Lately, I'm seeing a lot of questions in the review queue which are marked for closure due to being 'too localized', or 'not a real question'.

Some of these are marked on the same day they're asked, and some already have answers.

If the question is bad -- fix it and/or comment and/or or vote it down.

(As Luis Alvarado suggests, showing a new user how the site should be used, how good questions are written, or giving other constructive guidance in comments is ideal.)

If someone is quickly able to answer a question, it seems likely* that there was a real, answerable question. If it has generated a quick response (upvotes, comments, good-bad-mediocre answers), it seems likely* that it affects more than a extremely narrow subpopulation, and it certainly hasn't been abandoned. (*I'm assuming answerers are rational, altruistic, and that other optimal (if unlikely) conditions are being met -- but the general point remains.)

Some of these questions are being flagged so rapidly that there is no way that a reasonably large group of potential editors or answerers has even seen them.

Even if a question is astoundingly ignorant, it still may prove enlightening for the similarly placed searcher.

If a question is badly expressed but still obvious, or layered under meandering narrative, or not explicit, just fix it: edit it, leave a useful comment. In some cases, vote it down. On seeing a really bad question, you can even just run away. All better than voting to close with slim justification.

Don't use the option to close as a cudgel, a reaction to a substandard or badly formulated query. This prevents any possible good coming out of bad but relevant questions. (And if it's a bad question because it's a duplicate, take the extra 75 seconds to find the duplicate and mark it as such.)

I don't know if there are good counter-arguments, but I think this practice is harmful and misuses the tools we've got.

  • 2
    Indeed. In the past week most of my votes in the close vote queue seem to have gone to the 'leave open' option. This has gotten quite silly and a bit too aggressive in my opinion. Commented Jun 7, 2013 at 13:09
  • Related: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/181040/…
    – belacqua
    Commented Jun 21, 2013 at 0:03
  • This whole topic is one of the most toxic things about SE tbh, and is a major factor in why I am a less frequent contributor.
    – Charlie
    Commented Apr 20, 2020 at 18:33

5 Answers 5


This is my personal opinion, but if it is a bad question, you would first comment on it. It would be a first step to tell the user how he/she can improve the question. Voting it down is just like punishing the user instead of suggesting how the user can improve it. I for one am against voting down as a first measure unless it really deserves it (Cases where the user disagrees over an obviously problematic, misleading or completely erroneous question and simply ignores for days).

Now for closing, that is even worse than voting down. Instead of punishing the user, you are actually killing this new user from enjoying the site or even having at least one chance of learning how to use the site. Most users come from forum-like sites and think this is a forum-like place. Others are used to chats. So closing the question down (Even before it has 24 hours or enough time to get feedback from the user after posting a comment) should not be encouraged.

In both cases, the first step, the step that helps the new user learn how to use the site and makes use of the community as a helping tool should be the comment. After this, a period of time should be given to the user to answer (He/She could be working, traveling, studying in the real world). Down votes should only be used (This applies to questions/answers) when it creates a problem where even suggestions to improve it are dismissed by the user (This should be taken with a grain of salt since there are many cases, this is just an example).

So I like your suggestion but voting it down should not be the first road to take.

  • 4
    Fully agree to this. I regularly go through my "Activities" history to see the outcome from my comments. If nothing was edited I can then still cast my vote. With clear dupes this is different as pointing to the dupe usually does help the questioner.
    – Takkat
    Commented Jun 7, 2013 at 6:53
  • 1
    I strongly agree. We should all adopt your ideas on this topic. people are too quick to downvote. At one point, I quit using StackExchange site because of these problems. I am currently not using StackOverflow because I am blocked due to one question that got pelted with downvotes. Commented Jun 9, 2013 at 12:40

I think both Luis and Nanne are right in some sense. But their views are different because this site is contradictory in nature and it is this contradiction that has leads to problems, not different views by participants. Namely, while the aim of the site is "to build a library of detailed answers to every question about Ubuntu" it is presented to new users as a some sort of a help desk. Then also result often ends up more like irc chat log than kind of collectively produced FAQ database.

