I am reproducing this post from MSE here, because I think it is a valuable and relevant topic. Of course we can make our own policies and have our own values here, but I do think this is worth posting:

Since it's currently impossible to delete a "vote to close",* when I see a poorly asked question, should I immediately vote to close, or should I comment, and give the OP a chance to improve his question?

Waiting increases the chance that I'll forget, and never vote to close, potentially leading to a cluttered site.

Voting to close immediately increases the chance that the question will be closed, and the author will be forced to re-post his (hopefully improved) question, which leads to a cluttered site. :)

*It is now possible to retract a close vote, but that doesn't change the fundamental nature of this question.

I'd also like to propose adding this to (although we don't really have a FAQ here yet, perhaps starting one is in order, it'd be a good place to put all the e.g. "if your cel is on give us your engine codes" stuff, too).


4 Answers 4


My thought (and hopefully what I usually do) with the "bad" questions is to start with an encouraging comment that hopefully elicits an edit or clarification from the OP. Sometimes when it seems like the OP is not a native English writer, I'll go so far as to try to reshape the question into a more fluent version. That makes me a bit nervous as it treads a line of being paternalistic / patronizing.

  • Exactly; that is where the politeness comes from.
    – Jason C
    Aug 26, 2016 at 21:52

On Meta or SO having closeable questions closed is no big deal. They get plenty of traffic and it does tend to clutter up the site. Those two are full fledged sites who don't need more people or more questions. I get that you would want to close bad questions immediately there.

Here it's a different story. While I know we are not anywhere close to being closed, in fact we are very close to becoming a full fledged or graduated site, we still aren't there yet. We need all of the questions & answers we can get. To that end, getting questions from people in whatever form, isn't necessarily a bad thing and housing the bad questions is not terrible if we can get the owners to come back and fill in the blanks. If we can give them a little time, if the question is salvageable, if there is actually something there, what is the harm with leaving it open?

There is also the long standing Stack Exchange idea of being nice. If the first thing which happened when you come onto a site is have your question closed, mainly because you don't know how to utilize the site, I'm sure you'd feel like people are not being nice. In fact, it might seem quite rude. Instead, if we can get people to understand how to ask questions and flesh out their needs, we may have someone who produces good questions for life. That is far more important than shutting down a bad question. Regardless of some people's ideas of how we deal with things, most are relatively nice on this site. We need to direct people to the newbie thread here on Meta. This will ensure they have a clue how to write questions, understand what's expected of them, and know that we the normal people on this site are not a bunch of a-holes.

We were all new once ... even I the esteemed (cough, cough). Give people a chance to understand. There is always time to close down bad questions, though it may be a little bit more difficult finding them after they've sat for a few days. Let's help others create better question and not shut them down at the outset of just getting here.

