This forum is so full of closed questions that every page seems to be polluted with them. Why are they not just removed? Or is it possible that we (i.e. those of us with enough points to be moderators) are a little over-zealous in the closing stakes?

I expect this question will be closed. I think it would be better if it were removed. Of course, it would be even better if it were left open and debated.

  • 2
    There are similar discussions here in meta, and I recently read an answer where someone stated that closed questions often are not removed to serve as kind of "archives" for all the other members of the community.
    – Paola
    Commented Nov 1, 2012 at 14:58
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    There's lots of questions about this here already; you might start here. One very basic answer is that Closed doesn't mean Discarded--it means among other things Closed for Repairs. Commented Nov 1, 2012 at 14:59
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    They also serve as signposts for duplicates and "how-not-to-ask-a-question". In that regard, I find them quite useful. A duplicate question may be answered by a post from 2010 that I've never seen. I may click on the closed duplicate if it looks interesting, then get directed to the original question (and answer). I see no problem with that. I occasionally look at closed questions (if I haven't voted to close it in the first place) and use them to better understand what meets the site's (technically, the community's) guidelines. Again, they're useful.
    – Zairja
    Commented Nov 1, 2012 at 15:04
  • @StoneyB. Thanks. I didn't know about this forum till my question got moved here. Over in the PHP forums there's so much activity that the occasional closed question soon gets shuffled off the screen. In EL and U the number of closures makes the forum look broken.
    – Pete
    Commented Nov 1, 2012 at 15:04
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    I think it shows that we have an active community enforcing the site's policies. Like Programmers.SE and a few other SE sites, many people don't read the FAQ or have a misconception on what the site is for. Therefore, they do not know what passes for an acceptable question. The only way to clear such misconceptions and keep the site useful is to close questions (not necessarily because they are "bad" - which "polluted" implies - as there are dupes, OT, etc.).
    – Zairja
    Commented Nov 1, 2012 at 15:08
  • @kiamlaluno: I rolled back your edit because RegDwight's answer specifically addresses the text you deleted. Commented Jan 1, 2013 at 3:31

2 Answers 2


This forum is so full of closed questions that every page seems to be polluted with them. Is it possible that we are a little over-zealous in the closing stakes?

Two thoughts on that:

1) It would be erroneous to assume that we enjoy closing questions. I much prefer giving upvotes for insightful, well-researched questions and answers than downvotes for shoddy ones. After all, that's why I visit the site – to read and to learn, not to be a policeman. It's not fun to downvote or vote to close; it's a duty and a chore.

2) I wish others would notice this "pollution," and regard it as a warning: "If I don't have something intelligent to say here, maybe I should just be quiet for awhile." Or, "Before I ask this question here, maybe I should spend ten minutes trying to find the answer online." That may sound harsh, but, I remember – that's how I felt my first month on ELU. I was intimidated, but that was a good thing; it prompted me to be careful and conscientious when I contributed.

This is not a place to flippantly blurt out anything we happen to be curious about. Stack Exchange is a network of individual communities, each dedicated to serving experts in a specific field, with libraries of high-quality questions and answers, focused on areas of expertise. Whether it's linguists discussing the nuances of a rare or newly coined idiom, programmers sharing answers on HTML parsing, or researchers seeking solutions to combinatorial problems, these communities are built by and for those best able to define them: experts and enthusiasts.

You wouldn't shout out a calculus question in a football stadium, right? You'd go to the math department of a university. That's why instead of allowing questions on any topic, ELU is a community of experts on very specific topics. We welcome questions that are clear and specific, representing real problems, but this is not the place for conversation, opinions, or socializing.

If those last two paragraph sounds harsh and unwelcoming, don't downvote – at least, not until you've gone and read about StackExchange (after all, the bulk of those two paragraphs were copied-and-pasted from there).

