It feels like there's a lot of tension on this site, broadly about closing/downvoting/deleting questions. I am quite prolific in closing/downvoting/deleting questions myself because well...there's a lot that should be closed/downvoted/deleted in my opinion. Others, many of whom are good intentioned and contribute prolifically to the site, disagree with me. That is fine. People are allowed to have different opinions.

However it has been noted that there's considerable tension on these topics. How do we reduce this tension? The obvious answer is for one side (yours) to just win. However we can't count on that happening.

How do we reduce the tension on this site? In particular about poorly received questions.

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    In my opinion the point is that this kind of actions should be carried out with balance and without falling into personal disputes. For example I've noticed that you are one of the most devoted downvoter/deleter in OP where I have been involved but I've never had any reason to get in a controversy against you. I suppose that this depends upon the fact that you act in a neutral, balanced and honest way. – gimusi Apr 30 at 6:13
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    But when downvoting/deletions is made in a not consistent way from people which act in a uncorrect and not honest way, also through abusive use of chat rooms and acting with buly behaviuor, the related tensions are a direct consequence of that. I think that the role of moderators is crucial to avoid that such kind of behaviour becomes problematic to the site. – gimusi Apr 30 at 6:13
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    To be more concrete with my point I want give an example. What about the different interpretation of the following two similar OP? The deleted and downvoted one math.stackexchange.com/q/2672501/505767. The answered and upvoted one math.stackexchange.com/q/2657162/505767. – gimusi Apr 30 at 6:23
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    @gimusi: The deleted one is possibly the 100th variant of the same question, and IMHO deserves all the moderation wrath it gets. The still open question is not really better, and IMHO the site would be better off without it as well. Why don't you try and get it deleted? – Jyrki Lahtonen Apr 30 at 10:44
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    A great question. Wish I knew. I am currently stuck in thinking that those prolific answerers are mostly to be blamed, because they are not abiding by any compromises. And, somewhat unnatural compromises are necessary for the site to function. I do concede that having to deal with all the negativity (in my role as a mod) makes me see certain problems looming larger than they actually are. But, even if it is not a mountain it is taller than a molehill. And growing. – Jyrki Lahtonen Apr 30 at 10:51
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    @JyrkiLahtonen I do not agree with deletion for the first as for the second, I’m here since 5 months and it was the first time I’ve encountered those kind of question. Maybe it would suffice to indicate it as a duplicate by more experienced users. What I’m wondering is why who promoted the deletion for the first, gave an answer for the second without promoting deletion. This is a clear example of unconsistent behavior which make propend my suspicions for the lack in correctness and honesty. – gimusi Apr 30 at 15:55
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    @gimusi there are plenty of reasons for actions that in isolation may look potentially inconsistent. Beyond that a certain amount of inconsistency is hard to avoid. As a matter of fact the user you keep complaining about deleted numerous of their own posts, too. – quid Apr 30 at 16:24
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    This is a very great question, Zachary. I will wait to respond, because there is yet a user who's a bit out of sorts for reasons having nothing to do with your great question. Yet, as this user has already consumed four of the seven first comments below your post, I'll wait still, so that your post isn't taken over by the agenda of another user. – amWhy Apr 30 at 20:25
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    @amWhy Ironically, this comment of yours just escalated the tension in the comments section of this question. :P – Frpzzd May 2 at 23:12
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    In perhaps a similar spirit, physics.SE has a new hot meta post going around... – Simply Beautiful Art May 3 at 1:04
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    Poorly received questions are not just poorly received, they are received in a way that qualifies those responsible as boors and bullies, in the following way: When a question is closed for lack of context, the poster is told that it is "off topic". Is there a way to be ruder to newbies and other such posters than that? There is a need to change the menu of reasons to close questions. – Michael Hardy May 9 at 10:39
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    Furthermore, after years of trying, speaking to people who tell me that I post inquiries only to express my view rather that to seek information, the latter being what I am doing, Recently I finally penetrated a secret that had been kept: "Lack of context" means something ONLY when it means someone is posting a homework question without appearing to understand it, so no actual question in the posters mind. Several people participating in such closings keep up a pretense that there is such a thing as closing for lack of context for reasons other than that. It is a falsehood. – Michael Hardy May 9 at 10:41

In my opinion, the #1 biggest gaping hole in the dialog is about positive features — about what features a question can have that we would accept or even welcome on the site.

