It's good to get etiquette established early. I'd say that one big lesson from MathOverflow is that for people unused to the SO framework, getting a "vote to close" is like getting a kick in the face. So I'd like to encourage people who vote to close to leave some explanation in the comments. On MO, we try to do this even if the reason is really obvious (usually for those we can point to something in the FAQ). Of course, if there's a reason there already then simply voting for the reason is fine.

We've had a few debates about the etiquette of voting to close on meta.MO which may be worth a quick read.

  • One way would be to force a 50-character text-field to support the vote. Jul 28, 2010 at 11:01
  • 5
    @Yossi Farjoun: We discussed that a bit on MO; however, whilst there are clearly ways for the technology to encourage good behaviour, the best way is to get in to the habit of being good TeXizens right from the start. Jul 28, 2010 at 11:43

4 Answers 4


I think the other answers have addressed the reasons for voting to close. I would like to discuss the timing of it.

There have been a couple of questions that have been closed recently that I don't think should have been closed. In both cases, it seemed that one person cast a vote to close almost as a 'knee jerk reaction'. Some people may not know that as soon as a Close vote is cast, it appears in the Moderator Tools, so others (who have >10,000 reputation) can be immediately pointed to it. This can result in a question being closed prematurely if four other people jump on it straight away.

Closing a question too early, especially when it is closed incorrectly could be interpreted as unwelcoming or unfriendly.

I would like to propose that before we cast a closing vote, we post a comment, and then wait for confirmation (for a 'reasonable' amount of time) from the OP before closing.

  • Certainly fits with the usual approach to flagged material (usually given around 24 h unless the OP comes back to respond, or for cases like spam which are easy to see).
    – Joseph Wright Mod
    Sep 6, 2012 at 20:46

I completely agree with explaining why we vote to close.

But perhaps another part of the answer might be to revise the close reasons themselves. Here are the two big ones:

Subjective and argumentative

It's impossible to objectively answer this question; questions of this type are too open ended and usually lead to confrontation and argument.

This one has always bothered me because it indicates that subjective questions are bad. That's nonsense. Many subjective questions are perfectly acceptable and should not be closed. For example, something like "what is the preferred way to handle Unicode text in TeX" is subjective, but it's also a real question where the answers can contribute useful information. It doesn't matter that the question can't be objectively answered, as long as subjective answers are useful.

If the text was revised to emphasize the "argumentative" aspect, which should be avoided, and is a valid reason to close, we would probably get more disciplined close behavior as well. Subjectivity is only bad when it leads to argumentative questions/answers.

Not a real question

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form.

This one has the problem that closing the question might not be the best way to go. Perhaps the question can be edited or revised, either by the OP or by any high-rep user. Again, this wording might encourage excessive closing.

Of course, there is a point at which a question gets so nonsensical or vague that there is no way it can be salvaged. but this close reason in its current form seems to encourage us to close any question that starts out vague or ambiguous.

If we can narrow down the actual close reasons themselves, we could probably avoid a lot of the cases where a newcomer gets a "kick in the face" close vote.

  • Does anyone know if we can make such changes? Jul 31, 2010 at 19:10
  • No clue. But I hope so :)
    – jalf
    Aug 2, 2010 at 14:04

I very much agree with this. However, ultimately we can’t force high-reputation users to adhere to these guidelines. Now that’s no reason not to mention them in the FAQ (or elsewhere) but we have to be realistic … and my experience on Stack Overflow shows that some users are quite devoutly closing (and deleting) questions.

This has already been discussed on Meta Stack Overflow ad nauseam, e.g. Should ‘hidden features of X’ be removed/closed/locked? where I’ve also added my opinion:

I’m a bit fed up with these deletionists […]

(And although the rant is mainly about excessive deletion, the same is true for closing …)

  • 1
    I agree that we can't force anyone, but as the first people in the school, we can set the tone a little and lead by example. Jul 29, 2010 at 8:06

I don't view a vote to close as a kick in the face. In fact, does a user even know that there was a vote to close unless someone comments on it or it is actually closed? Someone voted to close of my questions and the only reason I know that is someone else disagreed in the comments. It certainly didn't hurt my feelings...this is the internet.

  • 2
    In fact, does a user even know that there was a vote to close unless someone comments on it or it is actually closed? – If you have reputation to "Vote to close, reopen, or migrate your questions", you can see the number of close votes, otherwise not. Aug 25, 2010 at 13:27
  • 4
    Ah, but not everyone who comes here will be quite so au fait with the internet as you! I agree that we shouldn't mollycoddle them, but from experience on MO, sometimes it's worth getting your defence in first. Aug 25, 2010 at 17:10

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .