I just wanted to remind everyone that this site is in a tricky position with only 1000 questions in one year. I think that, in the interest of building a critical mass of content and active users we should always err on the side of inclusiveness when flagging questions.

One heuristic that might be beneficial is to give added benefit of the doubt to users that come with a network association bonus. They are much more likely to respond to comments to work to bring their question on-topic than are many of the drive-by "help me!" 1-rep users.

For example, right now 11 of the newest 15 questions are On Hold. I reviewed a few and voted to reopen one that I think had no compelling reason to be held.

(This was also one that was held by the vote of one mod, so I'm also pausing here to remind the pro-tems that their "votes" are immediately binding. My personal opinion is that they should therefore exercise extra discretion in unilaterally closing when there is any room for question: It is often better to leave a comment saying, "I would vote to close this because X," but wait for at least one other user to vote to close before actually closing.)

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    Don't have time to write up an answer, but I both agree and disagree here. We should not be inclusive of things that don't match our quality and scope requirements - if that's a problem, let's change the guidelines. We should be careful to apply those guidelines correctly - but we shouldn't tip-toe around it. Remember, we're a recommendation site, one of only two of its kind on the network. We have to have a hard line, and we have to enforce it.
    – user1
    Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 16:24
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    I'm gonna echo @undo - while I generally agree that mods should be wary of closing unilaterally, this site is an exception to that rule because of its situation as a recommendation site - the "black sheep" of the network. It's fairly clear if you look at numbers that without mod closures, there would be a lot more off-topic and/or low-quality questions still open here, which would leave us in an untenable situation quality-wise.
    – ArtOfCode
    Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 16:55
  • I think the issue could be that aside from some specific set of questions, most questions on hardwarerecs.SE might be subjective. If I was a mod I'd be confused whether to close subjective questions (and thus potentially have very little unclosed questions), or keep them (and then have an on-topic policy that may itself be more subjective than it needs to be) Commented Oct 6, 2016 at 23:10

3 Answers 3


I'm echoing undo's sentiment, in that I both agree and disagree.

I agree that...

...we should try to be helpful where possible. I used to leave pro-forma comments on any post I closed; I don't know what stopped me doing that, but I'll try to get back to doing that.

I also (partially) agree with your sentiment about network users. I've found that we get just as many, if not more, off-topic questions from network users as from new 1-rep users - so there's not much to judge there. However, network users are more likely to respond to comments, which is an angle I hadn't thought of.

but I disagree that...

...we should be inclusive of posts that don't match our requirements. Remember, closure is not a punishment, and reopening is just as easy. We deliberately close questions quickly here, because that's the tool we have to prevent us being swamped by low-quality questions and equally low-quality answers. I don't think we need to change that; if a user is capable of engaging, editing their question, and being generally cooperative and willing to help, then it's easy to get a question reopened. I'm also open to flags, where I've closed a question, to say "hey, I've edited this question and I think it's better now, can you review it?". Even if it's not yet possible to reopen the question, I'll provide some feedback in response to that.

(In response to your parenthetical, I'll echo my comment: I am acutely aware that my "vote" is binding, but because of our situation within the network and our susceptibility to low-quality or off-topic content, I think we need early closures. We don't, yet, have enough users capable of closing questions quickly enough for our purposes; once we do I will be only too happy to back off.)

  • Considering that the site currently gets ~4 questions/day, I'd suggest that editing should be the first option you pick, not closing. When you're dealing with large sites like Stack Overflow, there simply isn't time to fix every question. But if 11/15 questions are going to be closed and deleted (soon), there's something wrong. Yes, a lot of those questions can't really be answered well. But take e.g. this question - while it's not technically a "recommendation" question, it could either be rephrased as one or implicitly taken as one.
    – hichris123
    Commented Sep 10, 2016 at 3:11
  • @hichris123 I completely agree that editing should take precedence over closing. The thing is, though, we're already making a huge effort to get authors of poorly worded or off-topic questions to rephrase. Editing for improvement just doesn't happen often enough and the OP is the only one that can make any significant phrasing change to their question.
    – Adam
    Commented Sep 10, 2016 at 15:42
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    Considering that of the 10 most recently closed questions, only 3 have a comment providing any sort of guidance, I wouldn't say that a "huge" effort is being made to encourage askers to improve their questions, @Adam. Also, if someone can edit to salvage a question, that's directly encouraged (of course, edits that majorly change the meaning should probably be avoided).
    – hichris123
    Commented Sep 10, 2016 at 15:53
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    @hichris123 The close reasons used on those questions provide quite a bit of guidance. There's only so much that one can/should repeat in a comment.
    – user1
    Commented Sep 10, 2016 at 16:43
  • @hichris123 Comments - yeah, I'm gonna start leaving more of those. But Adam's right - edits, by anyone, don't happen often enough, and that's one thing that can't be left to the mods.
    – ArtOfCode
    Commented Sep 10, 2016 at 17:03
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    @undo At least two users recently have needed more information than just that: one, two. Users need specific guidance -- you can hope that they read the help center and meta, but that's very unlikely.
    – hichris123
    Commented Sep 10, 2016 at 17:06
  • @hichris123 One of those two got that guidance. The other one doesn't need guidance; if they read the close reason, there'd be enough information in that to discern why their question was closed. If they need guidance on how to modify it, which wasn't asked for, then they're welcome to it.
    – ArtOfCode
    Commented Sep 10, 2016 at 17:11
  • Well, the first asker only received guidance after their question was closed and they asked for it. The second asker does need guidance -- they don't understand the close reason. Perhaps they should be reading more closely, but something isn't fitting correctly with why their question was closed -- which means help is needed.
    – hichris123
    Commented Sep 10, 2016 at 17:15

