We strive to be a friendly and rational community here, but the question below

was just closed as "Too broad".

This is a question that

  1. Has a minimal working example.
  2. Has a request for changing the spacing in the example.
  3. Has a frustrated "Please help me to make the rest of my life better" sentence.

On a purely literal meaning of 3, a comment was made by cfr (in jest) that making the OP's life better is off topic and too broad.

Suddenly people voted to close the questions as "Too broad". Since cfr herself didn't vote to close, I would bet that she was in fact being tongue in cheek, and wasn't seriously considering the question as too broad. [She has since confirmed this in chat].

So PLEASE people pay attention to the content of the question when you vote to close. There is absolutely no way in which this question can possibly be construed as too broad except by treating 3 completely literally. And if we can't understand basic pragmatics, well I give up.

Another explanation of this is robo-reviewing which is just as bad. And this is an issue that has been discussed before too:

The last explanation (which may be the correct one) is even worse: people voted to close the question in retaliation for a somewhat inappropriate and frustrated sounding title, even though this was commented on and very quickly fixed before more than one close vote had been registered.

This sort of vigilantism is INAPPROPRIATE. At best the question deserved the initial downvote that it got, but it never deserved being closed.

  • At best -> at worst? :-) Dec 18, 2015 at 1:36
  • 3
    I've come to believe that this is genuinely the 5 Monkeys and a Ladder problem.
    – percusse
    Dec 18, 2015 at 7:59
  • 2
  • 10
    My personal policy is generally not to vote for closing of any question which has not had at least 24 hours for OP response. When I find a truly (IMO) off topic question then I flag it for moderator attention. I would rather be friendly and helpful at the expense of delay in closing appropriately. Dec 19, 2015 at 20:13
  • 3
    @R.Schumacher Yes, thank you for this. I agree completely, and this policy has worked well for us for a long time. The volume of questions we receive doesn't warrant the super fast closing that is recommended on the larger sites. But in this case, it's people not even paying attention, or worse.
    – Alan Munn
    Dec 19, 2015 at 20:30
  • As far as I saw, the issue with the title was fixed before even one vote to close was cast. Unless the system was misleading in the way the page was displayed.
    – cfr
    Dec 21, 2015 at 3:12
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    One problem is that if you hit "skip" you can't come back the next day and vote again. Dec 21, 2015 at 17:29
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    @JohnKormylo That's a question for the whole SE network. But the fact that we have no questions on meta asking "Why wasn't this question closed sooner?" but many instances of invalid too-fast closings should tell you that one's inability to return to a question you've skipped is really a non-problem.
    – Alan Munn
    Dec 21, 2015 at 17:55
  • @AlanMunn 1. Vigilantism is a very real deterrent, particularly for LaTeX incompetents such as myself. And, as we all know, or should know, "posing" a problem is far from being always easy. 2. Vigilantism in {Tex} is way lower than in other SE exchanges, where, as it happened, I knew what I was asking about. 3. As painful as it was, though, I did learn from vigilantism. But don't tell anybody.
    – schremmer
    Mar 22, 2018 at 23:50

1 Answer 1


Let's review the complete original question to see of there's any reason to close it.

  • Title: "Just reducing the f***ing huge space before the first line"

    This is obscene language. Sean later took the time to clean it.

  • Question text: "Please help me to make the rest of my life better, found nothing here..."

    This is not a question.

  • Code: was added without formatting.

Do we want to have such questions on our site? Imagine not just a singular instance but hundreds of them.

So I don't have a problem to put this question on hold as it was done. From meta.SE: "This is meant to convey that the question requires improvement and may be reopened if improved. During this period, if the question is edited by the asker (now by anyone), it will be added to the reopen queue."

Maybe "too broad" is not the perfect close reason statement, but the other 4 predefined close reasons (off-topic, duplicate, opinion-based, unclear) are also not very applicable to it.

  • 5
    I'm sorry Stefan but this is basically revisionist history (no pun intended). The code formatting and title we fixed 7 minutes after the question was posted, and a comment was made within 5 minutes suggesting that the title wasn't an appropriate way to ask a question. The question at that point was in its final state and was certainly no worse than many other questions on the site. Furthermore, Sean posted a comment urging people to comment rather than downvote more, and to comment if you close voted, but no close voter did that.
    – Alan Munn
    Dec 25, 2015 at 17:26
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    Furthermore, when a few close votes started to accumulate I posted a comment appealing to people not to close, since there were not good reasons posted, but that clearly did not deter anyone, including yourself.
    – Alan Munn
    Dec 25, 2015 at 17:27
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    @AlanMunn It is still a code-only question body with just "Please help me to make the rest of my life better, found nothing here...". Even if the "f****ing" word has been removed by the community. Of course some users like me saw the swearing in the revision history since the first comment referred to the original title (and it was flagged as offensive). I still think putting on hold until the OP improved it or answered to one of the comments would be ok in this case.
    – Stefan Kottwitz Mod
    Dec 25, 2015 at 18:19
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    @AlanMunn Now we signaled: users may put "f***ing" words in the title, don't need to elaborate the question a bit, just quickly spit some code here with a complaint, and our community will take care of removing the offensive language, improving the wording, adding markup, and posting an elaborated answer. The OP did not show any reaction to the comments. Still the robo-closing is an issue, but this question is bad, there may be better examples.
    – Stefan Kottwitz Mod
    Dec 25, 2015 at 18:19
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    First of all, offensive titles are hardly a problem that will likely recur with any frequency, so the idea that fixing one creates a precedent for future bad behaviour is a bit of a stretch. As far as I can tell you are essentially admitting to my third reason: this was not robo-closing, but an attempt to teach the OP a lesson by closing the question. I'm sorry, but this is not the friendly TeX community I thought I was a part of.
    – Alan Munn
    Dec 25, 2015 at 18:25
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    @AlanMunn An "on hold" state for a low quality question is not completely bad. It requires to improve the question before an answer can be posted. A simple edit by the OP or anyone would have put it to the re-open queue, nearly a guarantee that it goes on. But no small edit happened after "on hold", it was just re-opened. So we got a long discussion, but nobody changed the thing about the rest of his life into a brief readable actual question.
    – Stefan Kottwitz Mod
    Dec 25, 2015 at 18:38
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    As a small point, I personally wrote my original comment because of the standoffishness and combativeness and the undertone of "LaTeX's a pain in the neck" that I thought the question as a whole was imbued with. I considered the naughty word in the title a component of that, although I don't personally dislike naughty words. I think the question body remained very terse after the edit, although the change in title gave the entire question a much less confrontational tone. On the whole I think the community fixed the question, but it still wasn't great.
    – Au101
    Dec 26, 2015 at 21:52
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    However, it certainly wasn't too broad, and I wouldn't have seen it closed. I didn't personally VTC, I just thought it was a slightly bad-faith question as posed. I'm also not sure the edits that had been made when it was closed had made it a good question, or entirely removed the air of bad faith. However, I think it should have stood. Anyway, my point in writing was to underline the sense of standoffishness, which I personally feel should be reflected as more important that one of the words which contributed to that sense.
    – Au101
    Dec 26, 2015 at 21:52
  • @AlanMunn I am all the way with you because I have seen fairly many cases, even in {TeX}, in which, although there was no closing or anything like that, there were comments and even answers which were completely beside the point and clearly showed that their author had barely read the question. (Privately, I call them "cowboys".) But some are graceful enough to recognize it.
    – schremmer
    Mar 23, 2018 at 0:05

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