The following are two examples of questions which have, as of right now, registered a number—four in these cases—of close votes.

  1. How do you refer to a hyponym that is the same word as the hypernym?
  2. The purpose of “the” in “hammering a nail into the wall”

If you click on either question and analyse its close votes, you will find one of them judged to be "not constructive" and the other largely "not a real question", two inherently inscrutable and unhelpful reasons. However, none of the eight possible close-voters involved have bothered to leave a comment stating exactly what they find non-constructive or difficult to comprehend. I happen across at least two or three such questions every day.

When the fifth vote is registered on either question, I suspect that we will find that the close-voters are all experienced ELU users who are well aware that it's polite to leave at least one comment explaining why they believe that the question needs closing. I also suspect that a good number of said users normally do ensure that the questioner is provided with some form of specific feedback.

This leads me to surmise that the culprit responsible for this errant behaviour could be the SE "review" feature which, in many ways, promotes "lazy voting" as voters can go click-crazy in the current interface without taking the time to really analyse each question by visiting its dedicated page. It also doesn't help that SE rewards voters with badges.

So, is the "review" feature responsible for lazy close-voting? Does each stackexchange site have any knobs to control how this feature is used? Perhaps close voting could be tweaked so that it can only be done via each question's dedicated page.

  • I voted NARQ on the first question and left not one but two comments explaining that the question (which appeared to me, and appears to me still, to be how, in discourse, to disambiguate X) wasn't a question because the instance he gave presented no ambiguity. (To be sure, I did not specifically tie those comments to the close-vote.) It appears that others thought he was asking what to call such situations, so perhaps I was wrong. Nov 19, 2012 at 16:16
  • 3
    I can only laugh and trust that it was humour that prompted somebody to vote to close this question down without leaving a comment :) Nov 20, 2012 at 19:55
  • 1
    Am I missing something? The first mentioned question seems to have no close votes as of now.
    – Kris
    Nov 27, 2012 at 13:27
  • @Kris Close votes age and disappear after a while.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Nov 28, 2012 at 16:10
  • 1
    – Luke_0
    Nov 28, 2012 at 23:13

5 Answers 5


As it happens, I didn't closevote either of OP's examples. But I will admit it's very likely I leave less explanatory comments when I do closevote through the "review" facility.

I note that currently this question is tagged . I think it's been proposed before on meta that closevotes on the main site should require a comment. I wouldn't go that far, but I'd certainly support a asking for that requirement to be enforced within "review".

  • This may be a rare case of genuine ambiguity: do you mean fewer comments, or comments that are less explanatory? Nov 22, 2012 at 19:09
  • @TimLymington: I did actually mean "fewer" at the time of writing, but on thinking about it again, I suspect both meanings apply. If I'm ploughing through voting to close several questions in rapid succession, I've no doubt the same tendency making me not bother to explain my actions at all will make me write terser comments if I do write anything. Nov 26, 2012 at 19:06
  • Looks like you did decide to close the second question after all.
    – Daniel
    Nov 28, 2012 at 14:40
  • 1
    @Daniel δ: Well spotted! But I hadn't closevoted when I wrote this answer, and I'd already skipped it in "review", so it wouldn't have come up there again. Actually, I went and had another look some time after posting here, and decided it was just too trivial to be worth keeping open. I probably didn't leave a comment because the four others who'd already closevoted before me were all high-rep users - I don't recall exactly, but most likely I thought "If they didn't bother, why should I?". Nov 28, 2012 at 14:58
  • I actually agree with the closing of that question. And by the bye, I see you've passed 50K.
    – Daniel
    Nov 28, 2012 at 15:16
  • @Daniel δ: ty. I would just say that I always have slight misgivings when I vote to close questions like that, and I certainly wouldn't vote to delete it. You can "hammer a nail into brick", for example, with no article at all, or either of "a/the". Competent speakers always know which to use in any given context, but explaining exactly why you make the choices you do isn't necessarily straightforward. Nov 28, 2012 at 16:50

Perhaps I'm a Bad User™, but I'll confess that there are some times when either I'm in hurry, or the question is so bad that I can't motivate myself to comment upon it as I vote to close.

Does the review queue make this worse? I don't use it too often, but I'll toss out some speculation:

  • It seems like if you know you have X more questions to review before you're done, it might feel like you're in more of a hurry than if you just stumbled upon a single less-than-stellar question "in the wild".
  • When you vote to close on the regular question screen, you (at least sometimes) get a little reminder "Hey, consider adding a comment." That seems to be missing from the review queue (understandably, since the question leaves your view after you vote.) Maybe the review screen needs some alternate mechanism to encourage you to leave a comment. Perhaps a one-stop 'close with comment' dialog?

I fear that to require comments will just lead to more of the useless type of close comments, which we know are not helpful.

  • If you qualified to be a Bad User™, there would be very few Users™ that could call themselves Good™.
    – Daniel
    Nov 28, 2012 at 18:10

It's probable that someone who doesn't leave comments when reviewing questions with close votes would not leave comments even when casting a close vote in other ways. In fact, it still possible to comment from the "Close Votes" review queue.


