Really, this is descending into madness. ELU has 10, 50, perhaps 100 times the question closure rate of other SEs. You can tell this isn't because of unusually bad questions, because with the exception of some exact duplicates, the closure votes are drawn from at most ten high-rep members. If the questions were truly awful, everyone with sufficient reputation would be closing—or at least downvoting—them, and here we have a case where the majority appeared not only neutral to the question, but positively interested.

From these members' remarks it seems they have somehow slipped primarily from enjoying answering questions, to primarily enjoying their self-appointed patrol duty. You know, this is a remarkably low-traffic SE given that a few billion people speak or at least use English, about the same number of questions as the SE devoted to Structured Query Language (databases), which, incidentally has zero closed questions of the most recent 50. ELU has 11.

I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken.

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    Votes have virtually nothing to do with whether something should be closed; see this list of our highly voted closed questions. Your allegations that “ELU has 10, 50, perhaps 100 times the question closure rate of other SEs” are not believable because you are just making those numbers up, as your use of “perhaps” betrays. It’s also immaterial. That’s because you cannot compare a site that draws a great many bad questions with one that does not draw at all so many bad questions. – tchrist Dec 19 '12 at 5:19
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    At the end of my answer, I supply the comparison that ELU has an infinitely higher closure rate than DBA, which has a similar number of questions per day as ELU and zero closed questions in its last 50, while ELU had 11. There are 4 closed questions in the last 500 at Math, so ELU's ratio is 27.5 times as high. How many SEs do I have to check before you admit that I am right, ELU 's clique enforces its preferred view, and has turned the board into a completely different sort of judgmental place than other SEs aimed at dissemination of knowledge? – Andrew Lazarus Dec 19 '12 at 6:17
  • P.S. I love the downvotes! What a bunch of pseudonymous bullies and cowards! Can't handle the sort of criticism you deal out to others."Your questions are bad!"No, it's your attitude that is bad. Downvote away. – Andrew Lazarus Dec 19 '12 at 6:19
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    Your current posting is Not A Real Question, and a probable dupe besides. If you have an actual question, please edit your “question” and include such. The answer to your stealth question in your comment is exactly one. – tchrist Dec 19 '12 at 6:49
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    I suspect most of the close votes on that question were garnered before the edit made the question specific and made the top-voted answer possible. I've voted to re-open it. This question, however, is Not A Real Question. – Andrew Leach Dec 19 '12 at 8:12
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    I'm with Lazarus on this one. Also, how is this not a real question? This is the meta site... how much more meta can you get than attacking the poor manner in which the site is moderated? – bharal Dec 19 '12 at 10:36
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    @bharal: for starters, the question does not contain a single question. (That alone doesn't mean it doesn't belong, and in fact I myself have provided an answer, but still. I mean. Just saying.) – RegDwigнt Dec 19 '12 at 15:44
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    Next time you beseech me, please let it not be in someone's bowels, okay? – Robusto Dec 19 '12 at 16:09
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    @Andrew: A "judgmental place?" Hmmm... "Self-appointed patrol duty..." "Bullies and cowards..." "It would be nice if you and your fellow bullies would found your own website and let the rest of us decide..." "Clique..." "Internet faux-expertise..." "I think you like it that way: big fish in a small pond..." "‘Not a real question’ is shorthand for ‘Doesn't interest The Guardians’..." "My guess is we have a lot of grad students and abandoned Ph.D.s who feel better about their superior knowledge of English after slagging..." Those sound like judgmental words to me. Pot calling the kettle black? – J.R. Dec 23 '12 at 3:48
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    Your blog post caught my eye and it lead me to this post. I don't know much about your site, but found this discussion interesting because Programmers has similar discussions a lot. I have a bunch of Data.SE queries that I use to track stats on Programmers, and thought you might be interested in some of them: Top Close Voters, Top Reopen Voters, and links to other queries related to user participation – Rachel Feb 20 '13 at 19:14

I have compiled the stats for the 45 most recently closed questions (because that's how far back the "Recently Closed" queue in the 10k tools goes).

Specifically, that's questions with the following IDs (ordered by timestamp of closure, from most recent to two days ago): 94472, 94491, 91950, 94486, 94517, 94514, 94519, 94523, 90877, 94507, 94494, 94529, 94533, 68520, 94525, 94566, 94598, 94552, 94615, 94615, 94593, 94542, 94619, 94577, 94655, 94675, 92704, 50917, 94699, 94720, 94668, 94698, 94568, 94660, 94739, 94719, 94710, 94742, 94729, 94676, 94677, 94750, 94754, 94662, 94790.