I have a better answer to this question than ArtOfCode's: yes, we absolutely could be more helpful. And we should be.

ArtOfCode claims that closure is not a punishment, but in fact it is a punishment, even if it is not intended to be one. It is a punishment because it prevents that person's question from being answered, and it wastes the effort of the asker. It is a punishment because although ArtOfCode claims "reopening is just as easy," surely even he cannot reconcile that claim with his simultaneous claim that the protem moderators are swamped with work and must pare questions preemptively to keep their heads above water. If that is true, then it is in fact not easy to get such a busy person to come back to review your question. A review of the time it takes to get your question reopened, compared with the typical time it takes to get a question answered, ought to shed light on that.

Commentary suggesting edits is a much better way of doing things than preemptively closing them. There is no real downside to letting a question which needs an edit sit around for half a day until the edit can fix it - and given the user, high-rated users, and mods can all edit questions, it is much, much more likely to get swiftly resolved than when a question is closed and shall remain that way, irrespective of any edits, until a mod remembers to review it again.

When 11 out of 15 questions are on hold, that is indicative that something we are doing is drastically wrong. Tweaks and "better efforts" from our moderators are not going to be enough to fix the problem. We need to change the way we do business, or change the purpose of the site completely. It's obvious there's quite a need out there, given the questions we do get, but we are currently not helping those people. Indeed, on several occasions I have personally seen mods tell those people that they have no idea where they could get their question fielded. That sucks, doesn't it?

Right now we are not a very helpful site; basically the rules as they are reduce us to glorified salespeople/product reviewers, and we aren't allowed to assist people with hardware troubleshooting - yet there is nowhere for those people to go. Those people are sometimes redirected to Super User, but that's a broad community with no special expertise in hardware troubleshooting.

I don't personally have time or the inclination to go on Area 51 and propose a hardware troubleshooting site, but anyone who could succeed in creating a hardware troubleshooting exchange on Area 51 and get it into beta would have the makings of a much more successful site than this one on their hands.

