Personally I don't think that anyone can say it better than @era did - see below

I'd like to, I think pretty reasonably, request that the close voters explain what is unclear about the question in the comments before casting their votes. It seems to me that, if anything, the question as written is already more than a little bloated with background info and clarification. – Era May 28 at 17:56

While it may seem reasonable to you to request explanations, please recognize that it is also reasonable to avoid the kind of personal abuse that normally results from attempting to explain a vote. – Mark C. Wallace♦

@MarkC.Wallace I acknowledge that things must look very different from a mod perspective, but StackExchange is still (so far as I've seen in meta) committed to being transparent and democratic -- something that, so long as I've got your ear, I'd like to suggest sits uneasily with sometimes feels like inscrutable, even arbitrary, close votes. At the very least, not giving explanation must be incompatible with the idea that holds are first and foremost meant to give a user time to correct their question rather than to shut it down, a really laudable point I saw you express in a comment recently. In short, if some users cant help but make @$$#$ of themselves, surely the answer is to disengage with, show zero-tolerance to, or pile close votes onto them, rather than effectively punish all users, esp. new ones? The latter also gives cover to users with voting privileges to (perhaps) start using them a bit more whimsically, and (perhaps) a lot more often than they might if all felt more accountable to debate and site rules. In that I want to suggest close votes should be treated more like the vote of a representative than the secret ballot of a citizen. Thanks for your time! – Era

You make good points. Unfortunately the amount of personal abuse I've suffered for explaining votes has persuaded me not to touch the hot stove again. I'm not sure how to fix the transparency issue or the faciliate re-opening issue, but I am sure how to fix the name calling, ad hominem attacks, etc. Might be an issue to address on meta.history.stackexchange...... – Mark C. Wallace♦

I think Era said it very well, and in my private discussions on the topic, the consensus of opinion supports his position. Let me reiterate some of the key points:

  1. Votes on H:SE are inherently valid. My vote based on telepathic advice from my pet goldfish is just as valid as @ExampleUser's vote based on his PhD thesis on the subject in question. That is what community moderation means. (we could discuss the law of large numbers, and statistical significance, but the ground rules wouldn't change). If you accept the SE model, you accept the possibility that the community will moderate without explanation.
  2. Votes are feedback, but they're not very granular; explanations are granular. Consequently if we want posters to have feedback, we want to encourage votes coupled with feedback.
  3. History [sic] proves that if I explain my vote, OP will respond that I am wrong, stupid and morally bankrupt, and then go on a rant about my personal hygiene. This is another feedback cycle, and most of us have learned that the only way to avoid having complete strangers give detailed criticisms of our personality and grooming habits is to remain silent; to provide no feedback and no explanation for the close vote. (or the downvote).
  4. @Era is still optimistic enough to believe that we as a community could disincentivize the personal abuse. Is that credible? Should I man up and put on my big boy panties and accept the slings and arrows of unruly fate, or should we as a community take arms against against a Sea of troubles And by opposing end them: to die, to sleep No more. I fear that if we take arms, we will sleep no more - the struggle will be eternal. (Note that here I'm not speaking as a mod; I learned this lesson before I was a mod and I'm sure it will still be true in my post-diamond participation. )

Thoughts? feedback?

Written with StackEdit.


I've been concerned for some time that our close vote system is something of a trapdoor function, but I'm not sure that we can require users to provide any more feedback than the - very broad - reason they currently have to select when they vote to close a question.

The situation is complicated further since questions are not infrequently closed for more than one reason.

However, we can encourage users to provide additional feedback when voting to close questions. In order to do this we would certainly need users to be more proactive in flagging posts which are rude or abusive in order for the moderators to take appropriate action.

Perhaps the new Stack Exchange Code of Conduct will provide us with a useful window of opportunity in that regard?


It only works if:

  • Posters agree not to argue with close reasons. No argument. None. No, "but that's wrong, ..." , no "I didn't mean that..." Accept the feedback as feedback. Accept that the feedback is being offered in good faith. Refine the question, but do no argue.

  • The community agrees to enforce the community standard. Flag personal abuse for moderator attention. Use downvotes, flags and language to encourage civility.

  • Close Votes are supported by constructive feedback.

  • 7
    That bullet-1 might be a problem. Sometimes VtCs are wrong. This is amplified in the case of Roboreviewing. As a guideline "you should assume that feedback is given in good faith." (Sometimes it is clearly not; what to do then?) & "(You should strongly) Prefer to refine the question over arguing" – LangLangC Aug 2 '18 at 0:26

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