There seem to be some ongoing trends in stack-overflow for some people to just vote willy-nilly to close any and all questions they disapprove of because they can. Since it hurts SO to close questions that ought to be open, I recommend that we hold people accountable to their "close" votes and make them pay a hefty price in rep whenever the community disagrees with them and reopens their questions. This will encourage people to refrain from incessantly voting for questions to get closed and instead make them think more carefully about whether a question truly deserves a close vote.

It probably will cause a bunch of not-so-legitimate questions to stay open, but it's better that questions like these stay open than that more legitimate questions get closed.

What does everyone think?

Edit: People have been wanting examples, so...


Here's an interesting double standard:
What is your best programmer joke?
What's your favorite "programmer" cartoon?

  • 9
    If this does get implemented at some point, it should be more like 10-20 rep. Its a dent, but not half a day of answering questions. Jul 27, 2009 at 0:55
  • 21
    Wonderful idea. You only need 5 people wanting the question to stay open to cost everyone rep. Can we modify this proposal so it will also cost you 100 rep if someone votes up something you voted down? The two go hand-in-hand, match made in heaven! Jul 27, 2009 at 1:16
  • 5
    @Coding With Style: do you have any recent examples of these "willy-nilly" closed questions? I scanned the list of those closed recently, but nothing stood out as particularly inappropriate...
    – Shog9
    Jul 27, 2009 at 1:19
  • 5
    Would you suggest that the asker should be penalized when the question is closed or the re-openers if the question is re-closed. If not, why should close voters be special? Jul 27, 2009 at 2:07
  • 1
    Shog, done. Ian, to answer the only part of your comment worth answering, if five people are disagreeing with closing the question, consider that you might be doing something wrong. dmckee, because closing worthy questions stops everyone from being able to contribute to questions and thus actively impedes SO, but opening somewhat bad questions doesn't really hurt SO. Also, if you ask a bad enough question, you usually get downvoted on your question, so you already lose rep there. Jul 27, 2009 at 22:44
  • 6
    I tell you three time: noise hurts. Signal helps, noise hurts. Junk isn't just "not good", it is actively harmful. If you want to hang-out on a forum, go hang-out on a forum. There are scads of them. Jul 27, 2009 at 23:31
  • 1
    @Coding With Style: I've taken the time to examine each question you provided as an example, and updated the list with my take as to the nature of the question, and the stated reason for closing. I don't have a problem with any of them being closed, with the possible exception of "Code Golf". Note that one isn't even closed, although it probably should be. Finally, regarding your "double-standard" : both of those questions have been closed and re-opened many times. There are far more than two standards at work here...
    – Shog9
    Jul 27, 2009 at 23:38
  • 5
    @Coding With Style: How is 5 people voting to open any different than 5 people voting to close? The 5 people voting to open are by default at least as incorrect . What's with the double standard where openers are suddenly the heroes? The point that topics get opened and closed only proves that the issue is a controversial one, and that taking sides is a lost cause where any solution is the wrong one. Jul 28, 2009 at 0:23
  • @Shog9, refrain from editing my post to state your own opinions. That's a flagrant abuse of moderation powers. Make your own answer and discuss your perspective there. I can't believe you did that. You should know better. @dmckee, yes, noise hurts, but it hurts much less than tossing out valid questions, and the most egregious cases of noise will remain closed. I can't see noise getting reopened if it wasn't at least a gray case. @Ian Elliot, because stifling voices is harmful by nature. If there's enough that a side votes to reopen a question, it's much better to leave it open, imo. Jul 28, 2009 at 13:42
  • 5
    @Coding With Style: it has nothing to do with "moderation powers" - i'm not a moderator. I had hoped to encourage you to specify your own reasons as to why you thought these questions had been unfairly closed, but i was unsuccessful - therefore, i must conclude you just picked questions at random and hoped in vain that they would support your wild allegations of abuse. Fail.
    – Shog9
    Jul 28, 2009 at 20:48
  • There are more than 1200 people with the power to vote open or close on SO. SO your suggestions amount to allowing fewer than 0.5% of the "high rep" users to not only reverse the action of another group, but punish them as well. Then you suggest that this should be a one way street?!? The current system will respond to any consensus that exists, and will only have trouble at the most finely defined gray area. Jul 28, 2009 at 20:50
  • 4
    From your example I count (1) which might be on topic (linq query, though guess from the title alone it is too localized to be a good question), (1) occupying a gray area (code golf) which has traditionally been given some leeway (can I say "tradition" when the site is less than 13 months old?), and (1) poll (best editor) which probably doesn't belong, but at least has some precedent from the early days. So you give ten example of which seven are clearly off-topic, and three are marginal. Not very convincing. Jul 28, 2009 at 20:56
  • 7
    @CodingWithStyle please read the FAQ: "Like Wikipedia, this site is collaboratively edited. If you are not comfortable with the idea of your posts being edited by other trusted users, this may not be the site for you."
    – Rex M
    Jul 29, 2009 at 23:24
  • 7
    i'm proud to have cast the final close vote on "what's your favorite programming cartoon"
    – Kip
    Jul 30, 2009 at 19:58
  • "why should close voters be special?" Because, in general, Western Democratic values oppose censorship and favor openness. 5 People can enforce an orthodoxy in which questions which cast their favorite ______ are bad and should be closed. They are not honestly trying to increase the signal-to-noise ratio. If they were being honest they would rewrite the question to be less offensive to their dogma instead of casting a "cost-free" close vote. This idea is to distinguish between the local Taliban and expert editors. Jan 14, 2011 at 20:29

