2 hours ago, Joel Spolsky closed a topic. If you look at his profile you see, that he never asked a question, never answered a question. He has 99 reputation points, voted once up and two times down. So he isn't the best informed person about which questions are on topic or not - which was his argument to close it, while he didn't close questions to alcoholism, cancer or reading in dim-light.

I doubt it might be more a disposal question of puritanic education why the question was closed.

I don't like super users closing topics without discussions; normally I see 3 or 4 persons mentioned if a question is closed. 5 users of high reputation to vote for reopening is very asymmetric.

For the site-CEO, I think he should show retention, if he isn't using the board on a regular basis. Else, his behavior might be seen as an abuse of power.

But the main question is: shouldn't we discourage/prohibit closing of topics without former discussion, or allow reopening more easy?

  • 1
    Insulting people is not tolerated here. Rephrase your question and I'll reopen the question.
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Mar 21, 2011 at 23:28
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    @User: I am totally on your side. Being a CEO, creating this platform for us, doesn't mean he has the right judgement on our discussion.
    – Tim
    Commented Mar 21, 2011 at 23:59
  • 2
    Is altering the close/reopen behavior of the SE even within our ability to change? I got the impression it wasn't.
    – anthony137
    Commented Mar 22, 2011 at 1:43
  • Reopened. @user thanks for rephrasing.
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Mar 22, 2011 at 6:26
  • I thank you for reopening it, and wish a more cooperative behavior the next time. For the records: I never insulted anybody. It was a misinterpretation of my post to believe there was insulting going on. Commented Mar 22, 2011 at 7:19
  • @anthony137: Why not? It's man made, it can be changed. If the program will not change, the behavior of the people can change. Commented Mar 22, 2011 at 9:56

4 Answers 4


Once we have a large community, questions will be mostly closed and re-opened by high rep users. Five votes is easy enough for all other SE sites - and you are not making a compelling argument on why this site should be different.

Moderators do not normally need to intervene to close questions (although they do when necessary).

In our case - we are still a very small community, and as you correctly pointed out, a 5 votes limit is somewhat harder to reach - both for closing and re-opening. This is why you see so many moderator interventions - we can't really wait for days until 5 users vote to close posts!

I personally think that we, as moderators, should strive to always leave some comment when we close questions, and be prepared to reopen them once the problems have been fixed - if the question is salvageable.

If you browse the site, you will notice that all three moderators pro-tempore have agreed to use this approach consistently.

  • Who said you should wait a couple of days before closing a topic? As consequence of multiple flags? Why not? And: I've seen a lot of posts were the asker was asked to improve his question. I want more consistence in the decisions, reliability, evenness. The same rules for all. Commented Mar 22, 2011 at 9:51
  • Fixed the days thing (it's not what I meant, but the wording was ambiguous).
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Mar 22, 2011 at 9:57
  • It's worth noting that waiting to close a question can actually harm the question. If answers accumulate, it prevents editing the question in all but the most superficial ways. Now that the site has gone live, there are fewer users here able to cast a close vote. I urge mods here to be more proactive in closing questions early. Commented Apr 26, 2012 at 4:47

The question is now reopened through five votes by people who aren't moderators. It took less than 24 hours. I think this case shows that everything works well.

  • I don't know whether the reopening of Dogmafrog's thread was influenced by mine, but I had to struggle to reopen my own thread for hours. It was closed in 3 minutes without asking for clarification. I guess you may investigate the history, but I'm not sure - it was a lengthy discussion first with Sklivvz, then with Borror0. If your thread is closed with a short remark it is up to you to argue to get it reopened again. Of course I get angry when my post is closed. I take the time for writing, making pretty links, looking some vocabulary up. People come in and vote it down without comment. (...) Commented Mar 23, 2011 at 0:43
  • It's not easy to keep constructive in such a case. Now if you go to far, guess who judges whether your post is reopened again? Moderators are attorneys and Judge in one person. In my case, judge and accused. Am I allowed to ask whether there is an esprit de corps, where the moderators tend to agree on each other? Commented Mar 23, 2011 at 0:51
  • @user unknown, I just saw your comment. Moderators can see each others moderator actions, and we have a chat room, where we are constantly questioning each others decisions and asking each other to justify choices. Mostly the decisions can be explained and the reasons understood. Sometimes that leads to decisions being reversed (and an adjustment to our personal understanding of the policies to make them more consistent next time). Sometimes, the discussion triggers a meta-question, so the community can give us feedback and keep us in line. Seems a healthy relationship to me.
    – Oddthinking Mod
    Commented Sep 1, 2011 at 14:53
  • I’m sure the only reason that happened is because someone asked about it on Meta. I’ve seen that time and time again.
    – RomanSt
    Commented Mar 25, 2012 at 10:18

The question, as written, is clearly off-topic. From the FAQ:

Skeptics - Stack Exchange is for skeptics, rationalists, free thinkers, or anyone who questions pseudoscience. Skeptics is about applying skepticism — it's for researching the evidence behind the claims you hear or read. It is not for philosophical discussions about skepticism itself.

The question was closed, not because it's about feces, but because it doesn't qualify as on-topic as defined by our FAQ: it doesn't address any specific claim. While some Westerners might find other practices odd, that's about it. There does not seem to be any science to question here and, as such, it's off-topic.

If you disagree with the decision, feel free to debate it on meta. If a compelling case is made in favor of reopening, the community or a moderator will reopen the question. The decision is by no means final.

