Compare our answered/unanswered ratio to other SE sites. We have essentially no unanswered questions. That may seem like a symptom of a perfectly healthy exchange site to some, but I think it shows that we're super, super aggressive about shutting down (and thus excluding from consideration) any question that is either difficult to answer or causes disagreement amongst members. Most times when I notice a question is locked or on hold here, I roll my eyes, because there's no simply no good reason for it, it's just people with high rep playing "gotcha" with fresh questions.

I don't know if this is entirely a cultural problem with the site or if it could be resolved by requiring greater numbers of people/with higher rep for holding/locking questions. Any other ideas? Am I just bonkers, missing out on the fun of stomping on my neighbors' flowers?

  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Nov 30 '15 at 21:47
  • $\begingroup$ I find it amusing it's all the high-rep users who are answering here. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Dec 1 '15 at 14:09
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    $\begingroup$ It is amusing that they've rallied to repel the attack, but I don't think it means anything in particular... probably a reasonably strong correlation between "has high rep" and "checks meta". $\endgroup$ – SudoSedWinifred Dec 1 '15 at 14:37
  • $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre We like to occasionally humor the 99%. $\endgroup$ – Samuel Dec 1 '15 at 22:47
  • $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre, it depends where you set the threshold. The accepted answer is by a moderator, who did not make to the 4000 rep threshold. And me neither for that matter. And if we both are amongst the high-rep users, then that makes a LOT of people ;-) $\endgroup$ – clem steredenn Dec 2 '15 at 7:55
  • $\begingroup$ @bilbo_pingouin I suppose I should have said "high-rep users, and Michael." Michael is, however, only #51 of all users (10k) by rep, so not really low, considering the average user has less than 1k rep. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Dec 2 '15 at 12:59
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    $\begingroup$ You want aggressive with closing questions? Come visit Hardware Recommendations. $\endgroup$ – ArtOfCode Dec 2 '15 at 20:35

Like Samuel wrote, our site has a tendency to attract questions that are little more than random musings. More to the point, our site has a tendency to attract questions that are everything from nutcases to sheer madness, and not uncommonly, without any prior research having been done.

Note the word "attract". Just because we attract those questions doesn't mean they are appropriate here. In fact, fairly early during the beta period about a year ago, we had a lengthy process of figuring out what the help center's "on topic" page should say, with corresponding discussions in chat as well, all of it documented as part of our site's history for those interested in learning more about the rationale behind each point. Here, I would like to also point out that the bulk of this work was done prior to the pro tem moderator announcement. (Now that we have graduated, the community will soon get to have their say about who the site's moderators should be. Again, I might add.)

Worldbuilding SE has, on the whole, a very active community. We have a core community of people who stop by often (we currently have 35 users with the Fanatic badge, which is awarded for visiting the site each day for 100 consecutive days; note that the site has only been in existence for maybe 400 days!), most of which are regular and appreciated contributors, with corresponding reputation to show for their efforts. Our meta is highly active; just look at the response you've got to this question in, as I am typing this, less than an hour. I think, but don't have data readily available to back it up, that Worldbuilding is one site that has done among the better in terms of building and maintaining a community of users devoted to the site.

I realize that you are still fairly new to the Stack Exchange network (other than on Worldbuilding, your currently highest reputation is 151 rep on RPG SE). Please don't take this as an insult of any kind; we all start out with a single account and 1 rep (and so did I). Nobody gets a free pass. There is, however, a lot about how the network works that you might not yet have experienced. That'll come with time and reputation.

As already stated, we do try to work actively on our reopen rate. Even a high rate of questions being put on hold isn't necessarily a bad thing at all; it simply indicates that the community felt that the question was either not a good fit for the site, or not answerable in its current form. Instead of wasting time guessing what the OP is asking about, we put the question on hold while we figure out what the specific question is. This is perfectly normal behavior on the network. Some questions simply aren't salvagable, and sometimes the OP pretty obviously doesn't care about the question any longer, so it never gets improved to the point of being reopenable. I did, some time ago, compare our numbers to those of other sites with high quality standards and a decent amount of traffic, and found them to (at least at the time) be largely similar.