These 45 questions were closed for the following reasons:

  • 11 dupe (incl. 1 merged)
  • 10 NARQ
  • 10 off-topic (incl. 1 migrated)
  • 7 gen-ref
  • 5 not constructive
  • 2 too localized

The 10 questions closed as NARQ include questions from a banned user, who only posts them to mess with us, usually several a day.

Do note the top close reason. "Exact duplicate". That's not a fluke. It's perfectly in line with the long-term figures from the Data Explorer:

Exact duplicate   1575
General reference  967
Off-topic          519
NARQ               483
Not constructive   371
Too localized      331

That bears repeating. 37% of our closed questions are closed not because they do not belong. They are closed because they do belong and as a matter of fact have been answered already. Four questions out of ten.

I am happy to hear SQL.SE does not get duplicate questions. Of course I could follow your example and reword that as "SQL.SE sucks balls when it comes to hunting down dupes. What an inefficient clique, obsessed with getting more and more reps from answering the same questions over and over again! WTF! Wake up sheeple!"

I will not do that, though. I also won't go over to SQL.SE and register two sock-puppet accounts a day, to post inane questions, day after day, week after week, month after month.

What I will do instead is go back to looking at actual stats to address the rest of your question, starting with this bit:

the closure votes are drawn from at most ten high-rep members

A grave allegation to be taken very seriously. So let's have a look at who closed the 45 questions mentioned above.

  • The 11 dupes were closed by: Andrew Leach (2), Cameron, Carlo_R., Cerberus, FumbleFingers (6), Jim, KitFox, Mahnax, Marthaª, MετάEd (3), Mitch (2), Mr. Shiny and New 安宇, RegDwighт (4), StoneyB (2), tchrist (5), waiwai933. 1 question was merged by RegDwighт; unclear (and irrelevant) who the closers were.
  • The 10 NARQs were closed by: Andrew Leach (2), Armen Ծիրունյան, Carlo_R., František Stanko (2), FumbleFingers (2), Hellion, Jasper Loy, J.R., John Lawler, jwpat7 (2), Kris (2), Mahnax, Marthaª, Matt Эллен (2), MετάEd (4), Mitch (3), RegDwighт (2), Robusto (5), tchrist (6), TimLymington, waiwai933.
  • 10 off-topic: Andrew Leach (3), Barrie England, František Stanko, FumbleFingers (7), Hellion (4), Jasper Loy, Mahnax (3), Marthaª (2), MετάEd (5), Mitch (3), Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 (2), Robusto (3), simchona, tchrist (6), waiwai933.
  • 7 gen-ref: Andrew Leach (2), František Stanko, FumbleFingers (3), Hellion (2), Jasper Loy, Jim, John Lawler, jwpat7, Kris, Mark Beadles, Marthaª, Matt Эллен, MετάEd, Mitch (3), RegDwighт (2), Rory Alsop, tchrist (6), TimLymington.
  • 5 not constructive: coleopterist, Hellion, Henry, Kris, Lynn, Mark Beadles (2), MετάEd (3), Mitch (3), Robusto, Rory Alsop, tchrist (3), waiwai933 (2).
  • 2 too localized: Kris, MετάEd, Mitch, RegDwighт, Robusto, tchrist.

The grand total:

Andrew Leach (9)               Armen Ծիրունյան  
Barrie England                 Cameron  
Carlo_R. (2)                   Cerberus  
coleopterist                   František Stanko (4)  
FumbleFingers (18)             Hellion (8)  
Henry                          Jasper Loy (3)  
Jim (2)                        J.R.  
John Lawler (2)                jwpat7 (3)  
KitFox                         Kris (5)  
Lynn                           Mahnax (5)  
Mark Beadles (3)               Marthaª (5)  
Matt Эллен (3)                 MετάEd (17)  
Mitch (15)                     Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 (3)  
RegDwighт (9)                  Robusto (10)  
Rory Alsop (2)                 simchona 
StoneyB (2)                    tchrist (27)  
TimLymington (2)               waiwai933 (5)

That's 34 people.

When you say that "the closure votes are drawn from at most ten high-rep members", you draw a line between Mahnax and František Stanko. Between helping close 5 vs. 4 questions out of 45 (11% vs. 9%). That strikes me as completely arbitrary.

And who are those people, anyway?

  • Some of them are complete laymen; others have published books; others still have a degree in linguistics.
  • Some are native speakers; others are not; for others still, English is not even the third language.
  • Some hang out in chat for most of the day; others only visit the site every once in a while and never drop by in chat.
  • Some are still in college; others have grandchildren.
  • Some are from the US; some from the UK; some from Slovakia, Canada, France, Russia, Germany, Italy...