With the new review system, questions with close vote are more visible, but I think that was the wanted effect.
You could notice there are more questions that are wrongly closed, but that is just because there are more users voting to close. It is not related with leaving a comment, which (in some cases) is not even helpful. If I think a question is off-topic, I don't leave a comment saying why I think it is off-topic. In other sites, I noticed that such comments just turn into discussions where the OP is still convinced the question is worth to stay open, and the person who voted to close it still thinks the question should be closed. It is also useless to convince whoever voted to close that the question is perfectly acceptable: Whoever voted to close cannot take back her/his vote.


I can't speak for what everyone else was thinking, but I can tell you my thoughts.

I thought the first question was interesting. I learned a new word (autohyponym), and even left an answer.

The other question? Sorry, it was too basic for me. I didn't see the need to let a question on the difference between "the" and "a" remain open, nor did I feel compelled to leave a detailed explanation. We all draw our lines in the sand somewhere. (Incidentally, I probably wouldn't have voted to close a question like that on ELL, which is why I think we need both sites.)

What's my point? It's hard to lump us impolite power users together in one boat, or paint us all with one broad brush. In one case, I supported the question, upvoting it, even; in the other, I voted to close, sans comment – and sans guilt, too.

  • That's fine and my question isn't really about why a certain question was closed and is more about how it was closed and why no reason was provided. That said, I'm curious to know a) how exactly is Listenever's question not constructive? b) If it's too basic or too broad, should it not have been voted GR or NARQ? c) How is the questioner going to understand which of the myriad given reasons he's supposed to take heed of? IMO, irrespective of the reason for closing a question, some feedback needs to be provided to the user. Nov 21, 2012 at 7:51
  • 1
    I agree that, in general, some feedback is helpful. Sometimes, though, it's simply a matter of five well-meaning folks casting close votes, all thinking maybe someone else will provide a polite reason. It's also worth noting that two decent answers were left before the question was closed. Maybe some folks feel less of a need to give feedback if a question gets 1 or 2 decent answers? (What's more important: an answer, or leaving a question open?) Also, that user had asked a lot of basic questions – over 30 in just 15 days. After awhile, it gets old leaving the same "plz support ELL" comment.
    – J.R.
    Nov 21, 2012 at 8:18

I'd agree for no comment for close votes when the reason is blatantly obvious: ONE link to any dictionary (not two, not to OED which normally requires subscription), or blatant spam or a question that is strictly a poll question.

Personally, I think far too many questions are closed - frequently I see a question I'd like to have answered closed. I also went a good 200 points down with the reputation on having my answers deleted with questions. That alone is questionable: if an answer gets good +10 votes, is the question+answer set really a good candidate for deletion?

I noticed users way too often use "close" when they should use "-1" instead. I believe the reason may be negative reputation one receives for downvoting a question, plus total impunity - a question that gets +50 votes and 5 close votes gets closed despite 10:1 ratio of supporters vs opponents.

And a lot of even poor questions can be salvaged and turned into nice ones through editing, but then you need to collect 5 reopen votes on a closed question because someone thought clicking "close" is easier than both editing a question to improve it and mentioning that this question could be improved.

Essentially, downvotes have been supplanted by close votes... simply because close votes are "stronger" (only 5 needed and bye-bye forever!), "cheaper" (no -1 penalty) and more prestigious (Hey, look, I'm a power user, I can cast a close vote, not your noob downvote!) which essentially breaks the site's original, intended vote system.

  • It's certainly true that as the site has grown larger and there are more power users, there have been more close votes and fewer downvotes (I myself think it's because it's less wounding to a questioner to have it voted 'off-topic here' than 'a bad question'). But if you say this means it's 'broken', let alone 'that was not what was intended', you are ignoring the experience of other SE sites, which somehow survive with many more users than ELU, and see no reason to change the system. Nov 20, 2012 at 12:07
  • @TimLymington: More casual users, more random visitors, more questions compared to number of power users, subjects more broad, and no "ultimate general reference" sources like Dictionary and Thesaurus. A Java programmer has no business voting close on a Ruby "general reference" question. Also, survival is one thing, narrowing the range of acceptable subjects until the site becomes a small mutual adoration society is another.
    – SF.
    Nov 20, 2012 at 12:27
  • 2
    You don't get negative rep for downvoting a question, only an answer. The person posting is penalised in both instances. I'm happy to downvote questions which should be downvoted (and upvote similarly, for the record), but questions which fall into a closure category should be closed.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Nov 20, 2012 at 18:19
  • 1
    I disagree with your stated motivation for close- vs downvotes. I close when I think questions won't to be useful to ELU members, because they're too basic, or off-topic, or can be easily answered. Moreover, sometimes I'll refrain from voting to close until after someone has left a satisfactory answer (perhaps in a comment). On the other hand, I downvote when questions are of poor quality, usually due to no research provided and/or insufficient context given. I don't consider downvotes "less prestigious" but I do consider them more harsh. (Closing = filtering; downvote = slap on the wrist.)
    – J.R.
    Nov 20, 2012 at 23:05

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .