Allowing instaclosing of questions

I was thinking about how the closing procedure should be.

On Stackoverflow (yes, gonna use it as a template) there is a problem with bad questions getting answered instead of being marked as dupes or closed for other reasons.

One problem was simply that the questions were not closed fast enough. That was partially fixed by reducing the number of votes required from 5 to 3. This made closing faster, but of course it also has its drawbacks.

If we assume a model based on reputation or similar, we could have a privilege called “instaclose” or something. My thought is that it could work something like this:

  • A user with X rep can instaclose any new (posted last 10 minutes or so) question
  • When a question is instaclosed, it cannot be answered
  • The instaclosed question automatically reopens within 5 minutes if not closed the regular way

The exact number and details can of course be discussed and adjusted. I guess it could coexist with an instaopen privilege.

What do you think of this suggestion?

It’s related to this question, but it does not only apply to dupes, so I started a new thread

One consideration in the stale content issue… it is an issue on sites that track fast moving subjects (technology in particular). Questions about photography, language, bicycles, religion, writing, engineering disciplines (other than software) and such - the idea of something that is outdated is not as frequently encountered.

Furthermore, sites where the core group of users who curate the site may be able to review the target duplicates more frequently. Stack Overflow has problems of scale that have neither been well addressed by the software or easily overcome.

I have been in favour for this for a long time. The “gold dupe hammer” was one of the better moderator tools that SO got in the latter years. The 3 close vote thing seems to be working fine too.

And there’s really no reason to suspect that someone who can be trusted to insta-close as duplicate can’t be trusted with insta-close as [community-specific reason] as well. One just has to give the privilege at some suitable level.

Naturally there must also be some means to dispute or review such insta-closed posts, but that’s another story.

However, the need to close questions quickly and have them removed from the public eye is not just to block out them strange people who answer bad duplicate questions over and over, but more so to save everyone involved from the impending drama of community rage against bad questions. A closed question should be removed from the public eye and salvaged in private elsewhere, away from the main flow of the site.

Questions should of course only be closed if there is an actual problem with them, so some automatic re-open system doesn’t make sense to me.

1 Like


Allthough I think it can be a point to have different level of closing. Maybe it’s better if they are just easier to reopen than properly closed questions?

IMHO, there is a big difference between Duplicate, Poor Quality and most other Close Reasons.

Spam, abusive, off-topic (which is defined differently for each community, but asking about snakes on a Python site or scripting languages on an Outdoors site…), etc. are absolutely fine for Instaclose :tm:. Those are all situations where either the posting should not exist at all or a simple read of “what is this site for” would prevent posting.

The problems are:

  • Poor Quality - Is it English as a second language, leading to “can’t really explain what OP needs”? Or is it “homework copy/paste”? Those are very different situations, and instaclose may be right for some but not others. There is, unfortunately, a lot of subjectivity in figuring out whether a question is salvageable (hold, ask for edits) or not (instaclose).

  • Duplicate - There are a lot of different reasons:

    • Users may not know that they should search for duplicates first
    • Users may not know how to search for duplicates
    • Users may simply be lazy or not bother to read the rules

The duplicates are really two different groups: The ones that would do better if they had a little more information and the ones that are “hopeless”.

I really do think that a lot of initially-duplicate-posting users would:

  • a) not post the duplicate if they had better “training” along the way - automated prompts that actually clearly say something, not walls of legalese (ignored) or pithy one-liners (meaningless)
  • b) be much more likely to visit again and ask good questions if they didn’t get a “dupe-hammer” initial response. Posting what you think is a reasonable question only to get what amounts to “you are a bad person, how dare you write a question that is already answered” is not “welcoming”. I am not saying “allow duplicate questions in order to be welcoming” - I am saying "we should have a way to distinguish in a way the user will immediately understand that “duplicate” is “not what we’re about, not good for the site” and not “as bad as spam”.

Obviously, only questions that can’t be salvaged by anyone else but the OP are the ones that should get closed/removed. There’s no reason to remove the “possible to edit into shape” kind.

If it is at all possible to edit into shape - my experience is that those with domain expertise are the most suited to moderate shaky English questions, because only they can make the call if the question made sense in the first place. On SO we very often see “crappy English, incomprehensible question” getting edit-polished into “decent English, pretty formatting, but still completely incomprehensible question” that should have been closed from the start, not polished then closed.

