Two persons voted to close this question as "off topic" at a time when its entire content was this:

In a graph model like wikipedia, with 5.4 million pages/nodes (a) and 20 links/edges per node (b), what is the average number of link jumps needed to get between any two articles?

I posted the following comment under the question:

WHY have two people voted to close the question?

Why they voted to close it is probably known only to themselves.

(DESPERATELY NEEDED CLARIFICATION: I'd have thought the following is glaringly obvious, but comments below surprised me by showing it was not obvious to some people. I used the question I quote above rather than some other, precisely BECAUSE I thought it was clearly a case where the proposal to close the question is highly questionable. If some people don't see it that way, they need to tell me why because I don't understand it. And I should add that the obviousness to some people of the alleged fact that this is "a clear example of something that fits the letter and the intent of the closing guideline" is just why this feature is needed, since it shows a lack of communication between people who take different positions on this.)

Persons voting to close questions do not get notifications of such comments. They may never suspect that there are nuances that they don't know about in matters of whether to close questions. This situation which could be remedied by notifications. That is what is needed here. At worst, such notifications would be harmless, and they may make it possible for those who vote to close and those who disagree each to find out if the other knows something that they don't.


1 Answer 1


I will share some of my thoughts.

The main reason you run into these disagreements is, AFAICT, the following:

Various users on our site hold wildly differing ideals of what they want the site to be like. This will then reflect on what kind of material they upvote, downvote, vote to close, vote to keep,...

As a metaprinciple I think that for the site to function as smoothly as possible, we need to form policies/practices that accomodate as many ideals as possible, allowing them to coexist peacefully.

For the most part the ideals of different users are compatible. We also have many tools we can use to re-evaluate and discuss the small fraction of cases where the ideals pull into opposite directions (c/r/u/d queues, meta,...). Also, the privileged users can take action and repair the doubtful questions. If I got it right this feature-request is asking for yet another tool to be added to the existing ones. The two motivations for the feature-request seem to be (correct me if I'm wrong)

  1. to reopen a wrongly closed question quickly, and
  2. to be able to explain to the close voters why somebody disagrees with their vote.

I am not comfortable with either of those motivations. For the purposes of getting a question reopened (and for the purposes of preventing similar clashes in the future) the requested feature actually seems counterproductive to me. Let me elaborate a little.

  1. The users who voted to put the question on hold already gave their opinion. With a view of garnering support for the opposite view it is surely more efficient to ask for opinions of other voters. To that end using the reopening queue and/or the dedicated c/r/u/d meta thread is obviously a better choice because then you don't need to fight against the first impression those voters had formed.
  2. Explanations force-fed (via a comment) to a user who already voted is similarly ineffective. This is particularly so, if their different voting decision was based on a different ideal about the site as opposed to a simple misunderstanding the question. In that case sending them comments will soon amount to harassing them, and is thus counterproductive. The ideals various users have lie deeper in their minds. I like to think our core users keep an open mind, but any changes in the core ideals only come gradually (if at all). If the difference in views comes from a small technical misunderstanding then, sure, pointing that out would work, but it is still at least as efficient to ask for opinions of users other than those who already voted.

For these reasons I oppose this feature request. A further reason is that the feature could easily be abused to harass other users. I don't think it necessarily would be abused, but the potential is there.

The above was a bit abstract, and I may have failed to communicate my thinking clearly. Therefore I also discuss the thread the OP used as an example.

To any mathematically trained brain it is clear that the question about a graph model of Wikipedia is woefully underspecified. It is not really my cup of coffee, so I would only stop to think about it under special circumstances. Imagine a scenario where I'm on a long flight, striking a conversation with the passenger next to me, and, upon learning that I'm a mathematician, they would fire this question. It would not be polite to dismiss it outright, so I would reply with something like:

  1. Hmm... The average could be infinite. After all, the Wikipedia could consist of hundreds of thousands of clusters of 21 articles, all linked to each other, but no connections whatsoever between the clusters. If the fellow passenger can follow that, the special nature of the counterexample will likely frustrate them. But, you see, that's how a math brain works...
  2. ... OTOH, if we assume a tree-like structure of the graph, then each jump will multiply the number of nodes within reach by a factor of nineteen. Let's see, the average comes out as...
  3. ... But, that is also an unlikely structure of the graph. A better estimate might be gotten by assuming that the links are random, when in the next layer we can assume that the fraction of links to already covered nodes is...

It would still be clear to me that the last model of "uncorrelated" linkages is not realistic. Surely most of the links go to closely related topics, and relatively few jump "further out". My point is that I assume most of the voters to also have reached this point in under two minutes - we have very many users in or out of grad school, and they wouldn't break a sweat here. Of course, to an expert on the statistical properties of random graphs there would be more nuances available, may be even a realistic model leading to a realistic answer. Michael, if you have such expertise and can answer the question without reproducing scores of pages from a relevant textbook, do explain that in the reopening request meta thread!

So if this much is clear to all and sundry, why the votes to close? I can only speculate (I would not have voted that way, see below). I tend to think that we have a faction of users who believe that the questions should have definite answers. Their ideal of acceptable questions matches closely with what could be used as exam questions in an appropriate course. According to such an ideal this question is rubbish. Because the clash is (probably) with their different "core ideal", pestering the close voters with comments sounds like a bad idea here. It is not unlike trying to get a life long White Sox fan to switch their allegiance to Cubs (they won the world series, you know!). It is not going to work easily, and only serves to annoy the other person.

But, my sentiment is with you on this one. I would personally like to be more accomodating for questions like this from reasonably educated laymen (obviously that is the case here). See item #1 in an old answer of mine for some elaboration. However, it looks like many disprove of such questions.

Also, I confess to being a bit too proud of my ability to make sense of a question others rejected. I guess I'm not alone here. I have been relatively successful in making such questions palatable to others. That takes a lot of work per question, but when a question tickles my vanity bone... Actually the other users are quite accomodating here. When I work hard improving a question, and, apologetically, request it to be reopened in spite of its shortcomings - all that to be able to post an answer earning 25 points rep (all from the asker) - the others will let me have my fun. The same general approach might work for anyone else.

Don't try to force your ideal down other people's throats. Play along instead, and they will let you play, too.

We are well into TL;DR; territory already, so I leave the details of my success stories (as well as a few more shameful ones) for another time.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I think this question deserved an attempt at an answer. Mine is not too well thought out, but I will post is as a first iteration. Critcism and commentary is, of course, welcome. Moderators intervene only if you indulge in a fruitless back-and-forth. $\endgroup$ Jul 24, 2017 at 9:50
  • $\begingroup$ When you express an opinion in a comment and someone pings you to reply and says you're mistaken, it sometimes happens that that's because they know something you didn't know, and you then learn what you didn't know before. Would you then say that you are being "force-fed" and that should not be allowed? Is that how you feel in most cases where that happens? You ALREADY GAVE your opinion and therefore you should not learn more than you already knew? Many of those who have appointed themselves habitual question closers don't know much and don't know that they don't know much. They$~\ldots\quad$ $\endgroup$ Jul 24, 2017 at 16:34
  • $\begingroup$ $\ldots~$give their uninformed opinions and run away. They don't find out what their mistakes are. If people explain their mistakes, then their subsequent opinions would be based on more information. $\endgroup$ Jul 24, 2017 at 16:34
  • $\begingroup$ As for "underspecified": I fear that some who close questions think that that alone is a reason to close a question, and moreover, with some of them they never even suspect that some people might think otherwise. One person saw the graph problem, which I chose because it's one for which it seemed obvious that reasonable people could disagree with the closing, and said I was wrong to choose an example about which no one could disagree with the closing. That's an example of how uninformed some of those close-voters are. $\endgroup$ Jul 24, 2017 at 16:36
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not saying that's impossible. But those users are not in a state of mind to learn. It is much more efficient to ask other opinions. $\endgroup$ Jul 24, 2017 at 16:37
  • $\begingroup$ For example, when Did comments on your post, do you stop to consider his comment, and learn from it? Or do you start arguing? It's the same here. $\endgroup$ Jul 24, 2017 at 16:38
  • $\begingroup$ You're saying those who vote to close questions "are not in a state of mind to learn"?? Then why are they here? $\endgroup$ Jul 24, 2017 at 16:38
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelHardy It is clear that you have not bothered to take more than a glance at the comments about that question. The choice of example was criticized because you seemed to claim that it was an example where nobody reasonable could want it closed. To claim that people claimed essentially the opposite is disingenuous to say the least. $\endgroup$ Jul 24, 2017 at 16:40
  • $\begingroup$ @Jyrki : "when Did comments on your post, do you stop to consider his comment, and learn from it?" Yes, I do. I have devoted some efforts to trying to understand some of his recent comments. $\endgroup$ Jul 24, 2017 at 16:41
  • $\begingroup$ @TobiasKildetoft : I certainly never said no reasonable person could vote to close that question. I said it's a case where it's obvious that some reasonable people could disagree with the closing. $\endgroup$ Jul 24, 2017 at 16:42
  • $\begingroup$ And, @Michael yes, some think that a question being underspecified is enough reason to close it. That fits their vision of the site. Why do you want to waste your time arguing with such a person? Garner support from other users whose thinking may be closer to yours. And be prepared for the occasions that sometimes you can't find any. Has happened to me also. When that happens you need to improve the question or give up the ghost. I can't have it all my way and neither can you. We need to learn to live with that. $\endgroup$ Jul 24, 2017 at 16:47
  • $\begingroup$ @JyrkiLahtonen : Because maybe some examples would show them that "underspecification" is not always bad. People make mistakes in posting question and sometimes that can be what makes a question good: The answer can explain why it's a mistake, and sometimes one might post a deliberately underspecified question in order to ask what is the right way to make it sufficiently specified. $\endgroup$ Jul 24, 2017 at 17:17
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelHardy The voters we are talking about have seen enough underspecified questions. And they have formed the opinion that such questions don't belong to their ideal site. Trying to convert them is an uphill battle, and also creates quite a bit of friction. Anyway, when you end up in the minority view it behooves you to prove that the question is interesting. Feel free to edit the question first, and then ask for more opinions. Something like this. $\endgroup$ Jul 24, 2017 at 17:38
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ A problem with "making sense of the question" is that you're answering the question you invented, but the question you are answering doesn't appear in the post! Furthermore, other people may make sense of the question in different ways. And none of these might actually be the question the poster had in mind. And everybody thinks the question they invented is the question everybody else is answering and it's all a mess. $\endgroup$
    – user14972
    Jul 24, 2017 at 21:12
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Hurkyl : It begins to appear that I will be understood only when I compile a sufficiently comprehensive list of (maybe a dozen or so) examples, since your answer is largely a misunderstanding of this point. $\endgroup$ Jul 24, 2017 at 21:41

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .