I'm beginning to wonder if we are being to aggressive in closing questions. Looking at the front page of the site, I count 11 closed questions. Some of them are being closed for being a bit off topic, which is fair, but at least one was closed after it was answered, even though it seems on topic. A lot of them also seem to be questions migrated from the English.SE site.

Now that doesn't mean that any one of them shouldn't have been closed, some of them really are the sort that should be. I just wonder if it's a sign that maybe we are being a bit to rigid with what is being allowed?

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    Must resist... urge... to close...
    – Standback
    Commented Jun 7, 2012 at 17:09
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    Part of what you are seeing is that out-of-scope critique questions were re-tagged (moving them to the front) and then closed. It's not really true that of the questions recently asked 11 were closed.
    – justkt
    Commented Jun 7, 2012 at 18:47
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    I came to meta to post the same question (seeing 11 questions on hold, closed, or migrated). Is the Writers policy too difficult or are the users just not reading through before asking questions? Commented Mar 21, 2014 at 21:00

3 Answers 3


Our aggressiveness in question-closing is well-placed.

First of all, let me point you to the Red Ink Initiative, which goes over the rationale for our current "aggressive-closing" approach in great detail. Here's the money quote, as far as I'm concerned:

StackExchange sites are designed to succeed where others fail by cutting out unhelpful noise.

And, similarly, the Area 51 FAQ:

The questions on your site say a lot about the community. To attract experts, you need a site where people are asking very interesting and challenging questions, not the basic questions found on every other Q&A site. Your goal is to make it clear that this is a professional site.

This means we simply cannot tolerate low-quality questions. A site full of low-quality questions will attract people asking more low-quality questions, and will keep away people who might have higher-quality contributions to offer.

Currently, the main page looks perhaps worse than usual, because Neil and I are going through all the questions as per our recent policy change. This unavoidably requires bumping up old material - including existing closed questions, and old questions that warrant closing. So you're seeing us at a low point - but that low point is well-justified.

We can't let up now

I am going to be as clear on this point as I possibly can: If Writers.SE slips too far down, it will be closed down. That's how StackExchange works, as we saw with sister-site Lit.SE and several others.

I'm not talking about our Area 51 stats - those are an indicator, but far from comprehensive. We're not doing too bad - but we've been "not doing too bad" for quite a while, and the crucial element to beta survival is growth. Writers.SE currently has a slew of major challenges to face - including site definition issues, a small number of regular contributors, the subjectivity challenge, and others - which I'd be happy to discuss separately, on Meta or in chat. I discussed this a bit more pretty recently, on What will become of this site? - take a look.

The point is, you're suggesting we basically say, "Well, we'll settle for whatever questions we get." If we do that, I can pretty much guarantee that this site's days are numbered. And for good reason, IMHO.

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    Just to add, this statement "This means we simply cannot tolerate low-quality questions. A site full of low-quality questions will attract people asking more low-quality questions, and will keep away people who might have higher-quality contributions to offer." is voodoo statistics. If this was the case any SE site that hit critical mass would loose all of their higher quality contributors and contributions. You need to be very careful using this as the main barometer of quality.
    – deanvmc
    Commented Jun 20, 2012 at 11:40
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    @deanvmc - StackOverflow has more traffic than any other site on the network, and it's done very well at maintaining it's expert users while still having a zero tolerance policy for low quality content. If an SE site is going to be successful at launch, it has to plant those seeds early on and focus on quality from the very beginning. If StackOverflow were to suddenly "let up", there would be so much low quality material that the noise would quickly drown out anything of value. Editing to improve questions and closing those of no value are critical to success.
    – jmort253
    Commented Jun 24, 2012 at 8:04

I think this is a very tricky area, that needs to be progressed with sensitivity. I have participated in a couple of other SE sites that I no longer contribute to, because my contributions were not well received by the site. While that is hard, it is probably right - irrespective of the formal definition, there is a certain style of questions and answers that works on each site, and, however relevant it may seem, if your questions and answers don't fit that, it might be the wrong site. There are others ( not only SE sites ) that cater for different approaches.

So trying to ensure high quality question is critical - questions that will make the site a good resource. However the other side of this is to take care to treat the contributors as people, even if they do not immediately (or ever) produce good questions or answers. As @deanvmc comments, don't say no with coldness, but offer suggestions, or ask if they would mind you editing the question to work.

I also think that migrated questions should be given a little more leeway. They have been written based on a different sites criteria, and not quite met them, but they will not necessarily meet our either, because they were not written for us. If there is a germ of a good question there, we should try to answer it and include comments or edits to clarify this. I can see that a questioner whose question is sent off from one site to another, where it is summarily closed would find this rather disheartening.

