# Are we voting to close too quickly?

With the kerfuffle on SE, I've decided to try & contribute a bit more again. So I started with the vote close queue, and this one irked me:

https://codereview.stackexchange.com/review/close/124096

How did this question get in the close queue within 25 minutes of its creation? Are we no longer giving folks the time to edit their question, or are they meant to edit the question while it is closed, and then try to get it unclosed?

I voted to keep it open strictly because the timing seems over the top. Please let me know your thoughts.

• I don't think the timing has anything to do with whether a question gets closed or not. It's better for a question to be closed, fixed and re-opened than that answers come in half-way the process and now the question can't be fixed. – Mast Oct 22 '19 at 11:09
• We discourage answering off-topic questions, but not everybody follows the same ideas it seems. – Mast Oct 22 '19 at 11:10
• for the record: the first close vote was put in pretty much exactly 40 seconds after the question was posted... – Vogel612 Oct 22 '19 at 11:28
• How soon should I “vote to close”? Always vote to close immediately. – Cody Gray Oct 25 '19 at 3:11

When I come upon a question that has one or more votes to close but no comments at all I feel that we are doing the poster and the community an injustice. The first person to VTC should provide a comment, and I feel that it should be clearer than just a link to the How do I ask a good question help page. It should provide the poster with a clear path to improve the question. In the case of LCC, tell the poster what is missing. If it is broken code tell the poster. Perhaps VTC should urge the closer to provide a reason like the flags do.

This may be a feature request that should be posted on MSE. There could be some canned selections and then a text field for open descriptions of how to correct the issue. This would help the poster before they get 5 votes to close. The earlier we identify issues the faster the question can be fixed, and the faster we can notify possible answerers not to post an answer.

The kind of helpful comments I would like to see is my comment on this question: Beginning BMI calculator in Java

• Selected this answer, because it made me realize I asked the wrong answer. The real question is "Why are we not commenting/collaborating while we are voting to close?" – konijn Oct 25 '19 at 12:26
• Thank you for this. The How do I ask a good question link (while informative) covers so much ground that it doesn't really help the OP with the specific issue that the Voter to Close had. – Andrew Nov 1 '19 at 4:27

If anything, we don't vote to close quickly enough.

An off-topic question can often be fixed. In the meantime, it shouldn't be answered. It helps to close the questions for answers, so they don't get answered anyway. We actively discourage answering off-topic questions[1][2], but new users don't necessarily know this and others don't necessarily comply with that sentiment. Answering an off-topic question in the answer section leads to all kind of problems, although we tend to side with whoever posted the question at that point since the answer shouldn't have arrived in the first place.

If a question is off-topic, leave a comment[3] and close it. This is the best thing that can happen to such a question at that time. Now, the author of the question can attempt to fix it, after which the question will automatically[4][5] be put in the re-open queue.

Closing a question doesn't mean we've given up on them. Some questions are beyond repair, a lot of them are not.

• That's a nice amount of links you've got there! :D – Peilonrayz Oct 22 '19 at 16:31
• What's the likelihood that the question will be reopened though? – Andrew Nov 1 '19 at 4:28
• @Andrew Some questions are unsalvageable, but mostly it depends on the author. If they're willing to put in the effort, the majority of questions can be fixed and reopened. – Mast Nov 1 '19 at 5:26
• @Mast... I understand the reasoning, from the super user POV. But it acts as an effective deterrent against new people who want to join. And I understand that there are arguments to be made about how we only want the best. But, I think we owe it to people to be inviting to newbies. We owe it to them to be good guidance as they become the next generation of programmers. We owe them simple explanations about why their question was voted closed, and we owe them good faith time to fix it, which is not the schedule of the super-user impatience. – Andrew Nov 1 '19 at 5:53
• @Andrew We absolutely should comment more on most of the closed questions (some are beyond repair, are by aggressive users, indicate so little effort we don't owe them anything at all (arguably we're all volunteers and don't owe anyone anything, but that's another discussion), etc.). But closing a question isn't the end of the world. A question can stay closed for days, weeks even, before it's removed. That's a lot of time to fix a question. What we can't do, is let the quality of this site go down by simply allowing everything. That would be detrimental to every remaining question. – Mast Nov 1 '19 at 8:18

