I flagged this question as unclear, expecting it would be a pretty cut and dry case.

Every answer expresses uncertainty regarding what the asker is asking. There are multiple comments asking for clarification.

I left this comment: "I think the rubber band example might be overcomplicating things, but I'm not certain. If you had some other round things that did not stretch, like plates, and one had a larger radius than the other, would the word you're looking for still apply?"

And got this response from the asker: "Alas, 2 years and 2 days later I don't remember at all what I had in mind then. Thanks anyway!"

If the person who asked the question doesn't even know what they were asking, then how can we conclude anything other than that the question is unclear?

Apparently the response from the asker was taken as "bemusement" by some, as if the age of the question has some sort of effect on whether it should be answered or not. I didn't even notice when the question was posted until that comment, and still don't think it has any relevance.

I did not find this question through some sort of queue or algorithm. I was using the site. I was browsing around, happened upon a potentially interesting question that was open and without an accepted answer. If the question is open, it is still inviting answers, and if there is none accepted, then it hasn't been answered. So, therefore, I tried to answer it.

After spending some time on it, it became clear that the question was unclear. Therefore, since we have an open, unanswered question that has been found to be unclear... we close it.

I fully understand wanting to take the age of questions into account when looking for questions to moderate. But that isn't what we're talking about here. This is a question that has been found. It has been found naturally and identified as unclear. What kind of precedent does it set to ignore this, given that the work of finding and identifying the question has already occurred?

Would we be more inclined to close it if I did the same thing the other answerers did, and posted a poor answer while trying to guess what the question means, bumping the question to the top of activity page? Surely that's not preferable.

  • When I just read the question, it seemed obvious to me OP was effectively looking for confirmation that the word stretchier exists and can validly be used in his example context. But given that word doesn't even occur at all on the page, I guess it must be "unclear". – FumbleFingers Oct 30 '15 at 17:23
  • @FumbleFingers If you agree that it's unclear, why not close it? – DCShannon Nov 3 '15 at 1:38
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    I was only trying to find some way to concede that you might have a point here. But I now see that the OP replied Precisely to Andrew Leach's comment Oh, you mean stretches to a larger radius? (confirming my first impression of what was sought). Rather than actually close it, someone could edit that info into the question text, which imho should resolve this "unclear" issue. The primary purpose of such a vtc is to improve the question so we can usefully retain it if possible, not to just get rid of it (and implicitly "punish" a less-than-assiduous OP). – FumbleFingers Nov 3 '15 at 14:44
  • @FumbleFingers I disagree, and don't think we're following site policy right now, but I've added a comment to the question linking to this discussion, and I'll figure I did my due diligence. – DCShannon Nov 3 '15 at 19:06

I sympathize with your opinion that someone who posts a question ought to be able to provide clarification about what he or she is seeking when asked to do so. But I also sympathize with the original poster's sense of bemusement when challenged to clarify something that he asked two years earlier—a question that had earned 2 upvotes (and at some point 1 downvote) and had elicited three answers (that themselves earned 4 upvotes) all on the same day: October 25, 2013.

I don't know whether you chanced upon this question and felt compelled to pursue the previously abandoned issue of its ambiguity, or whether (as seems more likely) it came to your attention because an automated dredging operation brought up an old and harmless question "because of its length and content" and put it in the Low Quality Posts queue for reconsideration. But if the issue arose out of the latter process, I think EL&U is not well served by that automated mechanism.

This site receives lots of fresh questions of dubious usefulness every week—questions that might benefit in multiple ways from prompt review and thoughtful comments like the one you sent to the poster of the two-year-old question here. It seems a shame to have the task of keeping up with very recent questions complicated by an engine that exhumes old, noncontroversial questions and clogs our review queues with them.

I would love to see a statute of limitations imposed on mechanized review requests, to prevent the parade of zombie questions from occupying so much of our reviewers' time. Two full years seems more than long enough to figure out whether a question ought to be approved, improved, or closed; indeed, I think eighteen months or a year is a far more reasonable window. In the meantime I am opposed to closing old questions that had been sitting quietly for months or years, not bothering anyone, until an overzealous software routine came along and stirred up trouble.

  • Just for the record, the post had not entered a review queue before the OP flagged it for closure, at which point it entered the Close Votes queue. – waiwai933 Oct 30 '15 at 9:28
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    If the person who posted the question cannot understand their own question, that's a telling point – even after two years. – MetaEd Oct 30 '15 at 14:20
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    No software routine was involved. I happened upon the question, and spent time reading it, reading the answers, and thinking about a possible answer. We close questions so people don't waste time on them. – DCShannon Oct 30 '15 at 18:47

Here's the full text of the question:

If one circular object A (such as a hair rubber band) has the same radius at rest as another B, but stretches to a larger radius than B is able to, is there a way to say "A is xxxxxer than B"?

It seems clear enough to me. You have two circular objects A and B. Both have the same radius when untouched. A can be stretched more than B. Fill in the "xxxxxer". The suggestion by FumbleFingers (stretchier) seems to fit well.

Plates are not normally considered to be stretchy (they are close enough to having fixed radii in this context). Using a plate as A or B gives you a trivial answer to whether it is stretchier (or xxxxxer) than the other. Alternatively, applying xxxxxer to non-stretchy things is out of the question's scope.

Either way, I think that as far as clarity is concerned, the question is on-topic for ELU regardless of its age.

  • That's not the original text of the question. That's text someone added in an attempt to clarify the poster's original question. Further comments indicate that this is probably not what they meant, including "I mean the actual state. If A is at rest it does not exhibit the property". Original question was "If one circular object A (such as a hair rubber band) has a larger radius than another B, is their a way to say "A is xxxxxer than B"?". The issue isn't whether it's on topic, it's whether it's clear what they're asking. The age is totally irrelevant in every way. – DCShannon Feb 22 '16 at 20:18
  • @DCShannon In that case, I agree that the original was unclear. Since the question has been edited and the OP hasn't rolled it back, would you consider the question to be sufficiently clear? – Lawrence Feb 23 '16 at 8:51
  • The exact text of the question is clear enough now, I just don't know what the OP originally wanted. They don't seem to care anymore, so whatever. If it were solely up to me, I would put it on hold, but I think the link to this meta discussion is probably sufficient if anybody else shows up and tries to answer it. – DCShannon Feb 23 '16 at 21:30

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