I know this is a touchy issue, but it is better to discuss it before it gets too late. I noticed that this question: When to apply tensor product of gates and how to keep track of entanglements? was put on hold by a moderator, yesterday.

In my opinion, the 3 questions the OP asked are perfectly related to one another and each of them can be reasonably answered in a single post. I don't see any reason why the OP should unnecessarily create another redundant post to ask about the same issue. And from the 2 re-open votes apart from mine, it seems that at least some of the others too agree with this opinion of mine. There's always a possibility that a single person (read: moderator) can misjudge a situation, and cause unfair closure of a question. So it is always better for them to hear other's opinions before using the "superpowers". Keep in mind that any action that you (the mod) take single-handedly will take 5 (that's a relatively large number!) people to undo.

Here are certain guidelines I would like to humbly suggest, for the moderators to follow:

  1. Only close questions single-handedly iff they are blatantly off-topic or spam. Such cases are mostly not salvageable through edits. I don't think you'll have a tough time judging which ones those are.

  2. If you feel that a certain question is a homework-type question, a badly formatted question or just "broad", please don't close them right away. Wait at least 24 hours so that the community members can give their opinion. If at all, let them be naturally closed by the community members.

  3. Even if you notice that a new question is a duplicate of an existing question (I'm talking about the main site, not meta), give it some time. Often the duplicates can receive even better or more insightful answers than the answers to the existing duplicate! (Yes, I have seen that happen before). I personally feel that every-time we close a question as duplicate we lose some potentially valuable answers. So, yeah, give duplicates some time, like say 48 hours(?) before closing them for good.

  4. We need more active editors and helpers/commentators than downvoters and closers. Really, we don't want to drive away newcomers to this site! So if you see an ill-formatted or broad question try to edit them to make the formatting better or make them more focused. Leave a comment if you have to, mentioning ways the OP could further improve their question.

Let's not forget that our site is still in the initial stages. We need to actively encourage new users to participate and try to teach them the rules rather than closing their questions and leaving them in a dilemma regarding possible improvements of their posts, for not knowing all the rules and guidelines. Trust me, it's not easy as a new user to the site to frame a question that meets our quality standards. Moreover, let's be honest here. None of us reads each and every point on the "rules and regulations" page while joining a new site. Our site is still very small, and we don't yet get hundreds of questions per day. With our current number of active users, it really shouldn't be a problem to guide the newer users how to pose better and more focused questions.

Summary: Help more. Edit more. Downvote less. Close less.

Anyhow, please feel free to mention any points you have in form of comments or answers. Also, mention if you disagree with any of my points. Thanks.

P.S: One of the things I would like to see in the future is SE giving moderators the option to caste (non-overriding) open and close votes just like other users.

  • $\begingroup$ A couple of points worth mentioning: 1. One of the purposes of closing questions is to give them a chance to improve without having to invalidate existing answers and 2. If a question really is a duplicate, it should be closed quickly - anyone can always improve or add a new answer to the original, although I'm not saying that duplicates are bad $\endgroup$
    – Mithrandir24601 Mod
    Commented May 1, 2018 at 12:09

3 Answers 3


While I'm not going to (at least explicitly) answer your title question of "How active should moderators be in closing questions?" as I feel that this is something that needs to gradually be worked out through time and indeed, questions like this on meta (we're all learning here, after all!), I'm going to attempt to address the various issues you've raised.

First, I'll go through your suggestions, then I'll go through the (current) comments on this question then finally, I'll explain my thoughts on that particular question you're referring to.


First of all, for your first two points, which I've briefly summarised:

  1. Only close questions single-handedly iff they are blatantly off-topic or spam
  2. If you feel that a certain question is a homework-type question, a badly formatted question or just "broad", please don't close them right away

There are (at least) two relevant 'frequently asked' questions on SE Meta that look at closing questions and are relevant here. 1: As a mod when should I vote to close content that is not flagged? and 2: Closing/Migrating question instructions/guidance (which is, ironically enough, closed - it's outdated due to explaining some old close reasons, but still has relevant points).

The most important part for this suggestion is Shog's answer to 1 which is essential reading when asking about mod-closures. While all of it should be read before continuing with this answer, I'm going to pick out a couple of points for the moment: "When you see a post you think should be closed, close it" and

If you see a poor question asked, you can quickly close it and either edit or request edits, and then re-open just as quickly once the problem is fixed - this works to prevent answerers from wasting their time writing answers to a question that will change while they're writing.