The Close-/Reopen system is at least partly predicated on quickly closing questions that are not on topic and quickly reopening those that were edited to be on topic. Let me quote Shog writing on the "purpose of closing":

I would like to propose the following four-part sentence as a summary of purpose for closing - and the larger "close / edit / reopen OR delete" cycle - on Stack Overflow:

1. The closing system exists to allow askers and answerers to collaborate on constructing high-quality questions and answers, by...
2. ...providing a clear path for questions that either cannot or should not be answered to be identified, and...
3. ...ensuring that they are then either sufficiently improved or...
4. ...removed from view.

In this summary, #2 corresponds to the act of closing a question, while #3 encompasses both editing and reopening, and #4 is deletion. These are the critical actions that enable this purpose to be realized.

Unfortunately for large sites that's not really working as well as originally intended. To improve the reactiveness of closing and reopening on Stack Overflow, the CM team ran an experiment with reducing the number of required close-votes to 3 (instead of the 5 that are standard network-wide)
The results show a clear improvement in the number of questions that are edited and reopened as a result of changing that.

The implication of that could be that quicker closing is more likely to result in edits making the question on topic, speeding up the system overall.

As such closing a question is intended to be significantly less harsh than it might look like at the first (or even second glance). As usual for SE that's badly communicated, but alas that's not what this question here was about ;)

The problem with the review item you linked was not that it was quickly voted to close. Instead the problem lies within the lack of guidance, the "clear path for questions" that should hopefully lead to "sufficient improvement". That issue is currently being discussed in various posts here on our meta.

I would highly suggest that votes to close not start until a period of time has passed. During this period of time, the following things can happen that will be constructive:

1. More senior members of the site can leave comments about how to rephrase the question so that it improves, and is on point
2. Allow other people the chance to answer the question. Reputation is an important part of contributing to SE, and closing questions early keeps newer members from participating, and therein from excelling. In effect, a strata of power users gets created that is very difficult to break through.

Specifically, as a new user myself, I found that certain power users are happy to take time to explain that this site won't answer my question, but won't take time to elaborate as to how my question could be improved. I have additionally found prior comments deleted wherein I asked for clarification.

### Recommendation

1. In order to allow newer generations of members the chance to grow and become power users, keep questions open for longer before voting to close.
2. Keeping questions open for one or two days, before voting to close, will not hurt the quality of the site, and can help reduce antagonism between newer members and power members
3. Votes to close should require a comment, from each vote to close, describing how to improve the question.
• (3) Yes, so much yes. As for breaking through strata, we have many questions that are older than 1 year, those got me to 30K. – konijn Nov 1 '19 at 7:28
• I've been here for a while now, and I've seen no problems for new members coming and going. The core Python users have changed quite significantly, multiple times, since when I started. Leaving a question open means it can get answers, which can produce a positive reinforcement that it's ok - this shouldn't be wanted. I agree with recommendation 3, it's something I've stated before, but some people hate the idea of it. – Peilonrayz Nov 1 '19 at 13:06
• No one who's looking for an answer, will keep coming back if their questions haven't been answered in a year. Also, why stop people from answering questions? – Andrew Nov 1 '19 at 13:11
• It sounds like you have a different idea of the intention behind voting to close than those who use it: we vote to close stuff because it is off-topic or low quality, and it gives the asker a change to address any issues. Delaying closing only reinforces the idea that low-quality/off-topic questions are acceptable, and enables new-users (who can't necessarily spot such questions) to essentially waste their time writing an off-topic answer. It is much better that the question is closed, fixed, and reopened, whereafter any user can answer it. – VisualMelon Nov 3 '19 at 15:33