Sometimes, questions (or answers) that are slightly off-topic, vague, or unclear can be salvaged by prodding the poster to make edits. However, people who post don't necessarily get around to making the requested edits or revisions. Even if they do, the edits may not be enough to address any glaring flaws in the post.

As a community, how long do we feel is enough time to give someone a chance edit their post in response to constructive criticism in comments before flagging, closing, or deleting their post?

What I did at math.SE was to give about a day or so before downvoting. We don't necessarily have to close/delete unless the post is remarkably atrocious or completely useless, methinks. – J. M. Jan 14 '12 at 13:31
@J.M.: Agreed. I'm mostly concerned about the remarkably atrocious posts. For posts I'm less concerned about, I will typically comment, then downvote after a day, or if egregious, I might downvote right away. If edits subsequently clear things up, I rescind my downvote. However, for off topic posts, I can't do what I used to do, which was vote to close or flag after a day or two, because of moderator responsibilities, which is why I wanted to solicit input from the community. Right now, I'm giving posters a couple days for off topic posts that might have a shot at redemption. – Geoff Oxberry Jan 14 '12 at 13:54
There are, at the time I am writing this comment, twelve non-diamond users with the capability to cast close/reopen votes. Supposedly, there should be enough people to close crap without requiring mod assistance; unfortunately, it seems that people (myself included, unfortunately) don't visit that often, so it may seem that it can take a while before crap stuff get the requisite five closing votes... – J. M. Jan 15 '12 at 1:11
As for reopening: if you've closed something, and the poster has then made improvements from his previous post, I think it's alright to invite the user to post at meta asking for a reopening. – J. M. Jan 15 '12 at 1:12

One think to keep in mind is that a question can be reopened (and it seems that this is not so uncommon on many SE sites). So closing isn't final, although I suppose it is demoralizing to the poster. When we do close a question, I think if possible we should suggest what could be done to reopen it, as I tried to do on this one. Of course, some questions will simply not be salvageable.


For an egregious post, by all means, close now. Even if the post is merely bad but potentially redeemable with serious effort, don't hesitate to close. Leave a comment to indicate why the post is inappropriate and how it can be improved (if you think it can). If the user is new, remind them that the post can be reopened if it is improved. After an edit, the asker can flag to ask for reopening, or reply to a comment if there was one left by a moderator. (Users can @reply to a moderator who closed a question, but this feature isn't well-known, so don't expect users to use it.) Generally speaking, the decision to close or open should be based on the current state of the post, and not on a hypothetical future change.

In borderline cases, you may want to leave a comment but hold off on the closing. This is preferable when you know you particularly want this user to feel welcome and stick around (for example because you know them socially).

As the site progresses, direct closure should become the more common case.

Except for really egregious cases like spam, once a question is closed, it should remain on the site for a few days, to give the asker or other community members a chance to improve or vote to reopen. If it's clear that a question is unwelcome and is never going to be reopened, then the question should be deleted (this does not apply to duplicates, which are useful as search fodder). Leaving unwelcome questions around gives a bad impression to visitors, particularly those who are new to Stack Exchange and won't catch the nuance that a question is closed hence unwelcome.

The guidelines I describe here are standard on Stack Exchange, except possibly for Math which tends to do things differently.


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