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In my view, questions are being closed too readily - how do we change this?

I am a relatively new regular on WorldBuilding being only here for a bit under 2 years. I enjoy coming here and giving people wonderful ideas or explanations, in particular in areas of my expertise, that may assist them in their quest for new knowledge.

However throughout this time I have noticed, and have the opinion that, we are too ready to close questions. This is, I believe, a failure of the system, not necessarily the voters themselves.

Don't get me wrong, the closure of a question is sometimes justified - but this is rare. In most cases of closure, questions are worth answering as the answers would be useful to not just the poster, but others whom may be interested in a variety of answers. The question need not be perfect, just good enough to allow canvassing of answers.

The two common closure reasons I object to are the "primarily opinion based" and "off-topic" reasons. The issue is the application of these two reasons are subjective, difficult to determine specifically, and in my view are frankly not that important enough to dismiss a question, yet they are being used too freely. When used, posters are always confused and often say so.

And closing a question down is a big deal: it inhibits free discussion, it discourages the questioner, it discourages answerers, appears final, looks condescending and it is confusing. It also sends messages to potential questioners and makes them think twice about posting. The question is also shut down forever: I have never seen a question reopen after it is closed in my time, however perhaps it occasionally happens.

So I put forth the view:

  • These two reasons should be deleted, or if they remain, should be constrained severely or defined to the utmost precision.
  • The threshold for closing questions is 3000 reputation points. This in my view is far too low, and users with only a short time of experience have the power to close questions. I would recommend increasing to at least 10,000.
  • Closed questions should still accept answers. There is no good reason why it should not.
  • When a question is closed a recommendation must be made to fix it, or at a minimum a reason for closing must be given.
  • If a question is closed, it should be then allowed to reopened by the OP. This allows them to rephrase/edit the question and not wait for the Closers to reopen, which they may also never get around to.

Again, I say it is not really worth closing down so many questions for the cost of them being closed. Does anyone recommend other suggestions of how to change this?

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    $\begingroup$ So...stack as I am guessing you understand at this point, is not a forum. It's specifically about Q/A. It can be frustrating to see questions closed, especially when you write them. That said we exist within the SE framework and it comes with specific expectations. The world building specific description of this can be found here $\endgroup$
    – James
    Mar 10 '20 at 18:00
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    $\begingroup$ On another note, your recommendations, some I like, others I disagree with...but all of them would require system wide changes, not just changes to WB. If you want to suggest them you'd need to take the ideas to Meta SE. A word of warning though, Meta SE tends to be a bit harsh when it comes to changing basic aspects of the site/network like this. $\endgroup$
    – James
    Mar 10 '20 at 18:02
  • $\begingroup$ @James Hi James - thanks for the response. I haven't had any questions closed myself, however there have been many where they have been closed and I do not think they warrant closing. Thanks for the tip re Meta SE. $\endgroup$
    – flox
    Mar 11 '20 at 12:23
  • $\begingroup$ My answer to this has already been posted here and some useful (read: "very important") context is here, here, and here. $\endgroup$ Jul 21 '20 at 21:45
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Our community, and more in general SE, is about ensuring quality of contributions. Quality of contributions means control on what is posted, to assure it fits the model behind each community.

Closed questions should still accept answers. There is no good reason why it should not.

Nonsense. Closing a question serves the OP to fix it without having to take into account the answers, in the best cases, and to simply avoid wasting resources on poorly conceived/unfit questions. And why should a user posting a question about how to implement certain features in a C++ code on worldbuilding keep getting answers?

When a question is closed a recommendation must be made to fix it, or at a minimum a reason for closing must be given.

Reasons are given in the note explaining the closure, and normally voters also explain what's wrong in the question.

If a question is closed, it should be then allowed to reopened by the OP. This allows them to rephrase/edit the question and not wait for the Closers to reopen, which they may also never get around to.

The OP can already vote to reopen their question without even editing it. Why should the OP have more power than the community? Any user with the needed reputation can vote to reopen, not only the closers.

closing a question [...] inhibits free discussion

Sorry, we are not a forum where users discuss on any topic. We are a Q&A site. Give us a sharply defined problem and you will get an answer.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks L.Dutch. I understand quality is something to aim for, however there have been closed questions which I think are good quality. I know this is a Q&A not a forum, so understand the goal but also acknowledge that closing questions is only one way to provide for quality. Some questions need flexibility in their answering, some need different perspective answers or answers that expand the context. I'm not saying a C++ question shouldn't be closed, I accept there are fringe questions that deserve closure, however many closed questions do exist that are worth answering. $\endgroup$
    – flox
    Mar 11 '20 at 14:23
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Closed questions should still accept answers. There is no good reason why it should not.

If a question is closed, it should be then allowed to reopened by the OP. This allows them to rephrase/edit the question and not wait for the Closers to reopen, which they may also never get around to.

No. This is definitely wrong. The whole idea to closing a question is that is has meaning. If you can still answer a closed question, then closing the question becomes meaningless. And if the OP can decide that the question can be reopened, then there's no point of closing it either. If we can't have consequences to the rules, then the rules themselves, no matter what they are, are meaningless.

When a question is closed a recommendation must be made to fix it, or at a minimum a reason for closing must be given.

Isn't that what we already do? Every closing vote is always given for a specific reason, and there's actually a lot of users who believe in commenting when they vote to close. What change to that do you have in mind?

The threshold for closing questions is 3000 reputation points. This in my view is far too low, and users with only a short time of experience have the power to close questions. I would recommend increasing to at least 10,000.

3,000 rep points - roughly 300 upvotes, less a few for correct answers which give 15 and bounties. 10,000 rep points - roughly 1,000 upvotes. According to our User Reputation Leagues, we have 495 users who are above 3,000 and 147 above 10,000. What does this all mean? It means that if we do this, we'll still have 147 people who know the system to keep watch, and these people will have the equivalent of around 1,000 upvotes from other users on the site satisfied that these people know how the site works. On the flip side, 300 upvotes is still a decent number when it comes to learning how the site works, and it's reasonable to assume such a person would be given enough time to learn how it works.

Not to mention that close voting and open voting are the same threshold - so every person that can cast a close vote can be thwarted by one who casts an open vote. Meaning that even if questions are wrongfully closed, it can fixed faster with a 3,000 rep requirement rather than a 10,000 rep one. I'm willing to hear this one out to raise it, but I think raising it to 10,000 is too high, because part of this site's concept is that the users have a large ability on what goes on. Maybe something like 6,000 would be a good threshold?

These two reasons should be deleted, or if they remain, should be constrained severely or defined to the utmost precision.

These are 'off-topic' and 'primarily opinion based'. 'Off-topic' is clearly defined, just check the help center. Now, does that mean that everyone who votes to close a question off topic is following those guidelines? No, this isn't a perfect system and sometimes people will make judgement calls and sometimes these judgement calls will be wrong. But that's not something that can be easily fixed and still retain the Stack Exchange system of peer-review. And it's also why reopen votes exist.

'Primarily opinion-based' - the definition for this one seems rather straightforward to me - it's when there's no metric that can be used to prove one answer is superior to the other. I.e. if I ask 'what color should my Martians paint their houses', there's no way to determine which answer is right because I haven't set criteria. If I ask 'what color should my Martians paint their houses to camouflage them from the horrifying birds of prey which roam the Martian skies at supersonic speeds', then that has a criteria - and the answer is presumably red, because the planet's surface itself is red. [Do note that if, say, it turned out that the color doesn't matter when it comes to camouflaging houses because, unbeknownst to me the questioner at the time, Martian birds of prey use x-ray vision, then it goes back to being opinion-based even though I tried to set a criteria.]

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This question has been asked over and over for a long time.
The general answer you'll get is that "bad questions take away resources(time) from the community as a whole".

I disagree with this, but I don't get a say in the rules.

I will strongman part of their argument though, the part that goes "letting users ask bad questions is hard on the person asking the question, when they get a lot of answers to their too broad question." I've had a question that was somewhat somewhat broad, but narrow enough to squeak by, and yeah, it was hard to choose an answer of the many that were given.

Not having some solid criteria on how to answer/choose an answer can make it harder, and teaching someone the best way to ask a question, and have those in place early is good.

Now, of the many who answered my question, most of them got up-votes, so imaginary internet points were awarded, meaning that they got something for their time, and of course no one forced any of them to answer at all; each person who answered my question liked the premise enough to want to answer it on their own, without coercion.