9 Answers 9


It probably will cause a bunch of not-so-legitimate questions to stay open


I don't gain anything by voting to close; it's a small bit of time and effort I donate out of hope that it benefits the site. If I'm gonna get penalized for it, then I won't bother.

The rep thing is a game; closing and editing isn't. As soon as that changes, so does the entire dynamic of the site...

  • The rep thing is more like a strong indicator about how active and usefull you have been on the site Aug 23, 2011 at 15:21
  • 5
    Forget that, closing is a time-out box for the post to improve itself. Posts are to be closed, edited, reopened (in most cases). This proposal will penalise those who close in good faith (but the question is improved and reopened) :\ Jul 6, 2012 at 13:30

This may be the worst idea I've seen on meta yet. I don't see a single example above that was closed improperly. Not a one has a specific programming related problem to solve. The rest of it is pure discussion and just oozes subjectivity...

Q: Why did the programmer cross the road?
A: Who cares, ask a real question.

Furthermore, you seem to want to punish folks for closing these items down... What about punishing the folks who posted it and vote to reopen that items that do not belong on SO? Where is the justice in that?

  • 1
    Part of the point being made is that some subjective questions that don't, as you put it, have 'a specific programming related problem to solve' remain open while quite similiar questions get closed. If you're looking to close any Q's that don't relate to a specific programming issue then by all means close all subjective Qs, including the jokes, the Jon Skeet posts etc... Or close none.
    – MadMurf
    Jul 29, 2009 at 23:02
  • There seems to be a disconnect. What does "Ask a real question" mean? is it only those questions that can be answered with a code snippet? I think that SO is an appropriate place for broader programming-related questions even if they can't be answered with a code snippet. Jul 30, 2009 at 16:08

I've yet to see too many votes to close be completely unjustified (and if they are, they never occur in packs of five). I have, though, seen the rationale to close become null and void after the OP has added material to their question (or edited some other way). So, I think that this is a very much imagined (or mis-characterized) problem, rather than something that's rampant.

What there really needs to be is notification that a post you voted to close has been edited. Then, you should be able to revoke (or change the reason (since you may want to migrate it, then)) for your vote. This has been discussed here, so all that's left is for Jeff & Co to weigh in on whether or not they want to implement such a feature.


I agree that there are questions that get closed that deserve to stay open, but I think that your proposal is a drastically bad solution. What we need to do is encourage more users to review the questions that were recently closed and to reopen the ones that deserve to be reopened. Part of the problem is that users can vote to close/reopen starting at 3k rep, but must have at least 10k rep to see the list.

