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To my mind, the only reasons to close questions at all are to:

  1. Express the official policy on what questions are acceptable, in other words, quality control. We don't want to accumulate lots of questions like "What is your favorite thing about math?".

  2. Take the question off the Unanswered list when we know there's no chance of it ever getting an answer.

I think the "unclear what you're asking" close reason is certainly needed, but it's something that should be used when the OP hasn't returned to reply to comments in maybe a day or so. Once it becomes clear that the OP isn't coming back, and the question is too vague to be answerable, then we're clearly in situation (2).

Several times I've seen questions closed very quickly - I would say anything less than 24 hours is quite quick - with the "unclear" close reason. I don't believe this serves either of the above two purposes. The reason is because we need to give the OP a chance to come back and reply to comments requesting clarification, or edit the question. Just now I saw an elementary question which was just a little ambiguous, probably because the OP simply mistyped, attract a close vote inside of fifteen minutes. Give the guy a chance!

It's simply less efficient to force a novice user to edit their question, come to the meta, post a request for reopening, and then wait around for it to happen; than it is to just talk to them using the comments feature that StackExchange provides for just that purpose, and work it out in often a few hours. Meanwhile, I assume that closed questions no longer show up on the front page, so fewer people will be available to come across the question and help the OP clarify it. Besides just the time issue, a new user probably won't even know where to appeal for reopening or even that it's possible, not to mention that on a psychological level they may just take the closing as a pretty clear "we don't want your kind around here" sign and just not come back. At least once in the past I've answered perfectly fine questions after requesting reopening myself, only for the asker to never return.

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    $\begingroup$ "Meanwhile, I assume that closed questions no longer show up on the front page,[...]" What did prevent you from empirically testing your assumption? (It is false.) $\endgroup$ – quid Oct 28 '17 at 13:29
  • $\begingroup$ @quid What I mean is, do they get bumped in the same way as open questions? Will it get bumped to the top as OP edits or comments on it? $\endgroup$ – Jack M Oct 28 '17 at 13:32
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    $\begingroup$ Yes (except for bumps by the community user but this is irrelevant here), and reopening also bumps. Incidentally, what you propose can be worse regarding visibility. Comments do not bump. So it could very well happen that some discussion in the comments clarifies the question but this is not seen by much anyone anymore since the questions is already out of sight when it happened and no "bump" event is ever induced. $\endgroup$ – quid Oct 28 '17 at 13:36
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    $\begingroup$ There is usually no need for the user to come to meta either. An edit will usually put the question in the reopen queue all automatically as will a vote to reopen. The process is much more streamlined than you give it credit for. By contrast your ad hoc procedure often does not work all that well, and sends mixed signals to new users that create problems down the road. // On a small site it's possible to operate like your propose. But by now this site is too large to avoid using the built-in mechanics. $\endgroup$ – quid Oct 28 '17 at 13:41
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    $\begingroup$ One more point (maybe I should write an answer instead): reopening can also happen quickly. This site by now just operates on a quite fast pace. Just checked a recent example: ask, close, edits, reopen altogether in about two hours. $\endgroup$ – quid Oct 28 '17 at 14:02
  • $\begingroup$ Huh. I didn't realize reopening and bumping happened in such an automated way. In the past when I've dealt with closed questions I've always come to the meta to post in the appeals thread. $\endgroup$ – Jack M Oct 28 '17 at 15:26
  • $\begingroup$ "I would say anything less than 24 hours is quite quick" a) Is there any reason you believe a question that should and will be closed should remain open for at least 24 hours? And b) I'd say a lot of questions get closed/put-on-hold within 24 hours. $\endgroup$ – Simply Beautiful Art Oct 29 '17 at 0:17
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    $\begingroup$ You start off the question with the following self-disclosure: "To my mind, the only reasons to close questions at all are to: (1), (2)....". That is likely a misunderstanding on your part. $\endgroup$ – Namaste Oct 29 '17 at 18:06
  • $\begingroup$ And can you explain your claim that too many close votes are due to the "over-eager" use of the "unclear what you are asking" close reason? Do you think that questions which are in fact, unclear, should remain open indefinitely? or put on hold, until the asker clarifies? Note that a question with sufficient votes to "close" as unclear is put on hold. And describing the question as unclear helps the asker to understand how to improve the question. $\endgroup$ – Namaste Oct 29 '17 at 18:36
  • $\begingroup$ Finally, when you get into psychology, your question has already veered "off-topic." $\endgroup$ – Namaste Oct 29 '17 at 18:42
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    $\begingroup$ @amWhy Forget the whole thing. I was under the impression that the moment a question was closed, it had to undergo a cumbersome process of appeal in order to re-open. That's how I've handled it in the past. The fact that it's an automated process + an automatic bump probably invalidates most of my reasoning and conclusions. Except possibly the psychological aspect, which I'm not sure why you call off-topic. $\endgroup$ – Jack M Oct 29 '17 at 19:00
  • $\begingroup$ Questions you think are "closed", are actually put "on hold", and reasons are given (and often in comments too. So are suggestions to improve, if the asker is motivated to do so.) You failed to provide any examples of questions put on hold as unclear, and "weren't unclear". Instead, you assume what you believe is the fact of the matter, and you may have hurt some users psychologically by blaming them for feats they never did, by overgeneralizing their actions in terms of votes to put on hold... Oh, and "off topic" why? Because the purpose of this site does not include psychotherapy. $\endgroup$ – Namaste Oct 29 '17 at 19:52
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    $\begingroup$ If you want us to forget the whole thing, because you made false presumptions, and never took time to learn the facts of the matter, best you delete your question with false premises, dear JackM. To describe the users who contribute to the site without needing rep to show for it, as over-eager down-voters is downright insulting. I would love it if MSE were at a stage at which everything was quality questions, and quality answers, in SE heaven. But it's not. I do not like downvoting, nor closing, but we all need to work together to maintain a certain degree limits wrt what is allowed. $\endgroup$ – Namaste Oct 29 '17 at 19:54
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    $\begingroup$ @amWhy It occurred to me while writing the OP that "overeager" seemed a bit inflammatory, but I couldn't think of a better adjective. Hasty? For me this was mostly an issue of efficiency, not a judgment on anyone's character. It struck me as a very roundabout process to close/appeal/reopen a question. Although I will admit that I tend to lean a lot more "liberal" than the overall community here seems to be and my frustration at that did leak into my tone. I don't like to make a habit of deleting my mistakes and embarrassments, so I'll leave that decision up to the mods $\endgroup$ – Jack M Oct 29 '17 at 20:10
  • $\begingroup$ @amWhy I will go ahead and personally apologize to anyone that felt I was essentially calling them a bully, including yourself. $\endgroup$ – Jack M Oct 29 '17 at 20:11
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Many questions, even if they should not be closed, should in fact be "put on hold" until they are edited. But in order to vote for that, I have to click the "close" choice ... a bit confusing perhaps.

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    $\begingroup$ But votes to "close", given enough close votes, simply puts the relevant questions on "hold." A question doesn't become actually closed unless too much time elapses, after being placed "on hold", without subsequent reopening. $\endgroup$ – Namaste Oct 29 '17 at 18:08
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I live by some simple rules.

If I'm voting to close your question, I'm gonna vote now, whether you like it or not. Sucks for you if you want quick answers because I'd rather you not get any answers at all, at least not in that form of the question. Sometimes I'll leave this comment, and in the close link, you'll find What if I disagree with the closure of a question? How can I reopen it?. It doesn't include anything related to meta, and I'll agree that maybe we should put the request thread on the page, but it does include a lot of other useful information... information hardly followed.

And then I'll give you a few days. Maybe a week. Then I'll check my close votes. If you haven't improved your question and it's still not closed, I'll recommend you to CRUDE for closure. Perhaps I'll be turned down, perhaps I won't. If you have improved, I'll consider retracting my vote/voting to reopen. If you are closed and unimproved, I'll review you for deletion.

That's life mate. If you came here wanting to learn something and get turned down, realize that nothing comes without putting some effort into it.

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