  • 1
    1. It's not a different story here. 2. Your premise is wrong. Putting a question on hold isn't not nice. It's actually quite nice and informative. That is why the wording is chosen as "on hold" for the first few days and not "closed". Leave a constructive comment explaining what is needed and as a bonus you'll go from the current merely helpful on hold explanation, to an even friendlier than usual site. Being polite is about public attitude and communication, not about avoiding the use of helpful site mechanics. Politeness is unrelated to your close voting.
    – Jason C
    Aug 25, 2016 at 22:22
  • 3
    I'm not saying it's "not nice" ... I'm just saying it appears to be as such to the unnitiated. We've discussed this same thing before at The Pitstop on several occasions. What you're are suggesting isn't anything new, but to many who have been on here for a while it is wrong. We aren't trying to be the other sites where they get away with murder. We are trying to hold true to the real idea of being nice, which many of the other sites have lost sight of. You are still free to use your close vote on whatever you see fit whenever you want. It doesn't mean I will follow the lead. Aug 25, 2016 at 23:04
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    @P All right then, one question: If, upon voting to put a question on hold, you leave the following comment (or something along these lines): "Hey! Welcome to the site! We're going to need a little more info about your problem, so this question might be put on hold for now until you <insert description of extra info needed>. Don't worry, this isn't a bad thing at all, we just want to make sure that your question gets the best answer possible. Once the info is added, the question can be opened again. Thanks!!", does it still appear to be "not nice" to the uninitiated?
    – Jason C
    Aug 25, 2016 at 23:14
  • I guess that's up to the unnitiated, right? Aug 26, 2016 at 0:37
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    @P You've unintentionally countered your own point ("I'm just saying it appears to be as such to the unnitiated.") as well, and so undermined your own premise, then.
    – Jason C
    Aug 26, 2016 at 1:05
  • Nope. Sure did not. It's still up to the unnitiated. Not going to belabor the point. You do as you feel is right. Close at will. Just understand that is not the way we here on Mech.SE play it. Even read Bob's comment. He states the same thing. If you want to discuss this further in chat, please feel free. You'll get more of what I'm telling you. Aug 26, 2016 at 1:30
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    @P I read Bob's comment, and replied to it. I know I am right. And failing to use the CV system properly only hurts the site and its users in the long run. Relating it to politeness is barking way up the wrong tree. There isn't a single benefit to be had by holding off on close votes -- actually it's long-term harm there -- and there are many benefits to be had by properly putting questions on hold, short term and long term, for new, old, small, and large sites. It's up to you if you guys want to choose to avoid learning from the experiences that the rest of the sites have already had.
    – Jason C
    Aug 26, 2016 at 1:58
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    I will say this ... you are wrong. You are forgetting something which is key here, the community sets it's own rules as long as they stay within the sparse guidelines. We as a community stated this is the way it would be. It's been that way for nearly the 3 years I've been on this SE. If it isn't to your liking, then my apologies. Them thar are sour apples. Until you can get a consensus stating we need to change it, you're the one who is wrong. As I see it now, nobody else is coming to your aid. And you're right, I'm not playing nice, but I'm really tired of this conversation. Aug 26, 2016 at 2:09
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    @P Your mistake is short-sightedly thinking this site is a special case among the 159 other sites that have already had these same experiences over the past 8 years, and that the "community" (i.e. you, me, and the 3 other people that review stuff here) is necessarily making the best decisions. All issues here have been experienced, observed, and hashed out. Don't ignore that, Mechanics SE isn't special, "that's how we do it here" has been said 159 times before. It's been that way for nearly the 6 years I've been on these SE's; there's nothing new or special here, I promise.
    – Jason C
    Aug 26, 2016 at 2:20
  • You might want a link to this question: meta.mechanics.stackexchange.com/q/1626/57
    – Bob Cross Mod
    Aug 26, 2016 at 9:35
  • @BobCross - I think you just did, and thank you. That's the meat I was thinking of. Since it has 14 up votes on it, I'd say there has been more than 3 people review it and agree. Aug 26, 2016 at 10:48
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    @BobCross Highly confused by the connection you're trying to make. That question about being nice only directly reinforces my argument. It doesn't identify closing questions as "not nice" there at all. It explicitly identifies "closed without a single person trying to help the user understand how the site works" as the culprit. So close the question. Then help the user understand how the site works. Like I said; politeness is orthogonal to using our site's tools. Politeness is a matter of leaving a welcoming comment vs not doing that, not a matter of closing the question vs leaving it open.
    – Jason C
    Aug 26, 2016 at 21:55
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    @Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Btw, are you implying that MSE and SO are the only network sites where close votes make sense? If not, would you consider changing your opening sentence to, say, "On Cooking, Bitcoin, Music, or Fitness having closeable questions closed is no big deal."? Because saying "we're not SO so this doesn't apply" is rather ridiculous, and is really just a fallacy to make this look more appealing: Nobody can argue that we're not SO, but not being SO has nothing to do with not using close votes like every other non-SO site does.
    – Jason C
    Sep 19, 2016 at 7:14

Reproduced from here:

Always vote to close immediately. I explain the rationale behind this approach in further detail here.

In summary: Yes, it increases the chances that the question will be closed, but that's actually a good thing for a couple of reasons:

  1. It increases the likelihood that the user will take notice and actually fix their question in response to your suggestions. Unless you're dealing with a particularly conscientious user (and this is rare, because their questions are unlikely to be candidates to close in the first place), it's more likely that they'll ignore your comments as long as they can continue to get answers.

  2. It prevents a flood of immediate answers (arguably a symptom of the well-known "Fastest Gun in the West" problem) that are speculative at best and/or will be completely invalidated after the question is modified to turn it into a real question. Those answers don't do anyone any good, and they're best avoided if at all possible.