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    You just won't believe me, will you? I challenge you - go over to SEDE and write a few queries. Find out the average time from last edit before reopening to reopening. I bet you it's less than a day in most if not all cases.
    – ArtOfCode
    Commented Sep 16, 2016 at 21:41
  • Additionally, I'd like you to link to an instance where a moderator of this site has discouraged efforts for another site on A51 without a valid reason to do so. I don't believe any of our current moderators would do such a thing.
    – ArtOfCode
    Commented Sep 16, 2016 at 21:43
  • I've gone ahead and removed the accusation of people from here working against Area 51 proposals because while the memory is distinct in my mind, I can't find any proof of it ever happening that I could link to, so it may as well never have happened.
    – Adam Wykes
    Commented Sep 18, 2016 at 2:43
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    I'm not blessed with a background in database queries, but I'm working on it. However, I will note in the interim that it hardly matters what the real time is: people feel like it's too long, your site has absolutely terrible stats for close to open ratios, and no one currently able to do anything about this seems interested in changing much of anything major around here despite the fact that the current MO isn't working in some way or another; you've proposed small tweaks and personal changes, but unless you personally were the entire problem (not even I think that), that's not going to help.
    – Adam Wykes
    Commented Sep 18, 2016 at 2:47
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    So come up with a better idea. I've been trying to come up with something that'll solve our issues, but I haven't got anything. I find it quite annoying that people complain about this site that so many people have actually worked quite hard on, without actually bothering to try and help. If you have a better solution, I'd like to hear it. If not, I don't see any benefit to having insidious complaints about the site sit around.
    – ArtOfCode
    Commented Sep 18, 2016 at 15:13
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    That said, I do appreciate you removing the accusation; thank you.
    – ArtOfCode
    Commented Sep 18, 2016 at 15:14
  • My long-standing, untested due to rampant confirmation bias, suggestion is summarized in bold above (as you well know). It is also essentially the suggestion of the OP listed in bold in his question, which you already told us is not something you are willing to consider.
    – Adam Wykes
    Commented Sep 18, 2016 at 15:28
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    It's not that I'm unwilling to consider it; it's that I - and many others - have considered it before, before you were first on this site, and decided that's not how we should do it.
    – ArtOfCode
    Commented Sep 18, 2016 at 15:45
  • That is wonderful, but I and others are now here to tell you guys that you may have considered wrong. Is it even possible?
    – Adam Wykes
    Commented Sep 18, 2016 at 16:02
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    Yes, it's possible. Add your thoughts to the discussion, or open a new one along the same lines, and the community can consider and vote on them.
    – ArtOfCode
    Commented Sep 18, 2016 at 17:00
  • The problem with that approach is that the most active members of this community aside from me consist of you and the people who were here with you from the beginning and are stuck just as deep in their own morass of confirmation bias and sunk costs fallacy. Considering how that has gone the last half dozen times I've tried it (hint: there was little to no actual rational consideration, only justification), I think my time will be better spent learning database queries and musing darkly over whether it would be worth my time to get a better hardware site started on Area 51
    – Adam Wykes
    Commented Sep 18, 2016 at 19:13
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    Consider that if your attempts have been rejected each time, perhaps there's a reason for that. If you want to change site policy, fine, but you'd better have a good reason for going against the advice of the SE staff, who have vastly more experience in this kind of thing than you do.
    – ArtOfCode
    Commented Sep 18, 2016 at 22:20
  • I think it's safe to say discussion between you and me is over. Feel free to go ahead on this path of yours. I'm sure it will get better at some point just by repeating the same thing over and over and over again, right?
    – Adam Wykes
    Commented Sep 18, 2016 at 22:45
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    Using the queries in this MSO post, it looks like we have 378 closed questions vs 73 reopened questions. That gives us a 20% reopen rate. Note: These numbers don't account for everything since SEDE can't see all deleted posts, but the logic of that post was confirmed by Shog9 in another answer to the same question
    – Andy
    Commented Sep 19, 2016 at 13:47
  • @AdamWykes, I'm trying to parse your message about SMEs above, but I'm stuck on the acronym since I use it in my line of work for a few different things (yay! Acronym soup!). Are you referring to Small/Medium Enterprises or the professional organization SME, or something else entirely?
    – Andy
    Commented Sep 19, 2016 at 14:02

I think it's well on the way to dying the death, and good riddance, based on the ham-handed, non-reading the answer, just delete (thus eliminating the ability of anyone but the ham-handed moderator that does not read even making a comment) "moderation" behavior I've seen here in the past couple of days.

Clean house or kiss it good bye. I'm not wasting any more time/effort here.

  • 5 Months ago, I would have been right here with you. I actually disabled my account here for awhile. Things seem to be slowly getting better. I'm agreeing with the use of on hold a little bit more. There is still room for improvement, but its slowly getting better. Hopefully the endless cycle of people posting the same concerns in meta will start to wear down on them lol. It is a revolving door for a lot of people, and I completely understand it. Commented Oct 3, 2016 at 14:48
  • ...but you don't see (there's no equivalent of "on hold" for answers) all the answers (other than your own) your local internet bully who was unfortunately given "moderation" powers just closes, evidently being unaware of a SE thing called "voting" - we're not talking about spam or porn, which are the only answers that get that treatment, that fast, on other SE sites. Since SE does not seem to have a mechanism to pull someone who was given powers they abuse, I see no solution for this site but to leave it, permanently.
    – user910
    Commented Oct 4, 2016 at 0:20
  • I get it. Before I deleted my account, I started this... meta.hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/questions/518/… And then I also posted this one, meta.hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/questions/507/… Commented Oct 4, 2016 at 13:32
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    I do wish people would stop comparing the methods used on this site to those used on other sites. This point is very important to understand: this site is different. It's an experiment. We use different methods because we have to. Believe me when I say that the moderation efforts that go on behind the scenes keep a lot of crap out of your faces.
    – ArtOfCode
    Commented Oct 7, 2016 at 12:18

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