I came across close votes for What is the name of this thing in English? due to the question being unclear and it bothered me for a couple of reasons:

  • The asker was brand new to the site (signed up today)
  • There was no comment offering any guidance on how to make the question clearer
  • I and at least one other person was able to understand that the asker was looking for "Rube Goldberg Machine", so it really wasn't unclear what they were asking.

I would like to encourage folks to hesitate before closing questions from brand new users on the same day they're asked unless they are extremely low quality. In my opinion, some effort should be made in the comments before voting to close the questions because it's really unwelcoming to slap them with a close vote that has canned wording on the first question they ask.

I know that my reaction to a similar circumstance was to delete my answer and my account on the SE that welcomed my first answer that way and I never went back. It wasn't a "rage quit"; it was simply a decision that I didn't want to spend my time there if that's what the community was like. We're still in beta and even though we've been there a long time and our stats are pretty good, I think it's in the site's best interest to be welcoming to new users.

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    +1 I think there's a certain degree of frazzle around here right now. The workload has gone up nearly 50% in the last six months, and although there are many fine new contributors shouldering the burden we're responding with abruptness, if not downright testiness. Dec 29, 2014 at 1:40
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    @StoneyB It is tough to spend the time in the review queue that would be necessary to thoroughly double check every close vote. I'm guilty of jumping on the CV train because I'm confident that the votes are thoughtful and almost always merited. It wasn't until I was on the receiving end of what to the community was probably routine maintenance that I realized I should take a little extra care with questions and answers from folks with 1 or 101 reputation. I do think our canned close and delete reasons are worded much better than some other SEs' reasons though.
    – ColleenV
    Dec 29, 2014 at 3:04
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    I agree that closevoting should be done with care, especially for newer users. At least try to leave a helpful comment if possible. In the case of the Rube Goldberg machine question that you cite, a very simple comment like: Can you furnish a link to an example of what you are talking about? would suffice. That would help the user feel more welcome and give them guidance on how to make the question less confusing.
    – J.R. Mod
    Dec 29, 2014 at 11:05
  • I think some teachers like ColleenV know me better.I usually ask questions on this web site. I like this web site, because there are some good teachers (e.g. JR, ColleenV) here.
    – kitty
    Dec 30, 2014 at 21:15
  • Recently I personally think there are many low quality questions ( or too basic ) appearing than before.
    – user17814
    Oct 30, 2019 at 4:27
  • @ColleenV: You may have said this 6 years ago, but I can tell you that my first experience of another SE site a month ago was not at all welcoming. However, I am glad I hanged in a bit and did not leave the site. Not sure others can do the same.
    – fev
    Jan 11, 2021 at 14:06

1 Answer 1


I agree. In my opinion, a question should be closed only when it is obviously and blatantly inappropriate.

If someone came here and asked something that clearly had nothing to do with the English language, like "Who is your favorite Star Trek captain?" or "What is a good recipe for oatmeal cookies?", yes, the question should be closed. Or if it's a truly blatant general reference, like "What does the word 'resuscitate' mean?"

As the whole point of this site is supposed to be to help people who don't speak good English, I think it's a little paradoxical to refuse to answer questions because they are not clearly worded. What, you're not allowed to ask for help with your English until you have developed perfect English? That's like a doctor saying that he refuses to admit sick people into his office and you should come back when you're healthy.

  • I don't feel so strongly about closing questions that are in the gray area because they can easily be re-opened if they are edited to be more on-topic or closed incorrectly. I think that if a question is salvageable, it's OK to close it as long as some effort was made to explain how to make it a better question. The asker has enough time to fix the question before it's gone forever. We certainly don't want the site clogged up with questions that aren't good quality because then the search results get much less relevant when someone is searching for a more interesting answer.
    – ColleenV
    Dec 31, 2014 at 16:41
  • Mmmmm.... oatmeal cookies... nom nom nom... (Sorry, you distracted me for a moment there...)
    – J.R. Mod
    Dec 31, 2014 at 17:32
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    When I was a child, my pediatrician had separate 'sick' and 'well' waiting rooms. If the metaphor is appropriate, I guess that makes ELU the 'well' room. Jan 2, 2015 at 7:10
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    @JeffreyBosboom - Nice analogy, but I like to think of ELL as the well room, and ELU as the sick room ;^)
    – J.R. Mod
    Jan 23, 2015 at 20:11

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