I have recently cleared 3,000 rep, so I am new to casting close votes. I am ready and eager to use my power for good! But I'm struck by the fact that there seem to be 40+ polls in the queue around the clock and the first time I realized that I only got 20 votes per day, I spent the rest of the day seeing even worse questions and feeling like I should have kept my powder dry.

If you are an established user, could you discuss how you triage your votes to have the maximum impact on the user experience? I find myself prepared to always vote to skip the following two cases, for instance:

  • A problem that is clearly homework and has a lot of downvotes and no answer, since the system will eventually clean that out on its own. (See Is "Don't bother voting to close a sufficiently downvoted question" good advice?)

  • A problem that is probably homework, but already has several answers including an accepted answer. I mean, the horse has already left the barn there, and there's nothing we can do to promote better behavior from the OP on future quetsions.

But then, skipping just keeps the issue in the pipeline for everyone else. So, how does everyone else deal with this dilemma?

  • 12
    $\begingroup$ Try to reserve at least 5-6 votes per day for questions that you know are within your area of expertise. Namely, areas that you can be more confident of your ability to judge the quality of the questions (e.g., there are sometimes questions in set theory that might seem lacking context to non-experts, but are in fact complete with context to anyone who can understand those concepts; and vice versa, sometimes questions have no context even if it seems that they do). The rest, do your best. $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Commented Aug 28, 2019 at 12:27
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ You should have seen the close queue a year ago, when it averaged 2--300 at any given time. $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson Mod
    Commented Aug 28, 2019 at 12:34
  • 12
    $\begingroup$ Regarding your second comment: the horse has not already left the barn. Part of the problem is answerers who encourage no-context PSQs (problem statement questions; essentially, questions which could have been copied right out of a book with no additional context). Closing and deleting such questions---even if they have been answered---does not send a strong signal to the askers, but has the potential to send a signal to the answerers who enable the askers. $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson Mod
    Commented Aug 28, 2019 at 12:37
  • $\begingroup$ Relevant post on meta: math.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/29764/… $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson Mod
    Commented Aug 28, 2019 at 12:41
  • 8
    $\begingroup$ Sounds to me like over-optimization. If you're spending a vote on something that deserves a vote, that's good enough. If you feel like you run out of votes too early, then one thing you could do is adjust your standards to be more forgiving so that they go farther to get stuff you think is egregious. I'm sure nobody would complain if you did that. $\endgroup$
    – rschwieb
    Commented Aug 28, 2019 at 14:17
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I upvoted the Q because I'd never thought about a strategy for close voting. I suspect I exhaust my supply in a given day only a few times a year, and I primarily do my close voting by working away at the review queue for that purpose. $\endgroup$
    – hardmath
    Commented Aug 28, 2019 at 16:12
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Vote your own closed ? $\endgroup$
    – user645636
    Commented Aug 28, 2019 at 16:53
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @TheSimpliFire seasonal fluctuation could play a significant role. We have considerably fewer questions in now then in some other months. $\endgroup$
    – quid Mod
    Commented Aug 28, 2019 at 20:54
  • 10
    $\begingroup$ You mention having only 20 votes a day, and "seeing even worse questions and feeling like [you] should have kept [your] powder dry", but you really have 50 close votes. It's only the reviews that are limited to 20, so if you've done your daily share of reviewing you can still vote to close (at least) 30 bad questions. $\endgroup$
    – Arnaud D.
    Commented Aug 29, 2019 at 5:50
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ The two bullet points in the post may be misleading: being a homework problem does not at all mean being of low quality. There is even a guideline for asking homework problems in meta: How to ask a homework question? $\endgroup$
    – user9464
    Commented Aug 29, 2019 at 15:55
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ When you find yourself feeling burned out, take a break. There are always plenty of things for review on this site, and you can never predict when you'll come across the more interesting items. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 29, 2019 at 16:44
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Only very slightly tongue-in-cheek: if you find yourself bumping against the 20-votes-per-day limit, you may want to take that as a gentle reminder that there is a Life Outside Stack Exchange. Maybe you want to grab a cup of coffee and get back to actual work. (Add scare quotes as you see fit.) $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 30, 2019 at 22:25
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ As has been mentioned you can close 30 more questions outside of the queue. I would recommend cleaning up tags that you actually like or doing a mixture of that and searching through places where you know you will find trash and tags you like. Also you can delete a lot of questions with down votes(as you have noticed). Search: answers:0 isanswered:no hasaccepted:no closed:no score:0 and sort by date. You can add tag info to or do variations depending on if you want to use close votes on questions which won't be auto cleaned up. $\endgroup$
    – user29123
    Commented Aug 31, 2019 at 0:58
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ If you time your down votes correctly (on Saturdays I believe) you can down vote a bunch of questions, they will get auto deleted on weekly clean up and you get your votes back, so you can down vote more questions again. $\endgroup$
    – user29123
    Commented Aug 31, 2019 at 1:02
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ If you want to use your power for good, dedicate your time to actually answering questions! $\endgroup$
    – David
    Commented Sep 5, 2019 at 8:52

1 Answer 1


A couple of points to consider:

  1. It takes five votes to close any question. If everyone saves their votes for some greater need, nothing gets closed. Do your share and vote. It's a community effort, and you have done a helpful share by giving 20 votes in a day.

  2. Some closure decisions are trivial, some are hard. If you're in a hurry, help with the trivial ones. If you have the time and expertise, focus on the harder questions that you can judge well.

  3. If the question is salvageable, you can edit it or leave a comment explaining what the issue is. The closure banner text does not give very clear and specific instructions for going forward, but you can. It's useful, but not something you have to do.

  4. Remember to enjoy. You're volunteering to keep the site clean, and I (and surely many others) am grateful for that. But it's volunteer work and you get to do it on your own terms. Do what satisfies you and stop doing it (for a while at least) if it stops being satisfying. Any work on the review queues helps, so don't worry too much about being suboptimal at it. Doing good doesn't have to mean doing the best good you possibly can.

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Amen to the 4th! We appreciate each other for what we bring to the table, and no-one's going to (or at least they shouldn't) nag at you for not voting on things you don't feel like! $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 5, 2019 at 1:53
  • $\begingroup$ Although you can take part only in 20 close reviews in a day, you actually have 24 close votes in a day. Even if you've voted to close in all the reviews (what is quite unfavorable), you still have 4 further close votes (but you need to give them out of any reviews). $\endgroup$
    – peterh
    Commented Sep 9, 2019 at 21:19
  • $\begingroup$ @peterh I'm aware that the numbers in the OP are not fully accurate, but that does not undermine my points in anyway, I think. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 9, 2019 at 21:20
  • $\begingroup$ @JoonasIlmavirta Yes, I only made it more precise, but don't disagree your post. Note also, 3k does not mean only close votes, there are reopen votes and there is a reopen review queue, too. $\endgroup$
    – peterh
    Commented Sep 9, 2019 at 21:21

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