General reference : not constructive or what?

I flagged this question since it could be answered by a simple Googling and especially from the Wikipedia article posted in a comment. This is what I discussed here and got no attention.

It can be definitely answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.

I wonder why it was declined by a moderator.

• I wouldn't say that +10/-2 is "no attention". Not to mention an answer... – Asaf Karagila Jun 27 '12 at 13:02
• Only the decliner can say for sure, but it may have been for reasons I enumerated in my answer to your prior question. Also keep in mind that we have members who may be able to give much better answers than "standard internet sources". If such closure was allowed it would probably apply to a large majority of MSE questions. – Bill Dubuque Jun 27 '12 at 13:21
• I wouldn't say so. The problem shows up when they ask for definitions which are available online and I don't think a user of this community would bother to summarize them to give a better answer. I'm not talking about simple questions in general, but definitions are general reference and should be closed. – Gigili Jun 27 '12 at 13:27
• It seems that neither Google nor Wikipedia are considered standard references at EL&U. – Martin Sleziak Jun 27 '12 at 15:11
• EL&U?${}{}{}{}$ – Gerry Myerson Jun 28 '12 at 0:46
• @Gerry: The English Language and Usage Stack Exchange, which was spelled out in Gigili's related question. – Jonas Meyer Jun 28 '12 at 0:54
• Related questions: meta.math.stackexchange.com/q/1701, meta.math.stackexchange.com/q/1539 – Jonas Meyer Jun 28 '12 at 0:57

I was the moderator who handled your flag. You flagged the question as "not constructive"; but the official description of "not constructive" is:

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or specific expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion.

That certainly doesn't apply to the question.

I also disagree with having a policy of closing questions that are searchable or otherwise "general reference". Sure, we can point out to the askers of such questions that Google is their friend, and maybe it indicates some degree of laziness on their part; but no more laziness than that of the people who blindly post their homework problems, and those questions aren't closed.

• I found a question on definition of sequences and series incomparable with a homework question. – Gigili Jun 27 '12 at 21:25
• First of all, there are plenty of terms / concepts that can reasonably confuse someone as to their definition without their being lazy. Secondly, even if the term has only one dead-simple explanation that's plastered everywhere on the internet, why are you so intent on not helping them? There are plenty of classic problems assigned as homework every year that people could find solutions to online if they searched, and plenty of dead-simple problems people could find solutions to if they actually tried, but we answer those questions anyway. – Zev Chonoles Jun 27 '12 at 23:08
• I should add that I agree with all four points in Bill's answer about why we should not close "general reference" questions. – Zev Chonoles Jun 27 '12 at 23:10

I was not the one who handled your flag. In any case, I do not think that moderators should close questions in the way you requested—except for spam and such extreme situations. I have never followed such a flag on normal situations like this.

If you think the question should be closed, vote for it to be closed and add a comment explaining why. If other users agree, it will be closed.

• Mariano, be noted that users with less than 3,000 reputation cannot vote for closure, only to flag for closure. – Asaf Karagila Jun 27 '12 at 16:25
• I know. Those users should skip the first step and go directly to «add a comment» :) – Mariano Suárez-Álvarez Jun 27 '12 at 16:36
• +1 I completely agree. – Bill Dubuque Jun 27 '12 at 18:44
• @Asaf That folks with low rep cannot vote to close is presumably by design, i.e. the SE designers want users to have enough experience with community norms before having such powers. IMO low rep users should not attempt to work around this design by flagging for closure (except perhaps in extreme circumstances where urgent diamond mod action is required). – Bill Dubuque Jun 27 '12 at 18:46
• @Bill: I am fully aware of that. However since Gigili cannot vote to close, Mariano saying that if she feels like voting to close then she should vote herself and not flag is moot. – Asaf Karagila Jun 27 '12 at 19:17
• @Asaf: she can leave a comment, surely. My main point, though, is that flagging such a situation for moderator attention is quite not the way to go. – Mariano Suárez-Álvarez Jun 27 '12 at 19:18
• @Mariano: Yes, which is why I did not add further comments after my first one. You should have mentioned that explicitly in the post, though. As it stands it seems a bit like you are unaware to this fact. I merely replied to Bill because his comment made me feel that he misunderstood me. (Generally speaking, a lot of people misunderstand me for the better part of the time I talk about things other than mathematics, and most people misunderstand me when I talk about mathematics too. I once complained here and Gerry commented that it doesn't pass - it's part of being a mathematician...) – Asaf Karagila Jun 27 '12 at 19:22
• What's that, Asaf? I can't understand you.... – Gerry Myerson Jun 28 '12 at 0:49
• @Bill: However, it is presumably also by design that low-rep users can flag for closing with the same canned reasons that 3k+ users can vote with. (These flags must be different from free-form text flags, since they are shown in the non-diamond 10k+ mod tools). Using that explicitly provided feature can hardly be said to be an "attempt to work around" anything. However, it's quite fine by me to decide that we don't, as a community, want to use the flag-to-close feature. We have enough 3k+ users to get closeworthy questions closed without moderator intervention. – Henning Makholm Jun 28 '12 at 12:19
• @Henning It's not clear to me what the SE designers were thinking. Perhaps some of these design decisions are explicity mentioned somewhere (MSO?), but I'd guess that one of the primary reasons is as I mentioned above, viz. that for extremely urgent matters (e.g. vandalism) it is helpful to have everyone's contribution (e.g. so quicker action minimimizes damage). – Bill Dubuque Jun 28 '12 at 14:44