This is how the actual status of the proposal on Area51 looks:

It is significantly better than it looked some weeks ago (there was time when 3 out of the 5 criteria were in "Needs Work" status). This is clearly an improvement.

But the "Questions per Day" criteria of the site is clearly bad, and what makes this worse, earlier it was even over 5.

In my experience, this type of suggestion is often highly unpopular on other meta sites. I am sorry for that.

Concurrently I experience a growing ratio of successful close votes. The probable reason behind that is the growing need to improve the site quality. But please consider: behind these Area51 criteria is a lot of experience of the SE community managers in starting/building up these communities, and this experience is based on statistics which we can't see. And they are doing this as part of their job.

If your moderating/reviewing ideas may have the side-effect of narrowing the scope of the site, my suggestion would be to postpone this at least to when the site leaves its current "public beta" status. I think now a central community should be built up, and it seems that in the current status, we need new members.

My suggestion is to target only the border cases, of course which is unsalvageable crap, and should go. But in the border cases, I suggest to do every alternative before a vote to close. Don't forget: closing somebody's question is a highly unpleasant experience, and in the case of the newbies there is a significant chance that this newbie will be lost. And with it, the site loses not only his actual question, but all of the content he could have created later.

At the end of this road we could even find Beer SE with its 0.1 question/day ratio. Don't do this. Instead of this,

  • Try to edit the question to a salvageable form (I think a highly changed question is still much better than a closed one).
  • Try to advise the newbie, instead of a silent close vote.
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Air Thank you very much. $\endgroup$
    – peterh
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 15:56

3 Answers 3


Try to advise the newbie, instead of a silent close vote.

Leaving comments for new users is great; it's a big part of what the first posts review queue is supposed to encourage.

That said, the notice that's left on a closed (or "on hold") question is anything but silent. It's big and loud and designed to advise the newbie and the veteran alike. Sometimes it's better to let the notice speak for itself. According to the community team, closing questions is less likely to alienate new users than ignoring them entirely:

A couple years ago now, we did some analysis of new user retention on Stack Overflow. Some forms of feedback tended to result in folks coming back more than others, but the single biggest way to keep someone away was to just ignore them. Don't vote - up or down. Don't comment. Don't answer. Don't close. Just... ignore. While you're busy walking on eggshells in fear of offending someone, they're seeing a blank page, an empty inbox, and they're walking away.

Here's some more recent data on the topic, including a graph (taken from this answer and cropped for the sake of space) that shows the difference in how likely new users in the sample were to ask a second question based on what happened to their first question:

So yes, please don't miss opportunities to leave constructive comments, but know that down- and close-voting also have an overall positive impact on user retention.

Try to edit the question to a salvageable form (I think a highly changed question is still much better than a closed one).

Aggressive edits are always a judgment call, and more of an art than a science in my opinion. Remember to follow the help center editing guidelines and the MSE FAQ articles on privileged edits and suggested edits.

Through the private beta and for a little while after, we were pretty loose with our edits and would try to work miracles on questions that had any potential. That was appropriate at the time because:

  • nearly all of our users had been involved in the Area51 process and were very familiar with how, when and why questions get edited on Stack Exchange;
  • the site was very new and "finding itself" in many ways;
  • few questions initially were tied to immediate, practical real-world problems.

We don't have those excuses any more. Now, questions are more often concerned with immediate, practical real-world problems and the author's intent in presenting those problems must be respected. We have a corpus of hundreds of good questions with over a thousand answers, most of them positive-scoring.

Try to forget the stats page and concentrate on what we are building, and why: a resource, to expose solutions in our problem domain and make them less obscure. The point is not to build a community. It's about the content, not the user. Stack Exchange so strongly differentiates Q&A from social networking that feature requests associated with the latter are declined without comment (and staff "sort of hate" them).

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Well, this stat is really surprising (it totally contradicts what I experienced as beginner about the closing my initial questions). But accepting the result of the stat, the problem reduces to: "Please give constructive comments and edits to the newbie questions, instead of the close/down voting". This is essentially what I also suggested, so it is acceptable, okay. Thank you. $\endgroup$
    – peterh
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 3:14
  • $\begingroup$ I don't understand the graph. 0-100% of users coming back to ask a second question makes sense, but how can that be negative? What the..? $\endgroup$ Commented May 27, 2015 at 13:12

No. Bad idea.

By not closing questions that don't fit the site, you are causing long term harm for a short term expedient. In the long run, the people we really want here will find this site less rewarding with more bad questions, or more drivel as some do-gooders attempt (doesn't usually work anyway) to salvage bad questions.

Have patience. The site is still actively evolving. I'd like to see more questions too, but only good questions. Quality is more important than quantity, because in the end it is quality that begets quantity.

  • $\begingroup$ You forgot google cache. The new users are coming mainly from google. You can't reach many qualified users, but you can improve the hit rate from the google with content. Although I agree "quality begets quantity" generally, but if you entirely misses the quantity, the google won't be your friend. If they don't anything to index, they won't send here visitors. We had only 2 new questions today until now. $\endgroup$
    – peterh
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 13:45
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @peterh We shouldn't be lowering the site standards just to have more content. $\endgroup$
    – hazzey Mod
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 15:49
  • $\begingroup$ @hazzey Of course not, but this wasn't my suggestion. My suggestion was to improve the effort to salvage the salvageable questions, instead of closing them. Unfortunately, there isn't too many, so the community can concentrate its resources to save them, instead of focusing to the faster close votings. $\endgroup$
    – peterh
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 15:54

Close Vote or Down Vote?

There are really two ways to vote: Vote to Close or Down Vote.

From the perspective of the new user, which is better?

  1. Lose reputation (if you have it)
  2. Have the question closed, fixed, and re-opened with no lose of reputation

I agree that it isn't immediately obvious to a new user that the question can be reopened, but a conversation in the comments can help.

The problem is that even after a discussion in the comments, the question isn't going to be improved.

  • $\begingroup$ I would prefer a third option: edit and comment. My another idea would be if in this case the question would get a major change, which made it eligible to a reopen with a better chance, or even to avoid its close. Which is crap, should go, but with isn't, maybe could have a better treatment. $\endgroup$
    – peterh
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 16:01
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Closing and downvoting are really for two different reasons. Close when a question doesn't fit the site, or the special case of being a duplicate of a existing question. Downvote if the question is low quality. The two are orthogonal. You can have a on-target but badly written question (should be downvoted), or well-written but off-topic (should be closed). Of course both can be the case too. And, let's not forget the significant majority case where questions are well enough written and appropriate for this site. $\endgroup$ Commented May 26, 2015 at 18:03
  • $\begingroup$ Another idea: I experienced both of them as beginner. On my opinion, as a beginner, the meaning of upvote/downvote was unclear or non-important to me, but the meaning of a close was highly unpleasant. Especially if it happened to a question which looked perfectly on-topic and clear to me. As an experienced user, I have a much better upvote/downvote ratio, but now I fear to ask anything, because the possibility of a highly and constantly downvoted question, which I can't even delete. $\endgroup$
    – peterh
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 20:39
  • $\begingroup$ But the possibility that I write a bad question, and then I work on it with other users by clarifications, grammar/spelling possibilities, and the result is a high quality question with some wonderful answers, it was a wonderful feature of the system from the very start. $\endgroup$
    – peterh
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 20:43
  • $\begingroup$ @peter: But that's what we want to avoid - the noise of having to go back and forth to eventually make a proper question. $\endgroup$ Commented May 28, 2015 at 13:08

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