I believe that this SE may be slightly over-moderated. By that I mean, the moderators are acting too often. I see many people come on the site, ask an interesting (if broad or poorly worded question), get it closed or severely edited, and then never post again. I think that the posts on this forum need to be high quality, but when that happens to a new poster it is most likely going to drive them away.

Comments with polite suggestions for edits should be the primary course of action. New posters probably don't understand the format very well. Closing their thread over such a technicality is like slamming the door in their face. A polite suggestion on how to better phrase the question helps them learn what this place is about, without rejecting them.

Edits on a question should also be very tightly controlled. Fixing grammar, changing formatting, etc... are all helpful and appreciated. But to change the content at all is fairly invasive and presumptuous. It's much better to let the original poster modify their question. First of all because they learn what makes a good question. Second, they are the ones who know what they're trying to find out.

Closing a thread, and even casting a downvote, should be reserved for the rarer instance when a question is truly out of line with what the community is about. Especially at this early stage, it's too easy to over-moderate.

I don't mean to accuse anyone, I think for the most part everyone does an excellent job. Rather, I just think the topic should be brought up, considered, and discussed.

  • 3
    So... you're saying that moderators shouldn't edit bad questions to make them good questions because we'd be changing the content of the question... and we shouldn't close bad questions and ask the the user to edit them to improve them so we can reopen? In fact you don't even want bad questions downvoted? Basically you're saying you want the site to accumulate bad questions..? Help me understand your reasoning here please :-) When should bad questions be closed? Or are you just against closing at all?
    – Josh
    Mar 14, 2012 at 21:40
  • (Please understand I am not upset or angry or being argumentative. As a moderator I am here to serve the community. I'm just trying to do the best job I can and address your concerns :-)
    – Josh
    Mar 14, 2012 at 21:48
  • I don't think you're upset at all, I made the thread to discuss this and I appreciate the comment. It isn't that I don't want bad questions downvoted or closed, it's that often times it seems like a person is actually asking a good question in a not so good way. Those should probably just be given a suggestion on how to improve the question. Questions that, at their core, are not really in line with what this place is about, those are the ones that should be closed. Basically, I'm suggesting that you act how you do now, but with a little more prudence and patience.
    – Preece
    Mar 14, 2012 at 22:17
  • Great, thanks Preece. Just as you didn't mean to accuse anyone I wanted to make sure you knew I wasn't upset :-) I'll post a more detailed answer later.
    – Josh
    Mar 14, 2012 at 22:25
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    @Preece but that's exactly what closing is for. Closing is to allow a question to be edited and improved so it can be properly answered by the community, so no one leaves an incomplete or bad answer, or answers the wrong question when the Q is in a bad state.
    – Ben Brocka
    Mar 15, 2012 at 19:15
  • Here are my thoughts on the importance of editing questions in a respectful and tactful way. Mar 18, 2012 at 12:50

2 Answers 2


I see many people come on the site, ask an interesting (if broad or poorly worded question), get it closed ...

It's SE policy to close questions like this as quick as possible. Normally for sites with a larger user base the users do that themselves by casting close votes. We don't have the luxury of many users who can close to vote yet, so it's the duty of moderators to help that process along a bit. If we feel the close votes/down votes are justified we should close the question.

Asking a question is a privilege. Leaving a question open for interpretation or having a question which requires an entire book as an answer isn't fair to the people who answer it. If it's not clear what the OP is after, the question is closed until it is improved. How to improve a question is clearly outlined in the FAQ which is referred to when a question gets closed. Ideally we also leave behind comments with a more detailed description of what is particularly wrong with a question.

Notwithstanding, the close message can be a bit confronting. I posted a feature request on Meta earlier, asking for it to be a bit friendlier. They implemented part of it, which I feel is already a great improvement.

... get it closed or severely edited, and then never post again.

Severe edits are usually done in line with the FAQ. When doing this we have to leave behind a comment explaining why the edit was done, and clearly point out the user is still allowed to roll back. Edits aren't permanent. Severely editing a question is actually already beyond the scope of what a moderator should be doing, but can be really helpful in those cases where users don't fully understand why their question was closed. If anything, we are only trying to be helpful by doing some extra effort.

I believe that this SE may be slightly over-moderated.

As a final point I'd like to point out that ideally we don't have to intervene. It's up to the community to vote which questions should be closed and which ones should be reopened. Leave behind constructive comments, and help out new users. Make them feel welcome! However, we have to keep in mind what Stack Exchange is about. We should decide which questions are allowed here and which aren't. The best place to do this is by participating here on meta.

Thank you for taking the time to raise your concerns. I would love to be pointed to the particular questions/answers where you feel we acted too soon or unjustly, and how it could have been handled in a better way.


Ok, I'm prepared to get seriously downvoted myself now, but do we really want everybody to feel welcome here? That is, shouldn't some members be chased away, not because they are bad people who deserves to not have their questions answered, but because they contribute with lousy questions, that only clog up the board.

That is, if I for example would go to math.stackexchange.com and ask how the square root is computed, or asking if my one line proof of Fermat's last theorem was correct, the community would be wise to actaully discourage me to post again (encouraging me to improve my questions would be a waste of time). Shouldn't we chase at least some subset of the member base away to raise the overall quality of questions and answers? Or how do we deal with posters that obviously aren't suited to be here?

  • You better post this as a separate topic, or contribute on this Meta question.
    – Steven Jeuris Mod
    Mar 14, 2012 at 13:14
  • @StevenJeuris Well, I would say it's relevant here to. In response to the original question: The board isn't over-moderated...it's under-moderated! :)
    – Speldosa
    Mar 14, 2012 at 15:06
  • do we really want everybody to feel welcome here? Yes we do, if they follow the rules. When I have closed "lousy question" as you said, I always leave a comment encouraging the user to improve the question or ask a better question. We need more users. We're nowhere close to StackOverflow with it's flood of help-vampires.
    – Josh
    Mar 14, 2012 at 21:42
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    I disagree. Experts are clearly more desirable than laypeople, but I don't think laypeople should be driven away. With math, you need a huge amount of expertise to even ask an interesting question, but it isn't so with the mind. Laypeople can ask questions that lead to interesting and insightful answers. If they post answers that fall short, downvote them.
    – Preece
    Mar 14, 2012 at 22:23
  • @Speldosa you should also consider contributing to "what is 'too basic'?" meta question. Mar 15, 2012 at 2:21
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    @Preece: I disagree myself :) You need a good basic knowledge set to understand what constitute a good, answerable question, when it comes to cognitive science. I think many of the questions that come up on the board right now are way too complicated and badly defined, often asked by people who clearly doesn't have an academic background in cognitive science.
    – Speldosa
    Mar 15, 2012 at 12:08

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