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I've recently seen several posts with close votes without any comment indicating the author what the problem is. If the author doesn't have enough reputation to view close votes, he gets no feedback that he should improve his question (otherwise, he might have done so between the 1st and the 3rd close votes).

Even worse, regularly the reasons to close seem (to me) to be wrong.

Wouldn't it be better to ask (or even impose?) that each close vote is accompanied by a comment stating that there was a close vote, and WHY (I find it sometimes unclear why the voter thinks the topic is off/topic or opinion based for example)?

Some examples:

  • Are old AC transformers dangerous: it got one close vote for "Needs details or clarity", but no comment indicating so. The author (with 153 rep) has no way to know it, and no indication what additional information he should add. Even for me, it isn't clear which information is missing (even if I agree that it isn't a great question): the only useful information I see that might have been added would be the datasheet of the transformer, but I doubt it is possible to find it.

  • Electrical gloves: same size for the leather gloves? A question I asked some time back about electrical safety gloves (more precisely, if the leather gloves need to be the same size than the latex gloves). I considered it to be on topic (even if I admit it's not the most interesting question I asked). I would have understood if someone had voted to close it as off-topic (electrical safety equipment is not directly engineering, even if it is required when working as an electrical engineer). I might even have been misinterpreted as asking for shopping advice or been considered to broad (if someone wanted to get a link to the specific gloves, even if it would then be dangerously close to shopping advice). However, the reason given was "opinion based", I have no idea why: either latex and leather layers are usually (or always) bought in the same size, or usually/always with the leather ones one size bigger, or it depends (on either brand or exact size of hands). Either of the 3 answers would have been fine, and I expect anyone having used tens of different pairs of isolating gloves to know which one is correct.

  • Component that can display state without power: The author asks what devices can display a binary state without being powered on, in addition of "flip-dots and e-ink" they already know. It was voted to close as "opinion based". How can it be: an answer will contain one/several devices that match the constraints, and it is easy to verify they do. Asking for a list is maybe not very elegant, but it's very factual. Author (with rep 12) can't know the close vote.

  • How can I specify transformer part number in BOM for manufacturing? 2 up votes, and 2 close votes for "Needs details or clarity" (it already got 2 answers, but I agree that more details might be helpful), but nobody asked for more details in the comments. How can the user (63 rep) guess that more detail is needed if nobody asks and the question is even upvoted?

So what do you think about encouraging (or even imposing) to add a comment explaining a close vote when casting one?

So far the pros I see are:

  • Authors know about the close vote, and get time before the question gets closed.

  • Authors understand what EXACTLY is the problem (often it it not very clear why someone thinks a topic is off-topic/opinion based/... or what details/clarification is needed). And sometimes it is evident for someone experienced, but can't be guessed by the author due to his lack of knowledge about the topic (for example, for the question about the transformer: someone used to work with transformers realizes easily that specifications are missing, but someone new to transformers will think they provided all that is needed).

  • It is possible to answer/discuss the reason of the close vote (for example, some questions are closed as asking for shopping advice when OP is just interested in some general aspects and don't want specific shopping advice).

  • Other members learn about what is or not accepted on the site (I have never found a page with a clear guide on what is or is not on topic, except this and that, which still leaves a huge gray area in between what is allowed and what's not.

  • It prevents the anonymity of vote to close: this might help reduce the risk of abuse of vote to close, vote to close because someone doesn't like the question, or the risk of someone voting to close without being sure/mastering the subject/carefully reading the question.

Cons:

  • It takes a bit of extra time, so people might be less willing to vote to close (so we might have a few more bad questions not closed).
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  • \$\begingroup\$ "I have never found a page with a clear guide on what it or not on topic, excepted *this* and *that*" There's a third one: What types of questions should I avoid asking?. But I agree, SE:EE isn't clear enough and leaves a lot of room for interpretation. \$\endgroup\$
    – Velvet
    Jul 4, 2023 at 14:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ indeed, I forgot to link that one : good catch \$\endgroup\$
    – Sandro
    Jul 4, 2023 at 15:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ Surely the close-vote reason is visible to the author of the question no matter what their rep is...? I can understand that a low-rep user wouldn't be able to see the close-vote reason for other questions, but I've always assumed that doesn't apply to their own questions (in much the same way that a low-rep user can comment on their own questions, but not those of others). \$\endgroup\$
    – brhans
    Jul 6, 2023 at 16:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think so : if you look at the priviledges, at 250, you have : view close votes : View and cast close/reopen votes on your own questions. So I don't think you can see them bellow 250 rep \$\endgroup\$
    – Sandro
    Jul 6, 2023 at 16:55

3 Answers 3

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The message is delivered by the close vote system and is near the header of the message after the message is closed. If the question can be fixed, the user can follow the instructions and edit the question and then vote to reopen.

