7

Many sites in the network are currently considering whether they would like reduced close/reopen vote requirements, from 5 down to 3, for a one month trial.

As the close vote queue almost always has at least 100-200 questions, I thought this could be a site that could benefit from that. This would allow those who do use the review queues to get more done.

Note that both vote requirements would be changed together, so while it will be easier to close questions, it will also be easier to reopen them if the community thinks the closures were not warranted.

What does the community think?

  • 1
    Would this apply retrospectively? That is, if a question is waiting for the final two votes, would it be closed immediately when the threshold is changed? – Andrew Leach Jan 12 at 7:33
  • @Andrew No idea about that sorry. The CMs can probably answer. – curiousdannii Jan 12 at 7:37
  • 5
    Note to close-voters: A question marked [discussion] is inherently soliciting opinion, and if this question is closed as opinion-based that only means it should actually remain open, so that's what will happen. – Andrew Leach Jan 12 at 18:18
  • 2
    I think close-voters are actually saying “no, don’t do this”. Maybe they worry they can’t carry the vote if they post an answer? In any case, is you don’t like this idea, posting an answering saying “I don’t like this idea” is the appropriate course of action. Closevoting (a) is wrong and (b) won’t work. – Dan Bron Jan 12 at 20:29
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    @DanBron: I didn't vote to close this question, but I can't help noticing that if the proposed three-vote closure rule had applied here, the question would have been closed by the three votes currently registered against it, and the tug-of-war to reopen/reclose/re-reopen, etc. would have commenced. I, for one, don't think that what the site really needs is a more sensitive hair-trigger for commencing disputes of this type. – Sven Yargs Jan 13 at 6:22
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    @SvenYargs I hear you (and the irony), but I think closure as it currently stands is not effective for its designed purpose. It has to be faster, or it’s all but toothless. Making it easier to reopen also allows mistakes to be fixed sooner; it may be that the regular Meta request to reopen some W or other will no longer be needed. It can be done without the petition. – Dan Bron Jan 13 at 15:10
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    The community (or at least those few who bothered to vote) seem to be in favor of a trial period. How does such a trial get invoked? That is, voting is fine but that doesn't actually make things happen. – Mitch Jan 14 at 21:04
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    @mitch The mods ask the CMs. – curiousdannii Jan 14 at 22:04
  • @curiousdanii who do we get to say 'make it so'? – Mitch Jan 15 at 2:16
  • @Mitch ten upvotes and three downvotes, a unanimous consensus. Good luck with getting it implemented in these weeks–nay months, of turmoil and "downsizing" that is currently besieging Stack Exchange. Besides, the site only needs six or seven users to handle the backlog every day and in less than a week the issue will be solved. – Mari-Lou A Jan 15 at 9:30
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    Does anyone have stats on how many questions have sat at 3 votes to close, where those votes subsequently timed out? Just trying to gauge the practical effect of this suggestion. – Lawrence Jan 15 at 13:38
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    Just to add more thought... just because the review queue is long doesn't mean that all posts on the queue should be closed. If that were the case, then a single vote would close a question and that's not what anybody wants. Shouldn't it be that there enough ''keep open votes" on the review queue should -remove- the post from the queue. – Mitch Jan 15 at 17:19
  • @Mitch That is how the queue works. – curiousdannii Jan 15 at 22:03
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    @curiousdannii nice...good to know that 'keep open', at least in the queue tool, is substantive. I was just curious about the mechanism, I'm still pro the proposal (at least for the experiment) of just trying a lower threshold. – Mitch Jan 15 at 22:57
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    I'd like to know how many of the questions in the close-vote queue are very old questions before I become horrified at having 100 to 200 questions up for closure. I see no point in closing a question from the early days -- maybe there should be a statute of limitations on a question. If not closed within, say three years (or some such time), the question is home free. – ab2 MonicaNotForgotten Jan 16 at 0:49
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I think it is broke, and this would be worth at least trialling.

Currently there are over 160 questions in the review queue. I confess I don't use the queue much; I simply don't have the time and since my vote is a binding vote and designed for exception-handling, I would far rather that the community policed itself.

If there aren't sufficient members who are prepared to do that then reducing the threshold seems a good thing to do, or at least to try out. There are certainly a huge number of questions which are borderline in terms of closeworthyness, and if they are closed and then roomba'd that is probably a good thing.

It's worth adding here thanks to those who do use the queues and work on them. While the top close-vote reviewer is [now] a moderator, there are many who aren't, and we do now have nearly 150 Steward badges. Please keep up the good work. In the meantime, let's reduce the burden a little.

