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Comments on Can we streamline the process for closed bad questions?

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Can we streamline the process for closed bad questions?

+3
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This is related to my other question, https://software.codidact.com/posts/291064. In that I argued we shouldn't close vague or confused questions, so that other people can post an answer if they want.

The current process is that if someone closes the question, you can't answer at all. You could technically try to abuse comments to post an answer, but that goes against the normal way of using the site. You have to flag for reopen, wait for it to be reopened, and post your answer then.

The problem I see with this are:

  1. Reopening takes a while, usually a few days. By then, I may forget about it, or lose the motivation to answer, or no longer have the time to answer. If our goal is to make it as easy as possible for experts to share knowledge, this goes against that goal.
  2. Reopen flags are not a very transparent process. When I flag to reopen, I have no idea what's happening with that flag. I think on SO you would get a notification when it gets approved/rejected, but I don't think we even get that here. More importantly, what if the mod reviewing my flag does not understand why it should be reopened? Are they going to message me so we can discuss it? How do I even know if anyone looked at the flag? When you complain about a closure, often people say "fix the question and flag to reopen", but the reopen honestly feels like a rain dance.
  3. Reopen flags are insular. I can't easily see who else flagged to reopen and when. I can't message them so we can work together on fixing the question. Best I can do is start a comment thread and hope they see it - I don't think comments on a question you flagged currently generate a notification.
  4. The several-day embargo on answers while you wait for a reopen flag is just too much, IMO. No offense, but a lot of these questions are not that important - especially the ones that end up closed. They're small, simple things - sometimes you see one, you have a few minutes to kill, you figure "what the hell, might as well help the poor guy". I'm not going to create homework for myself by saving my answer somewhere, marking it on my calendar to review it a couple of days, and if reopened post it then - I have plenty of other homework as it is. My claim is that I'm not the only one, and as a site we're missing out on plenty of decent answers and helped newbies with the current closure system.

What can be done to streamline the "bad question-closed-improved-reopened-answered" loop, if anything at all? If you feel it is already perfect, "nothing" is a valid answer - I just don't want to debate that in this question, since I feel like it could be done in the other one already.

I'm not asking about:

  • Questions that are bad beyond being fixable (obviously they should stay closed and be deleted)
  • Question that can be fixed, but the original asker disappears and never bothers to address feedback
  • Questions where you feel it would be bad to answer at all - if the question shouldn't be answered for whatever reason, closing and preventing answers is obviously the correct action
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2 comment threads

<blockquote>so that other people can post an answer if they want.</blockquote> That's exactly what... (3 comments)
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Reopening takes a while, usually a few days.... If our goal is to make it as easy as possible for experts to share knowledge, this goes against that goal. ...a lot of these questions are not that important - especially the ones that end up closed. They're small, simple things... I'm not going to create homework for myself by saving my answer somewhere, marking it on my calendar to review it a couple of days, and if reopened post it then - I have plenty of other homework as it is.

This is largely missing the point. These questions are, indeed, by and large, "not that important" - which is exactly why they are also not urgent.

When Codidact started, a deliberate decision was made to keep the Q&A format and try to fix problems within that format, rather than deciding that it would be better to go back to something more like a traditional forum model. (For those who do see value in that model, the original creator of Stack Overflow ended up creating forum software called Discourse; I've used at least two such forums, and I find the software works very well.)

It's a mistake, in a Q&A environment, to expect responses to be both personalized and fast. At current site sizes, there just aren't enough people around to give a fast answer, even if every expert on every site felt compelled to answer every question they knew how to answer. At scale, on the other hand, experts' time is better spent on answering better questions, improving existing questions and answers, devising new questions to self answer, etc. In other worse, curation of a searchable resource.

And that really is the point of a Q&A site: if you waive the expectation of personalized assistance, you can get a fast answer. In fact, you can get a high-quality answer much faster than on a forum - because you just search for it, and it's already there. The answer quality is high in large part because the question quality is high - higher than most people who actually need the answer, are willing (or perhaps even able) to produce.

This is not to say, of course, that there is no place for personalized assistance. The Stack Overflow Meta community answer (which doesn't seem to be very well respected by the general Stack Overflow userbase) is that this place is not on Stack Overflow. (Or that was the answer, at least - now everyone is trying to figure out what to make of the new Discussions feature that staff foisted on them.) My personal answer, on the other hand... should be the subject of a separate post here. ;)


All of that said, yes, I can definitely see ways to streamline the process, and no good reason why it should be intentionally not streamlined.

As things currently stand, as far as I'm aware, question closure is only done unilaterally - whether by moderators or curators. For these cases, it would go a long way to have petitions (whether in the form of flags by the OP, or some other system) for reopening directed to the closer. Rather than spamming these individuals with fresh notifications if the question is repeatedly edited (or the OP gets impatient), it would make sense to present these users with a default view that puts such questions (i.e., ones which they themselves closed and which are currently nominated for reopening) at the top.

Further, if someone else opts to reopen the question, both the OP and the original closer should be notified by the usual mechanism.

Rather than others flagging questions to reopen them, it would make more sense to implement a community voting procedure. Unlike with individual votes, and more like reactions, I think it makes sense for the system to show the identity of those with pending close votes, and those with pending reopen votes on a closed question. (However, I do not support the idea of including countering votes; there should not be votes in this mechanism to keep an open question open or a closed question closed.)

Finally, in case of warring over the reopening or re-closing of a post, moderators should have the power to lock a post in the closed state.

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Close/reopen votes (2 comments)
Close/reopen votes

I don't like the idea of voting to close or reopen a question. It's an artifact from SE, where untrusted members acquire the privilege simply due to reaching enough reputation. That's not an issue, so we don't need that system in place to guard against these people.

That said, it's not always great to be carrying the sole responsibility, so I'm not opposed to find ways that will optionally make it so that multiple people weigh in, but I don't want it to be the default.

Karl Knechtel‭ wrote 2 months ago

In that case I'm afraid I can't really imagine what you have in mind. "Voting" on closure on SE really just means getting a specific number of people to weigh in. That's part of the point: it's not a process where everyone voices an opinion either for or against up front.

I don't think that "getting multiple people to weigh in" is simply a safeguard against underqualified people having the privilege (granted we have separately attempted to address that problem). I think it's a more general checks-and-balances thing than that.