I'm fairly new to the stackexchange network, but I participate quite a bit on stackoverflow. I've used a few others (like this one) for one or two questions. And I have to say, EL&U feels extremely unfriendly to newer users compared to the others I've used (this has nothing to do with the question I asked). I love the stackexchange system, and believe the game-like aspect of it produces great results. I'm just trying to understand EL&U better.
Last night I was reading a few questions and realized that a HUGE percentage of them were closed. They all seemed on-topic, had much discussion, and were really interesting questions. I wasn't looking for anything specific to solve a problem, I was just having fun. I tried to understand the explanations of why they were closed, and peoples' comments about why they down-voted, and most of the time I just didn't get it. It seemed like semantical nitpicking.
On the first page (Questions, newest, 50 per page setting), there were 20 closed questions (40%). I compared that with a few random SE sites:
- el&u - 20
- gaming - 6
- stackoverflow - 2
- math - 5
- wordpress - 0
- stats - 1
Many of the complaints about questions are related to the question itself having misspellings, bad grammar, or syntactical errors. It seems to me that the whole point of a Q&A site about English is so people, many of whom are not well versed in the topic, can learn about it. I recently used Home Improvement to ask this question: https://diy.stackexchange.com/questions/10049. I'm not a home improvement expert, which is why I went there. I used all the wrong words to describe things and my question wasn't very clear since I couldn't even really grasp the concept of what I was trying to ask. But they worked with me and came up with ideas of what I was asking. After a little back and forth, I edited the question to make more sense and got a great answer. No one closed my answer. No one said, "Learn the proper words for things before posting". They made me feel welcomed, and were very helpful. They are the experts answering questions, and realized I was not, which is why I was asking.
EL&U feels like an exclusive club where you have to know English perfectly and understand a bunch of subtle rules before posting. Here are a few closed questions I saw last night:
All of these seem like decent questions and they're interesting. Of course, they could be improved to be better. But is closing/down-voting them the best way to encourage a new user to improve their question? On stackoverflow it seems like people edit others' questions more to make them better, especially if they are just cosmetic changes which don't affect the question. Why confuse someone with, "your grammar is horrible", if you understand what they're asking. The guy on the last question tried desperately, three times, to edit his question to suit @REGDWIGHT ѬS道's request with no luck.
Individually, you could defend each of the closings based on the reason given. But if you look at the bigger picture, 40% of questions closed in my sample, is the community closing/down-voting too much?
I'm new here, so I'm just pointing this out and asking the question. Maybe everyone else is happy with the tone and feel of this community, and I'm off-base.
UPDATE: Thanks everyone for the great responses. It seems the general consensus is, no, you do not feel you are closing too many questions.
My original post wasn't meant to question the judgement of those who closed/down-voted any particular posts. As @waiwai933 pointed out, they can each be defended in a way that makes perfect sense. It was more a broad commentary after using the site only one day and not really understanding the community. So I participated for a couple of days to get a feel for things. I love systems and figuring out how they work. I usually have a gut feeling for what's working and what's broken that turns out to be right.
So after using it some more, I still felt the same way. I couldn't figure out why you wouldn't want millions of well-written landing pages all driving traffic here. I feel like most questions can be made into good landing pages with a little effort. That's how Stackoverflow works. It's almost impossible to think of a programming question off the top of your head that doesn't have a SO link on the front page of Google. Sure, you could find all that info elsewhere, but why not bring people to the site for every programming question. The answers, and the discussions that surround them, will be a far better experience than they'll get elsewhere.
So when I started using EL&U, I expected the same thing for English (which is a pretty broad topic). Most English-related questions end up on the horrible generic ask sites. I tried for awhile to come up with a basic question that had an EL&U link on the front page and didn't find any. I finally looked up a question and put the exact title into Google and got a result. So, something seemed broken.
That was until I realized EL&U is not an all-purpose English website. From the About page (emphasis mine):
This is a free, community driven Q&A for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts.
I'm sure I saw this the one time there was a notification before I signed up, but nowhere am I reminded of this, so I went back to taking the title literally. So, aside from the consensus of the power-users here, that tagline settles it. This is not a site for simple questions you can find elsewhere.
With that in mind, I can definitely see how certain questions could get tedious. Single word requests don't usually have a definitive answer and the OP does a lot of "Nooooo, not that one."
So maybe EL&U suffers from such a simple name and topic. There's no "scariness" to the site. The statistical analysis SE site is called Cross Validated, which would scare away the casual asker. English is such a big topic, too. People don't accidentally end up on SO if the want to program their thermostat or change the code on their alarm. It's probably too late to change the name, but perhaps something like:
And right before the title on a new post it could say something to the point, like:
Have you done a web search first? You might find an easy answer to your question elsewhere. If you're not sure what type of question is appropriate to ask here, see our FAQ.
There might be a few minor changes that would prevent a lot of these off-topic/poor quality questions from being asked in the first place.