  • The review queue is not the only place where users can vote to close or reopen posts, it can also be done manually, courtesy of the close tab which is visible to users when they reach 3,000 rep. I've never really understood why stats only reflect activity in the RQ – Mari-Lou A Jan 14 at 9:56
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    Possibly because the review queues collect all the applicable posts together and thus include posts which could easily be missed in any other approach. I've never found the queues easy to use -- I prefer to have more information than they present [quite apart from my current unilateral vote]. – Andrew Leach Jan 14 at 20:40
  • Jon Ericson has just resigned. I imagine that Tim Post will be next... scary times! – Mari-Lou A yesterday
4

Although implementing this proposal carries obvious risks, it is worth trying because it promises to reduce the number of questions that are closed after being answered.

The purpose of closing seems to be to prevent the questions that do not belong to this site from being answered on it. When the concept of closing was built into the framework of the Stack Exchange, it was probably expected that closing would, in most cases, take place before anybody attempts to answer the question. On ELU, however, closing accomplishes that purpose only very poorly, because voting to close takes time, while answering doesn't. Many questions that eventually get closed thus get answers, sometimes several answers; quite a few of these answers even get upvoted, and some get accepted.

The presence of a large number of such questions is awkward. While the regular, core contributors to this site attach great importance to closing, that importance is not obvious to casual visitors. Such a person may come to a particular page on this site from a general-purpose search engine, read the question and the answers to it, note which answer is accepted and which ones are upvoted, and not pay any attention to the annotation that the question is closed (which may strike them as some piece of bureaucratic boilerplate). In other words, a casual visitor's experience of reading the answers to a closed questions is not significantly different from the experience of reading the answers to other questions; from their viewpoint, these answers are all equally parts of what this site offers. The point that the core users are trying to make by closing a question is lost on the casual visitors, as long as some answers to it have been posted.

It gets worse, though. It sometimes happens that the answers that are posted to a question before its closing are all problematic. Closing then effectively protects these bad answers by preventing better answers from competing with them. Casual visitors who do not understand how closing works may be left with the impression that the problematic answers that somebody managed to post before closing are the best answers that can be made to the question.

So, if some question really deserves to be closed (and when that is the case is a separate topic), it is far better that it be closed before anybody posts an answer to it. Reducing the number of votes required for closing will probably significantly reduce the time that it takes for a question to be closed, and thus the awkwardness created by the questions that are answered before being closed (although it, of course, won't eliminate them completely).

4

I can't deny I've been remiss in not going through the review queue so often lately.

But when I do tackle the "Closevote" queue, I invariably hit my daily limit (20 VTC), because the queue is so long. And that really irritates me, because it means I can't VTC against current questions, as they arise.

Perhaps I should post my thoughts as a "Feature Request" here on Meta, rather than an "Answer" to this specific question. Whatever - my suggested solution is...

If a user runs out of closevotes while working on the review queue, award them extra votes.


As to the detail, perhaps they could be "special" VTCs that aren't valid for continued queue review (only to be cast against questions in other contexts). And maybe the number of such additional votes could be limited to the number of queue VTCs cast in the most recent session.

Just an idea.

  • Indeed, the main reason I don't use the queue much is because I want to use my votes on questions on the front page. – curiousdannii Jan 15 at 22:59
  • As to feature request, in addition maybe allow sorting of the items to review? So one can choose to do recent ones first? – Mitch Jan 15 at 22:59
  • I have a feeling I've read somewhere that the number of votes is limited rather like the rep cap: voting is good, but there are other things to do as well. One way to help with that might be to have the "queue" reorganised into a "crowd" (a full list on screen) so you could dive into the crowd and eliminate the most egregious first. – Andrew Leach 18 hours ago
  • @AndrewLeach: As a mod, I'm guessing you have access to more background info than me (and have more incentive to study it, perhaps discussing "implications" with other mods in private chat rooms). Might it not be that periodically (whenever the ELL review queue grows larger than a few dozen?) the mods should promote a "chivying" Meta post to encourage just a few high-rep users to go through and clear it? But I've no idea what the long-term trend is here - maybe it's just that "post-Monica", the number of high-rep users who can be bothered to do this has dropped catastrophically! :( – FumbleFingers 12 hours ago
3

I'm a frequent close voter, and I think it's worth a try.

There's a double-layered effect where misdirected questions often get answers that are of poor quality, which further increases the queue length. This will prevent some of those from ever getting in the queue.

I began focusing more on cleaning that answering when I noticed that google hits on nonsense material began overwhelming the useful content. I don't agree with all close votes. There are some legitimate differences of opinion on what constitutes an opinion question, whether single-word-/phrase-requests are valid in general or require more research, and what type of questions should be moved to ELL. However, there is a deeper issue on stackexchange that closing doesn't always mean a bad question. Duplicates are intended to push answers to the same question into the same pile. You don't have your question deleted, it's another possible entry point to finding an answer. The you-didn't-include-an-example-sentence is a call to clean or clarify a post, not eliminate it (and not something that I always feel is entirely necessary). I think welcoming new users would be easier if there were some clarity around the phrasing of "close"--even calling it "closed for new answers" would help, or having different "fix", "close" and "deleted" categories. I realize this isn't the question on the table, but any calls to reduce the number of close votes can be met with calls to give reviewers a sharper instrument to work with. There is a broken window syndrome that can be hard to recover from.