The only positive feature I've really seen get voiced is "it's a question".

I imagine some amount of tension would be resolved — or paths towards doing so might be revealed — if we could come to better agreement about what the positive features are.

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    I appreciate this answer and find it very refreshing to read, but I don't think it is realistic. Part of the problem is on the disagreement on what is positive. E.g., the discussion about "attempts" and their role on questions. More generally, the discussion about what "context" is is, in part, a discussion about what is positive. – Aloizio Macedo Apr 30 at 5:09
  • @AloizioMacedo: I disagree; to me that discussion reads as a debate over whether or not a question exhibits negative features. – Hurkyl Apr 30 at 5:46
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    Fair point. But isn't the How to ask a good question post an amalgamation of what we consider positive features already, so that discussion is essentially "dealt with" and what is left is controversy over other aspects? – Aloizio Macedo Apr 30 at 5:50
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    I agree with you but I feel like, even the idea that questions SHOULD have standards is controversial. – user223391 Apr 30 at 12:46
  • @ZacharySelk: I think in an ideal world, a discussion of what features are good and bad in a question would be mostly separate from the issue of what threshold a question must clear to be accepted. – Hurkyl Apr 30 at 18:46
  • ... but I've felt like pretty much every user who has advocated for the positive value of questions has refused to participate in that discussion. It's a "the perfect is the enemy of the good" scenario: they are unwilling to help improve selection criteria used by those doing maintenance, because they're spending all of their efforts on their "perfect" solution of keeping everything. – Hurkyl Apr 30 at 18:52
  • I think some of the advocates really do believe all questions are equally worthless, but I find it extremely difficult to believe that's true across the board. – Hurkyl Apr 30 at 18:53
  • (In the previous comment, I use the phrase "equally worthless" rather than the synonym "equally valuable" to emphasize that such a judgement refers to the bad just as much as the good. If every question is valuable... then no question is valuable) – Hurkyl Apr 30 at 21:39
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    I'm not sure I follow you here. What do you mean by "positive features"? AFAICT, everything on the How to ask a good question post is accepted and welcomed from everyone, though not everyone agrees on what is necessary. – Simply Beautiful Art May 3 at 0:57

It's not clear to me that the community can, by itself, improve the situation significantly. The community is just too large with too many strongly held and perfectly reasonable but conflicting ideas of proper behavior. Perhaps, we need help?

StackExchange the business should clarify the intended scope of the site

Many folks point to this Meta post on asking good questions. We see that question posers should provide context, show their work, and avoid "No Clue" questions. Many take this to mean Problem Statement Questions or PSQs should be excluded, which is a perfectly legitimate perspective. Problem statement questions are specifically addressed in this meta post.

However, on this help page on what not to ask, we see that question posers should focus on "practical, answerable questions" and avoid "Chatty, open ended" questions. Not only do PSQs fit that advice well, a long string of potentially irrelevant work doesn't fit that so well.

The dichotomy is even worse when it comes to homework. Here on Meta, the attitude toward homework is at best unclear, as the old Homework tag has been burniated. Over on this help page addressing what you can ask, it states that "Mathematics Stack Exchange is for people studying mathematics at any level" and presents "Mathematical problems such as one might come across in a course or textbook" as a more specific instance of the type of thing that might be asked. While that page does point to the Good Question meta-post, it certainly seems pretty easy to see how many (most?) new comers would have the impression that homework is on topic and even why a lot of old-timers would still hold that opinion.

This isn't the first time this dichotomy has been observed on Meta but the issue persists, in part, because of the lack of clarity. My impression is that, while the Meta posts and the help pages have influenced one another, the Meta posts are ultimately owned and edited by the community while the help pages are ultimately owned and edited by the business - the very business that set up and continues to maintain the functionality that the site provides. It seems to me that, if the business thinks that concise PSQs as one might come across in a course or textbook fits its business model well, then they should step in at times like this and clearly say so. If, on the other hand, the business thinks that a more focused discussion moderated by users with high enough reputation to (presumably) know what they're talking about fits their business model better, then they should make that clear. Personally, I think that a good case could be made for either model and my own attitude has evolved a bit.


