The question

Proofs that every mathematician should know?

has 142 upvotes (4 down) and was favorited 150 times. The revision history shows that the question was closed by a moderator but with no other close voters listed.


Why was this question closed? Unless there is more information not in the revision history it looks like one user over-ruled the expressed opinion of more than 100 others. I searched the meta and could not find discussion of this closing.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ There are 22 answers to the question, most of them short. They fit on one screen and I was able to scroll through and get the information in most of them in one or two minutes. $\endgroup$ – zyx Mar 15 '13 at 4:41
  • 9
    $\begingroup$ And there is no sign of controversy, including requests for closing, in the 11 comments below the question. $\endgroup$ – zyx Mar 15 '13 at 4:47
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I've added specific-question tag, since I think it is appropriate. If you want to discuss a more general issue and this question was intended merely as an example, then please remove the tag. $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Mar 15 '13 at 9:40
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    $\begingroup$ @MartinSleziak, I omitted that tag because it might create the idea that this is a thread to re-open a particular question. I see that there have been new upvotes and favorites on the question, and a vote to reopen, but this is a side effect. My question is about the process of closing and why such a popular question was shut down. $\endgroup$ – zyx Mar 15 '13 at 12:18
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    $\begingroup$ I think the closure reason - "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." - sums it up. I don't see why a certain number of upvotes, favorites or answers changes that. $\endgroup$ – Macro Mar 15 '13 at 17:11
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ That is an after-the-fact story. Thousands of page views before the closing appear to have not led to a single close vote for any of the close reasons, at the time the moderator decided to shut down the question. And the question had not, in several months that it was open, "solicited ... debate, arguments, polling or extended discussion". $\endgroup$ – zyx Mar 15 '13 at 19:24
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I've found the available options for stated closure reasons not especially useful, and often don't really fit the reason to close. I especially would not expect the stated reason to so completely apply. $\endgroup$ – user14972 Mar 15 '13 at 21:37
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    $\begingroup$ As, by the third comment above, the reason to ask this question was not to initiate a re-opening, what exactly is the purpose of the question? To have one user (as it is known, and pointed out, it is one) publicly explain himself - at least I cannot see any other possible reason? Considering numerous past remarks by OP, I find this...puzzling, $\endgroup$ – gnometorule Mar 15 '13 at 22:23
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    $\begingroup$ The words "my question is about the process of closing and why such a popular question was shut down" seemed clear enough. And the question can be answered by any of the moderators, or anyone with access to the information a moderator would have had, as to whether there were flags on the question or other reason to close that is not visible. $\endgroup$ – zyx Mar 15 '13 at 23:47
  • $\begingroup$ Now that the question is re-opened, it has already garnered a duplicate answer .... and re-close votes. $\endgroup$ – GEdgar Mar 16 '13 at 0:46
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ That has nothing to do with the need for closing at the time it happened. Originally the question closed three weeks after the last answer was posted, and there is very little duplication within the 22 answers that were posted before closing. The rate of posting and the quality of material seem to have been fine. $\endgroup$ – zyx Mar 16 '13 at 0:53
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    $\begingroup$ @Hurkyl: If none of the stated closure reasons applies, don’t vote to close the question. $\endgroup$ – Brian M. Scott Mar 16 '13 at 5:45
  • $\begingroup$ @Brian: A nice sound bite, but what are you actually saying? Is it your claim that the stated reasons accurately and precisely cover every situation that justifies closing, leaving no need for one to apply their own judgement beyond verifying the reasons apply, and that there is a process to correct any mistakes and omissions in a timely fashion? Is it that you believe moderation to be akin to a game and the goal is to follow the listed rules to the letter? Is it that you oppose moderation in principle and are looking for any excuse to say that things shouldn't be closed? Something else? $\endgroup$ – user14972 Mar 16 '13 at 20:04
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    $\begingroup$ @Hurkyl: I think that the default should always be to leave questions open. If a question isn’t spam, a duplicate, clearly off-topic, a rant, or an open invitation to argumentative discussion, and if it’s not genuinely uninterpretable, it should not be closed. I see far too many instances of people looking for excuses to close questions. $\endgroup$ – Brian M. Scott Mar 16 '13 at 20:17
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    $\begingroup$ @Hurkyl: ‘[W]hat if half of the front page ... under consideration?’ I really, really doubt that this is a serious possibility. I also don’t think that a small number of such questions is in any way a bad thing. Therefore I see absolutely no justification for closing them. I don’t think that it’s worth spending much time thinking about whether to close a question, beyond the time needed to verify that it is a duplicate should that be the case; if it isn’t pretty obvious that a question ought to be closed, it ought not to be closed. $\endgroup$ – Brian M. Scott Mar 16 '13 at 21:56

For better or worse, these points from the FAQ apply to varying degrees:

You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face. Chatty, open-ended questions diminish the usefulness of our site and push other questions off the front page.

Your questions should be reasonably scoped. If you can imagine an entire book that answers your question, you’re asking too much.

To prevent your question from being flagged and possibly removed, avoid asking subjective questions where … every answer is equally valid: “What’s your favorite __?”

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    $\begingroup$ This cannot by itself explain the closing by one user without waiting for other close votes. The FAQ is general advice, not a list of hard constraints, and as you wrote, the degree of applicability is open to interpretation. $\endgroup$ – zyx Mar 16 '13 at 0:15
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    $\begingroup$ By the way, those points are taken from the canned Stackoverflow FAQ page that is copied to all the SE 2.0 sites. Not all of them translate well to a mathematics site. $\endgroup$ – zyx Mar 16 '13 at 0:38
  • $\begingroup$ @zyx Which ones don't? $\endgroup$ – Michael Greinecker Mod Mar 16 '13 at 19:18
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ The first, second, and fourth sentences are distinctly less useful on a mathematics site than on a programming site. There is also less (but not zero) cause for the injunction against subjective questions. $\endgroup$ – zyx Mar 16 '13 at 19:53
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I think there's some tension between this part of the FAQ and the existence of the (soft question) tag. Of course there are soft questions that are practical, answerable, and reasonably scoped. On the other hand, if we want all questions to be fairly firmly decideable (Godel notwithstanding), then we should really be talking about the (soft question), (education) and other tags that are providing a space for questions that are not so clear-cut. $\endgroup$ – Todd Wilcox Mar 20 '13 at 18:33

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