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The problem: Sometimes, an user begins acting adversarially and is unresponsive to improvement of their post. This is bad behaviour in general and part of the community feels urged to address it.

We know that, in practice, the close reason "off-topic because ... missing context or other details" is used as an umbrella reason for this question has some kind of defect. This can make a bad match when the user under scrutiny is argumentative: they feel that the question is not missing context/details and thus argue even more about it, sometimes bringing the issue to meta and together with it unneeded discussions. The problem is: they are, technically, not exactly "wrong" in general.

The close-voter could vote to close the question under a "Other" reason, and explain it further. But this has two severe downsides:

  1. It puts the close-voter up close an argumentative user, since voting under "Other" leaves a comment. This is also one of the reasons (I conjecture, at least) why the "off-topic because ... missing context or other details" ended up being the standard "this has issues" reason.
  2. It is a more involved procedure, thus not being exactly optimal regarding the efficiency and quickness of the vote queue.

So, as I see it, this problem brings annoyance for the user, for the close voters and for the community at large in meta (and also in main). This annoyance is also not a thought experiment: we have explicit examples along meta.

My proposal: Add a close vote reason which reads something as

unresponsiveness

The community has suggested considerable improvements to the question which would make it more aligned to the standards of MSE. Please consider addressing them.

Some counter-arguments to the proposal which I could think of, and the respective rebuttals:

This adds an overly-specific mechanic for no good reason.

As I said before, I think a lot of discussion which is, frankly, unnecessary for all parts involved happens precisely because of this issue. This is of course personal judgement, and if the community thinks that is not sufficient enough for this feature, that is fine.

Well, technically, any closure is due to the user not being responsive with respect to putting the question under the site's policies, so this is redundant.

Yes, that is true. But there is a difference between a question which gets immediately closed due to its overall lack of quality and a borderline case. This close reason would, in practice, be used in that borderline case, when the user simply doesn't want to push it to the other side of the line.

We should not close questions due to unresponsiveness

There has been previous discussion in meta regarding to closing questions due to unresponsiveness (for instance, see this link provided by @Martin Sleziak in the comments).

I don't have a rebuttal for this point (in fact, I consider this a pretty valid point: for instance, a quick argument in favor of this is the fact that responsiveness is related to the user and not the question), other than the fact that it seems that opinion regarding this has changed in the community (this is clear by relatively recent meta situations). If someone answers this question, feel free to elaborate on this topic.


I think this benefits everyone*: the user whose question is being closed (he has a more precise reason as to why), the close-voters (they do not need to engage directly with a potentially argumentative user, and can keep a relative distance) and the community at large, since we would dimish the number of discussions related to this issue.

*Assuming, of course, that closing questions due to unresponsiveness is something the community wants.


EDIT: I've been looking up some previous discussions. This looks like a rather polarizing subject. Oddly, though, I don't see many explicit discussion among the sides (at least, compared to the situation of PSQ's, say). I don't like quoting people, so I ask of the ones who are interested to look up about these issues, see the following links as examples (questions, answers and also comments) where this discussion ensues:

Voting to close due to OP's unresponsiveness

Is it okay to close a question due to bad/non-cooperative behaviour of OP?

Why do even high reputation users do not pay attention on close votes?

Why is the reason for the down and close vote for this question?

etc.

I'll allow myself an exception and quote just a part of an answer which I think is relevant:

Some people say "vote to close immediately, and leave a comment on how to improve it; once it is edited, it can be re-opened". But other people prefer "leave a comment and wait a day or two to give the poster a chance to edit first; if they don't improve the question, then vote to close".

For the latter people, as you can see, things a little more complex. In particular, if a poster posts a question that is off-topic/too-broad/unclear/etc. but is responsive to comments and immediately addresses any feedback, those people won't vote to close. On the other hand, if the poster posts a question that is off-topic/too-broad/unclear/etc. and is non-responsive -- doesn't respond to feedback in a timely fashion -- those people will eventually vote to close. That might look like they're voting to close because of non-responsiveness. They might even describe it as voting to close because of non-responsiveness. But, technically speaking, non-responsiveness is not the reason to vote to close. Instead, the reason to vote to close was the original problem with the post: that it was off-topic/too-broad/unclear/whatever. Because the poster was non-responsive, that original problem never got fixed, and it remains a valid reason to vote to close.