Ultimately, I just don't see all 700 some 10,000+ rep users coming to an agreement on this. Perhaps, it's a good time to ask the company for a little guidance, as they've recently acknowledged that StackExchange isn't very welcoming.

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    I totally agree with your claim "StackExchange the business should clarify the intended scope of the site" and also with they've recently acknowledged that "(Math)StackExchange isn't very welcoming" and has some big problem to solve in order to do not become a small elitist community of professional mathematicians. – gimusi May 1 at 16:46
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    Quoting me from chat (incidentally in reply to you, my emphasis) "A quote of a quote from Joel Spolsky's recent blog post: 'Jeff Atwood explained it: "Simple is fine. No effort and research is not."' Seems clear to me. – quid May 1 at 17:16
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    Regarding PSQs: Often they are from a formal point of view not even questions. This got discussed over and over again. Numerous different questions could be asked related to: "Prove that every real symmetric matrix is diagonalisabe." This 'question' is in fact open ended. Because how do you know where to stop your explanation without any indication of OP what they know? Right, you can guess, and maybe guess about correctly, but as a matter of fact this question is open ended. And precisely this is the problem with this type of 'question.' [And 'How do I prove...?' would still be open ended] – quid May 1 at 17:24
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    @gimusi: I don't think MSE is headed in that direction. Perhaps there is already an elitist community of professional mathematicians called MathOverflow. MSE is for any and every math enthusiast. Part of the problem with poor questions is the intent of the asker. Sometimes the asker may not be genuinely interested in mathematics but has to deal with it in order to complete his/her studies and be done with whatever help is available from MSE. Thats the source of PSQs. – Paramanand Singh May 2 at 9:13
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    @gimusi the site is not intended/designed for hints or for talking users through issues. It is for directly useable answers. This answer, which you endorse, makes appeal to the SE. That's quite amusing for somebody that knows the history of the site a bit. Most impulses that you seem to deplore were launched in this spirit and rejected based on the grounds that "we do not care about SE this site is special." Physics has a no homework policy. You know where you can find some strong 'context is not needed' advocates. On MathOverflow. – quid May 2 at 22:17
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    @mol3574710n0fN074710n Did you also read the explanation that follows immediately? "(First read our how to ask a good question page.)" You can ask such questions, that's perfectly fine. But you must follow the guidelines explained there. – quid May 2 at 22:23
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    @mol3574710n0fN074710n it is far from the worst question I have seen on this site, but it clearly misses context. Completely justified close. It is not clear if OP created the image or just copied it. Incidentally that's precisely the context that is missing. Is this an actual real world problem or a problem from a course, or still something else. – quid May 2 at 23:26
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    @quid You quote yourself quoting a blog which quotes a quote of an executive who's now left the company as "clear" evidence of the company's position - in spite of conflicting information directly on this sites help page. That's just hysterical. :) Whatever it is that is clear to you is simply not broadly clear or agreed upon by users across the site, hence my suggestion that the company consider clearing it up. – Mark McClure May 3 at 14:42
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    @MarkMcClure it is clear. Some user just keep ignoring it since years. I explained to you why the type of question you think is admissible is not, it is "open ended." You chose to ignore this. Instead you try to ridicule my position based on an intentionally playful construct. PSQs are off-topic, and this is enforced to some extent since a long time. If it is still unclear, we will have to enforce it more rigorously, so that any confusion can be cleared up. – quid May 3 at 16:15
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    The question here is about relaxing tensions. Trying to sympathetically understand where other groups of folks are coming from oughtta be part of that. So, I'm just not going to pretend that PSQs are clearly off-topic when there's conflicting information on the main help page, so many users ask PSQs and so many users (including some moderators) answer PSQs. – Mark McClure May 3 at 16:48
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    @mol you seem to miss-interpret the criteria. There is no obligation to show work, there is no obligation to explain the intent of the question. There needs to be some context, which can take many forms. Your question is fine, don't worry. ;-) – quid May 3 at 23:37
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    @AloizioMacedo the comment was, as indicate by the emoticon at the end, intended in a somewhat playful way. I did not refer to anything specifically. I assumed that a desire for a somewhat polite tone was a base assumption on the site. The intent of the advice/instructions/orders seem pretty clear to me. (Maybe the consequence are not a priori clear.) Re title. That's not optional either. We do not close if only the title is lacking, but just fix it instead. Yet users are not free to chose non informative titles. If it comes up we usually enforce an informative title even against OP's wish. – quid May 4 at 0:19
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    @quid I did not know about that page that pops up for new question askers. My first question came 2 1/2 years after my first answer; I guess I had enough reputation that I was never funneled through there. I do think that helps - thanks for pointing it out! – Mark McClure May 4 at 2:50
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    @mol I am not convinced that you actually tried. If you have an honest interest in this, ask me in chat. – quid May 4 at 6:29
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    @AloizioMacedo The post is about whether the "official position" on PSQ is clear. Official documentation includes the advice that one should make sure that the post "Describes what you know and what you don't understand (don't just copy a textbook problem!)" I think this should at least settle the question whether "describ[ing] what you know and what you don't understand" is appreciated or instead considered as too chatty and open-ended and instead copying textbookproblems is best practice. This was the main issue raised in the post. Whether the official position about this is clear. – quid May 4 at 6:36