If you feel that a question has been wrongly closed (from the guidance in the help center), then you can flag the question for moderator attention. If the question meets the guidelines it will be reopened.

The help center has most of the guidance on what is acceptable and the community has made decisions on what they feel is acceptable in EE meta.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The main problem to my eyes is that close votes are not visible to the author of the question if he has rep <250 : so he has no way to start correcting (early) the question before it gets closed (and getting a question closed without any warning is often felt quite harshly). Having close votes visible for any user on their one posts would reduce this problem. \$\endgroup\$
    – Sandro
    Jul 4, 2023 at 20:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ What's more, for many close reasons, the precise reason is often not trivial. See for example my 3rd example (about what devices can display state without power) : there are TWO close votes as opinion based : I can't possible imagine how someone can think it is an opinion based question (can you explain it to me?). So it would definitively be interesting to justify those votes. And as far as I know, there is nothing I can do until the question is closed (even if I consider it should not come to closing in the first place). \$\endgroup\$
    – Sandro
    Jul 4, 2023 at 20:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ And it seems to me that the guidance in the help center leaves a huge gray area. Otherwise, why would all 4 questions I used as examples get closed votes, even if Russell McMahon (moderator, 147k rep) thinks they are all good questions? So either what is acceptable is unclear, or it is subjective, or it is misunderstood by some persons with close vote privileges, or the system is being abused. I think that adding comments would help on all 4 points. \$\endgroup\$
    – Sandro
    Jul 4, 2023 at 20:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Sandro I did note that the glove question was good BUT probably marginal for this site. Possible answers on DIY may be better than none here. || Note that I am a curmudgeon outlier :-) - an olde guy who likes to see pople encouraged rather than inexplicably (to them) have questions closed. I very much realise that there is a strong tension between noising up the site with rubbish and encouraging beginners. It is possible to strike a balance BUT unless there is a general ethos of edit, advise and help then close voting is going to win. \$\endgroup\$
    – Russell McMahon Mod
    Jul 5, 2023 at 1:31
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I'm a moderator.
You have my sympathies.
The site has certain rules which need to be followed AND it has users with free will who do things that do not always seem to make sense to others - sometimes due to differences of opinion and sometimes for no obvious reason.

I would personally like close-voters to provide helpful advice and/or edit the question instead, where relevant. The review queue system tends not to encourage these behaviours.

An isolated close vote may not matter much. But, several do.

The "old transformer" question is a reasonable one.

Your gloves question is a good one, but probably marginal for this site. It MAY be better on DIY. I could migrate it there if you wished.
The suggestion to ask the manufacturer seems a good one.

The retained state with power off question is a good one, and clearly NOT a matter of opinion. It has one downvote so far - from a person who seems not to know what "opinion" means. It should not be closed.

The transformer BOM question is also a good one. The close votes make no sense (IMHO and probably more generally.) The question is succinct and exactly states the user's question. It happens that the answer is that the user needs more than they realise, and the answers explain what is needed. Overall the question and answers should be useful to others.

IF questions are closed and the reasons given seem inadequate you can (some or all)

  • Edit the question to address the lack
  • Vote to reopen
  • Flag for moderator attention.
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  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree that we can't "force" users to apply close votes correctly. We might however edit the help section on close votes adding that a comment should be added when casting a close vote. Personally, I seldomly use close votes, I generally just add comments on what needs improvement. Do you confirm that it isn't possible to cast "reopen" votes before the question is closed? \$\endgroup\$
    – Sandro
    Jul 4, 2023 at 14:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ For the glove question, I don't think migrating to DIY will bring more answers : usually, DIY people either are prudent and turn power off, or don't care and work under voltage without any precaution : I have never heard of anyone using electrical safety gloves outside an professional setting. But thanks for the proposition \$\endgroup\$
    – Sandro
    Jul 4, 2023 at 14:07
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Should we make it mandatory to explain close comments?

No we should not, for much the same reasons that down-voting doesn't require comments.
In many cases all it would end up doing is to invite a flame-war of arguments.

Perhaps if it could be made anonymous such that the OP can get an idea of what needs improving it might be a good idea - but I would still be against this kind of thing being made compulsory rather than optional.

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