Ninefingers posted this incredible useful text over at meta.crypto.stackexchange.com. I’ll just copy it.
Rationale: why do we close questions?
There are really two ways to do moderation. If you've been on any of the
.moderated newsgroups you'll be well aware that to get a post on there, it needs to undergo a review process first and be accepted. The aim is to keep problem discussions from arising.
SE is slightly different - it works the other way. Anyone can ask a question on SE and closing a question is the equivalent of putting that question back into review/improve mode. It's a feedback mechanism designed to react to problem cases only, so the usual business of asking and answering good questions can just... happen.
Why do we close a question?
The philosophy of SE is that each site handles questions on problems you face or things you are trying to understand. The don't ask section of the FAQ gives you a good overview of things that don't work - to summarise:
- Some questions invite arguments or extended debate that suck up time when members could be helping other people.
- Some questions are too broad, too narrow or have other content problems.
- Some questions belong elsewhere.
These have been worked out over time and with a lot of experience from Stack Overflow and are, broadly speaking true. Sometimes, exceptions are made - it is always a case-by-case thing.
Is closing like deletion?
No. Actually, deletion is a different concept on SE. Closed questions are put "into improve mode" if you like, and are still visible for anyone to improve. That's the idea. Deleted questions are different - they have a red background and are invisible to all but high reputation users. So deletion is different and solves a slightly different problem.
What are the requirements for closing a question?
If you have 500 reputation on the site currently, or 3000 reputation on a graduated site, you can vote to close any question for the reasons above. More on that in a moment.
If you do not have this level of reputation, you will find that under the flag menu, you have an option "this question does not belong here". That will raise a flag for users who can vote to close.
Why can anyone vote to close/reopen?
Firstly, anyone can vote to close or reopen (or flag as such) because it is your site. This is really important - it's about expressing what you feel works and doesn't.
How are moderators different?
Moderator close votes complete the required vote count immediately, no matter how many people have voted. This applies for both close/reopen votes.
Initially, as the reputation requirement rules out many users, you will see moderators doing most of the closing to guide the site and look after the content. As you gain in reputation, you get to join in.
Ok, so how does it work?
Ok, the important piece. Voting to close works like this:
- Underneath the question, there will be a close link. When you click on this, you will be presented with a list of options from which you can pick a close reason most appropriate to the situation.
- If other people have voted, you will see blue numbers against the reason they chose.
- The exact duplicate page takes you to a page that allows you to specify a question to close as an exact duplicate against.
- The "off topic" page will present you with two options - one to migrate here, to meta, and one just off topic. On SE betas, only moderators can send questions elsewhere, so feel free to cast a vote here and flag if you have a target in mind.
- The other options are straight out closes.
- Once you pick your option and click "close", your vote is registered. You cannot retract it at this stage, but nobody else, including moderators, will know it was you who voted.
- If five people agree, the question will be closed. You've seen the effect of these before.
- Your name, and the name of other closers, will appear on the bottom of the question.
How does vote to re-open work?
A closed question has a "reopen" link underneath it. If you click this, a dialog box will ask you if you are sure - click yes and your vote will be registered to re-open the question.
Below, you can see an example of the re-open link with two votes registered for re-opening (out of five).
What happens if I make a mistake?
Don't worry! Unless five people agree, or a moderator agrees, the question won't be closed.
I've seen a closed question and I disagree. What can I do?
Well, one option is to use your re-open vote! You can also always raise a discussion here on meta to seek clarification on why a question is closed and hopefully either a resolution will be reached, or you will get an explanation for the closure.
My name appears on the bottom - isn't this going to cause problems with other users?
Actually, surprisingly few closed questions generate any response at all.
However, if you experience difficulties as a result of closing a question, you can and should contact a moderator via the flag mechanism (which is anonymous). We can then take any necessary action.
How do I find questions I might need to close? What about re-opens?
Actually there are two tools for this.
- Review. Here, there are a number of options for seeing things that might need say editing. One of these is a tab for all questions with close votes. You are then free to look at the question and decide if you agree.
- Tools. Commonly referred to as the "10k tools", this page let's you see even more information - certain anonymous flags, re-open votes, delete votes etc. The important one for this is the re-open page. Here, you can see questions that might have been closed incorrectly.
I Move to Close This Question
How and why closing was introduced on Stack Overflow in 2008.
It’s important to note here that closing a question is a step on the road to deletion. Closing is effectively “nominate to delete”, as a question that can’t be answered is no longer truly “alive”. That said, some closed questions should be kept around. For example, duplicate questions that have totally different wording are sometimes useful. With the duplicates, people can find either variation with search terms and link through to the original.
The Wikipedia of Long Tail Programming Questions
Don’t answer questions that have already been answered elsewhere. Yeah, you might earn a couple of points of reputation, but, because you are duplicating content, you are actually making the internet worse. Why? Because that answer might be true today, but as technology changes, it might not be true tomorrow.
The Stack Overflow Question Lifecycle
How and when questions are closed or deleted.
Gorilla vs. Shark
About the not constructive close reason.
- 24 votes to close per day (50 on Stack Overflow)
- 5 votes are required to close or reopen
- Votes will expire after 4 days if the question does not reach 5 votes
- Questions containing a bounty cannot be closed
- You can only vote to close once per question
- You can only vote to reopen once per question
The owner must have 250 rep in order to vote to reopen their own question. Other users can also vote to reopen, but they must have a minimum 3000 reputation points. Leaving comments about voting to reopen does nothing in and of itself. You can try and address a specific user who may have left a comment as to why they voted to close and ask them to help cast reopen votes if you think they voted in error.
See also: How do you challenge the closing of one of your questions?, Why was my question closed and how to contact the closer and My question has been closed. What do I do now? (on meta.crypto.stackexchange.com).
Closing/Migrating question instructions/guidance
A long explanation of the close reasons.
What can cause my question to be bumped?
Close/reopen votes on the question do not bump the question.
I don't think you should close your questions lightly. There are very few questions that have a definite answer that will never change, or that cannot be improved upon.
How to handle duplicate questions?
Not by tagging or editing, vote to close or flag for moderator attention.
See also our search tips.
Allow question askers to close their own questions unilaterally
Short answer: No.
Once you post a question it is not exactly YOURS in every sense of the word anymore, it belongs to EVERYONE.
But you can delete your own question as long as there are no upvoted answers.
What value does this question have to anyone else on the planet, other than the one person who asked? In other words, what internet user is going to be searching for and finding information about a game one person vaguely remembers playing in broad terms? See also: What questions should be closed with reason “too localized”?
Remove/downweight closed questions in “hot” question sort
Short answer: No.
I think there's a misconception here -- closing does not mean "get this off my screen ASAP", closing means, "this question should be re-evaluated by the community".
Can we have the ability to rescind a close vote before it closes?
Short answer: No. See Jeff’s answer … with a lot of negative votes. :)
Close Votes expire too soon for low-traffic tags
Short answer: Fixed.
Close votes (and probably reopen votes) only expire after all of these conditions are met:
- 4 days have passed since the last close vote.
- The question has more than 100 views.
Auto-deleting old, unanswered zero-score questions after a year?
There is a garbage collector which works as follows:
If the question is more than 30 days old, and ...
- has -1 or lower score
- has no answers
- is not locked
... it will be automatically deleted.
If the question is more than 365 days old, and ...
- has a score of 0 or a score of 1 with a deleted owner
- has no answers
- is not locked
- has a viewcount <= the age of the question in days times 1.5
- has 1 or 0 comments
... it will be automatically deleted.
This check is run every week across all sites.
Each time you misuse the answer field for pseudo-comments you break the garbage collector.
My own summary after a long reading session
Closing is not deleting. A closed question is still visible, it can be improved and reopened. It doesn’t affect the accept rate but prevents potentially useless answers. Help us to stay on focus, use your close votes.
As a moderator I don’t like to act unilaterally. Your close votes are helping me and the other moderators to decide and we don’t feel so bad if we close a question. :)