Disclaimer: I'm not really active on Math.SE, so I can't speak to site-specific issues. What follows is a commentary based on things I've observed across the Stack Exchange network. I offer it with the sincere desire that it helps.

Others, many of whom are good intentioned and contribute prolifically to the site, disagree with me. That is fine. People are allowed to have different opinions.

I'll point out that it's all well and good to say that people are allowed to have different opinions, but if the system is set up such that one side of the disagreement seems to always get its way, the other side is going to end up bitter over the bias inherent in the system.

The setup of StackExchange is such that "Closers" have an advantage over "Keep openers". On open questions, there's a vote to close option, but not a "vote to keep open" option. (The "Leave Open" option in the closure review queue only removes it from the review queue, and doesn't counteract any already-given close votes.) This means that it doesn't matter if there's 100+ people on the site who disagree that the question should be closed; so long as there's at least 5 people on the site which think it should be closed, it'll get closed. -- Those that disagree with the closure are allowed to have a different opinion, but their opinion isn't counted.

Certainly, once a question is closed there's a "vote to reopen" option. However, once a question is closed the status quo shifts (in practice). It's no longer sufficient to have a "decent" question. One must have a "good" question which has been scrubbed of all deficiencies. The hurdle to get out of closure is higher than to simply avoid getting closed in the first place.

There's also a social barrier to "vote to reopen". When a question is closed, you have a list of five (likely prominent) members of the community staring at you, telling you that this question should be closed. You know that to get anywhere you're going to have to spend emotional and relationship capital to justify reopening the question. Those five people are likely going to demand justification (probably vociferously) on the reopen call. There might be four other people who agree with you, but you know there's five that don't. In contrast, for the original close vote, there were no prominent names listed. There's only the person asking the question, who is probably a low-rep user (and whose arguments can be easily dismissed with the justification of "you're just whiny, ignorant noob"). The vote to close is thus lower effort mentally/socially than the vote to reopen.

Closure votes tend not to need extensive justification. There's not really an absolute criteria for "too broad" - it's a personal gut check. If you get it wrong, "hey, we're all human - that's why you need five votes to close in the first place!" In contrast, a vote to reopen tends to require justification: "You disagree with closure? Please explain, in referenced detail, how this question meets the criteria for being on topic. -- And it better be good, because if I find your justification lacking, I'm going to insinuate that you don't appreciate people who close bad questions and you want this place to be flooded with crap."

It's also the case that "Closers" seem to be more vocal and active in their beliefs versus the "Keep openers". The former are the ones monitoring the new question and active queues with an eye toward closing questions. And while that's laudable work to keep the site from being overrun with garbage, it does give them advantage over the "Keep openers". There isn't a "recently closed" queue for "Keep openers" to monitor (and closing a question doesn't even bump the modified time for the purposes of the active queue). It's also the case that the "Keep open" position is one more of absence of action, versus the "Closer" position of action. "Don't do things that shouldn't have been done in the first place" is not a great rallying cry, at least not in the way "We're under assault by help vampires! To the walls!" is. ("Closers are killing good questions!" might be a better one, but that opens you up to accusations of fomenting divisiveness and increasing tension.)

(I tried to be even-handed here, but this came off more anti-"Closer" than I would have liked. That's likely because the position I'm arguing is that the system is biased in favor of question closure, and I wanted to convince people who believe the two sides have equal standing.)


So, back to the main topic - how to use this knowledge to diffuse tension?

Well, I'd first encourage the "Closers" to recognize that the "Keep openers" are working from a position of disadvantage based on how StackExchange handles things. "People are allowed to have different opinions" oversimplifies. In practice, the "Closers" can mostly ignore the opinions of the "Keep openers" if they want to. The reverse? Not so much.

But the sentiment behind "people are allowed to have different opinions" is good, and I'd encourage more of it. Too often discussions on closing/downvoting/deleting devolve into thinly-veiled invective slinging, where people posting questions are painted with a broad brush, people arguing against broad closure are accused of being willing to let the site go to hell, and people arguing for broader closure are seen as trigger-happy jerks.

Both sides need to keep in mind that everyone here is trying to improve the site. That's often where I see these conversations go off the rails. Someone pulls out the "you don't care about the site"/"you just want to see the site go to hell" card, the discussion fizzles out without a satisfactory conclusion, the "Keep openers" get upset because the "Closers" can throw their weight around, and the "Closers" get upset because they feel under-appreciated and overwhelmed. Then the next meta question picks back up with the tension in the same spot it left off.

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    Thanks a lot for investing a bit of time into a site that's peripheral to your main interest and bringing a detached but knowledgeable perspective to the situation! I think you've largely hit the mark perfectly. The one site specific issue that I might mention, though, is that the problems here are past close vs leave open. It's delete vs don't delete. – Mark McClure May 1 at 0:31
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    Did you consider that most often at the point that the question gets closed it already got an answer? That is those that wanted it closed, i.e., it being impossible to answer it, did in fact not get what they wanted. Instead, those that wanted the question to get an answer got what they wanted. Because they started with the huge advantage that a new question starts open. If you think there is such a big advantage to the close side, how about we flip everything? Questions start closed. One can only vote to [re]open, etc.? Deal? – quid May 1 at 0:45
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    By the way 'There isn't a "recently closed" queue for "Keep openers" to monitor[...]' is just false as it exists under moderation tools (for 10k+users). – quid May 1 at 1:11
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    The question is not really that the "closers" get the upper hand, but instead those "keep openers" almost never exercise their powers. I've never seen those "keep-openers" actively involved in the close/reopen queues. – user99914 May 1 at 1:18
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    While interesting, I get the impression that MSE has two significant differences as compared to other top SE sites that may (or may not) invalidate these broad observations: (1) the "keep openers" had the social power for much, much longer, and (2) the "closers" are a smaller community. – Hurkyl May 1 at 2:30
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    @quid Good point that early answers do mute the power of closure. However, I think the fundamental disagreements are typically less about answers to any individual question, and more about long-term disposition of questions and the message closure/deletion conveys regarding which questions are acceptable. -- Questions starting closed certainly could work, but to be effective it would require a substantial technical and cultural shift on SE. There's significant issues to work through if you're actually fronting it as a serious proposal. – R.M. May 1 at 3:19
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    @JohnMa Agreed that "keep-openers" should be more active in the close/reopen queues. But I hope you see that currently the reopen/keep-open stance is in a substantially different position versus close/delete. An "acceptable" reopen vote is more difficult to make than an "acceptable" close vote - the hurdle is set higher. It can thus sometimes feel like you're spitting against the wind. Also, as currently constituted, the reopen queue isn't really setup for "reverse mistaken closures", it's more "validate that the newbs took on the advice of the (assumed correct) closure reason." – R.M. May 1 at 3:22
  • @quid ... That said, I could potentially see an argument to drop the threshold for putting new questions on hold, but only if the threshold for re-opening is equivalently dropped, both technically and culturally. If a single vote can close, a single vote can reopen. If "I think it's too broad" suffices for closure, "I think it's not" suffices for reopening. -- Oh, and if all people with close votes can see the new question queue to monitor for potential closures, all people with reopen votes should be able to see the recently closed queue to monitor for potential reopeners. – R.M. May 1 at 3:22
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    On open questions, there's a vote to close option, but not a "vote to keep open" option. You forgot to mention that on closed questions, there's a vote to reopen option, but not a "vote to keep closed" option. – Joel Reyes Noche May 1 at 3:51
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    Closure votes tend not to need extensive justification. [...] In contrast, a vote to reopen tends to require justification. I can't see how you reached this conclusion. When a user votes to close a question, they are required to answer "Why should this question be closed" in a pop-up window. But when a user votes to reopen a question, the only pop-up window that shows up is "Nominate this question for reopening?" – Joel Reyes Noche May 1 at 4:10
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    @quid Just one minor addition to your comment about places where to monitor close votes. It is true that you can see recent closures in the moderator tools - but typically you see there only a few very recent ones (less than one day old). Still, history of close votes review could serve similar purpose. (Although only for post where at least one close vote came from the review queue.) – Martin Sleziak May 1 at 4:31
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    @MartinSleziak Thanks for the addition. Let me add for those that do not see it themselves that "only a few" is still 50 (or something like that) which covers about half a day. Another way for recent questions would be to use search "is:q closed:yes" and sorted by newest or active (this would arguably miss on recently closed old questions, but given the context it is mostly about recent questions.) Generally I think that if somebody wants to find closed question to see if they want to open them, they'll find enough to keep them busy easily. – quid May 1 at 14:18
  • During the last moderator election, I asked all of the candidates whether they support a proposal I made, and several of them did. It was that when a question is closed for deficient context or details, instead of calling it "off topic" when it is obviously about mathematics, there should be a separate menu item for "missing context or details" instead of "off topic".

