It's the usual scenario: a newcomer to the site arrives and posts a polite, interesting and constructive question. Which doesn't have an objective answer. So the question is closed and the user gets a "Hi! Your question is inappropriate, can you edit it into something more suitable" form response.

I worry that the newcomer's response is likely to be "What the -?" The "Stack Exchange way" is hard to comprehend when you first arrive. Everyone, everyone posts a first question that turns out to be unsuitable. The new arrival has just been asked to edit their question for reasons that they don't really understand into a "better" form that may not be obvious to them at all.

Some people stick with the site and eventually "get it". Others, I'm sure, just think "how rude" and go off somewhere where they're appreciated.

If a long-time user posts inappropriate questions, they don't deserve any slack, but I think newcomers ought to be treated a bit less brusquely. Can we reformat their questions into something a bit closer to what we're looking for? On the one hand, extensive edits may seem a bit rude, but on the other, it can't be as bad as a big "[CLOSED]" and what amounts to an editorial line of "questions like this are not welcome here".

(I'm thinking of the recent closed question on Kids of Catan, if it wasn't already obvious.)


If you have strong reason to believe a moderate edit can turn a new, marginal question into something that's definitely on-topic, I say go for it.

If you'd have to completely re-write the question, probably best to leave it closed.


Closed != Deleted

It's on the path, but the two are different concepts. Closing a question does the following

  • Prevents answers
  • Allows Deletion votes

That's pretty much it! The following actions are not prohibited:

  • Editing
  • Commenting
  • Voting
  • Voting to reopen

Anyone is free to edit any closed question. If a good edit job is done, it will probably gather reopen votes. This very path occurs quite often on this site.

If you are trying to drum up support for a rule that would state, "A question cannot be closed from a new user, it must be edited" then I cannot support that. For one, the system doesn't support making that a rule. Secondly, a good editing job is not something that can be created out of thin air. This solution would devolve into leaving substandard questions open until someone stepped forward to fix it.

Substandard questions, especially of the list/recommendation/poll variety can quickly obtain many short, lousy answers that would no longer be valid once the question is edited. Then we'd need a policy to edit or delete those.

Closing a question provides a window of opportunity for the poster (or any interested party) to fix the question into a suitable one for this site and the StackExchange network.

I would urge anyone that feels strongly about the new user experience to jump right in and assist in editing their questions. Let's work together to make this a quality site. We've been told that lowering the bar to get more questions is not an option, therefore I strongly believe that leaving questions open in the hopes that they will get edited before devolving into a list of 20 one line answers is unworkable.

