In this question's comments, @hippietrail commented

... on the subject of constructiveness, I firmly believe downvoting or closing questions asked in good faith in the earliest days of a new beta are not constructive ways to build the site. ...

(For my opinion, see my answer)

What do you think, guys?

  • I'm voting this up because it's an important question, for my view on the matter see my answer. Sep 16, 2011 at 1:05
  • @hippie: Ok, I'll post my opinion as an answer so that viewers can distinguish a vote on the question and the vote on the opinion
    – Louis Rhys
    Sep 16, 2011 at 1:39

6 Answers 6


I think it's possible that cultivate a high standard of questions and be courteous and welcoming even to those who ask poor questions, but it does require additional time on the part of power users to be willing to work with the questioner through comments and appropriate edits instead of dropping the closehammer.

A question posed in good faith deserves a good faith response, whether is an answer or a comment for clarification. Closing a question should not be used in place of asking for clarification, especially on a smaller SE, where the chance of abusive questions is low.

I personally have never to my recollection casted a close vote before having left a comment and given the questioner at least a modest amount of time (perhaps 1 hour if the question was just posted or 12--24 hours if the question was posted a bit of time ago) to work together to improve the question.

A close vote without discussion is a strong statement to make both to the questioner and to visitors who stumble on the site. I think that we should avoid it unless the questioner is unresponsive or there is mutual agreement that the question is unsalvageable.

  • 1
    There were lots of comments but to me they didn't seem to reach a good resolution. Sep 16, 2011 at 1:38
  • Now that I've actually read the question and its comments in detail, I had an alternative proposal that I outline in a separate Meta post.
    – Steven
    Sep 16, 2011 at 2:00

I disagree with the opinion quoted in the question. On the contrary, I think in early days it is important to close inappopriate question, so as to define boundaries of what is and is not allowed. That question is not constructive and does not fit our Q&A system, so I voted to close. Whether the question was asked in good faith is not relevant. I don't think the poster should take it personally, that's just how our system works.

  • 3
    +1. I would give +5 if I could. Even though we are still in beta and a "small site," questions we ask now will be around forever (in Internet years). The current users are among the most dedicated that the site will ever have; it is incumbent on us to work to make the site the best it can be. Good faith should always be maintained, but we shouldn't have a system of etiquette so rigid that it gets in the way of cultivating high-quality discussions.
    – Aaron
    Sep 16, 2011 at 6:58
  • 3
    @Aaron: More important than "being around forever" is that, in these earliest days, there are significantly less questions so every question plays a huge role in defining the site. That's why it is particularly important that those earliest question be awesome. Sep 16, 2011 at 16:57
  • 3
    I quit the sci-fi stack exchange because I got the distinct impression in beta that "just the way our system works" is for someone to go screaming through the short list of questions and close half of them. Sci-fi SE continues to have very few questioned asked. Do you want a site with one glorious, perfect, on topic question, but otherwise nothing but a sea of closures, or a living site, with questions asked by mere mortals? Sep 17, 2011 at 22:17

If it's a good question in intent but too tendentious or worded badly, edit and/or ask the OP to rewrite.

We want good questions early, and if they are salvageable (as I think the question in question is), we should make them better questions.

  • I really have to look up "tendentious" - I've never read it this many times in one day before (-: Sep 16, 2011 at 15:59
  • @hippietrail: Fancy word for implicitly opinionated.
    – Mitch
    Sep 16, 2011 at 16:12
  • Ah I read it as the questioner being a naive outsider I think but maybe he was from one side and I didn't spot it because I am the naive outsider? (-: Sep 16, 2011 at 16:17
  • @hippietrail that's linguists for you!
    – Miles Rout
    Jun 21, 2012 at 11:52

The thing is that besides voting questions down and closing them you can help guide the asker to fix what's wrong with the question to make it suitable.

In this case I couldn't really figure out what exactly the problem with the question was that was beyond repair other than that the topic of the "linguistics wars" is a controversial topic.

What was bad about it specifically? Why could it not be fixed?

I'm not against closing questions at all but I couldn't see what was constructive in this case.

One reason I don't like it in early beta is because it is seen as hostile, hurts peoples' feelings, and drives them away from the site. Many questions can be massaged into something good in a way that everybody is happy even if it didn't start out as a particularly good question.

  • 2
    I explained my objection to the question on Steven's related meta post (meta.linguistics.stackexchange.com/questions/49/…). In brief, the question occupies the conceptual space of a legitimate question (current trends in research), but contains a lot of canalizing language. The question would have to be gutted and fully rewritten to cure this; at that point I feel a quick close (and later reasking after discussion) is better than waiting for a fix to emerge.
    – Aaron
    Sep 16, 2011 at 6:56
  • Summary: Dude...it's a super excellent question in intent, but too tendentious. Rewrite to remove the tendentious language. (it's sparked a number of additional questions on my part which I'll post separately).
    – Mitch
    Sep 16, 2011 at 15:24

It's much easier to determine whether a question is appropriate for this site than it is to determine whether the question was asked in good faith.


I believe that, in order to decide on this topic, we need to ask ourselves the following question: what is the purpose of this SE? Is it being a high-level reference for discussion? Is it stimulating people to think? Is it promoting socialization through interaction when dealing with same fields of interest?

I understand that parameters and organization is important to keep the system useful.

I just want everyone who reads this to think about the following statement: I guess we are all here to learn. Learning how to ask, learning how to answer, learning how to deal with people, learning how to make a decision... learning to have some patience, sometimes. Possibly the greatest of all is learning how to make the best out of a problem.

My best regards to all SE user!

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