FWIW, stackoverflow has a similar issue I've noticed growing over time. Duplicate questions often rank higher on google search results than the original, and often contain more updated information (tech is evolving much more rapidly than language). They are closed, but not until people give fairly substantial answers. This has the negative effect of spreading the knowledge over multiple pages. Hopefully a 3-vote-close rule will reduce that.

PS--Two clarifications. The queue counts you're seeing do not include items you've already voted on, but haven't yet reached the close limit. Also, you can cast up to 20 close votes per day on any given queue.

3

To close a question all that is needed are five users with at least 3,000 rep. Just five people out of hundreds or maybe thousands of regular users. Users can cast up to 24 votes per day.

I agree with Andrew Leech, the system is broken not because on January 14, 2020, there are 148 questions in the review queue, which is a TINY drop in the ocean compared to Stack Overflow's +3K, but because the site struggles to find twenty 3k users who feel invested enough to help moderate and keep the site clean.

Maybe the community should invest time in encouraging newcomers to stay, and start upvoting their efforts more often?

There are some EL&U users who only close posts in the review queues, it's very rare that they care enough to edit and keep a question open. I suspect these users will support the initiative wholeheartedly.

I do not.

The Practicalities

  1. Banner

What if three close voters close a post for three different reasons, e.g. "opinion based", "off-topic": lack of research, and "needs more focus"? Which of the three reasons is shown to the author? Will all three reasons be displayed on the post notice?

Dan Bron, in the comments below, pointed out that the first vote is selected as the reason for closure when there is no clear majority. Here is the relevant excerpt, please note the significant drawback to this feature.

questions closed without a consensus

… And it’s even more problematic because of how we determine the displayed reason: we pick the oldest vote. So if someone picks a bogus reason, that gets discussed a bit and then two other people pick two better reasons… We show the bogus one. @Shog9 (source)

  1. Reopen Queue

Lest we forget, the author of a question that has been closed by the community can cast a vote to reopen it. Currently when a question enters the review queue it drops out when three users have agreed to keep it open. Will that same number remain or will it be reduced to two?

  1. Migration

In order to migrate a post to ELL there must be at least 3 votes in favour, by reducing the number of close votes to three you effectively reducing the number of posts that are eligible or suitable for migration.

  • 1
    Re the banner: the banner shows the reason selected by the first close voter. Not sure about the reopen queue, but even if it stays in the queue til 3 votes, so much the better for the author, and no change for reviewers. Re ELL: I’ve dramatically reduced my “migrate” votes as we seem to get flak every few months for using this feature. Not a big loss here. – Dan Bron Jan 15 at 12:55
  • @DanBron so much the better, I don't think so. Whereas five votes were needed to close a post now only three, yet the number of votes needed to lift a post from the review queue remains the same... is that fair? Re. banner, the link to the SO post is impossible to wade through, so I couldn't find the line (despite ctrl+f "first" and "first close") where this information was mentioned. – Mari-Lou A Jan 15 at 13:07
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    Re “so much the better [for the author]”: the author/OP wants his Q reopened. He wants it in the queue for as long as possible. Before, it was 3 votes and then the Q had to fend for itself, no queue to draw eyeballs and votes. Now the same 3 votes dispositively reopen his question. Same votes, better outcome. Re banner, the text is “how we determine the displayed reason: we pick the oldest vote”. – Dan Bron Jan 15 at 13:12
  • @DanBron ah, thanks :) – Mari-Lou A Jan 15 at 13:18
1

The evident purpose of this proposal is to make it easier to close bad questions quickly. To the extent that it would promote that goal without producing undesirable side effects, I have no objection to it—and I can't imagine that any other EL&U participant would object to it either.

The problem is that EL&U's built-in options for voting to close a question do a very poor job of distinguishing bad questions from good ones. The primary culprit here is the "show research" close reason, which was instituted several years ago to make it easier to close bad questions quickly (sound familiar?) but which in practice makes no distinction between a cruddy question of no interest to anyone but its poster and a question of potentially widespread and enduring interest whose only supposed flaw is its failure to provide background research. Now we have another attempt to make closure easier. If adopted, it will surely increase the number of interesting questions that get kneecapped for a reason unrelated to their quality as questions.

