go. A subjective question with code I may let ride to see where the community takes it. However, any question blatantly off topic is getting a downvote and close vote without a second thought.

When I'm voting to close, I'm trying to make sure eyes are on the questions that people need answered (solving actual problems, yay).

Addressing your three closed questions:

  1. What is your favorite programming proverb ? This is without a doubt off topic for Stack Overflow, and probably on topic for Programmers (eek going to be downvoted for this).
  2. Changing password on a remote Windows System on Linux. This is vaguely programming related. I had trouble determining if it was better off SuperUser or StackOverflow. Perhaps if you provided a constructive edit or two to the question it might garner reopen votes.
  3. Should a function reduce entropy ? This is off topic for Stack Overflow, and probably on topic for Programmers (eek, double downvoted for this).
  • In light of Adam's favorable edits to your question about changing passwords, I've added my own vote to reopen it.
    – user7116
    Jun 6 '11 at 21:24
  • about 1, I totally agree with the close... but the question was closed on programmers even faster than on SO as "Overly Broad". The problem is that answers where totally out of range of the question and people thought it was about fun "Programmers Quotes", which is not. I belive I should delete this one and reopening it on programmers with a bit of context (may be table of content of the old book of H.Ledgard and asking what changed from the seventies)
    – kriss
    Jun 6 '11 at 23:06
  • @kriss: I can't give specific guidance for Programmers.SE as I stay off the site due to questions of that nature.
    – user7116
    Jun 7 '11 at 2:31

Of the three questions that were closed:

What API can be used to change windows account information remotely?



I only disagree with closing the changing password one, and even that's iffy. It's not well written with a programming audience in mind.

The "function reducing entropy" question is all over the place. It does not convey a consistent point or question - instead it's written as though you're presenting at some sort of conference and are asking merely rhetorical questions at the end, after which you'll pontificate on the problem further. It would never belong on Stackoverflow, but if re-written it might have a home on programmers.

The proverb question is clearly out of bounds - it's a subjective "getting to know you" question which has infinite answers, none objectively "right", and encourages everyone to submit their opinion.

I suspect if you re-read the FAQ critically, and re-read your questions you may come to the some conclusion.

  • 1
    I'm not going to address the solution because I don't think it's a problem, but if I were, I'd state that it's not hard for people who ask marginally bad questions to gain as much rep as you have. I wouldn't delay closing questions due to rep of the op.
    – Pollyanna
    Jun 6 '11 at 21:08

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