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This question keeps coming up, so rather than repeat myself until hoarse, I thought I would make a meta post about it.

I see a question that I think should be closed. I left a comment explaining ways I think the question could be improved. Should I wait a day or two before casting a close vote to give the OP a chance to improve the post? Or should I vote to close immediately? Why?

Note: this question is not about which questions should be closed. If you feel that people are closing questions that should not be closed, then that is a subject for a separate meta post. This question is simply about whether, assuming a question should be closed, that question should be closed immediately.

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  • Waiting a day or two doesn't make much sense after you post a comment for clarification but you can certainly wait an hour and see if the OP fixes his post. Especially if the user is a veteran, someone who has posted more than three questions. Give them a little time. – user3114 Sep 22 '17 at 8:15
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Stack Exchange policy is clear.

You vote to close immediately when you find a question that you think should be closed, regardless of the reason:

From Meta Stack Exchange:

How soon should I "vote to close"?

Always vote to close immediately. I explain the rationale behind this approach in further detail here.

In summary: Yes, it increases the chances that the question will be closed, but that's actually a good thing for a couple of reasons:

  1. It increases the likelihood that the user will take notice and actually fix their question in response to your suggestions. Unless you're dealing with a particularly conscientious user (and this is rare, because their questions are unlikely to be candidates to close in the first place), it's more likely that they'll ignore your comments as long as they can continue to get answers.

  2. It prevents a flood of immediate answers (arguably a symptom of the well-known "Fastest Gun in the West" problem) that are speculative at best and/or will be completely invalidated after the question is modified to turn it into a real question. Those answers don't do anyone any good, and they're best avoided if at all possible.

And no, it does not force the author to re-post his question, not immediately or ever. Even questions that have been closed can be edited by the owner. So once the question is closed, that would be an appropriate time to sit up and take notice of the helpful comments that have been provided by the close voters. And once the question has been sufficiently improved, it can be re-opened, either with the vote of 5 different users (they can be the same ones who voted to close) or the binding vote of a moderator.

If you see a user posting a second question because his first one was closed, flag and/or close the second one as a duplicate of the first and ask him to go back and edit the original question instead.

This is network policy and it is standardized across all of the sites. I've seen many people complaining that closing questions is "mean" or "hasty". Close votes aren't targeted at a person. They're a way of restricting the quality of content on this site. Questions can always be reopened if they fix them. There's no concern about haste. A question either meets the site standards or it does not. If it does not, it should be voted closed. If the post is edited while in the close process, the people who have voted to close it can retract those votes. The system is designed to work this way.

When we fail to close questions that don't meet our standards, those questions may be "rewarded" by people answering them. Once a question is answered, the OP is unlikely to ever fix it and if they do want to fix it, they have to be concerned with possibly invalidating answers that jumped the gun by answering before the question was ready to go.

From the answer linked to in the post quoted above:

If the question is bad, off-topic, subjective, or meets the criteria for any of the other close reasons, we don't want people answering those questions. They didn't belong on our site in the first place. In fact, having those questions open and answerable is actively harmful to the community. The sooner those questions get closed, the better. That prevents a bunch of bad answers from building up, in addition to bad questions. It's the classic "garbage in, garbage out" rule, and we seek to avoid that around here.

Moreover, if users start to see lots of questions remaining open that don't meet our guidelines, that creates a "broken windows" problem. It starts to look like our guidelines are meaningless, that we don't enforce them, and that you can simply ignore them when asking a question. Especially on a site as large and as active as Stack Overflow is, we simply can't stand to tolerate such a thing.

I know that the users here all have their own opinions on whether closing questions is good or bad. If you don't like closing questions, I can't force you to do it. I would ask, however, that you respect the network policy for closing questions and our site's decisions about what makes a question close-worthy.

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Though, @Catija well-elaborated this in her answer, but I'll keep it very short and simple. I am mentioning what one of the moderators told me when I got Close Votes privileges.

If you're sure that a question is completely off-topic and cannot work here or should be closed, vote to close it immediately. Though, you will have to wait for other four users (or one vote from a moderator) to vote that question to close.

If you're unsure about a question, wait for a while and see what others think. Then decide whether to close it or not.

If you think there is a chance for improvement to make a question work on the site, leave a constructive comment as you always do. If it improves and you see it can work now, then it's all good. If not, then vote to close it. However, you will have to wait for a while in this case. There is always a chance in this case that an answer appears and the OP doesn't improve it at all after this. Feel free to vote to close it if it happens.

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Let's step back and think about what close votes do and what their purpose is. A close vote does one thing to a question and one thing only: it prevents a question from receiving answers. Close votes don't hide content from being viewed, they don't prevent people from gaining fake internet points from content, there is no penalty associated with a closed vote (e.g. a loss of fake internet points) so close votes aren't a "punishment"... the only thing they do is prevent a question from getting answers. This means that questions should only be closed if there is some reason why answering the question is problematic.

Waiting for questions to be improved through editing defeats the purpose of closing questions. You are allowing people to answer the question. And if the question can't be answered without making guesses about the OP's situation that aren't actually true, or if the only way to answer it is with an unsubstantiated opinion, to give two examples, then while you're waiting for that question to be edited it's going to attract bad, low quality answers. And if the question ever gets edited to fix the problem, then that means that a lot of those bad, low quality answers will no longer be proper answers to the new and improved question. Rather than helping or being nice to the OP (or the people who will find the question from Google searches), you've made their goal of getting good answers more difficult by giving them a flood of poor answers they need to sort through.

Close questions as soon as possible. If the question is improved, you can vote to reopen the question, or retract your close vote if the question hasn't received five close votes yet.

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  • "questions should only be closed if there is some reason why answering the question is problematic. Waiting for questions to be improved through editing defeats the purpose of closing questions (...) Close questions as soon as possible.If the question is improved, you can vote to reopen the question, or retract your close vote" -- totally right and eminently sensible thinking, @Hamlet; and you have become an expert at answering your own questions, thus sharing your pertinent points with these communities, which is 'explicitly encouraged' yet not at all very commonly done on Stack Exchange. – English Student Sep 22 '17 at 6:03
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It depends...

Are you voting to close the question for reasons decided upon by the community?

Or did you just create a criteria that you assumed support for and moved forward before the votes were in?

Yes if a question is obviously, egregiously close worthy vote to close without hesitation.

But if the question simply lacks a location, is it really too-broad?

If the OP didn't immediately adhere to your badgering for some specific detail is it really unclear?

Yes, we need to close bad questions quickly. But I think we need to have more conversations about what constitutes "bad" before being so heavy handed with other users.

Basically most of our norms and rules are only implied at best, but we still expect users to be aware of them without making many of them explicit.

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    "But I think we need to have more conversations about what constitutes "bad" before being so heavy handed with other users." OK. Let's have these conversations. But rather than shoehorning these conversations into unrelated questions, let's have them in a dedicated meta post that is actually about creating guidelines for closing questions. – user288 Sep 22 '17 at 1:36
  • "Basically most of our norms and rules are only implied at best, but we still expect users to be aware of them without making many of them explicit." -- so multiple SE sites hit new users over the head (only figuratively) with close votes and and hope for a dedicated learner like myself and others, who won't get discouraged but actually care to learn the intricacies of how to ask a good Q that will not get closed. So I agree with you and @Hamlet that we need to have conversations about what's a "bad" Q in a dedicated meta post that's actually about creating guidelines for closing questions. – English Student Sep 22 '17 at 6:06
  • Are users voting to close questions because of a missing tag? – user3114 Sep 22 '17 at 8:17
  • @Mari-Lou A See interpersonal.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/1754/… – apaul Sep 22 '17 at 12:46
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TL;DR: I don't think this is generally necessary on this site, but there is one hypothetical situation where I could see it being a useful response.

There is one very specific situation in which I will postpone a close-vote (on ELU, where I have such privileges). I will comment but not VTC if the question meets all of these criteria:

  1. The question could be edited to make it on-topic and answerable;
  2. It is by a very new (to the particular site) user;
  3. It has no answers yet;
  4. It already has four close-votes; and
  5. None of the close-voters (or anyone else) has yet commented to give the asker tips for how to improve the question (and no automatic comments about close-votes have been generated).

If all of those criteria are met, I will leave a comment suggesting/asking for improvements and perhaps warning specifically that the question is in danger of being closed without them, but I don't immediately cast the fifth close-vote. My reasoning is that a very new user will be particularly discouraged by having their first (and perhaps only) response to their question be the notice that it is being put on hold. And if the ratio of close-votes to answers is 4:0 there doesn't seem to be much risk of accumulating many bad answers.

I try to come back to questions where I do this a day or two later; in the vast majority of cases the fifth vote has been cast in the meantime, and no edits have been (or are ever) made. Sometimes there has been no follow-up by the OP, and I cast the final vote. However, occasionally a question has been "saved" in this way.

On this site, it seems that point 3. above is virtually never met; someone will take a stab at almost any question asked here, so there's much less concern that new users will feel they are shouting into the wind (and more risk that the question will collect bad/wrong/irrelevant answers). Point 5. is also rarer here, probably because users and mods are specifically concerned about being emotionally supportive of questioners. If the site ever cools off this kind of evaluation might make sense here; at the moment it doesn't seem to be necessary.

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