The question How to respond to someone when they ask "How come you're still single?" was closed. Now four people are voting to reopen the question. Should the question be reopened? Why?

Update: It was reopened, and then closed by 5 other users.


No. This question as written should not be reopened.

As far as I'm concerned this isn't a type of question that we should welcome on this site. The question comes down to

"Give me a bunch of funny rejoinders I can use when people ask me why I'm still single!"

This does not meet the Stack Exchange guidelines for subjective questions. I've addressed this in a comment on the question:

I'm sorry but this is very clearly an "all answers are equally correct" question, which makes it a bad fit for Stack Exchange. It's attracting poor-quality answers that are just lists of responses often without any explanation.

And another user made a similar statement:

Your question should ask why you believe a humorous response is appropriate instead of honesty (after all, "sorry that's personal" should be enough). As written (asking for humorous responses), this is a list-type question, generally considered off-topic on SE. Questions should have specific answers. – user3169

To support these comments, I present a quote from the Help - Don't Ask page, which appears on every Stack Exchange site:

To prevent your question from being flagged and possibly removed, avoid asking subjective questions where …

every answer is equally valid: “What’s your favorite ______?”

And relating to list questions, From Robert's answer to a question on Meta Stack Exchange:

There's nothing inherently wrong with your "I need a comprehensive list" question; It's just that we specifically forgo asking these types of questions because they are not a good fit for this type of Q&A site.

And I'm going to repeat my recommendation from another Meta answer:

But I'd like to introduce a rule that I think we should consider. We are not here to be copy editors. We are not here to redraft emails, write speeches, tell you what to say. We're here to help people determine for themselves the best way to phrase something; to give advice for researching how to find the arguments you need. We're not here to come up with the argument or to put words in mouths.

If the goal of a question is "tell me what to say" or "re/write my email for me" - we should not answer these questions. These are the equivalent of the Stack Overflow "Give me teh codez" questions.

And I'll add to that "we're not here to write witty one-liners" (or give you a list of ones from elsewhere on the internet).

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    Great answer. I would just add that the Stack Exchange guideline for subjective questions is simply that questions should be able to be backed up, with evidence or experience or arguments. – user288 Sep 22 '17 at 1:45
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    I think you are taking too much on. Where are the other mods? There are three mods on this site, I only see you pulling the cart. – user3114 Sep 22 '17 at 8:56
  • Catija is pulling the baby cart! everyday! :) – OldPadawan Sep 22 '17 at 8:58
  • @OldPadawan exactly. The other two mods, one of whom is a student, should be sharing the load. Maybe they are busy in the background, handling flags, and deleting off-topic comments – user3114 Sep 22 '17 at 9:02
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    Just a joke :) Beside that, I'm not putting a blame on anyone, as we're all doing this to help, some of us have more time. I have access to some tools, but I'm scared of wrongly use them :/ I raise flags sometimes, VTC and so on, but I'm really craving for some guidelines from mods: what would they like us to do to help them in the best way? – OldPadawan Sep 22 '17 at 9:05
  • @Mari-LouA Catija is the white knight, and John is the silent guardian, watchful protector, the dark knight. HDE's got exams, probably. And besides, it's not that we're overloaded anyway. If we were, then additional mods would've been appointed. So far, all good. Also, Shog9 and Robert Cartaino are still on this site. :) – NVZ Sep 22 '17 at 13:51
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    @OldPadawan mods don't tell the community what to do. The community tells the mods what to do. If you want guidelines, that's not on the mods, that's on the community. – user288 Sep 22 '17 at 16:28
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    @OldPadawan "I have access to some tools, but I'm scared of wrongly use them" most of these tools require that people confirm you are using the tools correctly, e.g. close voting requires five people. So my advice is don't be afraid to make mistakes; unless five people make the same mistake, you won't break anything. – user288 Sep 22 '17 at 16:29
  • @Hamlet : thanks for pointing out, even if I knew, but it's not about the line(s), maybe I was not clear enough. My point is: mods have access to some more powerful tools, is there a way we use what we have so it makes their life easier. – OldPadawan Sep 22 '17 at 16:30
  • @OldPadawan yeah. Mods have all these powerful tools, but no guidelines from the community about how to use them. They would appreciate guidance from the community about what you want their role to be. Right now they've received no guidance, so they've been trying to do the best they can. – user288 Sep 22 '17 at 16:34
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    @OldPadawan - Moderators should be the last line of defense, not the first. A good, viable community has a good number of high rep users, and they should do most of the heavy lifting for moderation. You have access to many of the same tools as the mods at your rep level. This includes deleting answers, undeleting, voting to close, etc. The moderators just have a more equal vote, i.e. their votes are binding. Conversely, this makes many mods less likely to pull the trigger except in cases of obviously off topic/bad questions. – JohnP Sep 22 '17 at 19:41
  • @JohnP : sure! I'm too wishing to do some part of the job, but I want to have it done properly, without messing anything or being out of the bonds the community wants to set for this site. As, as I see it here, many of us :) and we are a baby-website, really young, we need to learn how to walk before you can run... see how it works: @ catija has to pull the (baby) cart all the time :)) just kidding for the last sentence – OldPadawan Sep 22 '17 at 19:48
  • @OldPadawan - That is why it is called community moderation. High rep users should be familiar with the subject matter and what the community feels are appropriate questions and behavior. You then vote/flag/clarify accordingly. If you have questions about the direction of the site, ask on meta. That way if the group is generally closing things that need to be closed etc., proper site behavior is self promoted and enforced. Even if a user is way off the wall, they aren't really impacting the site as it takes 5 votes to close/reopen etc. As said in American President. "Vote your conscience" :) – JohnP Sep 22 '17 at 19:53
  • Agreed. That's why we discuss here also :) – OldPadawan Sep 22 '17 at 19:54
  • @OldPadawan this answer is about close voting but the gist of it applies to almost any concern you have on the main site... "ask about it on Meta" is the mantra of the moderator. We can not "fix" things if we don't have a Meta question and if we do, we only have to do it once, whereas in comments on Main or in Chat, the discussion may be lost. On Meta it can be found easily. – Catija Sep 22 '17 at 19:57

The question was closed for being too broad. It was reopened two hours ago. It now has four votes in favor of closing it a second time.

Rhetorical question:
Is the site community driven or not?

I have not cast my vote to either close or reopen it, personally, I don't like the question but the OP is asking about a specific problem and how to deal with it in a specific manner. It appears, therefore to be on topic. Whether the body can be reduced to a single sentence is irrelevant. Many questions on this site could be summarised in three lines.

The question has detail, it is well-written, it is asking about a personal problem (it's not fictional), it clearly states the country, it is asking for advice not opinions.

I'd prefer a response with a bit of humour behind it, so I can deflect the conversation away from the question, or back to the person.

Curiously, the OP himself voted to close the question the first time, and that more than anything else, dissuaded me from casting my vote to reopen.

Currently, the close voters consider the question to be primarily opinion-based. Where is the OP asking for an opinion?!

  • There will continue to be more questions about why a post should be left open or closed unless someone fixes the help center page and outlines clearly what is meant by too broad, and off-topic on IPS, and not what was written six or five years ago on MetaSE. This site is different. – user3114 Sep 22 '17 at 8:55
  • I agree with the keep open as well as with the leave close. But I chose close because someone wrote: it will be a list of correct answers. True, and all and every one of them will be likely to good one. OB? TB? OT? well... – OldPadawan Sep 22 '17 at 8:56
  • @OldPadawan In that list of correct answers there will usually be one that stands out from the rest. I have seen many answers that overlap with each other and so has Catja♦ who commented I find that most of the answers - even when there are 10-20 of them are saying largely the same thing, with different flavors/specific stories etc. They're not usually saying completely different things. – user3114 Sep 22 '17 at 9:05
  • that's why I posted the mixed emotions comment... – OldPadawan Sep 22 '17 at 9:07
  • Quite right @Mari-lou A: also raises the question whether once 5 community close votes have been reversed by 5 community reopen votes, it is good etiquette for the same or another 5 users to close the question again, as this can potentially be repeated cyclically and needlessly divide the community atleast over this question. – English Student Sep 22 '17 at 9:22
  • @EnglishStudent once you have cast a vote to reopen or close you cannot cast a second vote. I'm not sure if this limit expires after a week or 20 days or so. But there is a time limit. – user3114 Sep 22 '17 at 9:25
  • Yes I was wondering about that, so thanks for clarifying, @Mari-lou A. – English Student Sep 22 '17 at 9:30
  • Request for further clarification: now that the question has been closed again by another 5 members, would you like to explain what you mean by "Rhetorical question: Is the site community driven or not" @Mari-lou A? – English Student Sep 22 '17 at 13:19
  • @EnglishStudent it means, is it the community that decides which questions are on-topic or a handful of individuals? – user3114 Sep 22 '17 at 14:09
  • The close-voters have become very active recently but not the reopen-voters. In short, more people who actually wield reopen votes must be willing to use them, @Mari-lou A. – English Student Sep 22 '17 at 14:52

Getting asked why you are still single and how to give a reply that doesn't lead to further discussion of our life choices with acquaintances is atleast a globally widespread and pertinent interpersonal problem for which OP proposes humor as a solution, so I just reopened that question [4 voters had already agreed] and hope you were asking 'shouldn't this question be reopened.' If not, your this meta Q brought it to my attention so please vote to re-close.

[This answer will be expanded with a lot more details as soon as I get some more time, so users meanwhile please don't downvote heavily for 'too brief answer']

Update: the reopened question was voted re-closed by another 5 users within 5 hours.


Alright I'll admit that I know I shouldn't have answered and I shouldn't have voted to reopen...

But I had my reasons.

When I first saw the question my first thought was:

Finally something fun. We really need this right now.

That day as I looked over the front page and the recent questions things weren't looking great. It seemed like people were getting mired down in the business of moderating and voting to close and editing and commenting and arguing as we tend to do...

And then there was this brief bright spot that seemed to lift spirits and draw people in for something that was just, well, good fun. I know that on Stack Exchange we hate fun, but on rare occasions I think it's what our community needs.

Perhaps we should make a little more room for fun here on meta. It builds community in it's own way. People who can laugh together and at each other usually tend to work together a little bit better.

  • The thing is that SE finds it easier to keep things mostly serious, rather than deal with short-term generalised (though mostly harmless) disorder following a fun fest! -- this, the all-time greatest answer on English.SE, as reflected by 800+ upvotes. The inocently innnovative Q got 400+ upvotes. People without a sense of humor were left fuming as the community went into holiday hysterics. Christmas came 6 months early this year. – English Student Sep 23 '17 at 13:20

I do think, from an interpersonal skills point of view, it is a good question, and a common problem. The use of humor to deflect a conversation is common as well. However; I don't believe it is a good question for the Interpersonal Skills stack.

It is a good example of a bad subjective question. It does not, in a strict answer to the question, do anything to help the OP, or future seekers, develop or enhance their interpersonal skills. A good answer would be a good joke, or a list of good jokes. Any good joke will do. With a large enough collection, the OP could use a different joke each time, even with the same people repeatedly, and not run out of "wit" for quite some time. I can even think of a few without trying.

Now I will take it even a step farther. I think providing answers to the question are actually a bad idea. Bad for the OP and for those who come later. There are some situations, most likely with seldom encountered acquaintances, where deflecting the question with humor would be a good choice. In most cases, including the ones the OP has identified as the intended use for answers, using humor, or any other "deflection technique," is counter productive. A response based on humor might redirect the conversation, this time. The question, still unanswered, will tend to come up again, and again, until it is either no longer useful (the OP finally is married), or the OP finally ends it with a final statement that it is no longer a welcome topic and that the subject is to be left out of future conversations.

Now, figuring out how to do that politely, and with tact appropriate to the situation, is improving interpersonal skills, and a good use of the site.

Since I don't want to get into a open/close voting war, I'm not going to VTC. (It already has one VTC as I write this answer.) Now that is has several answers, some of which have even done the Google work for the OP, that give the one-liners as requested, there is no way to salvage the question with an edit - not even an heroic edit - without invalidation all the answers. Perhaps, with enough user input to support it, the mods can make it a historical question. The question does serve as a good example of a good question that is still bad for the site. As such, an out right delete, even by the OP, only eliminates the example, and the site has to wait for the next user to cross the same territory, only to be equally affected by the application of usage guidelines.

  • This Q was reopened and has collected 4 close-votes in 2 hours. If ot gets closed again then moderators can consider whether to lock it and make it historical as in your own words, "a good example of a bad subjective question (...) a good example of a good question that is still bad for the site." – English Student Sep 22 '17 at 9:18
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    Good points. Note that there is no war. It's only one vote per user (mods are exceptions). You can vote to close once, and to reopen once. You already know this, I'm sure. :) – NVZ Sep 22 '17 at 11:06

In a situation like this, where culture-minded users cannot agree, does that not suggest that there in fact is not a consensus?

Given that, does it not make sense to allow the question and see what happens when the broader culture -- ie, the users -- get to chew on the question for a bit? By which I mean, if the userbase as a whole thinks it's an appropriate question, they'll pay attention to it.

By that standard, questions along the lines of "How can I deflect X and Y question" seem to be well-liked. I'd be extremely hesitant to close a question which already has lots of answers, because people are voting by either pushing or not pushing their "Post" buttons.

  • Actually, a question getting too many (vastly different) answers is a sign it should probably be closed because it's not well defined. – Catija Oct 3 '17 at 1:50
  • @Catija I'd be inclined to call that a yellow flag suggesting poor definition, but not conclusive unless the answers themselves betrayed the different assumptions being made. Considering that the site attracts people of many different cultures and outlooks, I would not be surprised at all if there were many differing pieces of advice even if everyone understands the question perfectly. – akaioi Oct 3 '17 at 1:55
  • The reason we ask the OP to provide their culture is to limit the question to that culture. Otherwise all of the answers would have to do so to be valid else users will have no way of knowing what is actually appropriate for their culture. – Catija Oct 3 '17 at 1:57
  • @Catija that is an interesting note about culture. I must capture it and think on it, as it is sparking several new, as-yet-inchoate questions. – akaioi Oct 3 '17 at 2:05

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