This has come up in forms many times. (See sidebar.) A simple observation is that this community has very few downvoted questions, and very very few downvoted questions that are not closed. It's not even clear why we have a downvote button on questions.

But normally it would be so

  • five people can express their dislike of a question but not block it from attention entirely, and
  • poor questions have a chance of being salvaged.

We're at this status quo where if a question gets popular it gradually accumulates closes as it climbs to 100 upvotes. Seriously people, when a question is net +300 between question and its answers, it's probably a good question. The right thing to do there is use the downvote. Not circumvent the question's popularity and cast one of the five mega-downvotes needed to close it.

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    Maybe I'm stupid, but I can't see anything in the "Related" sidebar which specifically refers to closing over downvoting - could you give a couple of more specific examples? – Philip Kendall Mar 15 '17 at 8:43
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    "Seriously people, when a question is net +300 between question and its answers, it's probably a good question." Eh no, not necessarily, popular is not the same as good. Also this site never claimed that it wants to keep all the good questions in the world. – Masked Man Mar 15 '17 at 9:35
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    You realise that popular doesn't automatically mean good right? The appeal to the masses is probably one of the oldest and most common fallacies. Have you read through the other questions on meta that cover this topic? It comes up about twice a year here. It's well known that HNQ breaks most community-based quality control. – Lilienthal Mar 15 '17 at 9:37
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    I would had that not only does popular not equal good, good AND popular doesn't mean it's on topic. Topicality is the only reason for closure. – Chris E Mar 15 '17 at 14:54
  • Standing by +100 Q with A's in the +50s and more are generally good questions, pedantry aside. – user42272 Mar 15 '17 at 16:23
  • A 'Good' question is relative to the viewers perspective on it. – Kilisi Mar 17 '17 at 10:06

A few thoughts, too long to put into a comment:

  • Questions being "on hold" are not necessarily a bad thing, if the questions are off topic. This is intended to allow time to edit and reopen questions.
    • Often, I think many of the on hold questions could be edited to become on topic. However some just aren't on topic
  • Voting isn't an indication of whether a question is on topic, but whether people like it.
    • The Hot Network Questions functionality really messes with this, too

In general, I think that nearly all the concerns with "we close too much" can be mitigated by regulars here. Most of us who regularly post here are good at seeing the "core question" and often answer based on that question, even if its poorly or not at all articulated. I know I sometimes do this - I've been on SE a long time now and can read questions and know what they are "really asking" and sometimes I forget the question itself doesn't say that!

Editing helps with this.

Regarding questions, here's a bunch of the most recent current On Hold questions in the last 50 questions, with my personal thoughts:


Votes don't always show a question is on topic, just because a question is popular, does not mean it is also on topic for this stack exchange. Votes are supposed to be either for:

  • This question shows research effort; it is useful and clear
  • This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful

A close vote could be for many reasons, which are listed here:

  • Duplicate of another question
  • Off topic
  • Unclear what you are asking
  • Too broad
  • Primarily opinion based

So a question could have fantastic research, appear useful but could also be far too broad for this stack exchange. Just remeber, votes do not equal a close flag. They are two different things.

On another note, if you do find a question has been closed and feel it shouldn't have, you can always raise a re-open flag or bring this up and meta for discussion and find out the reasons why people closed it.


Can we downvote questions more and close less?

Yes we can. But I doubt that we will.

The community seems to be trained to rush in and vote to close aggressively. Some members seem to vote to close more often than they provide answers. Newcomers see that happen and (once they have the appropriate rep) join in the fun. We end up with a "front page" often having 50% of questions on hold, which just encourages more of the same. And these closed questions stick around indefinitely, causing the encouragement to persist.

There are ways to gamify the system to discourage close votes, but clearly the sentiment is not to do that.

It is what it is.

  • I think you're generous with the 50% figure, but I guess it depends on the day. The review queue doesn't help, as it makes it easy to just close a question once the first person has marked it. – Old_Lamplighter Mar 15 '17 at 12:35
  • Well just now 13 of 48 "front page" questions were on hold. So not as bad as I've seen. But lots of those not yet closed questions have a number of close votes. – Joe Strazzere Mar 15 '17 at 12:44
  • Not all of us, I have perhaps voted to close about 4 questions since I got here. But it's easy to see what you mean. – Kilisi Mar 17 '17 at 10:13
  • per my reading of 2016 year stats Workplace is nothing special with regards to closing. Its percentage of closed questions is #5 from top - not very high really, and if you take into account that it is very closely followed by 5 more sites with almost the same percentage it looks just... routine – gnat Mar 17 '17 at 15:26
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    #5 out of 163. Top 3% or so. That's not very high? It puts us in the company of "English Language and Usage", "Christianity", "Anime and Manga" and "Hardware Recommendations". It is what it is. – Joe Strazzere Mar 17 '17 at 22:10
  • yes there is nothing extraordinary. 9 other sites do the same and even have the same or higher percentage of closing. 20-30 more sites do just the same but happen to have slightly smaller percent of closing. Overall 30-40 sites are noticeably more active in closing than the rest of the network and Workplace is just one of these. This is too widespread to pretend that it's anything special – gnat Mar 25 '17 at 10:17

A simple observation is that this community has very few downvoted questions, and very very few downvoted questions that are not closed. It's not even clear why we have a downvote button on questions.

Just researching your premise here, from this query:

  • Total questions: 20,718
  • Negatively scored questions (including closed/deleted): 7,314
  • Closed questions (including deleted): 9,896
  • Negatively scored and closed (including deleted): 5,012
  • Negatively scored and closed (but not deleted): 1,619
  • Negatively scored and deleted (but not closed): 2,130
  • Negatively scored, closed, and deleted: 3,393

From this it doesn't appear to me that there is "too much closing and not enough downvoting", rather, it appears to me that there is plenty of both, and most downvoted questions just also end up closed/deleted. This seems like the desired outcome, or at least a reasonable one, no?

Do you still hold that your premise is true after seeing those numbers?

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