We've had rumblings in a few quarters over the last few months that point to dissatisfaction in a slice of the community that seems significant enough to me to say "let's get it out here". That dissatisfaction is around closure of questions and a sense that in certain circumstances SFSE is too quick to close and too quick to mark questions as duplicates, in a way that discourages participation and generates ill-will.
I want to take this opportunity to try to define space for a discussion and set some parameters as to what we can reasonably consider in-bounds.
Questions and Principles, Not Personal
I would like to keep this focused on questions and on the needs of the community. I will delete out of hand ad-hominems against SFSE moderators and the community members who cast votes, which is the entire userbase over 3,000 reputation.
I'd like to avoid getting too much into the weeds on specific posts that are closed. I'd like us to talk as much as we can about principles, and ask that we use specific examples to illustrate points about how we collectively moderate and curate this community - not to address frustrations on single posts.
On a personal level, I am most interested in how we effectively and compassionately communicate what we do to create goodwill and help all members of the community grow and learn.
Key Facts About Moderation
I'd like us all to keep in mind a few facts about community moderation:
- Our purpose is to keep the signal-to-noise ratio high. We can talk about what does and does not constitute noise, but abrogating the idea of moderation or altering the core structure of the Stack Exchange platform isn't and can't be on the table. We will always be a structured and rigorous community; that's our raison d'etre.
- Moderation is a duty shared by the community (3,000+ rep users, of whom there are 215 - healthy growth since the last time I checked!) and the three elected moderators: me, Adrian Larson, and Matt Lacey.
- The 3 elected community moderators cannot and will not overrule the will of the community (the voting userbase mentioned above) across the board, although we may choose to intervene in specific cases where there's a clear need.
Open Questions for Discussion
- Leaving aside the matter of whether people read them, do our Help sections and close reasons clearly communicate what we consider on-topic and off-topic?
- What can we do to better communicate how to improve a closed question - and how to get it reopened?
- When questions are closed as duplicates, what can we do to message that closure as helpful assistance to the asker, rather than an impediment or discouragement?
- Can we be more explicit about thresholds for closure across our community to help standardize our work and offer clarity to askers?
- If you are a 3,000+ rep user, do you feel that you have the tools, guidelines, and documentation you need to be an effective moderator of the community? If no, what is missing?
- If you participate on other Stack Exchange sites that you feel are well-run, what lessons can we learn from them?