The only thing these people have in common is that each of them has 3000+ reputation on this site. Which they got by actively contributing to it: posting good questions, providing helpful answers, making useful edits. That reputation level enables them to vote to close (and reopen). That is not a "self-appointed patrol duty", as you call it. That is a duty appointed by the system, fully automatically, to everyone who earns it.

You seem to think that "closed" somehow means "go away with your stupid question". You are wrong. "Closed" means, "there's a problem with this question, please fix it then it can be reopened". In fact all the closed questions I checked have comments saying what made people vote to close, and/or how they can be improved. More to the point, six questions did get reopened, in the same time span we are talking about. Nine more have reopen votes. The "fucked up" question actually has four reopen votes right now.

If you want to discuss why it got closed in the first place, I suggest you start from scratch and post another meta question — using a calmer wording, sticking to the facts, and not calling people names. I will be happy to answer it, too. There is a lot of backstory to be told about questions dealing with fucking, poo, bitches, and niggers. We get a lot of pressure from above to close them, and a lot of pressure from below to leave them up. We always had a fine line to walk there. There's also something to be said about it being a translation question, and a lot to be said about it having hit the MultiCollider. But this answer here is already way too long.

  • By your own count, five people are responsible for just under half of the close votes. Ten people are responsible for 70%. (The cumulative total is what's significant.) Collectively, that's a remarkably small posse, don't you think? What percentage of questions on other SEs are closed by the five most active closers? The explanation of why ELU has so many closures is circular: it has more "bad" questions because so many become bad after your application of vague and arbitrary rules, not because sockpuppets are polluting it, nor because English is hard. – Andrew Lazarus Dec 19 '12 at 15:47
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    @Andrew: "What percentage of questions on other SEs are closed by the five most active closers?" is the question I am asking you. Since it is you who are so eager to compare us to other sites. Do keep in mind that there are only about 150 people on this site who have the right to vote to close at all, and not all of them have visited in the last two days — and 5 stops looking like a tiny number, let alone 34. Also, never forget that all these people also can vote to reopen. If even just one person closes everything singlehandedly, and 149 do not vote to reopen, that's saying something. – RegDwigнt Dec 19 '12 at 16:00
  • @RegDwight: The top individual votes to close approximately ten percent of all questions asked, not counting any that yet remain open for want of allies. I haven't found any other site with anything resembling this behavior (Physics is closest, still only ~1/4 as much). There might be more high-reputation users here if there were more interest in the questions—less in closing them. In fact, I've been interested in answering 3 closed questions with a significant debate over re-opening. Think I'm going to hang around long enough to accumulate 3K rep? (I realize that may be a feature not a bug.) – Andrew Lazarus Dec 19 '12 at 16:10
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    @Andrew: the only questions I could answer on Physics are all closed. All of them. If you have a point, it cuts both ways. – RegDwigнt Dec 19 '12 at 16:53
  • @RegDwight: ROFL. You do have a point there. I could no longer answer even those, and I made it through two undergraduate semesters. But how many fluent English speakers are there, compared to physicists? – Andrew Lazarus Dec 19 '12 at 16:56
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    @AndrewLazarus You are making the wrong comparison. This site was created to serve the English equivalent of physicists: linguists, etymologists, and other professionals. Read the first sentence of the FAQ. Serious amateurs who are at the same expert level are welcome, as are enthusiastic beginners who aspire to become experts, as long as they understand they are held to the same academic standards as the experts. – MetaEd Dec 19 '12 at 17:54
  • Incidentally, math.se very frequently has questions from research level right the way down to secondary school level. (Primary school level questions are rare, but are welcomed when they come!) – Billy Dec 19 '12 at 17:59
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    @Billy: first of all, OP's argument here is not in favor of "research level" (these questions already are welcome here); it's in favor of "a few billion people [who] speak or at least use English". That's the equivalent of saying that Math.SE is for everyone who can count, or at least has to count from time to time; or that Physics.SE is for everyone who is experiencing gravity. Secondly, Math.SE is supposed to be the entry-level site for maths. It should be compared to English Language Learners, not ELU. ELU is supposed to be the equivalent of MathOverflow. – RegDwigнt Dec 19 '12 at 19:53
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    @RegDwighт Who supposes it to be the equivalent of MO? Most of your users don't. Your FAQ doesn't. MetaEd's claim that ELU's users should be "professionals" is not reflected in the documentation, or indeed in the questions currently open on the front page, which are basically all identical in quality to many of the recently closed questions. On the train vs. in the train, nine upvotes and six answers, but doing vs. having lunch, a day-long closure and an argument in meta? And the sheer number of questions closed and then reopened... this site seems to be run by a random number generator. – Billy Dec 19 '12 at 22:27
  • @Billy: please suggest a wording of the FAQ that is to your liking and I will be happy to incorporate your suggestions. Most users will continue to ignore it anyway. This site was proposed as the equivalent of MO, and started as the equivalent of MO. We then reached out to a wider audience (the train question is from just that time, do note the date; the 9 upvotes have accumulated over two years), and a fat lot of good did it do us. A classical case of we give you a hand, you tear off the whole arm. Which is why we are now backpedaling and creating a spin-off site instead. – RegDwigнt Dec 19 '12 at 23:18
  • @RegDwighт The idea is clear: the FAQ should state clearly what you allow and what you don't, and should link to ELL for the latter. Model it on MO if you need to. At least then it's clear! The thread I mentioned is just an illustration of how variable up/down/closevoting seems to an outsider. Can you see why I'm so confused as to what's allowed? It looks like complete chaos - almost identical questions have been treated in polar opposite ways. (The upvotes presumably accumulated over the significantly shorter period(s) when the question was prominently visible, not gradually over two years.) – Billy Dec 20 '12 at 1:26
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    Ten people are responsible for 70% of the close votes. If the questions were truly awful, everyone with sufficient reputation would be closing. You're missing one plausible explanation: it could be that most of those questions are close-worthy, and they simply get closed by the most active users on the site, who happen to see them first. BTW, if I disagree with a closure, I vote to reopen. More often than not, I don't. I'm sure you'll interpret that as me being a high-minded patrolman, not an indictment on the quality of the questions. Judge as you will. – J.R. Dec 23 '12 at 2:57