In other words, if a question needs improving, it should either be edited, closed quickly (yes, even mod-hammered closed), then edited (preferably also quickly) and reopened, you guessed it, quickly.

In your question, you mentioned "any action that you (the mod) take single-handedly will take 5 (that's a relatively large number!) people to undo". In this case, it should actually be "any action that a mod takes single-handedly can be undone as soon as the required edit is made", which leads on to the answer to 2 - under "What Does "Closing" a Question Mean, Anyway?":

Closing a question is not an inherently negative activity. It should not be considered so, by either those closing, nor the original poster (OP). Instead, "closing" a question should be considered a form of sequestering -- placing the question in a state of Limbo.

This in turn leads to your fourth point:

  1. We need more active editors and helpers/commentators than downvoters and closers.

Especially in light of the recent meta posts and blog, this is something that's very important. As such, it's worth over-emphasising: "Closing a question is not an inherently negative activity". What is negative is not (pleasantly) helping the OP fix the question to make it better (or not pleasantly explaining why it's not suitable for this site, even if edited). In other words, yes, you're right, we should definitely edit and use comments to ask for improvements (in a Nice way). However, that is not saying the we shouldn't close questions. Indeed,

Closing a question merely prevents new answers from being added. The question, and any existing answers, can still be edited, voted and commented upon

In other words (as I've already mentioned in my comment), if there is any reason for a question to be closed, closing a question is good as it allows for the question to be edited, without new answers being made, which, as this allows for edits to be made without invalidating answers, can actually lead to better questions and answers, which is what we want.


Taking a bit of a turn, for your third point:

  1. Even if you notice that a new question is a duplicate of an existing question ..., give it some time

Again, in the answer to Closing/Migrating question instructions/guidance, under the section (surprise!) "Exact Duplicate", it turns out that questions should be marked as duplicate when either "questions are, for lack of a better term, identical" or "if the answers from another question adequately answer the new one, or any answers posted to the new one are likely to be duplicates of answers from the old one". This does in fact mean that if a question is merely similar and isn't answered by an answer on the proposed duplicate, it's not actually a duplicate. You're doing the OP (as well as the potential answerers) a service by essentially telling them "look, this question has already got everything you want/need!".

You mentioned in a comment that "I personally would never go an add an answer to a 2 month old question, when I could possibly helped a new user by answering their current question". Why? Please feel very welcome to add answers to old questions. There are even badges for doing so. It's better to have a single question with the answers well collated, with several duplicates all pointing to that question, over having multiple duplicate answers spread throughout the site, with the best answer being hard to find. Not only is closing a question as a duplicate helping the OP by telling them that an answer to their question already exists, but it's helping future visitors by making it easier to find the more commonly asked questions and the best answer(s).

In other words, while I'm not sure exactly what you mean by "seemingly" duplicate questions, it's possible that the question(s) you're thinking of shouldn't actually be closed as duplicate(s).

The Question

For your first comment, this is exactly one of the reasons that mod-closing a question before anyone has answered can be a good thing - it allows for editing without invalidating existing answers, as there aren't any existing answers.

This (finally) brings me on to the question you linked. This question was closed (before there were any answers) by a mod, then reopened by five 'normal' votes. In this case, the mod-hammer worked exactly in one of the ways that it's supposed to (only, not what a mod-hammer is most often used for). That is, the question had the opportunity to 1. be edited without having to worry about invalidating existing answers while 2. allowing the community to determine if the question should remain closed. It just so happened that the community felt that the question is allowed as-is and was reopened.

The thing that could have been done better by the mods (as you mentioned) was explaining that this is why the mod-hammer was being used in more detail.

What could have been done better by the community was undergoing a more thorough process, using comments or meta, to edit the question to boil down the 5 questions, split up into 3 'main' questions, which was basically 2 heavily related questions into the actual 2 questions being asked, or at least, fixing the formatting to make it clearer that it was 'not too broad', although this is also something that the mods bear a fair amount of responsibility for as well.


  • Closing a question can be a good thing.

  • Duplicates are also a good thing. (although, don't ask for the sake of asking)

  • Mod-hammering a question closed has more uses than simply getting rid of blatantly off-topic or spam (or rude etc.) questions. One such use is to quickly close a question so that it can be edited if necessary while the community decides whether the question should be reopened or not.

  • However, editing a question is preferable to closing it.

