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Every once in a while ELU.SE tells me I've earned some more powers to do things I'm not interested in, but the one thing I'd like to know how to do doesn't seem to have a button anywhere obvious. Namely, I'd like to be able to post my answers on closed questions.

It has happened to me several times that I've put a lot of effort into an answer draft and then somebody else has decided, after the question's been up for 15 minutes or so, that it didn't in fact merit any attention, from me or anyone else, and closed it.

I'm not fond of wasting effort, and I'd like my answer to be posted, so that the OP and anyone else who cares to can make up their own minds about it, rather than having the opportunity taken away arbitrarily by someone else.

So, please indicate what, if anything, I can do about this.

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    There used to be a grace period of 4 hours after closing a question during which you could still post your answer if you had started working on it before the closing took place. If this has been changed, I haven't got the memo. – RegDwigнt Feb 25 '12 at 20:35
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    When I try to post under these circumstances, I get a yellow box telling me I can't do that, and urging me to click on it to dismiss. That's it. – John Lawler Feb 25 '12 at 20:43
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    @JohnLawler: There's an "easy" fix, (but one that is not for everyone). Post a brief, one-line or one paragraph answer to save your place. Then post a better answer a short time later. If you get in AN answer "under the wire," the close won't affect you. – Tom Au May 9 '13 at 0:22
  • Thanks, I may do that. – John Lawler May 9 '13 at 1:08
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As you can vote to close a question (the privilege require a reputation of at least 5000), you can also vote to re-open a question. The link is where you normally see the "close" link.

screenshot

If the question has been locked, you don't see the "reopen" link, as in https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/90/what-are-the-most-common-english-usage-mistakes.

screenshot

When you vote to re-open a question, 10k users can see the question reported in the flags page; if they think it's worth being re-opened, then will cast their vote too; if the question gets 5 votes, it will be re-opened.

4

I have some sympathy with John's position here. I was pretty sure this had happened to me before, but having noted Reg's comment about a "four-hour grace period", I decided to check things out.

I just waited until a suitable "question likely to be closed soon" turned up (easy done here on ELU these days!), and started typing into the "Your Answer" box. Then I left that browser window open until it did get closed soon after, at which point I clicked on "Post Your Answer". I got all sorts of trouble from the page - including having to pass a Capcha test to prove I was a real human being - but no way was it going to let me submit an answer!

I fully accept that some questions are erroneously closed simply because the OP hasn't been given enough time (or can't be bothered) to improve the question. I also think that sometimes one person may be able to understand and respond to a "valid" question where others see nothing of merit.

As it happens, in my test above, all I typed in as my answer was "test text", so the first attempt to submit just got me a raspberry because my text wasn't long enough. I suppose I'll have to repeat the process with "some longer test text", just to make sure that didn't somehow affect things. If it still doesn't work, I'll edit John's question to include the bug tag.

As a "workaround" (assuming your carefully-crafted answer text is still "copy-and-pastable" when you realise it can't be posted), you could always open another browser window, copy the original question text, re-ask it yourself, and answer your own question! So far as I'm concerned, "because I think I have a good answer" is a perfectly valid reason for asking a question.

  • Thanks, FF. I appreciate the effort you made. – John Lawler Feb 26 '12 at 20:45
  • You better believe it, @John! I waited until “traipse up the steps” just synonym of walking? turned up, and duly kept a browser window open with "some rather longer test text" in it. F**k me sideways! - that turned out to be only 29 characters, and although the minimum text length for Comments is only 15, Answers have to be 30! I may get fed up and just assume it's a bug. – FumbleFingers Feb 26 '12 at 21:01
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    @John Lawler: I found another one to test on, where as you can see I was able to post the question after it was closed. I had to do another Capcha, so the system obviously doesn't like such activity. But in principle it seems Reg is correct - there is a "grace period" of at least several minutes, so it probably really is four hours if that's what they say. – FumbleFingers Feb 26 '12 at 21:47
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I've noticed a lot of questions get closed - nearly half, it seems - and many of these questions get closed rather hastily.

This happened this morning with this question.

I had a feeling the question would be closed. The O.P. asked the community to evaluate some "word salad." Sure enough, in less than 30 minutes, it was closed, with this remark:

Questions are expected to generally relate to English language and usage, within the scope defined in the faq.

