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Should we remove closed questions from the question list?

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Should we exclude closed questions from the question list?

Closed questions (and their answers) would still be linked on the owners' profiles, would be included in search results, and would produce the usual notifications from activity on them. This change would only be to get them out of the main view.

If a question is closed and being worked on (to fix the issues), this lets the author do so out of view. If the issues that caused it to be closed are addressed and the question is reopened, it returns to view. Meanwhile, it's not "in the way" and likely not attracting more downvotes. ("I know it's broken; you don't need to keep telling me!", the author might be thinking in response to more and more downvotes while trying to edit.)

If a question is closed and not being worked on to fix the issues, then it's unlikely to be helpful for it to be listed. While it sometimes happens that a third party sees a question, knows what the author was trying to ask, and fixes it (I've done this), it's uncommon. I can think of a few options we might consider to mitigate this: search by closure status, a filter, a user preference, show to people with the Curate ability. I'd like to understand how big a concern it is first and then we can decide what to do about it.

This question is not meant to preclude other housekeeping automation. I'm asking if withdrawing closed questions from the main public view would be a useful first step.

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This suggestion is similar (3 comments)

5 answers

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I believe Somewhere Else only high-rep. users can see Closed Questions (except their own). I think that is a pointlessly elitist attitude, for lack of a better term. On the other hand, I realize that generally speaking, Closed Questions are just needless clutter to most users, most of the time.

I suggest an easy way to toggle viewing of Closed Questions on/off on the main post page, with default for new users and non-logged-in users of "off". In addition to a toggle that anyone can use, at any time, include a User Profile option to determine the default configuration for that user (either per Community or global - whichever is easiest to implement).

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SE closed questions visibility & general proposal feedback (1 comment)
the toggle is a filter (1 comment)
+7
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Closed questions should remain visible to the general users (unregistered and first-time users is a different issue). Reasons:

  1. It avoids site policy being enacted "behind closed doors".
  2. It illustrates what the norms are. Seeing what questions got closed can be useful, especially for new users, to understand what's allowed and what's not.
  3. It allows discussion of what should be closed. If questions get closed and then silently disappear, most users won't have the chance to argue on meta that the question shouldn't have been closed.
  4. If you're worried about your closed question accumulating more downvotes, too bad. That's a consequence of writing a bad question. You can always fix it or delete it.
  5. It allows others to suggest changes in comments.

Response to comments

What do you think about the suggestion in this answer of having a toggle?

I don't have a problem with a toggle, since that's something individual users choose to do. The default should be to see closed questions. If that bothers someone enough, then they can shut that off is they wish. They should, though, first see what it's like when seeing everything. That way they should have a better idea of what they're not going to see, and what the consequences of that might be.

This has to weighed against the first site impression of new users

Right, which is why I said in the first sentence "unregistered and first-time users is a different issue".

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New user experience (2 comments)
toggle? (1 comment)
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I argue no, because in my experience, closed questions often (in fact VERY often) have answers that are extremely valuable.

I have often searched for a question, found a closed duplicate, and the answers to it were more helpful for what I wanted than the answers to the original question.

Also, I tend to think people are (more than) a little too fast to deem a question a duplicate. At least on SE, it often happens that if two questions are about the same equation, they'll get marked as duplicates even if the question about the equation is different. Ideally such things wouldn't get marked as duplicates, but I think that's hoping for too much. So long as they do get marked as duplicates, and get helpful answers, I don't think we should be throwing away those helpful answers for the user or anyone else who comes along later and finds these duplicates.

Besides duplicates sometimes questions are closed because they are judged not appropriate to the community (like philosophical questions in the math community). I often find that the people who answer these before the question is closed give extremely valuable and satisfying answers. Again, I think it would be an unnecessary waste to throw these answers away.

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+3
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Yes

I have been thinking about this for a while, even before Codidact existed and I think the hard reality is that it is almost impossible to have a "one size fits all" (what SE is basically trying) that works fine for everyone involved. Most of the time, it is a huge gap between newbies and experts and it is very difficult to ensure a satisfying experience for all.

Lundin has provided a way better explanation to support this idea in this post than I can possibly sustain in my answer. So, if you did not read that post, please do read it.

SE itself has a working version of this idea by using a Sandbox on Worldbuilding. I have tried it myself and it was a good experience (i.e. improved a question and asked it on the main site). However, the sandbox mechanics involves a few manual steps which are not that easy for an inexperienced user.

My proposal for such a "sandbox" (or similar, maybe "staging area" would sound better) is the following:

  • allow a question to be _moved _to the "sandbox" when being closed. Maybe add a checkbox in the close reason window. Anyone who can flag can also have such a checkbox to signal that the question should be moved to the "sandbox"
  • define the sandbox as a special question category that is accessible to all members. Maybe put a link in the right column, but not to be mixed with the "normal categories"
  • moving a question to the sandbox will also: remove all votes from it (maybe even disable voting for sandbox items, temporarily or entirely), notify the OP and the folks that left some comments. Existing answers do not make much sense in the sandbox, but they should be restored when the questions comes back to its normal category.
  • we can have more freedom in regard to the comments in the sandbox area (e.g. partially answer to this request).
  • the OP or another user with enough privilege can flag the question for it to be copied to its original category. Comments should not be copied. Votes start from 0/0.

The advantage such a system has over WorldBuilding's Sandbox is that the platform will natively support the sandbox concept. Another advantage is that the (typically newbie) user would not have to do any special action to follow this flow (these steps will be ensured by curators who in turn are helped by the platform to ensure a consistent flow).

The only significant disadvantage I see is the development effort:

  • move/clone functionality for a post and related entities
  • customizing of voting behavior (partial or total disable of voting)
  • proper notifications for everyone involved
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Move/clone functionality is not that hard to do. I believe customizing of voting behavior per categor... (2 comments)
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No, we should not completely remove them from the question list, making them effectively private or moving them to a dedicated category.

While the purpose of these actions seems to be to give these questions some respite as well as increase the quality of the question list at the same time, these goals can be achieved more easily (and elegantly if you ask me) with filters. Filters give more freedom to everyone and will better integrate with other possible goals.

I propose to:

  • have the ability to filter for close status in the question list (three way toggle: only closed, only non-closed, both with non-closed as the default)
  • set closed posts as not votable, until they are reopened
  • eventually remove closed questions that are unlikely to be helpful and could not get reopened within some time

The rationale behind would be:

  • average quality of question list is increased with default filter view
  • it's possible to help closed questions by toggling the view and looking at closed questions
  • it can be combined with all other possible filters
  • closed posts get less attention and more time to get fixed, no need to vote on them while they are getting fixed
  • some closed posts can be made ontopic and can become valuable content, with or without the help of other users
  • closed posts that do not get improved, can be eventually removed

Therefore, I think that we should concentrate on the filter functionality of the software. If it does not support this operations currently it should be enhanced and the UI of it should be discussed (an expandable/collapsible filter panel maybe).

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