Keep in mind that any question that is edited during the "on hold" grace period is automatically entered into the reopen review queue. Users with sufficient reputation (this is the same limit as for casting close votes) can cast reopen votes if they feel the question should not be closed, either at all or any longer after edits, which, too, enters the question into the review queue. If you feel a question that is marked as "on hold" shouldn't be closed, then propose an edit that you feel addresses the problems stated in the reason for why the question was put on hold.

If you don't understand why a specific question was put on hold or closed, then ask about it, either here on Meta or in our general chat room. It doesn't even need to be your own question. If, armed with this newfound knowledge, you are able to fix the question while maintaining the original asker's intent, then great! If you still feel that the specific question was closed solely because the users voting to close didn't know the answer, then by all means flag it for moderator attention and describe the situation, citing specific evidence supporting your view. However, at least I have yet to come across many closed questions here that I felt strongly were good enough to warrant being reopened, and most of the ones I have, at the time already had reopen votes and thus were being looked at by the community.

  • $\begingroup$ @SudoSedWinifred Something to add to this: a number of us actively monitor the unanswered queue. Earlier today for example I went through it and answered a couple and put a bounty on one that had gone unanswered. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Nov 30 '15 at 22:53
  • $\begingroup$ So there is a concerted effort... Just completely the opposite to the one you imagined... $\endgroup$ – Tim B Nov 30 '15 at 22:58
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    $\begingroup$ @TimB And I answered the question you put a bounty on. Bam. We are efficient. $\endgroup$ – Samuel Dec 1 '15 at 0:47

Nope, you're bonkers.

The thing about this exchange you're not taking into account is that we attract the random questions that don't fit anywhere else. People come here to ask their random musings that either have too many equally valid answers to fit the format of the site (too broad), are more appropriate for another stack (off-topic), or are incomprehensible because the asker hasn't even thought about it yet (unclear what they're asking). We're actively working to resolve the issue of the high number of questions that are too broad.

You don't want to work with any specific examples so, we don't need to go there, but I recommend you actually read the questions closed as too broad, off-topic, or unclear what they're asking. You should have done that before deciding that the high rep users are voting to close questions they don't have answers to. That hypothesis doesn't even make sense.

In a short while you will have enough reputation to vote to reopen questions. Please use that ability to propose an edit to any closed questions and begin the reopen voting.

  • $\begingroup$ >we attract the random questions that don't fit anywhere else --- It actually seems to me as if you're arguing for my position on this line. A very high closing threshold would make sense on a site depending on such a broad slurry of expertise, but a lower one might make sense on a more focused site where most people are at least moderately competent in the limited field of inquiry. $\endgroup$ – SudoSedWinifred Nov 30 '15 at 20:59
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    $\begingroup$ @SudoSedWinifred I said we attract those questions, not that they're appropriate here. $\endgroup$ – Samuel Nov 30 '15 at 21:01
  • $\begingroup$ I think that first line is a bit more aggressive that necessary. $\endgroup$ – Burki Dec 2 '15 at 15:11
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    $\begingroup$ @Burki The OP asked "Am I just bonkers". $\endgroup$ – Samuel Dec 2 '15 at 16:23

I believe that WB has such low unanswered rate and swiftly held/closed questions as a symptom of an active and vigilant community coupled with a relatively light question volume. If the question volume were higher, such as on Stack Overflow, it would be easier for low quality questions to go unanswered or unflagged for quality. Likewise, if the WB's most frequent users didn't check the question feed frequently, then questions might slip through because those with the power to act on poor questions wouldn't see them.

That a question is on hold means that at least five people considered the question and found significant problems with the question. Sometimes we do get really well written question that survive for significant periods but are ultimately closed because they violate the quality requirements.