Firstly, I have seen several times that when Ubuntu is introduced then it is accompanied with something like "when you run into trouble ask the good folks at askubuntu". Also now the new Ubuntu site refers to this site by "Ask" with exclamation in the end. The message seems to be: "go there and ask your question". Considering the aim of the site the message should be more like: "go there to find answer to your problem" - that may or may not including posting your own question.

Secondly, when people get to the site they are not given information on the site, how to behave well and also how get what they need. They are left alone to make up their own minds. Yes, there is "help" and "about" section but most Ubuntu adopters (and especially those that make their Ubuntu unbootable in the first 24 hours) are most likely tech enthusiasts. And those are not the sort of people who read the manual first. When looking at the site without background knowledge it looks like chat room. All the features that would be useful for finding already available information are tiny, unnoticeable and not emphasized.

The result is frustrating and wasteful both for people who are in trouble and to those that are able to help. Lots of excellent guides for beginners already exist but ironically most of them really become accessible to users when they have become also much more experienced. On the same time noobs are invited to behave so that often somebody must say they did something wrong. Being friendly in such situation is a good thing but I am sure there could be more efficient ways to socialize new users to this awesome site! And that I say from my own experience of being a noob, gradually learning how the site works and starting to provide answers to other people.

  • 1
    Actually, new users and users that aren't logged in get a big banner that points them to the about page and help center, essentially giving them a tour of how the site works. Users are not just "left alone".
    – Seth
    Commented Jun 10, 2013 at 23:28
  • 5
    I took a look at it and I stick with my argument. That big banner is as ignorable as all kind of other banners that people are shown above and between forum threads (or on any other site that provides contents). Sites flooded with ads has trained people to look for the "beef" and go for the "beef". When there is black screen at boot and fair of loosing data, they are unlikely attracted by a banner that promises to teach them something irrelevant to that problem. So, I did not say information is not available but that it is very likely ignored.
    – Tanel Mae
    Commented Jun 11, 2013 at 5:46

While I agree this side of the argument has a valid point (for instance, driving away certain users), there is a counter argument that is exactly the same: driving away users.

The success of the site is not in the amount of question askers, but also in the amount of answers and the quality of those questions. Sure, stackoverflow drives away some users, but it also keeps some high value users that answer interesting question.

There is very little worth in drive-by questioners and help-vampires that just ask one super-duplicate question to get a quick answer: but the effect it has on other people can be that they keep on seeing the same, uninteresting question, and don't bother to come back and help anymore.

You need to stop all these bad questions to come up, and yes, downvoting and closing is a tool for that. Keep in mind that this is not a forum where you can just open a thread for yourself, the goal is to obtain valid knowledge in question/answer form.

So yes, I agree that this 'behaviour' is bad for some (e.g. the new users who did not read the FAQ, are not providing interesting/new questions or do not bother to put in some effort), but it protects some others (interested parties) who are willing to answer complitcated problems and help make this site a repository of knowledge.

  • 1
    Voting to close makes the bad question more visible and more of a time waster for the 'high value users' you're concerned about. If a question is flagged, it wastes time for more users than leaving a comment or downvoting, as it is placed in the queue where it will stay until the moderation process is completed. If a question has less than zero total votes, it will be cleaned up by the system (in a month, if I understand correctly).
    – belacqua
    Commented Jun 10, 2013 at 18:17

I am a new user who's not very familiar with the way this site works but it seems like closed questions should still allow comments but perhaps not answers or additional upvotes/downvotes.

It is not obvious to a lot of new users what counts as on topic or off topic. Closed questions seem to just get a standard message tacked onto them with very little explanation ("Look at the FAQ"). This is not very helpful for new users.

  • 1
    Closed questions still do allow comments and up/down votes.
    – Seth
    Commented Jun 18, 2013 at 16:23
  • @dave -- Re. offtopic questions, etc. -- figuring this out adequately takes a long time, and is a bit of a slowly moving target as the community evolves. Is the 'help' link at the top of the main site page useful in this regard?
    – belacqua
    Commented Jun 18, 2013 at 16:30

Personally, I think this should be the right way on how to face the new questions/answers:

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[click on image to enlarge]

Source: http://tex.blogoverflow.com/2012/04/voting-up-voting-down/

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