Some would say this message is too discouraging for the non-native speaker – what's trivial for someone steeped in the language may be a very real problem for someone learning English as a second or third language. That's why I support the efforts being put into a sister site for English Language Learners. I believe these non-native speakers deserve a place where their "basic" questions will be welcomed, and I hope to someday be among the ones who regularly answer those questions with helpful contributions.

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    That's a good answer, for which I'm grateful. Coming over from the programming pages, I hadn't appreciated just how élite this forum is (that sounds like a criticism, but it's not meant to be). On Stackoverflow people are literally racing each other to assist, provided the questioner shows that he is prepared to help himself as well.
    – Pete
    Commented Nov 5, 2012 at 9:48
  • I have seen questions on Stack Overflow being closed simply because users didn't understand them. I am more active on Drupal questions, and I have seen perfectly answerable questions being closed as "not a real question" just because users who voted to close don't know Drupal. I would not say that Stack Overflow is different from EL&U.
    – avpaderno
    Commented Jan 2, 2013 at 13:56
  • @kiamlaluno: I won't pretend I agree with every closure (I've got reopen votes on three questions right now awaiting like-minded folks to make that happen). However, when I see words like "polluted", I think it's worth pointing out that there's more to this debate than just the number of closed questions one sees on the Questions page.
    – J.R.
    Commented Jan 2, 2013 at 15:24
  • @J.R. I apologize: My previous comment was for Pete. (He is notified of my previous comment, as he is the only user who commented, when I added mine.)
    – avpaderno
    Commented Jan 2, 2013 at 15:29

First of all, you forget that you don't see deleted questions. You don't know whether or not questions get deleted, and how many. Speaking for myself, I have personally deleted over a hundred questions last week alone. But you didn't see that. You can't.

What you do see are questions that are still up either because they are duplicates (that are left up for a reason, on all sites of the network), or because people are working on improving and then reopening them — or at least they are given the chance to do so.

We have to give people the chance to fix their questions. And even if a question is unfixable, we have to give people a chance to at least notice that it got closed and read why it was closed. Otherwise they'll just attribute its disappearance to a bug and repost it all over again.

Lastly, if I may, here is something I don't quite understand.

I expect this question will be closed. I think it would be better if it were removed.

That is, in fact, part of the problem. Way too many people keep posting questions that they know for a fact do not belong on the site.

Your question had to be closed, and then deleted. Manually. By two actual people. It also had to be composed by an actual person, yourself. A waste of time and effort on all sides.

Here are three simple guidelines I follow:

  1. If I am sure a question does not belong, I do not post it in the first place.
  2. If I am not sure whether a question belongs, I ask in chat first.
  3. If I pollute the site on purpose, I don't get to wonder about the site being polluted.
  • @RegDwight Your failure to understand the nuances of the (incomplete) quotation you selected from my question suggests, to me, that your English was not learnt in the UK. For as long as the site is public, you'll have to tolerate the occasional unwelcome question. While speech is free, you might even have to tolerate some criticism.
    – Pete
    Commented Nov 5, 2012 at 9:57
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    @Pete you don't seem to be able to cope with us critisizing you for posting a blatantly off-topic question on the main site well knowing that it was off-topic. There is no nuance about this; it's rather ridiculously simple. Your question is very welcome on our meta. This grayish place right here. It is, however, off-topic on the main site, the beige place. Your failure to understand the difference between beige and gray, as well as that between off-topic and unwelcome, suggests, to me, that your English was learnt in Twycross. I suggest you move to Burton upon Trent and start from scratch.
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented Nov 5, 2012 at 10:25
  • @RegDwight :) Thanks Reg, and touché. I apologised above for not knowing this site existed. And we didn't have 'gray' in Twycross. Well, not in my lifetime, anyway; all those Webster spellings are a distant memory in the home of the language.
    – Pete
    Commented Nov 5, 2012 at 10:38
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    @Pete ...and if you really are having difficulty distinguishing the beige from the grey, you can upvote this Meta.SO question to encourage the highers up to help out those with color impairments.
    – Kit Z. Fox Mod
    Commented Nov 5, 2012 at 13:04

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