And no, it does not force the author to re-post his question, not immediately or ever. Even questions that have been closed can be edited by the owner. So once the question is closed, that would be an appropriate time to sit up and take notice of the helpful comments that have been provided by the close voters. And once the question has been sufficiently improved, it can be re-opened, either with the vote of 5 different users (they can be the same ones who voted to close) or the binding vote of a moderator.

If you see a user posting a second question because his first one was closed, flag and/or close the second one as a duplicate of the first and ask him to go back and edit the original question instead.

  • 1
    Neither points 1 or 2 apply to this community in its current state. We have many novice users that have never used stackexchange before so expecting them to be quick to edit is overly optimistic. We also do not have such a large population of experts that we have "fastest guns." We are in the mode of attracting new users and so we have to adjust our tactics appropriately. Overly "nice" at the expense of expediency is a tiny price to pay.
    – Bob Cross Mod
    Aug 26, 2016 at 0:30
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    @BobCross Except you've failed to look one step ahead. You are building up a community of folks who now think putting question on hold is an issue. When the community gets to the point you want it to be at, we'll all be in for a world of hurt due to short-sightedness. Now is the time to get new community members on board with what we're going to need when this community grows, and as a bonus this helps them on other networks as well, and I daresay helps them take things with a bit more grace on non-se sites too, which is good for the world. And it's really, really easy to do.
    – Jason C
    Aug 26, 2016 at 1:03
  • the difference is that I'm talking about a collection of specific people, not a general amorphous group. Some of these people are already actively marginalized in real life in this problem domain (e.g., the "pink tax"). Many of our issues don't have quick answers and the person on the other end sometimes needs active suggestions on how to diagnose their issue, not a passive close vote. I don't find the "other sites" argument to be persuasive. I've been here the whole time and I find many of the other sites to be toxic (SO is one of the worst offenders).
    – Bob Cross Mod
    Aug 26, 2016 at 9:31

We're often dealing with machinery on this site

And as a consequence, obtaining further details/clarification can take a little bit longer.

This was one of the reasons behind creating the Close Vote Café chat room. I used it in the past to highlight questions that needed to be closed in case the user never got back with further information.

I would give them about a week to get back. If they fail to do so, put it on hold.

  • 1, Most SE sites are not software, the CV system is for all of the sites and works well, and I'm not sure why "software" keeps coming up. 2. You mean that zero-activity chat room that we had to get unfrozen, that's currently on its way to getting frozen again because queuing questions for a week and coming back to them isn't something that anybody actually really does (it's your personal project), and really isn't sustainable? 3. How long do you think it actually takes on average for a question to be closed here? You all keep forgetting it takes five close votes, and this takes time.
    – Jason C
    Sep 19, 2016 at 6:23
  • @JasonC Re: 1, software was just an example. My point wa that it's not always possible for the OP to get back as quickly as with most other SE sites. Re: 2, I never claimed it is an ideal solution. My point was to highlight that an attempt has been made to address this issue. We don't want to drive away newcomers because their questions get closed because they're not privy to the way SE works. Re: 3, once a question makes it to the Close Vote Review, they usually get zapped within a day.
    – Zaid
    Sep 19, 2016 at 6:35
  • Sorry, I mistook that massive, bold line at the very start of your post as the fundamental basis for the rest of the post rather than an "arbitrary example". My bad. If you didn't mean "This isn't Stack Overflow therefore close votes should not be used" then you really ought to change that, because it just looks like blatant spin to me; how about changing it to "woodworking", or "cooking"?
    – Jason C
    Sep 19, 2016 at 7:01
  • (As for the review queue; I can't run a sede query to verify, but on the bright side, if they truly take less than a day on average here, we can at least be assured that most of the people on this site are doing the right thing; which is kinda funny given that most of the reviewers are likely the folks who are openly anti close-vote here... You're welcome to choose "Leave Open", though.)
    – Jason C
    Sep 19, 2016 at 7:03
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    Well, I just checked, and it's frozen again (despite my own efforts, and I'm not going to be the one pulling strings to get it unfrozen again this time); point being that "wait for a week" systems aren't realistic and that's specifically why we have site mechanics like close votes and a review queue. There is no effective way to not use them; attempts to address this issue will fail, the review queue mechanic is the culmination of years of experience with how sites work and what things don't work. A successful site uses it.
    – Jason C
    Sep 19, 2016 at 7:23

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