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    In normal situations, there is a hint to improve the question. Do you think the opinion of one single moderator should be enough, to close a topic? I don't think so. In my opinion, there should be the possibility to improve a question, and more than one opinion heard. Commented Mar 22, 2011 at 4:52
  • @userunknown: It wasn't necessary for Joel to hint that the question can be improved. Dogmafrog has enough experience with the site to know that. I edited my answer to address the rest of you comment.
    – Borror0
    Commented Mar 22, 2011 at 5:56
  • You're still missing the point. My posting is about the way the decision was made, not so much about the content of the decision. Commented Mar 22, 2011 at 7:14
  • @userunknown: When it is unclear whether the question what on-topic, moderators will start a meta discussion about the question. In cases where it's clearly off-topic, as defined in the FAQ, then no discussion is necessary; it's already been decided that the question if off-topic. The moderator can just go ahead and close the question.
    – Borror0
    Commented Mar 22, 2011 at 7:23
  • As formerly noted, the question isn't so obviously off topic. Questions to health have been there before, see Cancer, see harm of dim-light, alcohol. After all, I have seen poorer question where the author was asked to improve it. Commented Mar 22, 2011 at 7:30
  • @userunknown: As noted in my above answer, decisions are by no means final. If you feel the decision is incorrect, you can start a discussion about the question on meta.
    – Borror0
    Commented Mar 22, 2011 at 7:41
  • If the moderator asks to improve a question before closing it, the decision to not close it isn't final as well. 5 votes to receive is a hard job. Nontransparent closing and reopening of topics destroys the trust of the users, especially if the moderator was rarely seen before. Commented Mar 22, 2011 at 7:53

Really? Is it unclear what's being asked there? I can't be skeptical about a social convention, and whether is the best way to do something?

Every time a westerner is portrayed on TV/Books/Movies or any kind of media, going to a country that uses a different kind of butt cleaning technique, it's always a huge joke. They always make fun of how dirty the other techniques are. But lots of countries look at us, wadding paper up to wipe our butts, and think we're the dirty ones.

I'm skeptical that our social convention is based on any kind of evidence, I'm skeptical that it really is the best way to cleanse despite our ethnocentric insistence and the societal pseudoscience behind that belief. So I was asking for objective studies to make a determination as to whether science indicated a best method, away from hype, woo, and cultural convention.

@sklivvz. Believe me, I know you're not hygiene experts. As far as I can tell, nobody here is really an expert on anything. I mean, are you an expert on microwaves, autism, the effects of salt in the human body, altering video footage, ghosts, AND climate change? You'd be quite the renaissance man if so, yet you answered questions on all of those. Since when is that an issue?

And speaking about off topic. Your question Will Humanity Self Destruct? Holy off topic. It's EITHER asking whether humanity will kill itself, which is completely subjective and with no data points. OR, more likely, it's asking about the Drake equation and, as you say, "Was Sagan biased by the times in which he lived? Is such a position tenable for a skeptic?" How does asking if something is a bias and tenable for a skeptic not violate the FAQ rule "it is not for philosophical discussions about skepticism itself."

You might not be an expert in health, but physician, heal thyself.

Unless there is some rule about it, I'm putting retarded high bounties on some of my questions and awarding them to like minded users, and then I'm deuces.

  • Maybe you should be addressing your concerns to Borror0? I do not feel very strongly that the question is off-topic (although you could spell out the question better, with the extra explanations you pointed to here, and it could only help you get better answers). My self-destruct question was about whether Sagan was being correctly skeptical so, yes, it's on topic (most of the answers are completely off-topic though).
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Mar 22, 2011 at 16:13
  • So wait, asking questions about whether a dead guy was being skeptical is applied skepticism? You're telling me if I asked about some of Plato's teachings and went - was he being skeptical - that wouldn't be shut down as a philosophical discussion about the nature of skepticism? What scientific research could you possibly do on the personal biases of Carl Sagan? at least when I asked MY bias question (closed) it could have theoretically been answered by polling data. Outside of resurecting mr Sagan and asking, how could you know if he was "biased by the times in which he lived"?
    – Dogmafrog
    Commented Mar 22, 2011 at 16:45
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    Also, even if you did animate his body, I think borror would make him hyperlink on his own opinion. :)
    – Dogmafrog
    Commented Mar 22, 2011 at 16:50
  • I'm going to stop, I'm not looking to flame up this site too badly. Maybe you guys aren't destined to go the way of atheism.se. If you find a good balance, maybe I'll come back, but the way it stands I'm just gonna give up my rep points and be gone. I'm not having a good time here. I'm a cheery guy, and this bushido version of skepticism is too heavy for me.
    – Dogmafrog
    Commented Mar 22, 2011 at 17:13
  • @Dogmafrog: How are you giving up your rep points and be gone? I think many others would like to know about that. Thanks!
    – Tim
    Commented Mar 22, 2011 at 17:26
  • Bounties, that's all. 500 PT bounty on my 10,000 view Einstein question (have to wait 24 hrs to award). Then anothe few hundred on some other question, mine or else wise, that ought to do it. Users in the lead for einstein, you've got about 3/4 a day to write a better answer if you want the points. It might be disproportionate but I'm not going to throw them away :)
    – Dogmafrog
    Commented Mar 22, 2011 at 17:31
  • @Dogmafrog: I am not wanting your points :). I was asking how to make his/her account quit this site if one wanted sometime. I guess I will figure it out later.
    – Tim
    Commented Mar 22, 2011 at 17:39
  • @Dogmafrog: I'm sorry, but your answer discusses whether your posting was closed for good or bad reasons. While in my opinion it was closed without good reason, my question has another center: whether the procedure of closing is ok or needs to be improved - maybe the formal procedure, or maybe the informal. Commented Mar 22, 2011 at 22:18

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