    Nonetheless the developers have not worked on this. I will contact them tomorrow.

    Obviously that would reduce the acrimony.

  • In the close queue, those who vet questions are treated disrespectfully. One ought to be able to choose questions to which one can contribute, instead of being directed by a faceless robot. It seems impossible to imagine an intelligent person tolerating being treated that way while sober and fully awake. So those who habitually work the queue must be anesthetizing their brains somehow to make it tolerable. And it shows. There is no subtlety. Improving the way the queue functions would help.

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    Back to attacking the people instead of the problem, are we, Michael? – Gerry Myerson May 3 at 3:49
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    It would be useful to link the proposal you mention - from your description it is this one, as far as I can tell. – Martin Sleziak May 3 at 3:53
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    @MichaelHardy: Intentional or not, your first bullet point comes off rather accusatory -- casting aspersions on those candidates who said they agreed with your proposal via the fact the proposal has not been implemented. – Hurkyl May 4 at 9:59
  • @Hurkyl : Who is it that you claim I'm being accusatory toward? – Michael Hardy May 7 at 20:19
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    @GerryMyerson : You are my debtor because you have made an accusation. Simple honesty requires specificity from you. I am persona non grata here because I am not an extreme conservative; therefore members of a clique of bullies will be your cheerleaders if you accuse me of anything. But I do not attack people here. – Michael Hardy May 7 at 20:22
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    I have no idea what being an "extreme conservative" has to do with anything. Anyway, there's no need for you to accuse members of m.se of good standing of "anesthetizing their brains" in order to make your point. – Gerry Myerson May 7 at 21:26
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    @GerryMyerson : One who thinks that the way in which m.s.e. is run must continue to be as it is, simply because that's how it's always been, is an extreme conservative. I did not name any members of m.s.e. But the review queue operates in a way that plainly would be intolerable to anyone who wants to apply some intelligence or honesty to the process. – Michael Hardy May 7 at 21:48
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    There you go again. – Gerry Myerson May 7 at 23:48
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    @GerryMyerson : In what way should I point out that the review queue is run badly? Is there some way in which that can be said without being guilty of a felony? – Michael Hardy May 7 at 23:55
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    No need for drama, Michael ("guilty of a felony"? Really?). You can point out actions that are taken, and why you think it's a bad idea to take those actions, without making any characterization of the people who take those actions. It's not that hard. – Gerry Myerson May 8 at 0:09
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    @GerryMyerson : It's not just particular isolated actions; it's a general pattern. Closing questions is done well only in obvious cases. And if you look at how the review queue works you can see why. – Michael Hardy May 8 at 1:53
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    Fine. Describe the pattern, and what's wrong with it, without casting aspersions on the people. – Gerry Myerson May 8 at 2:58
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    @GerryMyerson : I've already spent many hours doing that, and I've heard no expression of gratitude from you for it. – Michael Hardy May 9 at 4:31
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    The platform isn't designed for expressions of gratitude. We're explicitly told not to leave thank-you notes, and all upvoting is anonymous. But I'll take this opportunity to thank you for all the many contributions you have made to the main site and to meta. – Gerry Myerson May 9 at 5:48

