Recently I’ve noticed a lot of questions being closed and then being subsequently reopened without major revisions to the question. This appears to happen more often with popular questions. Here are many examples from the past month identified by looking at the top questions from this month and checking the revision history.

An incomplete list of top questions from the last month closed and reopened without major edits:

How would you bring wealth back to the past?

What would happen if the Earth struck a tiny but immovable object

Why would anyone build robots when they have human rights?

Mosquito Armageddon

What could post-apocalypse humans do about dangerous, genetically augmented dogs?

Sits at 4 close votes, one more close vote and it likely would have been subsequently reopened as well: How can Santa keep his lists when GDPR is around?

Sits at 4 reopen votes: What's a good reason for a telekinesis user not being able to use his/her powers on living beings?

Obviously this is a product of the current vote-to-close and reopen system in which any 5 high-rep users of a potentially much larger group can close or reopen a question. That means for any question for which there is some disagreement over its status the question is likely be to closed and subsequently reopened. This is irrespective of the total community opinion. Even if a large majority of users feel a question deserves a certain status it is likely to be closed and reopened as long as there is a minimum of 5 votes on each side. This also means that the more popular a question is the more likely it is to receive those 5 close votes and subsequent 5 reopen votes.

What do we all think about this? Is this how the site is intended to work? I think the closure of popular questions for several hours before their eventual reopenings is probably harming engagement by newcomers looking to answer a question and is certainly confusing and off putting to those who ask the questions.

Obviously the rationale for the opening and closing of each of these questions is unique to each case so I’d like to steer the discussion away from the specific questions and more generally to the current system and the way users are using it.

Is the frequent closure and reopening of popular questions a problem and if so what should we do about it?

P.S. For anyone who is familiar with SQL queries and is interested it would be very intriguing to get statistics on this closures and subsequent reopenings over time and with respect to the popularity of the question.

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    $\begingroup$ Reminder to close-voters: The problem cannot be fixed if the OP is not made aware of it. (Also... WTF? Who votes to close a discussion question as primarily opinion-based?) $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Jun 14 '18 at 12:43

This is not a problem

Everyone can only vote to close or reopen any single question once. This is to prevent close/reopen wars, which means that at some point the community consensus will be visible.

Popular questions attract a lot of attention. This means that a lot of those people with high standards for which questions they think are a good fit for the site will see and may put it on hold. It also means that many people with differing criteria for what constitutes an acceptable question will see the question and interact with it. But everyone that is not an elected moderator can only cast a vote once, which means that everyone casts their vote, for example when seeing the question in the respective review queues and then they are done with it.

That newcomers can't interact with a question that is on hold is not a problem. Especially popular questions already have had a lot of interaction - that's why they are popular. And newcomers should participate on questions that community deems to be on-topic. If the community is not sure at any point in time about whether something is acceptable or not it's fine that newcomers can't interact with the question. Furthermore the question won't be displayed in the Hot Network Questions while it's on hold. This means that there are far less newcomers that want to interact with the question when it's on hold then there are when it's not on hold.

We shouldn't do anything special. This is normal, especially on WorldBuilding. If there is discourse about certain such questions these can be discussed through the normal procedures of Meta and will come to an end through the already implemented methods of the StackExchange network. There is no need to change anything about the tools the community members have.

  • $\begingroup$ No, a consensus is when everyone agrees or if they abstain we might also consider that we have a consensus. It's just a nuance that some people on this site seems to miss. A consensus means no opposition. A majority on the other hand, requires to have 50%+1 (except in Canada), abstentions excluded. And a plurality is the most popular option, no matter how many support it. $\endgroup$
    – Vincent
    Jun 13 '18 at 23:38

This is not a problem. Yes, this is how the site is supposed to work.

You seem to be missing (or ignoring) a bit of the picture; when a post is closed, and then reopened, it is not prevented from being closed again.

This is important; very important, because it makes several of the statements that you make false.

Such as:

"This is irrespective of the total community opinion"

Simply not true; it's basically impossible to quantify the total community opinion to fit one side.

"That means for any question for which there is some disagreement over its status the question is likely be to closed and subsequently reopened"

Also false, but only partially false. You forgot to add that it could also be subsequently closed again.

This also means that the more popular a question is the more likely it is to receive those 5 close votes and subsequent 5 reopen votes

Again, false; the popularity of a question has very little impact to with regard to whether or not a question gets 5 close/reopen votes. It's important to distinguish the difference between "popular question because of HNQ" and "good question for WB". A lot of high view, high vote questions are not necessarily good questions for WB. They're simply "interesting" questions that a lot of "passing visitors" happened to upvote (which basically anyone can do) - close and reopen votes are limited to high rep users, and regular users can't interact with the questions in the same way.

I think the closure of popular questions for several hours before their eventual reopenings is probably harming engagement by newcomers

We should probably split this into two parts. The first half of the statement assumes that a reopened question will not ever be closed again; which is a bad assumption. The second half of the question is up in the air. Unless someone were to go and do some data analytics work, it isn't answerable; and even if someone did go and do said DA work, it's probably still going to be biased in one way or another. It's really hard to do social studies properly.

There is nothing that needs to be done. Let the system work it out.

  • $\begingroup$ In practice, thankfully, reclosing reopened questions isn't done. Or at least I've never witnessed it. It would also be a horribly inefficient system of constant hold and release sure to frustrate everyone involved. $\endgroup$ Jun 13 '18 at 17:10
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    $\begingroup$ @MikeNichols One example might be my antimatter/planet question. If you look at the revision history and scroll all the way down, you'll see it's been closed, reopened, closed again, and reopened again by three users and a mod. $\endgroup$ Jun 13 '18 at 17:30
  • $\begingroup$ @FoxElemental I would say your question is fairly unique in that between most of the closing and reopening votes there were substantial edits to the question that warranted re-evaluation. But as counter-examples none of the five closed and reopened questions I listed above have any close votes on them, suggesting that once the question was reopened there was no subsequent effort to re-close them. $\endgroup$ Jun 13 '18 at 18:21
  • $\begingroup$ @MikeNichols In practice, reclosing reopened questions used to happen a lot more often (from what I remember anyways) - it's not inefficient in any way; in fact, it's arguably the most efficient method since eventually everyone who can vote who wants to vote will vote and the question will be left either open or closed. One person can't vote on the same question twice. $\endgroup$
    – Aify
    Jun 13 '18 at 18:30

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