It is sometimes a problem when a really experienced user is not fielding questions as they come in.

If time elapses and there is no expert response to a question it becomes uncertain (for inexperienced users like myself) whether or not a question fully meets the requirements of the site.

As the hours pass, it becomes tempting to launch in and become involved in something which is personally interesting to do some research on, but it can (often) be a misguided instinct.

The longer this goes on, the more frustrating it can be for questioner and answerer alike, when the final blow comes and the question is put on hold and the answerer clipped round the ear, for being unprofessional to the site.

I am not sufficiently involved to know the inner workings of the background of the site, but I wondered if there is a rota of highly experienced users (above 10,000 ?) who would act as 'Gatekeepers'.

Personally, I think it would be a considerable improvement in what is trying to be achieved and maintained.

  • 1
    It would be nice if there were higher barriers to entry on the site, and in particular if a Q had to pass muster with one or more veteran community members before it could be posted to receive answers. But unfortunately the site isn’t set up that way. TPTB did set up an experiment on SO called “mentorship” which was very similar to this: automatically detected low-quality questions were put in a special queue where the OP was invited to real-time chat with experienced volunteers about how to improve the question so it met the quality standards of the site. But that’s as far as it’s gone.
    – Dan Bron
    Nov 19, 2017 at 15:16
  • 6
    For your situation, I’d suggest the best path forward is to develop a set of heuristics which will help you predict if other people will close the question: things like would 5 minutes of googling answer this question?, does it seem like the OP opened a dictionary or did any research at all?, is this a non-native speaker who would be ultimately better served by the teaching experts at ELL?, is this a question which would occur to, and be interesting to, native speakers, or would native speakers intuitively and immediately know the answer off-the-bat? and so on.
    – Dan Bron
    Nov 19, 2017 at 15:19
  • 1
    Ask for the question to be reopened, if you feel it is deserving.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 19, 2017 at 15:55
  • @DanBron The experiment you outline was one of the ideas I had in mind, but I guess it is expensive time-wise. Better prediction, as you say, is my own way forward. Thank you.
    – Nigel J
    Nov 19, 2017 at 16:13
  • @Mari-LouA It wasn't a specific instance; I have no particular criticism, personally. It was only an observation.
    – Nigel J
    Nov 19, 2017 at 16:15
  • 2
    Here is the announcement of the SO mentorship experiment and here is a follow-up post detailing the experiment’s results and findings.
    – Dan Bron
    Nov 19, 2017 at 17:20
  • Voting to close is the gatekeeping.
    – Mitch
    Nov 20, 2017 at 2:19

2 Answers 2


It would be good to have questions put into an initial review queue where users could edit (with 2000 rep) or vote to close or release (with 3000 rep), but that would be a major change which would need a concrete proposal and support on Meta.ELU before going to Meta.SE for support. It's a major change to the Stack Exchange model, and it could be difficult to make work.

So we have to work with what we have.

As Mick has intimated, the gatekeepers are those with at least 3000 rep as they can actively vote to close poor questions.

All you need to do is check the close reasons and the on-topic list. Dan Bron's heuristics which he listed in a comment are the short form:

  • Would five minutes of an internet search answer this question?
  • Does it seem like the OP opened a dictionary or did any research at all?
  • Is this a non-native speaker who would be ultimately better served by the teaching experts at ELL?
  • Is this a question which would occur to, and be interesting to, native speakers, or would native speakers intuitively and immediately know the answer off-the-bat?

Questions on these subjects are explicitly on-topic:

  • Word choice and usage
  • Grammar (but note that this is a narrow definition of grammar)
  • Etymology (history of words’ development)
  • Dialect differences
  • Pronunciation (phonetics and phonology, dialectology)
  • Spelling and punctuation

Even on-topic questions can be closeable if they are poorly written or do not take account of guidance contained in the tag popups. If the question fails any of the initial litmus questions, then it's failed.

Questions on these subjects are explicitly off-topic:

  • The meaning of words, or synonyms for words, unless you have first looked them up in a dictionary or thesaurus. See the Help page for suggestions about simple and basic questions.
  • Proofreading ("Is this right?", "Are there any mistakes?"), unless a specific source of concern is clearly specified. See the Help page for hints on checking existing texts.
  • Writing advice (see Writers.SE instead) or critique requests
  • "How to improve my English?" (this is not constructive anyway)
  • Translation and non-English languages — please see the translation tag info for details
  • Naming, including naming programming variables/classes
  • Criticism, discussion, and analysis of English literature
  • Jokes that do not rely on the English language

Other questions can be deemed off-topic:

  • Does not demonstrate sufficient (or, often, any) research
  • A single-word- or phrase-request without sufficient detail
  • Not about the English language: perhaps it could go to another site (you need to raise a custom flag for these, but can also write a custom close reason)
  • A good question about English but which is asked by someone who needs a didactic response: nominate this for migration to ELL.

Don't recommend migration for poor questions — no site deserves to be given poor questions. If you can improve the question so it won't simply be closed on the destination site, do that first. If the question is unsalvageable, then it should simply be closed on ELU, perhaps with a comment that another site might be better for the question's subject-matter.

And other questions can be closed for other reasons:

  • Another question contains an answer which answers it
  • The question is fundamentally unclear
  • The question is too broad: either it addresses a topic without being specific about the exact problem, or it asks more than one thing, or it invites a list without specifying any criteria for choosing an answer
  • Answers to the question are entirely subjective

What to do when considering a question for answering

Ensure that it is not off-topic or otherwise closeable. If it is, vote to close it. Even if you do this, you could help the asker by leaving a comment addressing his question.

If it's on-topic, write a good answer, in particular paying attention to corroboration for what you write. Without it, your answer is just opinion. It needs to be backed up (personal experience is OK; published corroboration is better).

Always vote. If a question does not show research, downvote it. If a question is useful and asked well, upvote it. Votes are used by the system to help determine what should happen with a question: by casting votes you are helping the system do its job, and helping the community by showing which are good questions and which are not-so-good. Don't withhold — or cast — a vote simply because a question is asked by someone with low reputation.

  • Thank you for a comprehensive answer and guide.
    – Nigel J
    Nov 19, 2017 at 19:00
  • @NigelJ and for being a good Gatekeeper... We're all Gatekeepers in a way.
    – NVZ Mod
    Nov 19, 2017 at 19:03
  • @NVZ Why, thank you, sir.
    – Nigel J
    Nov 19, 2017 at 19:06
  • 1
    Wow. Amazing answer. Wish we could pin this to the help center and the top of the FAQ. Definitive statement of the situation on EL&U, especially the abjuration to always vote, with no prejudice based on the poster’s reputation. High rep or low rep, we should always vote on the post, not the user.
    – Dan Bron
    Nov 19, 2017 at 21:31

You have enough reps to see close requests, and issue them yourself. What's the problem with that? You should have enough experience by now to spot dodgy questions. Temptation is the problem, and I admit that I sometimes fall prey to it, and answer questions that are then put on hold while I am busy composing my answers. This tends to happen when they are put on hold by a moderator, rather than the community. The problem is, I knew that they were dodgy when I decided to answer them, so I can't really blame the moderator. As for issuing a close request and then deciding to answer the question anyway, well... where's the sense in that?

I also fall temptation to posting quick answers as comments, and then kick myself when OPs immediately delete their questions before anyone has a chance to downvote them, having got what they wanted. Posting actual answers to dodgy questions which OPs immediately delete is a mug's game. I've done it all.

Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher. All is vanity.

Caveat lector.

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