Responses to "show research" closure vary. In some instances, the original poster tries to satisfy the "show research" requirement; in other instances, other site participants attempt to do so (and thereby incur the wrath of certain close voters who consider such efforts to be an exercise in shamelessly presumptuous audacity); in still other instances, reopen voters simply decide that the "show research" close reason shouldn't prevail against a question that they approve of; and in many cases, the question is simply abandoned to its fate. But whatever the outcome, the closure experience is likely to have a discouraging effect on the poster. The natural result of having a fundamentally interesting question closed for a reason unrelated to its inherent quality is to be less inclined to post another question on the site—a point worth considering the next time you wonder why EL&U has so much trouble attracting good questions.

EL&U has an earnest and vocal contingent of site participants whose main interest in the site is in maintaining or raising its standards for acceptable questions and answers. In pursuit of this interest, they seek to disqualify as many bad questions as possible as quickly as possible. But their desire for quick disqualification of bad questions has led them to adopt standards that don't distinguish truly bad questions from good ones. The current proposal accelerates this process without improving the qualitative discernment of the site's approved close vote reasons.


My interest in this site does not primarily involve keeping out the barbarian hordes. Rather, it involves trying to answer good questions. For that reason, I am more concerned about protecting good questions from closure than about closing bad questions quickly.

If (as seems likely) EL&U is poised to make question closure easier, without simultaneously replacing the "show research" close reason with a close reason (such as "too localized") that actually goes to the fundamental badness of the suspect question, I would like to see it also take a significant step to protect good questions from quick closure.

I can think of two simple ways to accomplish this. One would be to link the close voting privilege to demonstrated interest in the area(s) that a question asks about. That is, we could adopt a requirement that, to be entitled to vote to close a question, a site participant must have some baseline score—say, 50 upvotes—on at least one of the tags associated with that question.

A second option would be to give site participants who do have a substantial interest in the area that a question asks about the power to protect it from closure. That is, we could permit site participants who have accumulated some baseline score—say, 100 or 200 or 400 upvotes—on at least one of the tags associated with a closed question the power to reopen the question with a single vote.

Either of these changes would give site participants who have demonstrated an interest in a particular category of EL&U questions a greater ability to weigh in on the merits of posted questions related to that area and to preserve good questions that are at risk of being caught up in the crude dragnet of "show research" closure.

  • 1
    Excellent writing as always. A couple of points: the close-vote contingent, including yours truly, all have sufficient reputation in nearly every tag for the 50-rep tag barrier for closure a no-op. The same people would close the same questions. But there’s a larger issue with both the 50-rep barrier and the 400-rep reopen hammer: they both require development effort from SE which is unlikely forthcoming, in contrast to the 3-voter closures which are already live on SO. So I don’t think we have alternatives here but voting “implement this” or “don’t implement this”. – Dan Bron Jan 15 at 21:32
  • @DanBron: Even though I disagree with some of your close votes, I don't consider you a push-button or auto-pilot close voter. Rather, you seem to put considerable thought into your close votes when they don't involve obviously wretched questions. In short, I have no beef with you or anyone else who pursues close voting as you do. With regard to the "demonstrated interest" issue, I may not have made clear in my original wording that the threshold numbers I have in mind are numbers of upvotes, not reputation points (that is, numbers of upvotes times 10). ... – Sven Yargs Jan 15 at 22:55
  • ... If the threshold qualification for voting to close a question tagged as etymology (for example) were 50 upvotes on etymology-tagged questions, a lot of current close voters would not meet the threshold, although you certainly would. – Sven Yargs Jan 15 at 22:55
  • I am pleased to hear that those are your feelings about my voting patterns. Yes, your proposal makes more sense with upvotes substituted for rep, thanks for that clarification. BTW, your answer has a downvote but it’s not mine. I didn’t upvote because I’m in the pro- camp for 3-vote closes, but I definitely didn’t downvote. – Dan Bron Jan 15 at 23:18
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    Although I don't disagree with tag-based privileges like these (we already have a gold-badge close-hammer), a potential problem is that questions tend to be badly tagged. Even the gold-badge privilege doesn't allow you to retag a question into your gold-badge tag and then close it, even if that's entirely the correct thing to do. – Andrew Leach 2 days ago
  • 1
    The issues raised in this answer about the show research reason for closing deserve separate discussion. That reason does not distinguish (1) the relatively rare questions that are on the right track, but need to be made more focused by some preliminary research on part of the OP, i.e. the cases where show research is meant to be taken literally, and (2) the more frequent cases where it is expected that, after doing some obvious research, the OP would discover that there is nothing left to ask, i.e. the cases where show research functions as a euphemism for too basic. – jsw29 2 days ago
  • @SvenYargs: Some good points, thanks, but, please! Don't rely on tags for anything. If you think the quantity of questions is bad, you haven't looked at the morass of the tag system. It is best ignored because it can't be used. – John Lawler yesterday

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