I see that Prove that $r+x$ is irrational. was closed less than 2 hours after its being asked.

Now it seems to me that the questioner did everything right, including editing it for clarity and replying to comments, both on the question and the answer.

The closure was done because "Original close reason(s) were not resolved".

Two hours after the question was originally asked? Isn't that just a little bit overzealous? This is gatekeeping of IMO an unnecessarily stringent order. Seriously, what is the justification for this?

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    $\begingroup$ AFAICT from the revision history and the timeline it was actually closed as: " Needs details or clarity". The phrase "Original close reason(s) were not resolved" you've mentioned is related to the reopen reviews. $\endgroup$ Mar 29 at 12:43
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    $\begingroup$ The goal of Math SE is to create a high quality repository of questions and answer, not to give one-on-one tutoring to those asking questions. History has shown us that if poor and marginal questions are not closed quickly, then people come to believe that those kinds of questions are welcome here. Hence it makes sense, as a protection for the site to quickly close questions which don't meet the standards. In my opinion this is a good thing: close quickly, but delete slowly. $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson Mod
    Mar 29 at 12:55
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    $\begingroup$ Moreover, as Gerry points out, the question appears to be a duplicate: math.stackexchange.com/questions/2886155 . If it isn't a duplicate, then I have difficulty seeing what makes it distinct. $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson Mod
    Mar 29 at 12:56
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    $\begingroup$ @XanderHenderson The duplicateness of the question is very far from obvious. To the casual reader it just looks like it got dogpiled. $\endgroup$ Mar 29 at 19:56
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    $\begingroup$ @PrimeMover The fact that it is a duplicate is secondary---if a question doesn't meet the standards of the site, it should be closed quickly, so that edits can be made before some answerer posts an answer which turns out to be wrong or useless because the asker left out some clarifying details. This also gives users with more expertise in the relevant tag(s) a chance to find good duplicate candidates. The mantra is "Close quickly, delete slowly, and reopen when improvements are made." $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson Mod
    Mar 29 at 19:59

1 Answer 1


I don't think this was an over-zealous closure of a perfectly good question. Looking at the timeline, it was originally closed at 3/29 10:14. Here is how the post looked at that time: https://math.stackexchange.com/revisions/4889458/2 I think it is debatable whether that version met the standards of the site, at the time it was closed.

I think it would have been better if the poster had narrowed their post down to the specific question they wanted answered. I'm not sure, but it sounds like maybe their actual question might be: "Can we conclude that $0+x=x$ holds when $x$ is a real number? The axiom of additive identity only holds for the rational numbers, and we haven't been introduced to the field of real numbers yet." If so, it would have been better to ask that, without all of the distraction of their attempted proof. Or, they should have started with that question, and then provided context of where it arose (e.g., that attempted proof).

The question didn't provide context about their current level of knowledge and what level an answer should be at and what can and can't be assumed in an answer. Anne Bauval asked in the comments: "What does "irrational" mean to you if you "haven't been introduced to the field of real numbers yet"?" There was no response to that, at the time the question was closed.

This is a site where people can collaborate to build an archive of knowledge, in the form of questions and answers that will hopefully be useful to others in the future. That requires some care and attention to formulating a question that is clear and will be useful to others in the future. With that goal in mind, if the question isn't suitable yet or doesn't meet site standards yet, it's usually best to put it on hold to provide a chance to improve it, before accumulating answers. I've seen too many cases where people start answering an unclear question, then it turns out that they misunderstood the question (because the statement of the question initially wasn't entirely clear), and the question gets edited, but now we're left with the detritus of answers that are answering an older version of the question. The Stack Exchange philosophy is that it's better to put the question on hold temporarily and focus first on making this a good question, before writing answers.

If you encounter a similar situation in the future where you want to write an answer and find that the question is on hold, in the Stack Exchange philosophy, the appropriate response is to revise the question so it reads well and to address the issues, then vote to re-open, and once it is re-opened, answer it. Of course, I realize that might not go over well here, because there is a portion of the community that is strongly opposed to others making substantial edits to a question posted by someone else (basically, not everyone buys into the standard Stack Exchange philosophy). So I realize that puts you in a tricky position, and it might not be viable for you to edit the question to make it meet site standards. But I still think it's better to put the question on hold until it has been revised to meet the standards of the site, before allowing answers.

As Xander Henderson explains, our mission is to build an archive of knowledge that will help not just the original asker but also others in the future. It's not to be a help desk for the one person who asked or provide one-on-one tutoring. Experience has shown that we're better able to achieve that mission if we put questions on hold if they don't meet site standards, and improve the question before collecting any answers.


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