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Why are there 3 votes to close the following question?

The kernel of free group map to surface group

It seems like a perfectly legitimate (and interesting) question to me.

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The currently chosen close reason are all the "Lack of context" reason (you know, with 17.1k you can click the close button and see the currently selected reasons without actually committing to voting to close).

This suggests that the voters who have voted to close have done so because the question is given in the form of a "Problem Statement Question", and would prefer the user to include

  • Any work done toward solving the problem, and/or
  • The source of the problem and its motivations.

For further reading: see https://math.meta.stackexchange.com/search?q=problem+statement+question


That said, in the specific case you linked to I am inclined to agree with you that the question is perfectly legitimate. Though having some more context etc. cannot hurt.

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    $\begingroup$ What appears perfectly legitimate can greatly depend on one's knowledge. When I read the question, it sounds suspicious -- e.g. I'm quite used to people asking perfectly legitimate questions of this sort opting to talk about what they're doing when this comes up, and so forth (and that is often very relevant information) -- but don't have the background to judge. But after reading user1729's comments, I can easily imagine this being an early exercise in chapter 1 of an algebraic topology text (and even there, knowing the subject of the chapter is relevant). $\endgroup$ – user14972 Nov 20 '13 at 9:59
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    $\begingroup$ Two professionals in the subjects related to the exercise left comments of the form "why the close votes / question looks good". If a close voter has to imagine anything (i.e., is not in the target audience of a question, which is the users with enough expertise to potentially understand it and answer it) then a close vote is speaking on behalf of a population to which one does not belong, and indeed is a vote to silence that population. Voting on questions one does not understand well is a recipe for mediocrity, as is the elevation of style over mathematical content. $\endgroup$ – zyx Nov 20 '13 at 12:14
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    $\begingroup$ It would be nice if people did not vote to close questions in fields they don't understand. But this would happen less if askers gave some context anyway - posters at MathOverflow are expected to give context even though every question is research level. This doesn't seem to cause much trouble, and as well as resulting in generally better questions, makes it harder to confuse a research-level question for a homework exercise - I don't really see why it should be different here. $\endgroup$ – mdp Nov 20 '13 at 14:59
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    $\begingroup$ @zyx: And similarly, if you don't have the requisite background, you shouldn't be out there proclaiming that the question shouldn't be closed. That was my point: a person without the requisite background may not be able to see the problems with a question. (and to preempt the next response, don't make the mistake of excluding the middle between "think a question should be closed" and "think a question should not be closed") $\endgroup$ – user14972 Nov 20 '13 at 19:20
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    $\begingroup$ If I were "out there proclaiming that the question shouldn't be closed", and doing so against a tide of expert opinion, Hurkyl might have a point instead of a misrepresentation. In fact, the hypothetical and very logical symmetry of close/open voting in such situations does not exist, since it has never been observed on MSE that experts in a subfield were prominent among close voters on questions of the subfield. What is routine on MSE is for novices of a field to attempt to silence its experts (and everyone else) through closing of questions. $\endgroup$ – zyx Nov 21 '13 at 4:56
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    $\begingroup$ @zyx: [citation needed]. Okay, compiling statistics is hard, but since the much less observant me have not seen what you declare as routine, I would at least welcome some examples to support your assertion. $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong Nov 21 '13 at 8:14
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    $\begingroup$ @Willie: I have started keeping statistics on who closes the questions that I run across that are ‘on hold’. Some names certainly do stand out. I won’t attempt to judge expertise by field, but most of the those for whom I have relevant information are young — PhD students (or younger), or very recent PhD’s. I’ve not been keeping actual records for very long, but it’s already perfectly clear that some people are champion closers, to the point at which it’s hard to believe that some of them aren’t looking for questions to close. And as zyx says, that largely silences the rest of us. $\endgroup$ – Brian M. Scott Nov 21 '13 at 13:17
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    $\begingroup$ @WillieWong, it is easy to compile statistics from the review queues, which is where most closings come from these days. The top 5 reviewers account for over 20 percent of reviews and the top 10, about 40 percent, so that closings reflect a very limited set of tastes. On the other hand, the participation of experts in any kind of closing at all, even prior to review queues, appeared to be minimal, and this you can test for particular individuals by Google searches if you do not have data as moderator. There are at most two experts I can think of, who close questions in their specialty. $\endgroup$ – zyx Nov 21 '13 at 16:04
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    $\begingroup$ I do think that the review queues tend to bias things, but I think they do so both in the "close" and "reopen" queues. In other words, some people may vote to close more often than others, but I believe some people may vote to reopen more often than others as well. $\endgroup$ – Carl Mummert Nov 22 '13 at 1:47
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    $\begingroup$ @CarlMummert That may be true, but the reopen queue is much quieter than the close queue (and so has a much smaller impact). $\endgroup$ – user1729 Nov 22 '13 at 9:26
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    $\begingroup$ It's interesting to see objections to the words "silencing answerers" which are an exactly accurate statement of what a close vote attempts to do. If it were just an expression of opinion, there are downvotes and comments for that. The entire point of a close vote is in the part that the downvotes and comments cannot accomplish: stopping potential answerers from posting their answers. $\endgroup$ – zyx Nov 22 '13 at 19:28
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    $\begingroup$ @CarlMummert, when I last gathered the data, the pattern was more extreme when combining the Close and Reopen queues, in that the top $n$ users become more influential when measured by total number of reviews of both kinds. $\endgroup$ – zyx Nov 22 '13 at 19:38
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    $\begingroup$ @zyx: separately, I do agree that the point of certain close votes (particularly on PSQs) is to prevent answers until the OP improves the question. But I am not convinced this is a bad thing, contra some other ME regulars. $\endgroup$ – Carl Mummert Nov 22 '13 at 20:24
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    $\begingroup$ Some close votes include an intent to have the OP to change the question, but that recommendation can be made in comments (or downvotes coupled to comments), which raises the weight of "prevent answers" versus "improve question" in interpreting the vote. And there are quite a few close voters whose comments indicate that they view close voting as predominantly a way to stop activity on questions, not to request edits. For example, some oppose having MSE as a "homework site", or view elementary questions as undesirable, or want to reduce site utilization by some OPs. @CarlMummert $\endgroup$ – zyx Nov 22 '13 at 20:50
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    $\begingroup$ Where 'good intentions' are part of a close vote, the positive part is always debatable. Other users can and sometimes do interpret it as misguided, such such as making the question longer and more localized, or controlling others, or worsening the site atmosphere. But there is never a way to avoid the objective fact that every close vote [excepting symbolic protest votes] has the goal of silencing some population of answerers. It always includes "all people who would be interested in answering right now" whether or not it also silences those who would answer after an edit. $\endgroup$ – zyx Nov 22 '13 at 21:55

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