So, I visited the FAQ:

Questions on the following topics are welcomed here:

  • Usage, word choice, and grammar
  • Problems encountered by people learning English

It seems to me that the FAQ would support the question, rather than support its closure!

The O.P. is apparently not a native English speaker (hence the word salad). More importantly, though, the question seemed very carefully worded. The O.P. did not ask in some vague way: "Can you make our slogan better?" or, "Do you think this is a good slogan?" Instead, author took great care to ask some pointed, relevant questions:

  • Is our wording proper? (answer: no)
  • Can some of the words be misconstrued to mean something other than what we are trying to say? (answer: yes)

Therefore, even though the slogan was painfully difficult to read, I still thought the question was fair and relevant. In other words, the slogan was bad; the question was not.

Moreover, the FAQ says:

What kind of questions should I not ask here?

  • You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face.

In this case, the O.P. was not asking about some trite conversation, or trivial argument - the question was about a marketing slogan for a new company. To me, that sounds like a practical question, based on a real-world problem.

In summary, I share John Lawler's frustration. It's discouraging when someone puts a lot of effort into providing a well-conceived and helpful answer, only to be thwarted by what appears to be a moderator's knee-jerk reaction.

  • ELU doesn't proof read, and that question was also too localized. How would that persons slogan help other users? – simchona Feb 28 '12 at 15:18
  • Their slogan may not help other users, but I found the overall discussion worthwhile. The crux of my answer - that using the terms "young" & "passionate" were not apt for a web development company - revolved around the implicit meanings of words. I don't find that any less helpful than, say, figuring out that an account has a balance, talking about how police make a kettle, or differentiating between actually and really. – J.R. Feb 28 '12 at 15:37
  • All English is localized. And almost all of our questions contain spelling or grammar errors, most of them typical of English learners. – John Lawler Feb 28 '12 at 18:00
2

From your point of view the question is prematurely closed and needs to be reopened because you've put effort into an answer.

To the closers, the question is bad and needs to be closed in order to stop others from trying to answer. That is what closing is all about; you are not supposed to post answers to closed questions. The mechanism of closing was designed specifically to prevent further activity on a question that is poor.

So in the end it is just unfortunate timing for you.

But as to redress, one can earn enough rep to be allowed to vote to reopen (a link appears for that where the 'close' link used to appear, with enough rep).

Another form of redress is to post to meta 'Why was question X closed?'

Or to go to chat (where a number of users monitor) and try to discuss the reason for the closure and to try to convince people to vote to reopen.

One UI feature that is nice is that when you are in the middle of answering, if another answer is posted, a notification at the top tells you that a new answer has appeared and allows you to refresh the page. Maybe a similar feature could be requested by you for a similar notification of closing, to tell the answerer to (possibly) not bother continuing with the effort of an answer.

  • Again, there's this sposta. We're sposta do this, we're not sposta do that. Too bad for me, as you say. – John Lawler Feb 26 '12 at 18:01
  • @JohnLawler: I elaborated in my answer. – Mitch Feb 26 '12 at 18:26
  • As I said, my interest is in English grammar and usage. I don't want to get involved in politics, or modify the software, or join the Hidden Masters. – John Lawler Feb 26 '12 at 18:37
  • @JohnLawler I just want to point out that the user's next question was so poor that a lot of people besides myself felt it needed to be closed. The OP has a long way to go before his questions are coherent, and as such he needs way more help than this site is designed to give him. – simchona Feb 26 '12 at 20:42
  • Nor am I interested in undertaking the reform of any poster's coherence. Just the grammar. – John Lawler Feb 28 '12 at 18:02
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I'm not fond of wasting effort, and I'd like my answer to be posted, so that the OP and anyone else who cares to can make up their own minds about it, rather than having the opportunity taken away arbitrarily by someone else.

Arbitrarily? The voting system works to close questions which are felt to be off topic. It requires 5 users to agree that it was a poor question, or any number of users plus a mod vote. That doesn't seem arbitrary. You can vote to reopen if you have enough reputation, which is about as fair as it gets. Closing isn't always forever.

Posting answers to poor questions doesn't improve the quality of the site, and encourages more poor questions if there is an expectation it will be answered.

Further, using "arbitrary" implies intent you can't presume (Arbitrarily closed post on Stackoverflow). There's also a grace period (How was this answer posted after this question was closed?)

