Why are some questions closed? Is it like deletion?

1 Answer 1


wip taken from https://skeptics.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/1345/faq-my-question-was-put-on-hold-or-has-been-closed-what-does-it-mean

please review & can someone with a HiDPI display make updated screenshots for the pictures below? A few descriptions below are from ages ago and need precise updates as well

Rationale: why do we close questions?

There are really two ways to do moderation. If you've been on any of the .moderated newsgroups you'll be well aware that to get a post on there, it needs to undergo a review process first and be accepted. The aim is to keep problem discussions from arising.

StackExchange is slightly different – it works the other way. Anyone can ask a question on SE and closing a question is the equivalent of putting that question back into review/improve mode. It's a feedback mechanism designed to react to problem cases only, so the usual business of asking and answering good questions can just… happen.

Why do we close a question?

The philosophy of StackExchange is that each site handles questions on problems you face or things you are trying to understand. The don't ask section of the HelpCentre gives you a good overview of things that don't work – to summarise:

  • Some questions invite arguments or extended debate that suck up time when members could be helping other people.
  • Some questions are too broad, too narrow or have other content problems.
  • Some questions belong elsewhere.
  • All questions must be about history.

In addition, all questions should be able to generate an authoritative answer. This means that list generating questions frequently get closed, as do requests for references where there is the possibility of subjectivity. The best questions are those where any impartial observer can look at the answers and recognize the answer that most effectively answers the question.

These have been worked out over time and with a lot of experience from Stack Overflow and are, broadly speaking true. Sometimes, exceptions are made – it is always a case-by-case thing.

Is Closing the same as Deletion?

If enough people 'vote to Close' a question, it is 'closed'. It is called 'closed' to emphasize that it is a different concept to 'deletion'.

'Closed' questions are put into "improve mode" if you like, and are still visible for anyone to improve. That's the idea. Deleted questions are different – they have a different background colour and are even invisible to all but high reputation users. So deletion is different and solves a slightly different problem.

Closed questions can still be edited, and people are still encouraged to give them the love they need to become good questions.

What are the requirements for closing a question?

If you have 3000 reputation, you can vote to close any question for the reasons above. More on that in a moment.

If you do not have this level of reputation, you will find that under the flag menu, you have an option "should be closed…". That will 'raise a flag' for users: those are alerted who can 'vote to close'.

Why can anyone vote to close/reopen?

Firstly, anyone can vote to close or reopen (or flag as such) because it is your site. This is really important – it's about expressing what you feel works and doesn't.

How are moderators different?

Moderator close votes complete the required vote count immediately, no matter how many people have voted. This applies for both close/reopen votes.

Initially, the reputation requirement ruled out many users, and you will see moderators did most of the closing to guide the site and look after the content. As community members gained reputation, they get to join in.

Ok, so how does it work?

Example close button

Ok, the important piece. Voting to close works like this:

  • Underneath the question, there will be a close link. When you click on this, you will be presented with a list of options from which you can pick a close reason most appropriate to the situation.

Close vote reasons dialog

  • If other people have voted, you will see blue numbers against the reason they chose.

Other votes

  • The exact duplicate page takes you to a page that allows you to specify a question to close as an exact duplicate against.
  • The "off topic" page will present you with two options - one to migrate here, to meta, and one just off topic. On SE betas, only moderators can send questions elsewhere, so feel free to cast a vote here and flag if you have a target in mind.
  • The other options are straight out closes.
  • Once you pick your option and click "close", your vote is registered. You cannot retract it at this stage, but nobody else, including moderators, will know it was you who voted.
  • If five people agree, the question will be put on hold. You've seen the effect of these before.
  • Your name, and the name of other closers, will appear on the bottom of the question.

Close banner

How does vote to re-open work?

A question that is 'Closed' has a "reopen" link underneath it. If you click this, a dialog box will ask you if you are sure - click yes and your vote will be registered to re-open the question.

Below, you can see an example of the re-open link with two votes registered for re-opening (out of five).

Re-open link

What happens if I make a mistake?

Don't worry! Unless five people agree, or a moderator agrees, the question won't be closed.

I've seen an on hold question and I disagree. What can I do?

Well, one option is to use your re-open vote! You can also always raise a discussion here on meta to seek clarification on why a question is closed and hopefully either a resolution will be reached, or you will get an explanation for the closure.

My name appears on the bottom - isn't this going to cause problems with other users?

Actually, surprisingly few closed questions generate any response at all.

However, if you experience difficulties as a result of closing a question, you can and should contact a moderator via the flag mechanism (which is anonymous). We can then take any necessary action.

How do I find questions I might need to close? What about re-opens?

Actually there are two tools for this.

  • Review. Here, there are a number of options for seeing things that might need say editing. One of these is a tab for all questions with close votes. You are then free to look at the question and decide if you agree.
  • Tools. Commonly referred to as the "10k tools", this page let's you see even more information - certain anonymous flags, re-open votes, delete votes etc. The important one for this is the re-open page. Here, you can see questions that might have been closed incorrectly.
  • 1
    Need to replace the link to skeptics "notability" - I don't have a good replacement for that, but I wanted to note it. That said, this is a fantastic WIP
    – MCW Mod
    Commented Apr 8, 2020 at 10:20
  • 2
    Are there seriously still lots of people around who know what "moderated newsgroups" are and how they work, such that referencing them makes for a good example?
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Commented Apr 8, 2020 at 13:00
  • @T.E.D. Hm, perhaps 'moderated comments (like on some on blogs)' are better known (but then an even worse 'example'? Other ideas welcome though Commented Apr 8, 2020 at 13:03
  • 1
    The only other place online I really see moderation these days is in YouTube comments, and there it mostly consist of a single (heroic?) person arbitrarily nuking comments they don't like.
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Commented Apr 8, 2020 at 13:05
  • 1
    And you're just in time for the further (unannounced) changes to the close-question UI on SE, which would have required updated screenshots of the dialogue boxes anyway. :) Commented Apr 14, 2020 at 0:11
  • @sempaiscuba Since you have privy access to things that still look as (m dreaming) in flux to me, as per MetaSE: please ping if it looks' finished' to you. Commented Apr 20, 2020 at 21:35

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