I also favor a "carrot" approach (as opposed to a "stick" approach) so it might be a good idea to reward users that contribute to a post being reopened in some way, as opposed to punishing users that contribute to a post being closed.

  • I think we need to switch edits and open/closing. I think you should be able to vote for open/closing at 2,000 or even 1,000, and edits should be 3,000. Jul 27, 2009 at 1:01
  • 2
    @Chacha102: why?!
    – Shog9
    Jul 27, 2009 at 1:01
  • 6
    @Chacha: The point is to encourage editing and discourage closing. Why, on G-d's green earth, would you try to reverse that?
    – Eric
    Jul 27, 2009 at 1:04
  • He said we need more people able to reopen questions. And I think all too often that that is very true. Maybe separate open/close and put opening lower while keeping closing where it is. I just think we need to get more people involved in that process. Jul 27, 2009 at 1:04
  • 1
    @Chacha102: read it again. There are plenty of people who can re-open... But either they don't have access to the list of recently-closed questions, or they don't bother reading it.
    – Shog9
    Jul 27, 2009 at 1:05
  • I withdraw my thoughts then. Jul 27, 2009 at 1:07
  • 1
    @Chacha102: Sorry, I wasn't clear. I meant that we should encourage users that are capable of reopening questions to do so more frequently. I have edited my post to (hopefully) make this clearer. Sorry. Jul 27, 2009 at 1:07
  • Yeah, I get that. I thought that weren't enough people who had the ability to. If that was the case, then we should make it easier to get the ability. But if it is just about getting people to actually do it, then we need a solution like a list of closed questions. Jul 27, 2009 at 1:09
  • 1
    @Chacha102: Right. There is a list, but it requires 10k+ rep to see, whereas users can vote to close/open starting at 3k. We should definitely get that list into the hands of more people. Jul 27, 2009 at 1:10
  • It's odd that you get the right to reopen at 3000 rep, but not access to the link that gives you the list of recently closed questions.
    – ChrisF Mod
    Jul 27, 2009 at 8:36
  • 1
    @ChrisF: It's not odd, you're expected to judge question that you look at. That is: the ones in areas you're interested in (where you presumably know the zeitgeist). 10k users are being encouraged to cast their nets a little more widely. But in my case I still act mostly on questions in my areas of interest. Jul 28, 2009 at 20:46

This is a bad idea because it misses the point of closure. Closing isn't about hurrying questions along to deletion as quickly as possible; if we were just trying to delete as much stuff as we could, we wouldn't bother with the intermediate step of closure at all.

The ideal situation for closure is that some community members come across a post with problems, mark it by voting to close, maybe leave a few helpful comments, and then — this part is crucial — the OP comes back, learns from the experience and fixes up the post to a point where it is useful to the community, valid for the site and can be re-opened.

It's true that some posts are unsalvageable, and need to be deleted. It's also true that people don't actually treat the closure process as constructive as often as they should. But those are not reasons to punish the best members of the community when they use the system the way it's supposed to be used.

  • 1
    Whoops. I saw this question pop up at the top of the front page and didn't look at its asked-on date. Oh well, still a valid answer.
    – Pops
    Jul 6, 2012 at 15:16

All the proposals I've read make things very complicate. This is the general trend of humanity. Once some rule is found not to be satisfying, more complex regulations are proposed (and eventually introduced) to address these things. As a result, things get too complex.

I'd say let things as they are. If 5 people close a question, but the question is interesting, 5 other people will reopen it. just add a minimum time between opening and reopening, so that we don't play pong. If a discussion is interesting, you can still bump it to the front page, and this increases the likelihood of reopening.


FWIW, I agee with the premise, if not the proposed solution.

People are definitely willy nilly voting to close: voting to close on questions where they can and not where they should (for example "unclear what you're asking" where there isn't a sentence where there's a question mark, even though it's blatantly clear! I've seen that "Voting to close: please include a sentence with a question mark". FFS).

