Lately I stumbled about a number of questions like this simple java question that got closed pretty fast.

For me it is quite clear what is being asked here, so I do not understand why that question got closed.

Another example set up routing automatically got closed very fast - this does not even give the chance to improve the question.

I would like to understand why this happens here (and on SF, too). Lately (my feeling: this started about two months ago).

Have we a spike in users who recently earned the close-vote-right?

  • 5
    I don't think this opinion is enough for an answer, but: there is little cost to erring on the side of caution when closing questions, but there is a pretty heavy cost on closing too many -- to the site's reputation, to how users feel about the site, etc.
    – Chris Down
    Jan 3, 2014 at 9:33

4 Answers 4


In any case, since the change a few months ago when "Closing" became putting "On Hold", closing a question is not such a big deal. Note that the message it is closed with is (emphasis mine):

put on hold as unclear what you're asking by slm, Anthon, terdon, jasonwryan, rahmu yesterday

Please clarify your specific problem or add additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it’s hard to tell exactly what you're asking.

If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question or leave a comment.

As soon as anyone edits a question that has been put on hold, it appears in the Reopen review queue and so is brought to the attention of those users with enough rep to reopen it. Putting a question on hold is basically a way of telling the OP that it needs editing. If the question is improved, it will likely be reopened quickly.

As explained in the help center:

Questions that need additional work or that are not a good fit for this site may be put on hold by experienced community members. While questions are on hold, they cannot be answered, but can be edited to make them eligible for reopening.

Questions that are edited within five days of being put on hold are automatically added to a reopening queue for community review. Questions that are not reopened within five days will change from [on hold] to [closed].

The relevant meta.SE post is here.

  • 1
    So that new "on hold" state changed the general attitude to press "close" faster?
    – Nils
    Jan 2, 2014 at 8:06
  • @Nils yeah, that's kinda the idea. Since it is no longer closed and it's been made easier to reopen, we tend to put on hold more quickly.
    – terdon Mod
    Jan 2, 2014 at 12:14
  • 2
    @Nils, terdon: actually there is very little difference between “on hold” and “closed”. The only difference is that the first edit (if any) during the “on hold” period pushes the question onto the reopen queue. This didn't start happening with the wording change, so the wording change has had absolutely no impact on the impact of closing a question. Jan 2, 2014 at 17:57
  • @Gilles the combination of wording change and auto-reopen thang make closing different. At any rate, I seem to recall some meta threads on Stack Overflow and Super User explaining how putting on hold should not be perceived as too aggressive.
    – terdon Mod
    Jan 2, 2014 at 23:12

As one of the people that voted to close this I'll comment as to my rationale. This question has a number of issues with it.

  1. For starters it's overly broad. There are a number of reasons that java might not be working on this users system.
  2. It shows little effort/research as to possible reasons why.
  3. Though would solve this user's problem, this type of question is of little value to future visitors, given it's likely a very specific problem with this user's environment/setup.

I realize this question might seem answerable, but I personally feel we should resist the urge to answer a question just because we perceive it to be easy to answer. Questions like this tend to create meandering answers that are of little value to our site and to future visitors.

Rather I'd like to see more durable and canonical questions and answers since what we produce on this site will stand the test of time.

I can't tell you how many times I've come across essentially garbage on other SE sites that is either wrong, or barely answered, or dated material that no one has bothered to care for or correct as time has passed.

Better to close things like this early and often than to let it pile up on us.

Just my $0.02.


The OP asked the following in comments.

Ok - so the real reason here would be: This lacks in quality and/or research. BUT in this particular case - it is quite common to have a java bundled somewhere in some location you do not know of. I will try to edit that question...

To which I replied:

The research is excusable, since many users do not fully understand things so I can overlook that. But IMO:

  • what do these Q's bring to the site in terms of a slightly different take on a topic that we've covered pretty extensively already?
  • does it offer future visitors some alternative value that our current inventory of Q&A is lacking?

From my experience these types of Q's are low value to others, since they'll likely meander, have a 1/2 dozen answers and basically become a mess to maintain, prompting new visitors to re-ask rather than try and extract value out of this one.

  • Ok - so the real reason here would be: This lacks in quality and/or research. BUT in this particular case - it is quite common to have a java bundled somewhere in some location you do not know of. I will try to edit that question...
    – Nils
    Dec 29, 2013 at 22:21
  • I added another example of a different question.
    – Nils
    Dec 29, 2013 at 22:44
  • @Nils - yeah that one I initiated the close. That's just a horrible question.
    – slm Mod
    Dec 29, 2013 at 23:59
  • 1
    @Nils, slm: Lack of effort is a reason to downvote, not to close. Jan 2, 2014 at 17:54
  • @Gilles - yes but lack of effort in framing the Q or taking the time to understand it so that it's a coherent Q was more what I was aiming at with that comment in #2.
    – slm Mod
    Jan 2, 2014 at 18:49

It's best to close questions quickly when they are not suitable in their current form, and to reopen them quickly if they become suitable.

The java question was perfectly comprehensible in its original form and should not have been closed. In its current form, it is actually too messy to reopen — it invalidates the existing answer and contains its own answer. Given that this is a pretty low-value question and the original asker no longer needs help I see no need to expend any effort to make this question reopenable.

I disagree with the closing of the route question and voted to reopen. We discussed it briefly in chat.

Both of these questions are basic, beginner questions, but answerable. This site (unlike Server Fault) is not explicitly elitist and does not reject basic questions.

You claim that “[closing] does not even give the chance to improve the question”, but in fact, it's the opposite. Closing a question does not prevent it from being edited, and increases the incentive that the asker will edit it into shape. When a closed question is edited, it is pushed onto the reopen queue, where voters can decide to reopen (and this usually happens pretty quickly on all sites).

  • @Nils - Gilles point is probably the best reason, to guard a poorly worded Q from being answered too soon, until the actual Q has had a chance to be properly formulated! I think many associate closed as some sort of final state, when it's just another state that the Q can go into, and come out of.
    – slm Mod
    Jan 2, 2014 at 18:52
  • This reopen mechanism seems to be largely unknown. In the review queue I see mostly close tasks.
    – Nils
    Jan 2, 2014 at 21:55

This is a general answer for closing questions fast:

I'm envious of U&L precisely for this. You got the guys with enough close votes and can close promptly questions when they see they are unanswerable in their current form. If I had close votes or was able to catch the question I would put this question in the close queue pretty fast. This allows the moderators to get a rest and stuff.

Closing questions fast is not a bug, is a feature. Most of SE sites live with a certain backlog, and if the question needs to be closed, close it (tm). I prefer close questions fast then reopening, than a backlog of (very) bad questions clutter the site for long time.

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