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For those of you who have been following or peripherally aware of the drama around the network the last few quarters, a new chapter has opened, and it seems a brighter one.

The company hired a new Head of Product & Community, Teresa Dietrich, and so far it seems she is really committed to repairing the relationship between the company and the community.

In particular, she explicitly recognizes the value of the long term users, in their role as curators, and has started driving new features to help them do their jobs. This is refreshing after years of telling the company that question quality is our #1 gripe, and seeing no investment in fixing it.

She seems to be moving fast, and has already outlined a roadmap for 2020. You can read her summary on MSE, or the whole thing on the SO blog.

But I wanted to call attention to one point that I think is of particular interest to the members of EL&U, as it’s brought up regularly here on Meta:

We are making fundamental changes to how our close question system works so that it’s a friendlier experience and more educational for post authors, while making it easier to edit and reopen closed questions, and reduce the burden on curators.

Questions that get voted to be closed will be hidden, giving authors the opportunity to improve their questions in private. Our hope is to make it easier on everyone by providing clearer guidance and encouraging better questions. This project is broken down into a series of improvements that will be rolled out iteratively over the next few months, during which time we’ll be measuring to ensure each change contributes to overall question quality and to improved reopened questions. 

I think this will be an enormous improvement¹. I think it will also, counterintuitively, please the “be more welcoming to newcomers” camp, who are usually in opposition to the close-voting contingent.

Because, as one answer on the MSE summary observes:

[W]hen I was active in curation, we'd often downvote closed questions just to get them hidden from the site's front page. That sucked for everyone involved. This new approach has the potential to be much better.

Now, there will be less incentive to downvote in tandem with our closevotes, improving the experience for the OP, and making it less likely that a negative experience scares them off, rather than sticking around, engaging in the comments, and improving their question.

And for those fly-by-night OPs who still remain, well, at least their questions won’t be clogging up the front page anymore.


¹ Now, it’s not stated that this change will be rolled out to all sites, but given the procedural UX unification we’ve seen from SE recently, I wouldn’t rule it out. But even if it’s only applied to SO initially, note that that’s true of the “Ask A Question” Wizard too, and the same roadmap notes that this going to be rolled out to the international SE and network sites this month, so if it’s effective, we’ll see it too, eventually.

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  • I’ll also note: yes, a post being hidden will make it harder to collect the full 5 votes to complete closure, but by the same token, that will be less necessary. If the post isn’t on the front page, it’s not doing any harm, and LQ answerers will similarly not be able to find it and post less-than-helpful answers. Plus those who work the review queues will still (presumably) see the Q and be able to vote on it one way or another. – Dan Bron Feb 25 at 23:29
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    Does it mean that the question will be “hidden” as soon as it get the first CV or after the fifth one or mod. CV? And what does “hidden” mean here? Visible only to 10K plus users? – user121863 Feb 26 at 8:07
  • @user067531 This is all the information I have, but my read is yes, after one close voter. But they’re going to tinker and tweak over months to see what works best. I imagine it would be visible to OP and anyone with close/re-open privs (3K+ on most sites). – Dan Bron Feb 26 at 12:03
  • This fix will probably be more useful to sweeping away the LQQs on SO. Ahh, you interject, there is a plethora of LQQs on EL&U too. But we don't have mass downvoting here, one or two and then questions inevitably get closed. – Mari-Lou A Feb 28 at 8:26
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    The statement is a bit ambiguous. Does it get hidden on the first close vote, or the last? – marcellothearcane Mar 4 at 15:42
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    @marcellothearcane I don’t know either. I’m hoping the first, because the last vote doesn’t buy us (the curators) anything that closing already doesn’t. It does help OP a bit, reducing some downvotes and comments, but I am more concerned with anything that will help the curator experience on the site. – Dan Bron Mar 4 at 15:46
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    I've asked on main meta. meta.stackexchange.com/questions/344583/… – marcellothearcane Mar 4 at 15:56
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This is an interesting development. Hiding a post on the first vote to close sounds more practical than hiding it only upon closure. Here are some thoughts about hiding the question early:

  1. there should be a mechanism for voters to easily find the posts they voted on - they might decide to check on the post, or perhaps have second thoughts and now want to retract their vote;

  2. hiding questions becomes easy, maybe too easy - they should consider hiding a question only after it gets 2 (or 3) votes to close;

  3. the 'court of appeal' would be the community's meta site - it would help new users if their hidden posts included a link to meta together with some advice about how to post an appeal;

  4. (Item deleted.)

  5. there will be very little interaction with a post that has been hidden - the reason for voting to close should be made visible when votes are cast; and

  6. since a single vote to close changes the status of the question, should be a 'vote to keep open' button on the question page that does the opposite.

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  • (1) You can see what votes you have cast by looking at your profile.  (2) I guess I agree, with the additional note that the designers/developers should consider making this a per-site settable parameter.  (3) Good idea in theory; but you need at least 5 rep to post in meta.  (4) What are you talking about? While making meta questions exempt from hiding makes some sense (see point 2), it seems to me that you are confusing down votes and close votes. … (Cont’d) – Scott Mar 8 at 6:42
  • (Cont’d) … (5) As I understand it, users need 250 rep to see close votes on their questions. If this proposal is implemented, it must include a mechanism for question-askers to be notified as soon as their question is hidden (assuming that that happens before it is closed; i.e., before the fifth close vote).  (6) I don't know. I believe that this has been suggested before (albeit with less justification) and denied. – Scott Mar 8 at 6:42
  • @Scott Thanks for your comments. Good point about downvotes - I’ll delete that item. – Lawrence Mar 8 at 14:03
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I think this could be a huge improvement, especially because it allows a CV to hide the LQQ before a Points Hog or ignorant newbie has a chance to post an answer it wasn't in a fit state to receive.

A surprising number of LQQs never end up getting the 5 CVs needed, but don't get edited to improve them either, so they just linger on. Thankfully, unanswered questions with zero votes get auto-deleted after a year (or, with a negative score, after just a month). What really damages us, though, are the LQQs with a LQ answer. The answer effectively protects the question from deletion, other than by high-rep users or mods.

So this may well be the solution we've been looking for: hiding the LQQ until it's either edited back into the Light, or vote-cast into the Pit of Closure.

The only question, then, is ... what happens to a hidden question that doesn't get edited but doesn't get enough CVs to be closed? Should we call this state Purgatory, or Limbo? [Or for those who prefer a modern equivalent to Dante's Divine Comedy, perhaps the Twilight Zone?]

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