I ask that we do not enter a philosophical debate over causality, what is the "real" reason etc. The suggestion is intended to be of a practical nature to reduce unwarranted tension.

Also take note that "unresponsiveness" is not necessarily to be used in a strict literal sense. It can also be an euphemism for adversariality and disruptive behaviour.

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  • $\begingroup$ Somewhat related previous discussion: Voting to close due to OP's unresponsiveness. $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Jul 12 '18 at 15:28
  • $\begingroup$ @MartinSleziak That is a very relevant link to have here, thank you. I'll add this to the question. $\endgroup$ – Aloizio Macedo Jul 12 '18 at 15:33
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    $\begingroup$ To me, this doesn't really align with the idea of voting on a question rather than a user. If an asker is unresponsive about a low-quality question, then just close it as a low-quality question. $\endgroup$ – T. Bongers Jul 12 '18 at 15:50
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    $\begingroup$ @T.Bongers I also dislike the fact that this relates heavily to the user instead of the question. This suggestion is motivated because there are plenty of times where close votes are motivated due to an user being adversarial or something similar, and then the discussion ensues due to the vote reason being improper, confusion etc. I thought that such cases were a consensus in the community, by how it reacted to the offspring in meta of such posts. It seems, as of now, that they are not a consensus. $\endgroup$ – Aloizio Macedo Jul 12 '18 at 16:00
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I do not think this is a good proposal, because the reason is either inaccurate or inappropriate.

I do not currently believe closing a user's question as retaliation for bad behavior is appropriate. Any punishment a user gets for bad behavior should come through flagging the user's posts and letting diamond moderators handle it as they do.

However, I also don't believe retaliation is usually the reason for a post to be closed. What's going on is that readers are optimistic that a bad post can be improved, and this optimism is killed when the user is unresponsive. The reason the post is closed is because it's a bad post; unresponsiveness is merely what spurred readers to pass judgment.

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    $\begingroup$ I highly agree with the considerations of your first two paragraphs. But I feel the last one is a little too rhetorical for practicality, which is what is in part behind the suggestion. If lack of response/adversariality ultimately makes someone vote to close, it is information relevant enough to be displayed (for the reasons I mentioned in the question), for clarity and consistency. Either that, or we collectively agree to disregard responsiveness altogether as a contribution to closing imho (i.e.: make an effort not even to be optimistic for the sake of consistency). $\endgroup$ – Aloizio Macedo Jul 12 '18 at 19:29
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I don't recommend adopting a close reason based on unresponsiveness.

If you think a response is needed, presumably that's because you think there is something unsuitable about the question if no change is made: maybe it is too broad, maybe it is unclear what is being asked, maybe it appears to be out of scope, maybe it shows insufficient effort, maybe it is not useful. So, I suggest you identify why you think changes need to be made, then determine whether those are reasons that warrant closing. If they warrant closing, then responsiveness is not really the issue; it's those problems that are the real issue.

To put it another way: Start by assuming that the question is never edited and will never be edited. Should it be closed? If so, then vote to close.

Responsiveness is irrelevant. If the question is worthy of being closed in its current form, then it should be closed; the issue is not failure to be responsive, but that the question in its current form does not meet our expectations. If the question is answerable and on-topic and not worthy of being closed, but just could be better, then it should not be closed; failure to respond or to make additional improvements that were suggested is not close-worthy. You can still use your power to vote on the question.

Sometimes people see a question that is close-worthy (e.g., it is not answerable because it is unclear), and instead of voting to close they leave a comment requesting clarification or suggesting improvements. That's fine, and their right. I'm not sure it is the best policy. I suspect a better policy would be to put it on hold immediately, until the edits are made. But if the question initially met the criteria for closure, and you chose to comment instead of voting to close in hopes that the author will improve their question, you're still free to vote to close later if the question was not improved -- as in that case it remains just as close-worthy as it was when it was initially posted.

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