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I continue to take the position that ALL questions should start closed and be opened when they’ve been refined. You can find other Meta posts from me on this topic. This is a WB unique problem because of the nature of questions we do expect. We close a lot. I think we could open a lot more if there was initial discussion with authors about what exactly they want to know. We could avoid the recrimination about closure if every question went through at least some review.

Given the current system, I don’t think our close rate is too high. Often it is too slow.

My position is just as “out there” as yours, flox. I don’t expect either to gain traction.

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    $\begingroup$ This is actually a pretty spiffy idea. Implementationwise, it's the problem that the Sandbox seeks to solve. But never seems to be able to because new folks don't know where it is or what it is and it's just easier to write a bad question, in the hopes of getting a couple answers before someone can come along and close it, rather than work on writing a good question. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Mar 18 '20 at 1:46
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I agree with you on two points, so I'll just address those.

  • I fully agree as far as opinion based closure goes. And the reason is simple: we're dealing with matters of fiction; it's the nature of the beast that all answers will be, to some extent, opinions. Even the hard science and science based tagged queries will, ultimately, boil down to opinion simply because the subject matter is fictional.

    I've always stated fairly clearly, when this has come up before, that I almost never vote to close for being opinion based. Simply because we'd have to close every question in the forum and close up shop. Our basic material simply isn't a good match for Stack Exchange or its model of Q&A. Yet, here we are, and we must make do. I would literally only close a query if the OP said something like "what's you opinion about XYZ".

  • I fully agree as far as And closing a question down is a big deal goes. You're right on all points: it is a big deal and I think many querents are in fact dissuaded from editing or revisiting their closed questions. This is a system error, which I think those of us who do vote to close can resolve.

    First, if it's not already made clear in the Tour or Help, it ought to be properly explained what closure entails & why it's done & what the remedies are. Also, especially with new users, when we vote to close their questions, we really should take the time to explain, in the comments, what we're doing, why, and what it really means. It's not the Gavel of Doom that flings a query to the outer void. It's simply a "circuit breaker" that gets tripped and indicates that some kind of repair is needed.

    Lots of questions get reopened after closure. I don't think SE makes a big deal about it, so maybe you're just not noticing?

I concur with L Dutch and Halfthewed on Points 3, 4, & 5:

    1. Question closure has actual meaning in this forum. It means that, in some way, the query does not fit with the SE model. Although I'd like to see rather fewer closures for "opinion based", I don't think the reason is going to go away.
    1. It is best practice to offer some kind of explanation for why we're voting to close a query; so I'd agree with a more universal application of this point in comments. Reason being, the verbiage in the standard closure boilerplate is not always clear as to applicability to a particular question.
    1. As has been mentioned, OPs can already vote to reopen their queries. I think that if a question has been closed, it ought to be edited before it can be reopened, though.
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  • $\begingroup$ i wonder why SE create worldbuilding section, or the history of it, since as you say its not a good match with their way or rule. $\endgroup$
    – Li Jun
    Mar 17 '20 at 13:25
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    $\begingroup$ @lijun Because the community demonstrated that some questions—a significant percent— were good fits. But that “some” is not as many as some people wish. $\endgroup$
    – SRM
    Mar 17 '20 at 18:54
  • $\begingroup$ @SRM i still cant imagine it though, considering so far as i lurk other SE their question need to has some basis in it or ground to reality or fact, even the anime and manga seems to need to basis on the anime/manga topic. if they do question like that before worldbuilding SE exist wont they get closed or not fit with the site way ? in my view, seems like its not the kind of community SE want or design for. $\endgroup$
    – Li Jun
    Mar 18 '20 at 6:20
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    $\begingroup$ @LiJun We are literally the only SE branch (so far as I know) that accepts hypothetical questions. SE exists to answer questions, and this is the solution for clearing out that nest of cobwebs that would otherwise pop up in the other forums. Astronomy doesn't have to keep batting people away -- it directs the hypotheticals to us once and the questions never go back. Same for Physics. Or History. We are a useful magnet for keeping such dark imaginings out of the rest of the site. In return, we close any question that is about reality. Symmetry. $\endgroup$
    – SRM
    Mar 18 '20 at 6:37
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    $\begingroup$ @LiJun -- We're just better at jamming 4 1/2-D round pegs into 0D holes. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Mar 18 '20 at 16:58

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