The solution presented here is the wrong one, though, because reopen can happen for reasons other than bad voting. We want closed questions to be reopened: it means someone edited them and they were fixed.

I have instead suggested that well intentioned bad voters get educated at the point that their bad vote is detected.

Reopen is not the detection of a bad close vote: it's the signal of a fixed question.

"Leave Open" votes are the detection of a bad close vote. When a question is rejected from the Close Vote Queue via "Leave Open" votes, that's the time to educate the bad close voter.


I +1 to this suggestion, however the rep penalty should be 10-20 points. Perhaps something like this:

If a question gets closed, then re-opened, and then kept open for 24-48 hours, then each of the people who voted to close get a 10-20 points of rep penalty.

To deal with multiple closes, it can be changed so:

If a question gets closed, re-opened, closed, re-opened, etc, and then the final result is that it stays re-opened for 24-48 hours, then each of the people who voted to close it get a 10-20 points closing penalty. With each closing cycle adding +5 to the penalty. (So the first 3 people who voted to close might get -10, the second group gets a -15, the 3rd group, a -20, and so forth).

Alternatively it can be changed so the people who vote to re-open a question get a +10 rep bonus if the question stays open for 24-48 hours.

  • 2
    Should the people who vote to reopen garbage questions get penalized if they are finally closed or deleted? Your suggestion seems grossly unfair to people who are trying to maintain some order on the site. This idea would simply allow off-topic nonsense to flourish while at the same time putting a boot to the back of the head of people just trying to keep the site topical and on point. Jul 27, 2009 at 14:30
  • Like the OP said, a few semi-legitimate questions staying open is far better than a few legitimate questions getting closed. Jul 27, 2009 at 17:01
  • 1
    The issue isn't that you shouldn't keep the site topical, it's how fast questions get closed. It's a form of censorship, even if I agree that it's a bad question, let the foolish get an earful of answers pointing out the author's folly. Jul 28, 2009 at 22:29

[EDIT] I've added more proposals

Here are several proposals:

  1. A negative score threshold, e.g. -5, before a question can be closed but no rep cost.
  2. Make a close vote cost the same as a downvote except it doesn't count against the daily vote limit. This means each close vote is also a -1 vote.
  3. A question cannot be closed until at least 1 hour (configurable) after it was asked, unless it is abusive - and thus flaggable.
  4. More votes required to close a question after it has been reopened (This is covered in another question).
  5. Connect the number of votes required to close with the number of answers. After 10 answers, it takes 6 votes to close, after 25 answers it takes 7 votes, etc.
  6. Connect the number of votes required to close with the score of the question (a variation on #1)
  7. Connect the number of close votes required with the overall score of the question. I question with a non-negative score, lots of answers with plenty of voting means an active discussion and should be harder to close.

Letting a question be closed regardless of its score puts extra power into those who can vote to close a question. All it would take is five people to mute any discussion. If 5 people started closing questions with 100+ scores, they'd be jerks right? What about questions with score 25, 10, 5, or 2? Putting the onus on others to set things right is abdicating the responsibility onto others, somewhat like saying, "I vote to close anything that is questionable and let others sort it out." If the system has a way of detecting active discussions, let it help keep the discussion open. The current system gives the veto power into the hands of any 5 people with sufficient rep with no accountability for abuse. Let the community have time to have their say before over-zealous closers put a muzzle on a question.

These proposals do not punish those who voted to close and it keeps a close/open war from breaking out on borderline or controversial questions. If there are that many people who think it needs to be kept open, the threshold to close should be raised.

I agree that many questions are being closed because they think it's a bad question. If it is a bad question, then downvote it. If it is off-topic, or a poor question or needs to be moved, it's a bad question and deserves a downvote but not to be immediately closed.

It's true that open/closing doesn't affect rep but that can cause the opposite problem. It doesn't cost anything to vote to close but it does cost to downvote which can be an incentive to vote to close instead of voting down.