Make the "homework" issue explicit. Require everyone who asks a question on the site to declare whether or not they came up with the question. Make a checkbox that says "homework" or "not homework". Add a little "I swear" legalese that they have to check they have read.

I think that the passive-aggressive and non-communicative way that people approach this issue can be deeply offensive and annoying. I would appreciate a much more direct approach. Let the world know that you don't want to do anyone's homework for them. Make them swear it's not homework.

And if it's not homework, then what's the problem? Just answer the question if you know the answer. Be a giver. Don't worry about where the question comes from.

I am not an intensive user of this site, but I really enjoy it and appreciate the interactions I have had (all have been good!) As I am a stranger to this land, I hope I don't seem impertinent, but I might have a possible strategy for dealing with the 'tension' problem...

If I understand it right, you need to make policy decisions (which take the form of guidelines or rules). You would like to make these decisions efficiently while allowing everyone to have their say, time for deliberation followed, ultimately, by a final decision. And without too many fights breaking out.

The base of 'voters' is about 700? Not that the exact figure really matters. If you are trying to have conversations on-line in which all 700 people can participate, then that might be the source of the problem.

I'd like to propose a system where everyone can be heard, goals can be met, while maximizing efficiency (yikes!) and minimizing friction (double yikes!) But I need to make sure I have a firm grasp of the situation, otherwise this might turn into an overly long, half-baked post.

To be clear, I am not concerned with the particular issues being addressed, but with the structure of the decision-making process regulating the site. Please let me know. Thanks in advance.

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    ...I honestly cannot tell what point you are making, if any. Are you just recording your thoughts? – Najib Idrissi May 4 at 13:16
  • I have been trying to figure out, by searching the site, exactly how the rules and regulations are decided. I haven't had any luck, but maybe I have failed to find the proper link. I was hoping someone would point me in the right direction. Once I know something about the decision-making process the users on this site employ, I would like to submit some suggestions as to how to improve the process. – Omne Bonum May 4 at 16:25
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    This approach seems to reflect a huge self confidence. I mean, I would not walk into a garage out of the blue, and start explaining to the people there how they should fix cars... (Nota: To me, cars are objects with four points of contact with the ground, that one can distinguish through their color, and this is about it.) – Did May 4 at 16:32
  • As I understand it, the members here are mostly mathematicians, although surely there is great variety in addition. I was trained, and worked, as a Sociologist. I focus on the issue of tensions within and between groups! I've enjoyed this community, I wanted to give back, I saw there might be an opportunity to do so, given my specialty. Am I confident? Mods here are confident in their field, and they should be! They help me for free. I want to help them for free. But I need to know a few things. Is this a direct democracy? How are decisions reached? And like that. – Omne Bonum May 5 at 6:03
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    @OmneBonum If you have a question you should make a new question, not post it as an answer to a tangentially related question. I don't know how the question you seem to want to ask will be received, but it will probably be received better than as an answer here. – Derek Elkins May 5 at 20:17

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