Why on earth should closure have anything at all to do with the number of votes? "This question shows research effort: it is useful and clear" is entirely orthogonal to "This question does not belong on this site, as defined in the faq" or "This is not a good fit for our Q&A format", let alone "This is an exact duplicate" or "This is too localised".

  • The criteria for "Too Localised", "General Reference", and NARQ vague and subjective. The former two, indeed, I have described here as Scylla and Charybdis. My comments do not apply to duplicates, although in the case of "have lunch" and "do lunch", the question was not a duplicate and the answer at the linked question was inadequate to answer the new one. A good example that closing the question took a higher priority than answering it. – Andrew Lazarus Dec 19 '12 at 16:13
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    @AndrewLazarus Anyone can edit (or suggest an edit) to a question to improve it -- even if it's closed -- and can use that opportunity to differentiate it from a supposed duplicate. If you want things to improve in your view, do something positive to bring that about. – Andrew Leach Dec 19 '12 at 16:40
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    @AndrewLazarus: You are unlikely to convince anybody while you are unable to follow a logical argument. Whether or not closing a question took precedence over answering it: whether that is a bad thing; your personal views on the written criteria for closing; none of these have any bearing on your ostensible question of whether an upvoted question should be closed. We know your views differ from the rest of the community, and will listen if you put forward a rational argument. If you merely say the same things again and loudly, we (I at least) won't. – TimLymington Dec 19 '12 at 16:58
  • @TimLymington, as in that case several persons including myself did. (There is a difference in meaning between "do lunch" and "have lunch", in current usage.) It is certainly not my intent to criticize moderation without making any other contribution, which would simply mirror the problem I am complaining about. – Andrew Lazarus Dec 19 '12 at 17:03
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    @Andrew Lazarus: I don't see how the lunch question has been improved since being reopened. In fact, from my point of view it's now worse, since I can no longer follow the "dup" link to what as I recall is a more generic (and thus potentially more interesting) question. I'd also point out that the highly specific question OP asked there was almost instantly answered in a comment - the unqualified statement "I am doing lunch" would probably never be used by a native speaker to mean "I am having lunch". That was all he asked about, and he's never expanded the question since. – FumbleFingers Dec 20 '12 at 1:01
  • @FumbleFingers: The "generic" answer missed completely this idiomatic use of "do lunch" as an intention to set up a specific appointment (that is, it implies these are people who do not regularly lunch, which "have lunch" does not), and, a fortiori, the brush-off use of the phrase. That's why "I am doing lunch" makes no sense, except in the sense of responsibility for preparing it, which is totally separate. I interpreted the question as more generic than the first-person use. (And, I would add, the former link wouldn't have applied there either.) – Andrew Lazarus Dec 20 '12 at 3:35

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