I'm trying to be helpful and answer the question in a thoughtful way that takes into account the necessity of closing questions for various reasons. I'd understand downvoting my answer if it is poorly worded or doesn't answer the question but not for disagreeing with my opinion.

  • 2
    It's a nice thing to say - off-topic questions deserve a downvote - but off-topic questions often get plenty of upvotes as well. Truth is, there have been some great questions asked on SO that just happened to have nothing whatsoever to do with programming... They'll still get up-voted, 'cause we all like good questions.
    – Shog9
    Jul 29, 2009 at 6:06
  • @Shog9, I agree with you about up/down votes. That still is much better then knee-jerk votes to close. Jul 29, 2009 at 22:13
  • 1
    How so? A question closed inappropriately can, and usually will, be re-opened. There are very few of these. A bad question left open distracts everyone who comes across it. There are ever more of these. I'm constantly surprised by the notion that closing doesn't accomplish anything useful... I must conclude that the people espousing this idea do not do much searching for real answers on Stack Overflow.
    – Shog9
    Jul 29, 2009 at 22:47
  • 1
    And by the way... It's not moderators or crusaders who do most of the closing. It's ordinary users. Stop and think about that.
    – Shog9
    Jul 29, 2009 at 22:48
  • I do search for answers on SO. I see very few [closed] questions so I'm puzzled how they can be considered distracting. Since they show up in searches, closing them doesn't reduce the clutter. If I see a question with a score of 5 but is [closed] I key on the score. If two questions have the same score, I find the [closed] marker much more distracting. I'll stop and view a [closed] answer just to see why it's [closed] which defeats the rationale that a [closed] question is less distracting. Jul 29, 2009 at 23:25
  • 2
    You're looking at the wrong thing. The distraction is open questions that don't provide answers to your question. Closing is a staging area for deletion (deleted answers don't show up in searches, though we're encouraged to not delete duplicate questions with significantly-different titles as those can help funnel searchers to the canonical, open question) and provides a way to discourage "me-too" questions.
    – Shog9
    Jul 29, 2009 at 23:36
  • My answer is well thought out, polite, and on topic. I must conclude that the downvote is from someone who disagrees with my opinion. Jul 29, 2009 at 23:36
  • 1
    @Shog9, I see your point. Well said. +1 Jul 29, 2009 at 23:37
  • 1
    I'm going to suggest over on the meta site that [closed] votes display the reason (but not the voter) even before you get 5 votes. The question then becomes, is the question beyond hope of editing? Should it be resubmitted instead or is the nature of the question beyond help? Jul 29, 2009 at 23:56
  • @Kelly: you should probably consider posting these proposals as separate [feature-request] questions if you want folks to take them seriously. I have my reservations, but it's a bit hard to discuss them in-depth using only comments.
    – Shog9
    Jul 30, 2009 at 16:36
  • 1
    I hadn't voted this down---despite not liking it much---until you added the suggestion of a one hour time limit. We certainly should not encourage people to waste effort on off-topic entries that should and will be closed. In an ideal world, off-topic questions get closed before anyone invests any further effort in them. Jul 30, 2009 at 16:58
  • Also note, no one user can vote to close any given question more than once. A question that has been re-closed has been voted down by 10 users, one that has been re-re-closed by 15, ... Jul 30, 2009 at 17:08
  • @Shog9, I thought of that before I put so much time into the one answer. I was worried that they'd be marked as dups. Also, if I post 5 requests around the same topic that 10 people disagree with and then downvote, my rep would take a big hit and I really don't have that much to start with. I feel like it penalizes those who have serious suggestions about controversial topics but haven't been around long enough to build up rep to spare. Jul 30, 2009 at 17:44
  • @dmckee, do you downvote questions you vote to close? Jul 30, 2009 at 17:47
  • 1
    "The 5 voters basically are defining, for all users, what is appropriate or what is programming-related." Unless and until another five come along and tell them they were wrong...its a symmetric situation and questions start open, so open has the advantage. Aug 7, 2009 at 2:00

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .