premature closings

I have noticed a number of attempts to close questions within hours if not minutes of their having been asked. This seems premature to me. I tried to search this meta site for "premature closings" without any result.

Are there guidelines as to how long the OP should get the benefit of the doubt before we throw the book at her?

If a question is offensive speedy closing (and deletion) are of course appropriate, similarly in the case of a duplicate, but I have noticed many cases of questions that don't fall into these categories.

It was mentioned in one of the comments that an other problematic group of questions is "suspected homework". This could also benefit from more explicit guidelines.

A recent example is discussed below in the comments. Another recent example: Tracy tried once, was in my opinion prematurely closed, but showed some determination and didn't give up, and got 2 useful answers. What should have happened?

• Moody closings is precisely the problem. – Mikhail Katz Aug 7 '14 at 9:03
• If someone comes here and states a question, and this question is from their assessed homework, and someone answers this question before the question is closed then the closure was pointless. So quick closures are not a bad thing per se. Also, I should point out that questions are not "closed" immediately, but rather are put "on hold". They can be "released" by improving them, and theoretically the releasing time should be no longer than the time it took for the question to be put on-hold. (Of course, theory is often different from practice...) – user1729 Aug 7 '14 at 9:22
• You're right in that it is a problem. It is largely to prevent premature answers, but the way it is done is not always to my taste either. The point is that there is no way to agree on criteria that we would all accept (and commit to following). It is an evolution of sorts, and therefore has random fluctuations. This chaos is way better than having a dictator make those decisions for us. Nobody here agrees with the closings 100% of the time. As a 10k user you can throw your weight around yourself, and vote to reopen, if you don't like what you see happening. – Jyrki Lahtonen Aug 7 '14 at 10:46
• The point of putting a question on hold is precisely to give "breathing space" for improving a question in need of improving. It can be quite unfortunate if (non-)answers are given based on an incomplete or faulty understanding of a question. Your objection seems based on a misunderstanding of the putting on hold/closing process. – quid Aug 7 '14 at 10:56
• @quid, I refer you to this recent case where the question was clear enough but trigger-happy closers were at work minutes after the question was posed: math.stackexchange.com/questions/889867/… There should be away of introducing mild guidelines to limit the trigger happy behavior. – Mikhail Katz Aug 7 '14 at 11:06
• To describe the question as "clear enough" in its original form seems like an overstatement. To link to the current form is somewhat disingenious in my opinion; here is the link to the original form math.stackexchange.com/revisions/889867/1 And notice that some user that eventually answered, at first did not understand the question. Thus some knowledgable person making a good faith effort to understand the question could not. So it was not "clear enough." But I agree at the moment there is no reason to put it on hold. – quid Aug 7 '14 at 11:22
• @quid I am glad we agree. The difference between the two forms is purely typographic though. – Mikhail Katz Aug 7 '14 at 11:24
• @quid, aah, I see the problem, didn't realize this before. – Mikhail Katz Aug 7 '14 at 11:30
• @user I was the first person to vote to close, but I have retracted my vote with the edit. I commented on the post at the time - my issue, as quid has pointed out, was the odd "a". Although I think I didn't make this clear in my comment... – user1729 Aug 7 '14 at 12:07
• @quid Please do explain how you can sensibly "read it differently". I see no sensible way to do so. – Bill Dubuque Aug 7 '14 at 12:08
• For your second pair of examples again link to the version that got closed math.stackexchange.com/revisions/889204/1 It is a quite different question as it asks about negative numbers where it is quite unclear what sum of divisors means (or at least which meaning should be used, any one I can think of makes the question pointless, as also detailed in comments). The edit and the second question are completely different questions, that should have been asked right away as a new q without edit. Further OP got an answer to the question they then reask in the comments on the first. – quid Aug 7 '14 at 14:58
• The closing was not only completely justfied but actually helpful. In this way OP was presumably more motivated to ask a new question, which is what they should have done right away. As the second question is a different question than the first, not a minor modification, expansion, clarification of it. The only thing that went wrong (community moderation wise) was that the edit got approved. – quid Aug 7 '14 at 15:01
• What does your first comment mean? That you maintain this or that you acknowledge an error. Either way: The question was closed 20 hours ago. The edit was proposed 4 hours ago. A few minutes before the new post. The edit took even effect only after the new post. I do not know why OP did what they did. Most likely as they are still confused about the workings of the site. Anyway the current status is about as it should be. To make it perfect one should rollback the edit, but perhaps it is not worth it. – quid Aug 7 '14 at 15:09
• The second question is most certainly not the meaning of the first question. How in the world should the negative have appeared. Indeed Adam Hughes comments the question makes no sense and voted to close. The first question makes no sense. The comments possibly gave OP the idea to ask a completely different question. – quid Aug 7 '14 at 15:15
• @Asaf I rolled back now and left a comment. This also fixes in some way the issue with the missleading link in OP. – quid Aug 7 '14 at 15:29

As quid said,

Your objection seems based on a misunderstanding of the putting on hold/closing process.

I would suggest reading The War of the Closes for an explanation of how the $$\text{[on hold]}\to \begin{cases}\text{[reopen]} \\ \text{[closed]} \end{cases}$$

works. In a nutshell: users are given five days to improve the question, and during this period the system facilitates the reopening.

Also, the rhetoric of "throwing the book at someone" is misplaced. Closing is applied to questions, not to users. It is not an equivalent of putting OP in jail, or other sanctions. It's about protecting the content of the site from being diluted with low-quality infusions. It is a levée separating the site from the Great Internet Swamp. Without closing, or with toothless, delayed closing, the site will be Yahoo! Answers.

Those who consider closing harmful are very welcome to post insightful answers and pedagogical gems on the aforementioned site.

• I fully agree that there are some cases when immediate closure is appropriate, and mentioned some of these cases in my question, but yours is a bit of a strawman criticism. There should be a way of throwing away the bathwater but keeping any babys that may be found. – Mikhail Katz Aug 7 '14 at 15:49