I created a question yesterday which I believed was ok for the site:

How to find the man who isn't there?

This quickly raised some comments and answers from high-rep users and I received no down-votes, no negative comments, no requests for clarification. Five answers from 60+ views, so not too bad.

This morning, I look at the question to see that it's been put on hold as "off topic" by just one moderator. No discussion, no comment, it's just closed.

I can understand this happening for obviously low-quality or blatantly off-topic questions, but I was surprised by this. I didn't even get the 5 VTC votes like I usually see.

As you know, I don't normally complain about moderation, even when I do get VTC'd to oblivion.

I really don't understand this one, however. I can understand if it was peer moderated, but the force-close does seem a bit strong.

  • $\begingroup$ No horse in this race, but the scenario and the question is probably falling into the History of Sci-Fi, Detective, Mystery and early comic books. Inherently SCI-FI and Mystery novels (well fantasy) are all capable of being viewed as the same thing. I Prefer my SCI-FI to be more science based or mental powers. Magic is not included in that as far as I am concerned for some unknown reason by me, because I can easily see that Magic is in fact Unknown Science. My best guess why I don't is because of its role in the story. If it is used as advanced science I see it as ok ... if not .... $\endgroup$ – Enigma Maitreya Mar 15 '17 at 14:01
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    $\begingroup$ Since when was Worldbuilding constrained to Sci-Fi? $\endgroup$ – user10945 Mar 15 '17 at 14:05
  • $\begingroup$ I did not intend to say that. I have no horse here. My action to your question would have been to move on. I am tolerant of others and their question. In short, my opinion of a forum oops Q/A such as this is / should anything goes except real life unless the question explicitly request that to include in "WorldBuilding". Said simply to me "WorldBuilding is a WHAT IF". Ultima Online originally had self-repairing items in a MAGICAL WORLD. Some one on the forum said that was wrong as there were no self-repairing items in Real Life (1999). People amaze me. $\endgroup$ – Enigma Maitreya Mar 15 '17 at 14:16
  • $\begingroup$ If it was on-hold, that doesn't mean it's closed. There's some debate about whether on-hold is a good or bad thing, but I use it to make my questions better. I think anyone with enough rep can put it on hold (might be wrong about that). $\endgroup$ – Mikey Mar 15 '17 at 23:22

There's been a fair bit of discussion both here and in chat and the situation has been resolved.

From what I understand, this has been a combination of:

  • Misunderstanding of moderation tools/process (been a fair bit of discussion here and goodness spread to all)
  • Me being a complete dick and jumping to an incorrect conclusion

I wish to apologise unreservedly for the second point - I really should have asked instead of making an accusation.


I'm a moderator elsewhere. I'd rather not step on the toes of the local mods, nor tell them how to do their jobs but in general when something ought to be closed, it's best it's done quickly - people may end up answering it anyway, wasting effort and so on.

If you feel strongly something specific shouldn't be closed, bring it up on metas. Bring along strong, logical and sensible argument, appealing to the community, listen to what the mod has to say, and fix anything that's fixable without changing the intent of the question, the question might be reopened by the community or even mods.

Its also worth remembering mods are volunteers putting in their time for pretty much no reward outside seeing their community grow. Things like " You can't just take it upon yourself to close a question." seems to indicate both a passion (which is good!) but also a certain lack of understanding of what a mod can and cannot do. A moderator can instantly close a question because they're trusted to do so. 5 users (or any mod) can undo that closure. That's just one of the checks and balances built in.

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    $\begingroup$ An important point in this post is that the mod power works in both directions. If I mod-closed a question and then people edited it to address whatever the problem was, and I'm aware of it, I'll usually mod-reopen -- I don't feel I need to wait for five people to override my single vote in that case. The purpose of putting a question on hold is to get the problem fixed and the question reopened so the OP can get on to getting answers. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Mar 15 '17 at 15:15
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    $\begingroup$ Can we clone Monica? $\endgroup$ – SRM Mar 17 '17 at 14:18

I'll copy my remarks from chat here, since you changed venue rather than continue the discussion you started there.

I used the normal flag-to-queue function, not the delete button. sometimes it queues it, and sometimes it immediatly takes my vote as binding too. I don’t know why.
Anyway, if someone else is around and wants to flag it for the queue, I'll reopen it for that.
This Q is blatently not WB though, but was getting answers as a cute/fun post, so it was important to not wait around.

It is a plot for a mystery story perhaps. But the Q also has other problems: it is not clear if this is meant to be a Phantom superpower, someone who's just a great burgler, a high-tech cloaking device, or just a silly literary puzzle.

Note that it's still possible to flag it for re-opening, and this has happened to my own questions.

The direct answer to the question, when is moderator action OK (as opposed to what’s wrong with the post), is Always; that's our job. And note that closing is not the final word on the matter, and it could be opened again. And we mods are expected to keep in tune with the current community standards through observation and discussion, but mistakes and differences in judgement do happen.

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    $\begingroup$ Well, you didn't answer for a while and I have to admit that my gander was up for a bit there. After another moderator joined the chat, we've learned that "sometimes it queues and sometimes it closes" isn't right at all - a close vote from a moderator is a force-close. If you had problems with the question, wouldn't it have been more constructive to comment accordingly? $\endgroup$ – user10945 Mar 15 '17 at 8:02
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    $\begingroup$ Pete: Emphatically NO. We want questions with problems put on hold as fast as possible, then we can have a discussion on fixing the question. Posting a comment or having chat AFTER it is on hold is much healthier for the question and the site overall. $\endgroup$ – SRM Mar 15 '17 at 14:18

From current comunity experience, its ok to force close a question or delete an answer when it - even if correct, or possibly correct - does not corrobore with your beliefs.


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