I've closed a question: Software that will print everybody related and unrelated -- what should I look for? that is a 'shopping list' question as it stands, although I think it stands a good chance of being improvable, if the OP responds with her real problem. I'm hoping this will make a good test of our capability to close-improve-reopen questions, so please don't pass over it on the assumption that it's closed so it's unsalvageable.

Edited to add: One reason I've taken this approach is that I've noticed that the community seems to have stopped casting 'close' votes. It's one of the important mechanisms for maintaining quality around here, so I'm curious why we're not using it.

Also edited to add the exchange of comments on the OP (which I've now deleted so as not to confuse the OP):

@ColeValleyGirl I'm curious about the closing of this question. Did you want to give the OP a chance to improve upon it first? – fbrereto

@fbrereto, I've closed it (as per my comment) to give the OP a chance to improve it with my and others help. As soon as it's not a 'shopping question' I'll re-open it. – ColeValleyGirl

@ColeValleyGirl While I understand that intent, there is a sense of finality to closing a question (especially to someone browsing the main page) that restricts the attention or editing that it may need to become a valuable question. I defer to the decision you have made, but am reserved about how closing the question will contribute to making it better. – fbrereto 53 mins ago

@fbrereto Shall we take this to chat or meta? – ColeValleyGirl

Edit again to add: After changes by lkessler (Thank you!), I've re-opened and tidied the comments up. Also made a suggestion to the OP that -- if the updated Q doesn't address her real problem -- she raise a second Q that focuses n what she's trying to do, not software selection.

  • 2
    I agree withy fbrereto that Closing a question has a sense of finality to it. The OP might just decide to ignore it and "walk away". This would be bad because we desperately need new questions here.
    – ACProctor
    Commented Jan 23, 2013 at 17:48
  • @ACproctor, how could I improve the initial comment I left on the question to reassure the OP?
    – user104
    Commented Jan 23, 2013 at 17:49
  • 1
    @ACProctor I agree about needing more questions but this one (as it stands) isn't one of the ones we need.
    – user104
    Commented Jan 23, 2013 at 17:50
  • Perhaps the "What kind of questions should I not ask here?" section of our FAQ needs to be expanded. Whether or not to close particular classes of questions remains an ongoing issue for many Stack Exchange e.g. SE-GIS (where I participate more than here). Once out of Beta I would say this one should be closed but while we are short of questions and askers perhaps not.
    – PolyGeo Mod
    Commented Jan 24, 2013 at 0:10
  • 1
    @PolyGeo, why would we set a lower quality bar while we're in Beta?
    – user104
    Commented Jan 24, 2013 at 8:50
  • Higher percentage of learners involved while in Beta - I cast more close votes than most but in this case where there is no FAQ example to point at I would hold back (but only just).
    – PolyGeo Mod
    Commented Jan 24, 2013 at 9:15
  • 1
    @PolyGeo, have you taken a look at meta.genealogy.stackexchange.com/q/1572/104 and made any changes you think necessary? I hope the community can come to a conclusion on this first draft next week.
    – user104
    Commented Jan 24, 2013 at 9:24
  • @ColeValleyGirl - will look at now - was not aware of it or if I was had forgotten about it - thanks for pursuing - I am glad you are involved in this forum and keen to make it work as well as possible
    – PolyGeo Mod
    Commented Jan 24, 2013 at 9:27

2 Answers 2


Yes, I agree with @fbrereto that closing a question, especially to a new user who doesn't understand, simply sounds like their question was rejected. They may never return.

Even with all my experience on StackExchange sites, I still get offended when one of my questions is closed. It's a natural reaction. Closing should be something delayed until necessary.

Better would be if you, as a moderator, (or anyone else) add a comment stating to them that this is a "shopping list" question which is not acceptable for this Q&A forum, and that they'll need to change their question to try to solve a problem they're having, or their question may be closed by the other people on the forum.

Of course, she did state her problem. It's that she's "looking for a software package that will list/chart/print "Everybody" that she has entered in her database ... Any advice appreciated." Well, that does not have to be a shopping list. Rather than just listing specific programs, advice can be given on what TYPE of programs to look for, what features it should have, and why a large chart is actually not useful.

Also, none of the 5 reasons for closure is truly appropriate for list questions. You used the best one, "Not Constructive", but there is nothing in that says the real reason why it was closed was that it was asking for shopping list. The reasons of that closure don't apply to a shopping list. A shopping list is made up of facts, references, and it takes expertise to know about some of the sites. Links don't generate debate or arguments or polling any more than answers to any other question would. So the reaction to closure for that reason is: "Huh??? This site is dumb."

  • But you haven't voted to reopen? Or edited the question, since you think you understand the OPs intent?
    – user104
    Commented Jan 24, 2013 at 8:49
  • I am torn between my belief that early closure is a poor response to a first-time poster and my belief that a closed question needs to be significantly improved to justify re-opening. So paradoxically, I "regret" the closure but will not (yet) vote to reopen.
    – Fortiter
    Commented Jan 24, 2013 at 12:38
  • @ColeValleyGirl - I was thinking of reopening, but I didn't want to vote to reopen because when a moderator closes a post, it is different than when the users vote to close a post. You yield great power and I and the others respect that.
    – lkessler
    Commented Jan 24, 2013 at 13:58
  • @ColeValleyGirl - ... and I personally find editing other people's questions somewhat distasteful. I normally only do so to correct an incorrect fact or fix some typos. I think we should do all we can to encourage people to edit their own posts as we have rightly been attempting through comments to the question.
    – lkessler
    Commented Jan 24, 2013 at 14:02
  • @lkessler A moderator can be wrong -- and I will be, sometimes. Please don't think that decisions I make are immutable. If enough of the community votes to re-open, they're right and I've learned something.
    – user104
    Commented Jan 24, 2013 at 14:05
  • @ColeValleyGirl - I'm not shy about arguing with moderators, as you can see by my extensive meta discussion at Stack Exchange. But the reason why the moderators' job is so important to the community is that they/you are the ones who make the final decision when there are differing opinions. This is necessary or chaos can break out. So once a moderator makes a decision, that decision needs to be respected or the system falls apart. You've volunteered your time and effort to this community, and I for one, appreciate and respect that. I may disagree, but I will accept your moderation/decisions.
    – lkessler
    Commented Jan 24, 2013 at 14:22
  • @ColeValleyGirl - No one is really wrong. We all just have a differing point of view and a differing opinion. Discussion is good and we all learn from it.
    – lkessler
    Commented Jan 24, 2013 at 14:28
  • 1
    I agree that the question is not well defined. I am only debating that closure is the best action. As @lkessler said, it does hurt when that happens - even for experienced SE members. Can we handle this type of situation by keeping it open but helping them re-word it, explaining of course why that is necessary? I feel that closure should be reserved for completely off-topic or offensive questions.
    – ACProctor
    Commented Jan 24, 2013 at 16:28

Perhaps unique in genealogy, most of us joyfully welcome a newcomer--it means another family history will likely be memorialized. There is a general notion that many will benefit down the road.

For me, this meta touches this issue.

One of the really great things about Genealogy.SE is that we don't all bring the same expertise and perspective to a question. Especially in the case of those new to genealogy, this means that often some community members will understand the residual elements of a question better than others.


  1. Every soul posting as new to genealogy would get a 36 or 48 hour pass in my world.
  2. Those experts who think they "get" the question ought to use that grace period to try to edit the question for clarity or take a stab at answering the question as they understand same.
  3. During that grace period, others in the community are welcome to comment on the question and seek clarity from the poster. (One day we'll have a great blog post about this too.)
  4. After the grace period has passed, regardless of whether answers have been posted, if the question has not been improved for quality, all bets are off. In other words, after the grace period has ended, votes to close (preferably with comment) are welcome.

In the case of the question that triggered this meta, I wouldn't take a stab at the answer because I really wasn't sure what Heather was after. Ala, my notions of an answer ranged from something as simple as a gedcom text output (sans sources and citations), to an elaborate unconnected series of hourglass charts.

P.S. Another reminder, too, that for some of us, English is a second language. This may influence how questions, and answers, are initially written.

  • Although this idea has its merits, I do not believe we should sacrifice the quality of this site for a higher QPD stat or more users. When a question is closed, other users do try to improve the post by editing and asking for clarification from the OP. When the question comes up to our quality standard, it will be reopened and the OP will get answers. Remember, a low-quality question will get low-quality answers (or broad, unhelpful answers). By closing not-so-great questions early, they can be improved to get better answers rather than so-so answers that would be posted on the original Q.
    – Luke_0
    Commented Jan 24, 2013 at 15:23
  • @Luke My comment actually didn't have much to do with stats about Genealogy.SE. Rather, more about the notion that genealogy/family history tends to welcome all newcomers.
    – GeneJ
    Commented Jan 24, 2013 at 16:07

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