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    Arbitrary? Yes. "felt to be off topic"? Given that the "topic" is supposed to have something to do with English grammar, an answer on the topic of English grammar is difficult to feel off topic. But I don't know what the feelings are. – John Lawler Feb 25 '12 at 20:53
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    "Poor questions" are the norm here. Most of them are from non-English speakers, and most of them are ungrammatical on their face, and many receive answers referring to the catechism of shibboleths that Anglophone schools teach, rather than the facts they need. (To be fair, they've often been primed by poor ESL teachers who studied usage manuals instead of actual grammar.) In any event, I'd like to help remedy this -- as I did on my grammar web pages from a.u.e many years ago -- but if the system won't let me, then I can't. – John Lawler Feb 25 '12 at 20:57
  • @John you can always edit someone else's question to make it on topic. That way, you can find the diamond in the rough and help make it better. However, ELU is not intended to be ESL, and so some questions are just out of scope. – simchona Feb 25 '12 at 21:39
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    In that case, we should ask questioners to identify whether they are a) native speakers of English anxious to receive guidance about peevage, or b) non-native speakers trying to learn English and anxious about how it actually works. – John Lawler Feb 25 '12 at 21:48
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    @john in case of the question that prompted this, there are several deleted posts by the OP that show a. No desire to improve his posts and b. severe lack of comprehension of answers he's given. Otherwise I'd agree with you – simchona Feb 25 '12 at 21:56
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    I'm afraid I'm not interested enough in the identities of posters to check this all out. My interest is in English grammar. – John Lawler Feb 25 '12 at 21:58
  • @simchona: Not all questions are closed due to 5 down votes; some get closed by a moderator, sometimes within minutes of being opened, sometimes before the question has been viewed dozen times. Oftentimes, I concur with the closure, but some of these seem prematurely - and rather arbitrarily - closed. – J.R. Mar 6 '12 at 11:44
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1) You can participate more in Meta; there are several issues I think which are not quite clear.
2) You can contest a closure using comments/meta/chat.
3) If you participate more on ELU you can get a sense of many of the questions that have potential to be closed and then you might back off.
4) If the closing is a duplicate, better post in the question the duplicate is linked to
5) Many of the closed ones are eventually deleted, so in long term posting in one that would be potentially closed is not useful. Besides, such posts do not normally benefit of votes, views, feedback etc.
6) One with at least 3k can vote for reopening. A question can be reopen with 5 votes or 1 vote from moderator.

  • If I could format this comment, I'd reply to each of these by number. However, I am not interested in flame wars or arguments or using chat. I've been participating for several months now, and I do have some sense of what others might consider "off-topic". However, I often don't agree. If the closing is a duplicate, usually the dup and its answers don't deal with the issues I want to address, or they get it wrong. As I say, I'm not interested in hassling people; we get enough of that already here. – John Lawler Feb 25 '12 at 20:48
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    As to points, votes, badges, etc, I couldn't care less. What I'm looking for is questions that I can answer thoughtfully and usefully, whether my answers are construed to be "on topic" or not. Vote'em down if you don't like'em. – John Lawler Feb 25 '12 at 20:50
  • Finally, if there is a Vote To Reopen button hidden somewhere, it's news to me. – John Lawler Feb 25 '12 at 20:50
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    There's a vote to reopen. – simchona Feb 25 '12 at 20:51
  • Oh, good. How does one find it? – John Lawler Feb 25 '12 at 21:00
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    It's under the post in the same location as the close button – simchona Feb 25 '12 at 21:04
  • Found it, thank you very much. – John Lawler Feb 25 '12 at 21:59
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It works like this:

  1. If you get there when the question is closed, you cannot post.
  2. If you start writing, and the question gets closed in the meanwhile, you can only post before a notification appears telling you that it was closed.
  3. After that notification, you cannot post anymore.

I'd discourage answering closed questions and in the past I've seen this behavior from a user. Like other said, this could harm the site. People that ask questions will feel allowed to post questions because they'll trend of thoughts will be something along the lines of "Maybe it'll get closed, but hey, I receive answers anyway".

I asked a related question one on here, "People answering off-topic questions: What should we do?".

  • you mean something like "I'd discourage answering questions having the potential of being closed" – Theta30 Feb 27 '12 at 20:14
  • @Theta30 Now that you mention it, also that, but also what I said. In other words, I was saying that I'd be against allowing users to answer closed questions (even if it was technically possible). – Alenanno Feb 27 '12 at 20:18

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