Historical context: Usenet
If you've been on any of the Usenet
.moderated newsgroups, all posts are reviewed first, and then evaluated for acceptance; the goal is to keep problem discussions from arising.
.moderated groups take a default-deny stance, and the question is permitted if it's judged as appropriate.
Stack Exchange Question moderation: On-Hold and Closure
In the past, some people have expressed sentiments that there is something "bad" about closing questions on Stack Exchange; however, question closure is an essential part of Stack Exchange's moderation process... more about this will be discussed below. The motivation for closing questions is similar to Usenet's
.moderated newsgroups; however, there are some differences in SE's approach:
SE allows anyone to ask a question; they don't even need to register officially on the site. Closing a question is the equivalent of putting that question back into review/improve mode. The first five days after a question is closed, it is classified as on-hold. While the question is on-hold, all edits to the question automatically bump it back into the site review queue.
Question closure is a feedback mechanism designed to react to problem questions, so the usual business of asking and answering good questions can happen naturally.
Why do we close questions?
The philosophy of SE is that each site handles questions on problems you face or things you are trying to understand. The don't ask section of the FAQ gives you a good overview of things that don't work; in summary:
- Some questions are too subjective, inviting arguments or extended debate that suck up time when members could be helping other people.
- Some questions are too broad, unclear, too narrow, or have other content problems.
- Some questions belong elsewhere.
Speaking broadly, these question closure reasons have been worked out over time with a lot of experience across the Stack Exchange network; exceptions can be made on a case-by-case basis.
Is closing a question the same as deleting it?
Closing and deletion are different concepts on SE:
Closed questions are put into "improve mode"; everyone can see those questions
Deleted questions have a red background and are invisible until you have enough reputation to access moderator tools. These are a couple of ways a question might get deleted:
- Over time, the Community User periodically deletes some closed questions.
- Deletion solves other problems as well, for instance someone might post passwords in their question. We might temporarily delete the question until we can ask Stack Exchange employees to remove all traces of the passwords.
Example deleted question
Who can close a question?
- After you have earned enough reputation to vote, you can vote to close any question for the reasons above. If four other voters agree (a total of five votes), then the question is immediately put on-hold. We let anyone vote to open or close, because it is your site. This is really important - it's about expressing what you (and the rest of the community) agree on. The mechanics of how you vote to close are explained in another section (below).
- If you have not earned enough reputation to vote, you can flag the question for closure; you should have an option similar to This question does not belong here. That flag will trigger a Review Queue action for other users with enough reputation to vote. Those users should periodically visit the Review Queue and vote to close as appropriate.
How are moderators different?
Moderator votes close the question immediately, no matter how many people have voted. This applies for both moderator close/reopen votes.
Can I moderate the site?
Initially, the close vote reputation threshold rules out many users; thus, in the early stages of a site, moderators do most of the closing to guide the site, and maintain the content. As you build reputation, you're awarded increased moderation privileges; you should help moderate the site (within the guidelines of the help-center, of course).
How do I vote to close?
This is important; it's how you get to moderate the site by casting close and open votes. Voting to close works like this:
- Underneath the question, there will be a close link like this:
Network Engineering close vote link:
- When you click on the
close link, you will be presented with a list of options from which you can pick a close reason most appropriate to the situation.
Network Engineering close vote dialog:
- If other people have voted, you will see blue numbers next to the reason they chose.
Network Engineering close dialog with 4 other voters:
What happens when you pick a close reason:
- 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 closed. You've seen the effect of these before.
- Your name, and the name of other closers, will appear on the bottom of the question.
Network Engineering close reasons dialog:
How do I vote to reopen?
A closed question 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).
I changed my mind about close voting. Can I retract my vote?
Don't worry! Unless five people agree, or a moderator agrees, the question won't be closed.
This question should not be closed. 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.
Should I worry about retribution if I vote to close?
On-hold and closure is a normal part of Stack Exchange; 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 the moderators via the flag mechanism (which is anonymous). We can then take any necessary action.
How can I find other questions that might need to be closed?
Actually there are two tools for this.
- The Review Queue. There are a number of options in the Review Queue for posts that might need closure (or other assistance). You are then free to look at the question and make your own decision.
- Tools. Commonly referred to as the "10k tools" or moderator tools, this page lets 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.