A recent question entitled "Take out his failures on", which I thought was a fine question, was closed for the stated reason that it is "not a real question". I think the de facto reason is that it was asked by this extraordinarily persistent suspended user who I see mentioned from time to time in meta, who I'll call by the pseudonym Cajetan for easy reference. I am gathering that stakeholders have decided on a policy of closing down every question asked by Cajetan in order to make Cajetan's suspension "stick". I'm also supposing that these questions are being closed but not removed so that members such as myself who unwittingly answer them won't lose the reputation gained from their answers.

I'm sure whatever Cajetan did merits a suspension, but I'd like to ask the members whether a good question asked by the notorious Cajetan is "not a real question." If that's not the case, do members find it misleading to close a question for a false reason? If so, is stirring confusion in the important issue of question closures worthwhile collateral damage in our task of mulcting Cajetan?

Vide ne inimicis iracundia tua voluptati sit!

  • In general, please see meta.english.stackexchange.com/a/3489/100 for guidance about site members closing questions by this user.
    – waiwai933
    Jan 9, 2013 at 0:01
  • Well, I've taken myself out of the equation regarding questions from suspended users. After being shot down as "first over the parapet", I now ignore them once I notice the provenance. But I see there's still trouble brewing in paradise - the list of closevoters for this most recent question is pretty much a "Who's Who" of ELU. Jan 9, 2013 at 2:28
  • @FumbleFingers reading the post @ waiwai directed me to was illuminating. I do agree with you that it is concerning that others are not learning vicariously what you were told directly on that question. I think the moderators have given a good directive and it's to your credit that you've taken yourself "out of the equation."
    – user31341
    Jan 9, 2013 at 2:35
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    @jlovegren: Don't credit me too much. A mod asked me not to interfere with the questions, so I don't. But I don't endorse the current policy of keeping this troll's questions if someone happens to have posted an upvoted answer. The only useful approach I can see is that suggested by Bill and MετάEd - someone copy the entire question and repost it as Community Wiki (then I could gleefully closevote the troll's question as a duplicate! :) Jan 9, 2013 at 2:44

2 Answers 2


Although it's wasn't envisaged when the explanation of NARQ was prepared, it's reasonable to describe a question posted purely for fun and to irk the community (and not to elicit actual useful needed information) as not a real question.

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    And just for the record, I disagree that it's a fine question. It shows no evidence for the assertions made.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Jan 9, 2013 at 8:18
  • You seem to be suggesting that we should freely consider parol evidence in deciding whether to close a question. normally i'd think that only the intrinsic merit of the question is what counts.
    – user31341
    Jan 10, 2013 at 1:41
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    Parol evidence isn't an English thing. Wikipedia says that it is admissible to prove an error. Extrinsic evidence was allowed in Bacchus Marsh Concentrated Milk Co Ltd v Joseph Nathan and Co [1919] 26 CLR 410 where equity allowed rectification of a written agreement to accord "with what one party intended and the other party knew the first intended". It's clear here what the community intends and what "Cajetan" knows the community intends.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Jan 10, 2013 at 7:42
  • +1 for caselaw citation. i'm inclined to ask another meta question on whether extrinsic evidence should be admitted in closure cases, as it is implicitly now.
    – user31341
    Jan 11, 2013 at 0:32

I've mentioned this before – I try not to read too much into the reason why a question was closed. More than once, I've voted, thinking, "This is kind of vague, kind of basic, and not very constructive, either." I could have picked more than one of the various reasons presented to me, but I was forced to select one and only one.

This particular question is a case where the reason for closure probably didn't match reality very well, but that's bound to happen when we must select just one from a preset list. It's not like a court case, where we get to explain the reasoning behind our vote in a lengthy ruling.

I appreciate the research you put into your answer, but I'm not going to lose sleep over a question where someone asks, "How can you use the phrase X," with no additional research, and no real purpose given, either. This is a classic Cajetan question: find a dual use of a word or phrase, feign confusion, and hope that a debate ensues. Some are more interesting than others, but almost all of them feel like a waste of time after you realize the O.P. was asking more to be disruptive than to gain knowledge. Whether they can be deemed "real" or not, I suspect Cajetan has enough more than enough insight to provide a valid answer to his own questions, and, for that reason, I have no problem with a user who elects to vote to close, and then picks "not a real question" from the menu.

  • good observation. why not add another closure reason: "duplex cor: the OP is not making a good faith effort to learn"
    – user31341
    Jan 10, 2013 at 1:43
  • @j: I'd support that, but I don't know if it would fly.
    – J.R.
    Jan 10, 2013 at 10:17

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