  • We need to explain (in a Nice manner) why we're closing something when we close it, unless it's rude or spam etc.

  • We're still in the initial stages, so (as well as trying to expand and improve the site) everyone is still in the learning stage. Even once past the initial stages, we're still in the learning stage, so asking questions like this helps define and clarify what should be done and when.

Having said that, in the spirit of this answer, I believe that your question is fundamentally a duplicate of that SE meta question I linked and I merely expanded upon Shog's answer. As I've already said, duplicates are good.

P.S. Your P.S. really is a duplicate

  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – auden
    Commented May 2, 2018 at 17:25

We don't want either questioners or answerers to feel that their efforts have been wasted. This will require some degree of closing questions fast (to ensure answerers don't waste time on duplicates, on on questions that are destined to be edited beyond recognition). But obviously this should not be done on every question, or no-one will return to ask a question again!

Closing a question because it is a duplicate is essentially a way to give an answer. We are pointing the person asking the duplicate to a thread where they can find a pre-made discussion on the issue they are interested in. So closing duplicates will be a completely positive action, so long as:

  • We ensure that the asker receives the action as an answer, rather than an admonition for failing to search first.

  • Potential answerers realize that their answer would be just as welcome on the duplicate. And just as relevant too, given the fresh interest in the topic.

As for closing questions due to ambiguity, this is essential for ensuring that answers are pertinent. But it should be done in a supportive way, with the aim of getting the asker to make their question answerable as soon as possible, and then reopen.

  • $\begingroup$ "We might lose many valuable answers this way." We also lose valuable answers by having them split over many duplicates. Some of which will probably never be seen again. $\endgroup$ Commented May 2, 2018 at 8:41
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "how would you be sure that a question is ambiguous" Sometimes a question is very obviously low on details. That's the only case where I'd use my superpowers to close it. $\endgroup$ Commented May 2, 2018 at 8:43
  • $\begingroup$ "I'm not telling you to not close duplicates. I'm telling you to let the community decide whether they're actual duplicates." In this I agree. I would only use my superpowers if it was a near word-for-word duplicate. Even small amounts of ambiguity should be resolved by community votes. $\endgroup$ Commented May 2, 2018 at 8:52

I agree with Mithrandir24601 that "this is something that needs to gradually be worked out through time", but let me make it an explicit answer: how moderators should close questions can best be determined by observing how they actually close questions. By Shog9's post Mithrandir already referenced, mods should close questions precisely when they think a questions should be closed.

I think it is most effective to just watch how the mods close and tell them when we don't agree, either in a comment (as Blue did), maybe chat or on meta if there are structural problems.

Oh and remember this comment by Robert? It just sprang to mind again.

However, I think there should be one exception here: the off-topic close reason. As Shog9 said:

If you see a question that isn't on-topic for the site (as the scope is currently understood) ...

I am of the opinion that, this being a beta site, the current scope isn't understood. In other words, a beta site should still determine its scope via its users, so I'd advise extreme caution for moderators when trying to determine the scope of this website and closing questions because of it.

  • $\begingroup$ @Blue Well, mods not being available 24/7 isn't fun, but inevitable. Personally, while the time from closure to reopen isn't lightning fast, its just 2 days, so it doesn't seem that slow to me. Mods replying within a day also seems reasonable. I think that it is you in particular with who has 'timing issues' here. I, at least, don't think things were going too slow here, although I can't speak for other users, of course, but I think that neither can you. $\endgroup$ Commented May 1, 2018 at 21:01
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ off-topic: Is Roberts comic a meta-meme here already? It seems you can (try to) cancel any debate by pointing to this comment. $\endgroup$ Commented May 3, 2018 at 16:06
  • $\begingroup$ @MEE Well, you can call it that and I do agree that it can misused as an argument from authority. But for the record, I don't use it as an argument here, merely to note that IMO there are a lot of words about rather small actions. $\endgroup$ Commented May 3, 2018 at 19:27
  • $\begingroup$ To @Blue and Discretelizard: I know that Discrete lizard was not using it here to cancel a debate and I just wanted to share my general opinion about this comment (wait a minute, I wrote comic????) and he just mentioned it (that is why I prefixed it with off-topic) To Blue: Of course Roberts comment applies to off-topic (too early rule making/question banning). Maybe also too-broad (list questions) but I think unclear/POB/dupe are pretty clearly defined and therefore don't really need some special kind of 'slow-down'. $\endgroup$ Commented May 4, 2018 at 18:19

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