So yes, lets seek good questions and answers, but also remember that this may need an edit, not just a rejection letter.


Here is my feedback as someone who has had a question closed. In general I agree with the policies set forth in all SE sites, however, there is a very fine line between window dressing and proper pruning of questions.

As a user of many SE sites I have noticed that the trend now is to be a little lenient if the "spirit" of the question is correct. On the more popular sites there seems to be an active move away from "I am closing this because it doesn't fit" to leaving a comment offering ways to narrow down the suggestion based on the spirit.

Essentially my suggestion is stop looking at the question and start looking at the spirit of what is being asked. If you understand what is being asked but feel that the text of the question may cause incorrect answers or tumbleweed, it is far more constructive to offer ways to improve the question rather than banish it.

Currently based on my overall feeling of Writers, I won't be in a hurry to come back. This is not a dig at anyone in particular but looking over what is closed, down voted and banished and how it is done there is a coldness that is not present on a lot of other SE sites. My personal feeling was, ok, I got slammed for not being intelligent enough to ask a question correctly in a collective of writers, perhaps I should not ask questions here.

Just to be clear. This is just an observation and an opinion. It is not meant to offend or inflame, all I offer is an insight in to one persons view (my own).


To all the mods, to be clear, I want to say, I know you guys do a tough job, I am a member of lots of SE sites and I see the work that goes in to them. The only reason I offered this critique is because I know you guys are not doing it out of malice, you are just trying to offer the best content. I am not looking to single people out or bitch and which, I am not making demands, I am just offering an opinion, nothing more.

  • Just because a question was closed doesn't mean that a comment shouldn't be left indicating conditions under which it could be edited to be re-opened. In fact that should be what is happening. If you feel your question deserved a shot then edit it and @reply to the mod who closed it (and hopefully left a comment) asking for it to be re-opened. A dialog should ensue that will help you understand how to tailor your question to fit the site.
    – justkt
    Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 14:55
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    Let me add that I went and took a look at your question and Neil did give you a great suggestion on an appropriate question to ask for this site that would have been interesting and useful - asking for advantages and disadvantages of an approach. Your question can still be re-opened if it is edited to that format.
    – justkt
    Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 14:57
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    I don't want to make this about my question but to answer, I did edit on Neil's suggestion and down vote. This edit was rejected and the question closed. My point is, 2 other people understood what I was trying to ask and offered answers. Neil must have also understood the intent of my question as he offered a criticism, you also understood the intent as you agree with Neil's suggestion... yet the question remains closed. So 4 people other than me understood the intent and two offered answers, yet it is closed. Do you see what I am getting at here? Does it not seem cold to you?
    – deanvmc
    Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 15:14
  • Again, I don't want to be singling out Neil, his job is to moderate based on rules, my suggestion is maybe the rules are being followed too closely and it could be costing you members. I want to be clear, I have no ill will against Neil or any mod, you guys have to do your job, I appreciate that.
    – deanvmc
    Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 15:16
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    I stand by what I said; your question was polling the community, not seeking a single answer. (Polls are bad because "what do you do" means that all answers are equally valid.) When I pointed this out, you then proceeded to insult me personally. This isn't an effective way to communicate. Leaving questions open means that they can accumulate answers that may be irrelevant to whatever the question becomes when its edited. Your question can still be edited and reopened. Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 15:34
  • You also pointed me at a question on SO you felt indicated that your question should remain open; this isn't relevant to what we do here. I stand by what I said, this was not a question we should leave open. And if you read this, you'll see that we're aware that the price of maintaining quality may be losing some users. Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 15:34
  • I did not insult you personally intentionality. I pointed out that over zealous moderation will cost users. If you feel I insulted you then I offer my apologies, I have also stated many times I am not trying to single you out (I did not link to my question or mention you for instance). The question I linked was in the same style as mine and as you have pointed out, it is not what you do here, this I accept. The purpose of this post was to offer a critique that maybe this sites policy is heavy handed not, "I dislike Neil because he closed my question".
    – deanvmc
    Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 15:41
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    Okay, I can see your point of view. If you'd like to discuss your question specifically, feel free to bring this up, either in chat (@reply me or another mod and it'll ping us) or here in meta. We'd be happy to help. Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 15:42
  • To add, I have not made any further edits as the answer in the comments provided me with a link that explained various note taking options and details on which is better and why. If I edited to be reopened it would only be to mark that comment as an answer.
    – deanvmc
    Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 15:43

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