“Possible to edit into shape” are relatively rare compared to unsalvagable ones.

The people who should be given insta-closed privileges should obviously be those who can make the call if something can be edited or not. Equivalent of the 20k+ rep or gold badge privileges on SO. We know from experience that most such users do a good job moderating - there’s not a lot of incorrectly closed posts, I would guess a ratio around 1 in 50 to 1 in 100 or so. Whereas the 2k+ edit & review privileges are far more shaky job, robo-reviewing, polishing trash, editing perfectly fine posts etc.

Regarding subjective close reasons - the fault is that the community has done a poor job of defining the scope of the site. SO in particular suffered a bit from this, particularly in the early years, when the community was allowed to dynamically define what kind of questions that were OK and which weren’t, though user moderation. Not the best way, but in the long term it boiled down to some community consensus, and “close wars” seem far less frequent nowadays.

1 Like

SE is way to keen on trying to salvage even the crappiest questions. I get the feeling that instead of a proper risk analysis with weighing consequences to the probability of said consequence they are instead saying “We should never take any risks”. It’s like their policy is to save anything that have even the tiniest chance of being solved irregardless of how much work it would take and if it needs OP:s assistance or not. Ok, I’m exaggerating a bit, but not by much.

I believe that it would be much better of adapting the philosophy of rebuilding from scratch instead. If it cannot be salvaged by OP, then toss it. If it doesn’t get salvaged, toss it. And don’t have a HUGE queue for posts waiting to be improved by edits. That queue must be the most pointless feature of the whole SE.


Agreed. I think this comes from their bean-counter philosophy of users are clicks and therefore revenue. In that view, it’s quantity that matters.

What they got tragically wrong is that quality is necessary for having quantity in the long run. Without keeping the place clean, which includes empowering the resident core users to keep the place clean, the resident core gets frustrated and leaves. Then good answers are no longer to be had, and quantity decreases.


If I should be a cynic, I’d argue that chances are that they did not get it wrong. With that I mean that they know perfectly well that SE will be gone in a foreseeable future, so from their perspective they are only interested in maximizing the monetary output while the ship is sinking. That could be perfectly rational from a capitalistic perspective.

And thanks for the correction. For some reason I have big problems learning when to use to/too. :slight_smile:


I don’t mean to sound rude, but could you at least check for other threads on the same topic before making new ones?

@Corsaka Ok, I’ll try to do that. Sorry. I got the impression that it was not so important here, but I will do my best.

Here are two example where this would have been helpful

In both cases, the question originally lacked a picture and so the answers ended up needing to be completely rewritten once the picture was added.

Going through the full 5 votes to close and then reopen could have taken several days, letting more users than just the mods have instaclose and instareopen privileges would have solved that problem because I am not going to vote to close when that it going to take up to 3 days to happen.

I think that many of these problems could be avoided if questions could be put in a sort of sandbox for improvements.
I already brainstormed a crude idea here.
That could be used also as a way to ask for “on-topic-ness” of a tentative question without the meta-mess we sometimes saw on SE meta (asking the question while asking if it was on-topic).

I think that the choice of using the “sandbox” should be left to the OP: if he is sure his answer is ok, then he direct-posts it, otherwise asks for a preventive “managed/reviewed/sandboxed” post.

Anyway a “direct-post” could be “sandboxed” by mods/high-rep users for the same reasons many SE questions were closed.

In this case, a motivated user could see the community interest in helping him, without perceiving the “closing” as a “door slammed in his face”.

When “sandboxed”, the posts should not be voted or answered, but just improved with live interaction with the community.

Of course this won’t be an alternative for instaclosing/instaburning spam or the like.

I disagree with this. This invites OPs to dump crap on us and have us fix it for them for free.

Especially with the existence of an “improvement area”, we can be more strict about the quality of full questions. Entering the improvement area should always be the OP’s choice, as would be graduating from improvement to the main question area. That way, for all questions in the main area, the OP has effectively said “I have considered it, and feel that quality of this question is sufficient.”. Questions can then be dealt with accordingly.