I think you could make it better for users (new or otherwise).
This current "off topic" flag could be tweaked for when a question is salvageable and just needs editing:
Questions require a goal that we can address. Rather than explaining
the difficulties of your situation, explain what you want to do to
make it better. For more information, see this meta post.
IMO something like:
Questions require a goal that we can address. Keeping your question
short and only using relevant facts makes it clear and answerable, and
avoids it being closed due to difficulty deciphering the context. eg
Is it really relevant to the problem, or just something you are
passionate about? For more information, see this meta post.
The bit "or just something you are passionate about" suits this site given the likelihood of in-depth scenarios.
If it's salvageable but a lot of work, you could close with the above proposed close reason and they can choose to edit it or not. At least then you've tried - given them the info they need.
I removed the bit "Rather than explaining the difficulties of your situation, explain what you want to do to make it better" because on this site (specifically) surely the difficulties of the situation is what they want to make better?
Then "Unclear what you're asking" flag could be used when it's literally not understandable at all, but not used when the question is just too long or just needs editing. E.g. a lot of time required to read/edit doesn't necessarily mean "unclear".
Is that question that bad, can it be salvaged?
It's entirely your choice as to whether you want to edit or not, but you could leave it for someone else if it's salvageable, or if you want to flag leave a comment explaining to the OP what to do next.
To help reduce the amount of closed questions, you could approach a question like this:
- Evaluate the question
- Is it ok?
- Yes -> Optionally answer, vote, comment
- Does it look salvageable?
- Yes -> Edit, or move on and let someone else edit, or vote to close with proposed off topic reason
- No -> Optionally vote to close
For regular users you know if a question is never going to be on topic or useful no matter how much editing is done. But if it's just a badly worded or structured question, then edit it or leave it for someone else to.
You can even leave a comment to explain why it's a problem. Maybe with more time the asker will improve it if they know what's wrong. Rather than just abruptly closed and you likely never see them again :)
Discussion on things from the comments and MaskedMand's answer, as I have a different viewpoint which might add some thought to the discussion.
Whether a question is "not too bad" or "horribly bad" is subjective,
but as long as we work within the SE framework, the post score serves
as an objective measure for us to work with.
If the quality of the question is subjective, as that is what the voting is based on then the voting also has to be subjective. So not really a useful "measure" to work with.
Also, each person should judge a question or answer on their own merits. Using other people's votes and flags as a means to determine your own actions risks invoking the Bandwagon effect.
why don't people upvote "salvageable" questions more often?
If it's "salvageable" then it needs work so it's arguably not in a state to warrant an upvote. But as it's "salvageable" it can be worked on, so the question here should be:
"Why don't people edit salvageable questions more often?"
if the question wasn't that bad, why did it earn so many downvotes
within 6 hours?
Downvotes are people's opinion, so you won't ever accurately know why people voted unless you ask them. Opinions/downvotes can be impulsive, malicious, got out of the wrong side of bed, and can be formed from the Bandwagon effect, biased based on a culture.
So even if downvotes and/or it being closed is generally an implication that a question is bad, it's not conclusive, and nor does it mean the question was not salvageable.
Also, people voting to close/flag will likely also downvote. Such votes may have an accurate bearing on the question quality, but only if the reason they are closing is valid. If there is a true culture here for closing too quickly, then those downvotes might arguably be based on that culture and could instead perhaps have edited and not downvoted?
I'm not saying any of this is definitive, just food for thought.
IMO Community moderation is about members who frequent a site and know it well helping those who do not. Editing to make improvements, guiding people to use the site correctly, making the site great by working at getting good Q&A pairs.
I know specific points were made, but there are no obstacles to the simplistic idea and attempt of people spending a bit more time identifying if a question can be salvageable and editing it, rather than just closing it down as quickly as possible.
Just IMO :)