Rapid holding/closing doesn't bother me because if the questions are fixed then they often unheld/opened with just as rapid pace as they were closed.

I believe the process is working as intended. Low quality questions end up where they belong thus clearing the way for higher quality questions.

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    $\begingroup$ In all fairness, diamond moderators have binding votes, so can close (or reopen) a question unilaterally. In practice, that's something that at least I try to be very careful with. I tend to check the site several times a day, including Meta, but for the most part, the community does a good enough job staying on top of questions and review queues that in my experience diamond moderator action is very rarely needed. (And that's a good thing!) $\endgroup$ – a CVn Nov 30 '15 at 20:59
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling, it is true that Diamond mods have that hammer power, but you rarely use it. I can't remember when was the last question that I have seen as closed by mighty mod-hammer, except as last VTC. So I don't think anyone can blame you for that right. $\endgroup$ – clem steredenn Nov 30 '15 at 21:50
  • $\begingroup$ @bilbo_pingouin I see a few every now and then (as I have stated before, we regularly cross-check each others' actions, and I do sometimes come across diamonds when simply browsing around the site), but it's rarely even needed. Except in truly egrerious cases, personally, I tend to prefer if the community handles a situation that comes up. That makes it significantly less likely that any action taken is the result of the bias of a single individual, however well-intentioned. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Nov 30 '15 at 21:55
  • $\begingroup$ FWIW, I fully agree with your view that mods should avoid closing questions, except for obvious cases (spam, etc.). Except as last VTC because that would be the same right as many other users. But as I wrote, I have the feeling the 4 of you do it fairly well. $\endgroup$ – clem steredenn Nov 30 '15 at 22:10

The community closes more questions than it used to do, but it has always had a great answer rate. If there's a problem, I think we may be too quick to upvote mediocre answers to difficult questions (which makes them look answered).

Note that I personally think that we are over-aggressive about voting to close. But I don't think that affects our answer rate. We've been known to close questions with upvoted answers.

Remember that Closed/On-hold is not an end state. Many of the closed questions are salvageable, even under the more stringent criteria that others use. Questions closed as Too Broad should be edited into a narrower form. Unclear What You're Asking should be clarified. Even off-topic questions can sometimes be salvaged.


Let's say we have a team of super-fast users who close/hold questions within seconds of them being asked. I think this would be great; the asker would have instant feedback, and be able to improve their question before it gets lost.

Thus, I don't think it's the speed you have a problem with, but perhaps the criteria for closure. For this, I suggest you read about what questions should be asked here. Specifically, note that you should avoid:

  • every answer is equally valid: “What’s your favorite ______?”
  • your answer is provided along with the question, and you expect more answers: “I use ______ for ______, what do you use?”
  • there is no actual problem to be solved: “I’m curious if other people feel like I do.”
  • you are asking an open-ended, hypothetical question: “What if ______ happened?”
  • your question is just a rant in disguise: “______ sucks, am I right?”

Honestly, if we really stuck to these criteria, I think a lot more questions would get closed. We're constantly struggling to decide what types of questions we can answer, and which ones should be improved.

But I think the improving process is one that many new users really don't understand. When we close/hold a question, the asker is supposed to do something about it; it by no means means we just don't want to answer. In fact, a lot of the time, I do want to answer a closed question, but usually that's because I'm assuming I know what the asker wants when in reality they weren't entirely clear, or because there are too many possible answers and I'm only really answering a small part of the question. Once the user improves their question, the same people that closed it will most likely also vote to re-open it, and the system will work out as intended. The only problem is that people don't always see that a question was once closed and has been improved, they only see the questions that were abandoned.

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    $\begingroup$ Excellent points. I have certainly answered the question I thought someone was trying to ask only to be wrong and find my time wasted. Getting the asker to clarify first is my go to at this point. $\endgroup$ – Samuel Nov 30 '15 at 21:21

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