  • Thanks, that clarifies matters considerably! I guess I'm worried that "closed as not constructive" (or whatever) might look a bit critical to the newcomer who doesn't know any better. I agree that a first time poster could definitely post a terrible question that needs immediate and decisive closing; what we see in practice though tends to be well-meaning but naive questions. In the case of the question I was asking about, the OP seems to have agreed to edit it himself, but in future I may rush in to salvage similar questions: I'm taking this response as a go-ahead! – thesunneversets Aug 23 '11 at 13:45
  • @the anytime! I would agree that "closed" probably doesn't send the right message that properly encompasses that state. I haven't been able to come up with a better suggestion though. And yes, please edit away, open or closed. A good edit can turn a poor question into a good one, or an already popular question into a great one. – Pat Ludwig Aug 23 '11 at 13:54
  • I think this reinforces a number of concepts that we want users to understand: closing isn't the end of the road, editing can and will happen, quality is important, and explanations for why things happen should always be available. It's better to keep the quality up and creep toward the end of beta than to lower the bar and go live with a site that isn't going to survive. There are plenty of places to provide subpar content about games; this shouldn't be one of them. – Dave DuPlantis Aug 23 '11 at 14:03
  • @Dave: Except that users don't understand these things, and don't see that their questions are liable to open the floodgates to "subpar" content. The Kids of Catan question is a case in point, it was a polite, constructive, thought-through question that in no possible universe would have generated a ton of ridiculous competing answers. Its unsuitability for the site is quite subtle, and taking a gruff hardline approach is, IMO, just going to drive potential quality users away. – thesunneversets Aug 23 '11 at 14:10
  • @thesun, that's the challenge of building the site to full strength. There's no way for us to tell which users simply didn't think to read the FAQ and which ones couldn't care less how the community is designed ... and no way to explain to veteran users why their question X was closed and a new user's question X1 was left open. I'm not saying we should close-and-ignore such questions, but rather that they should be closed with an explanation of what's missing and what we're looking for ... as Pat said, "closed" is somewhat abrupt, but that's SE for you. – Dave DuPlantis Aug 23 '11 at 14:14
  • @the - I disagree somewhat. Here is an example of somewhat similar question asking about house rules to solve a problem. The OP fixed the question the next day. It was too late to prevent a spate of low quality answers. Anyone supplying an awesome answer to that question now will have to face the prospect of appearing at the bottom of a long page and hoping for upvotes. – Pat Ludwig Aug 23 '11 at 14:16
  • Heh, just realized I could at least address the last part of my last comment by liberally sprinkling some downvotes on folks that didn't appear to answer based on personal experience. That will make it easier for an awesome answer to get traction. – Pat Ludwig Aug 23 '11 at 14:19
  • I find the "personal experience" criterion quite mystifying, I have to say - you can have a valid, rigorously-thought-out answer about a game you've never even played, IMO. But I just went back and looked at those answers and yes, there are too many of them and it's an ugly mess. I think the question is more to blame than the responders, but sadly it got a good few upvotes :P – thesunneversets Aug 23 '11 at 14:24
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    @the - you can have a valid, rigorously thought out answer, but answers with no experience are near worthless on average. Folks will pontificate about most anything given a chance, and that's cool ... on a forum. – Pat Ludwig Aug 23 '11 at 14:37
  • @Pat: But as usual, what this is all coming down to is punishing actual valid, rigorously thought out questions and answers because they come in a form that is on average near worthless. I don't understand why we can't use our intelligence to praise good questions and punish bad ones, instead of praising things that come in an approved shape, and punishing things that fail to fit that shape. The guidelines turn into the rules, and sometimes that makes me sad. – thesunneversets Aug 23 '11 at 14:40
  • @the - I disagree that the question is valid and well thought out and that is ultimately why I closed it. The system allows this. It also allows you to vote to reopen. I've been overturned before, it's cool. We each get to use the tools the site gives everyone to shape it. – Pat Ludwig Aug 23 '11 at 14:51
  • @Pat: Agreed! Sorry to have prolonged this in-comments debate, I guess I must just be in a debate-y mood today :D – thesunneversets Aug 23 '11 at 14:54
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    @the - no, this has been valuable! I hope I have time after digesting this a bit further to edit some of this into my answer to make it more better. – Pat Ludwig Aug 23 '11 at 14:59

I suggest that questions from "new" users (basically anyone with less than 50-100 reputation) be put into a "review" category, for review by senior members of the site.

This could function much like a temporary "close" (that prevents answers) without calling it that. There would be a message that says "Welcome to the site. We review all questions from new users for suitability." There is, in fact, such a process for edits by people with low "rep."

One of three things could happen. 1) A moderator could deem the question "suitable" and quickly take it out of review. Then the message would be, "This question is suitable for the site, keep up the good work."

2) The question could be put in queue to be "fixed" by reviewers, after which a message is sent, "In its original form, the question was unsuitable because it was off topic/subjective/too localized or whatever. It has been modified and is now suitable for the site."

3) The question goes from "under review" to "closed." The message would be: The question was unsuitable for the site because..., and our reviewers were unable to sufficiently improve it."

  • It seems to me that your suggestion would simply add complexity to the existing process without addressing what I think is the OP's concern, which is that low-quality content from new users is closed with a standard comment. – Dave DuPlantis Aug 31 '11 at 20:09
  • @Dave: I'm saying, let's "freeze" postings by newbies until they're reviewed (we do this now with EDITS). Then a moderator could 1) "release" it with little or no editing. 2) put it "up" for editing by us or 3) close it if we can't fix it. Let's fix what we can fix, and close what we can't. In battlefield terminology, it's called "triage." – Tom Au Aug 31 '11 at 21:35

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