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In Asking for genealogy software recommendations? I found this statement:

After giving the community an opportunity for about half a day to exercise their close votes, I stepped in and used my supervote to do so

This may have been badly worded, but as it stands it suggests to me that a moderator expected the 'community' to close the question under discussion, but when there was no evidence that they wanted to do so (perhaps because they believed it shouldn't be closed) the moderator decided that the 'community' was wrong.

We had a debate about closing questions at How to improve 'Software that will print everybody - related and unrelated' and much of that is still (IMO) valid, in particular the points made that a 'moderator-close' is (wrongly) perceived as 'the final word' and also that closing a question (or as we now say, putting it on hold) is unwelcoming and unnecessary if a simple edit can fix the problem (with a comment to the OP explaining why the edit was made).

To my questions:

If the question was clearly off-topic (and we're discussing at the other question whether it is off-topic or not), why did the moderator not close it immediately or edit it to make it on topic?

If the question was debatably on- or off-topic, why did the moderator nowt allow more than half a day to understand the community view, give the geographical spread of the user base? And when the community view had been expressed (in this case, by a lack of close votes), should that have been respected?

I've raised a separate meta question on the following topic, and would appreciate if it was addressed there: Closing older questions

Another example where a moderator seems not to agree with the community: Organising digital documents for genealogy and family history? gained 21 upvotes when it was asked 4 years ago. It was closed in July of this year as 'Too broad'. The question received minor edits when it was first asked, but has not changed since; and the rules for what questions can be asked here haven't changed in the intervening period. So why has it now been closed using a supervote?

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I think the issue of premature closing of new questions and the closing of old questions are two separate (but related) questions which should be addressed separately, and I'd like to address the problem of closing the older questions in a new question.

This answer will address only the issues of too-quick closure of new questions.

After giving the community an opportunity for about half a day to exercise their close votes

This is absurd, given the widespread nature of the community and the slowness of the site. I don't stay logged into G&FH.SE all day because I want to be able to do my own research without getting distracted. I regret not leaving a comment on the question itself encouraging everyone to weigh in on Meta about how we could bring the question in line with site guidelines, instead of tossing off a quick comment in the mod area. I was making a quick flyby before getting set up to take a webinar.

For the record, I also said:

I haven't looked at your edit yet, so I'm assuming it was intended to bring the Q more in line with site requirements.

I apologize for being in too much of a hurry and not thinking.

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    Point taken about there being two separate but related questions here. I'll open a new one about Closing Old Questions and signpost it from here once I've done so. – ColeValleyGirl Oct 9 '17 at 10:35
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In this (and any similar) instance, if a moderator believes that a question should be closed because it was irredeemable (for whatever reason) or a duplicate, it should be closed immediately.

If the moderator believes that the question needs work but is salvageable, but they don't have time to do the necessary edit (which is he preferred way forward, but we all have lives) it should be closed immediately with an encouraging comment indicating what edits will make it a better fit, so that the OP (or anyone else who takes an interest) can improve the question -- the standard boilerplate IMO isn't helpful enough in this circumstance but IIRC there's a brower add-in that will add customised 'boilerplate' comments; however it's been a long time since I was a moderator here, so I may be misremembering

If nobody else actions the edit, the moderator can come back to it when they have more time and then re-open the question. We're not so inundated with questions (average 0.9 per day) that (1) we can afford to discard questions that can be made to fit (and alienate users who might otherwise have stuck around) (2) improving salvageable questions is an impossibly huge task.

If the moderator isn't sure, and wants to understand the community view, the best way to do it is probably to formulate a meta-question (as was eventually done), perhaps after reviewing similar questions to understand what had happened to them. In this case, there was a lack of consistency in handling similar older questions that suggests (to me, at least) that a meta discussion would be in order. The precipitating question should be closed immediately with an explanation and a link to the discussion, and no changes made to the older questions until the discussion reached a conclusion. (And of course the precipating question should be re-opened as soon as possible by a moderator if the community are happy that it's OK or if it can and has been made to fit; and the older questions reviewed in light of the decision).

In this case, the moderator has said they weren't sure, so decided to leave the question open to see what would happen. This approach had a couple of problems that made it less than ideal (to be blunt, probably the worst course of action):

  • the level of activity and the geographic spread of the community meant that it would have to left open for a considerable time to gauge a community desire to edit it or close it. 11 hours was not enough to get a valid community response -- even if the user base was in a single geography -- but it was enough to garner an answer that might not fit after an edit, which is what closing is supposed to avoid.

  • there's an inherent flaw in the feedback mechanisms on the quality of questions: poor questions may attract close votes or edits over time; good questions may attract upvotes and/or answers; but OK questions (where the community thinks: yeah, that's all right -- not good enough to upvote, not something I can answer, but a good enough fit for the site that I'll leave it alone) are much harder to spot. If nothing has happened on a particular question: is it a bad question that nobody has responded to yet, or is it simply OK but uninspiring?

I must acknowledge that with the level of community involvement we have at present (meta receives much less than one question a month), a moderator has a real problem if they want to take community views into account.

A question closed on a supervote is unlikely to get an re-open votes as it's seen in some quarters as 'the final word'; and close votes seem very thin on the ground:

  • of the 20 questions closed this year, 2 have been closed by 1 user & a moderator; 2 have been closed by 'Community' (in response to a flag, I suspect, because I raised the flag); and 16 by a moderator alone.
  • 12 were closed as duplicates (which isn't usually contentious); 8 as too broad or off-topic.

I can't see re-open votes, but can't imagine they're any more frequent. With that level of participation in close and re-open, the moderators may be on a hiding to nothing, but I hope they're at least discussing behind the scenes to reach a consensus on how to react.

A meta question may get just as little response, but it is at least an indication to the community that the moderators want to listen, even if the community doesn't want to speak. Worst case, the question is left closed and a pissed-off user goes elsewhere (not what we want). Best case, the community cares enough to respond and the questions gets re-opened and gets good answers that encourage the user to stick around.

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