I asked this question as I was curious if elves were still procreating. The question was simple and obvious, it basically asked birth rates of elves near the destruction of the ring.

I did my research, found two relevant questions and included in my question. I read Silmarillion, Hobbit, LotR but did not read Unfinished Tales and Tolkien's letters. I knew this was not covered in the content that I read but I hoped it might be included in the content that I have not read.

We have many questions with "we don't know" answer. A few users even use we don't sow know as a humorous way to answer these questions. Yet, even though the question has a definite and provable answer, for some reason, it is deemed unclear by two users, one with 100k reputation.

Once the close votes started, I decided to remove my guiding questions and replace it with a flat question. Yet, three more users still thought it was unclear as it was, one with half a million reputation.

I am giving the reputation values to illustrate on the fact that these users did not receive close vote privileges recently. Some might have been here since this SE is established. If these users close vote in the way they do, this clearly means there is a lack of consensus about what "lacks focus" means for this SE.

  • Is it allowed to have guiding questions in the same question?

Answers usually have layers suggesting what is known, what is conjectured and what is unknown. To help with this layering, I included three sub questions on the exact same topic. All these sub questions asked about births given by Elves in the near vicinity of the events of the destruction of the ring. Is this a valid reason for a question to lack focus?

  • Do image identification questions with cross universe characters/items lack focus?

We have questions such as "identify all the easter eggs", "identify all the characters", "identify all the items". These questions have clear subquestions, yet they are sometimes VTCed and sometimes not.

  • If there is, or if we can reach a consensus, how is it possible to deter single users with close vote privileges from adhering to his/her own standards?

I have noticed some active users adhere to different standards, not just about lack of focus also what constitutes a duplicate. This question of mine is closed because apparently, "Why weren't hobbits finished off by Nazgul" is exactly the same as "Why didn't Nazgul make a second sweep". Since there is a lack of enforcement of standards, you have to be lucky when a group of people blatantly disagreeing with the general consensus decide that your question needs to be VTCed. Usually users adhering to the consensus are less vocal. I got lucky with my WWII influences in LotR question (some users adhere to the standards which state WWII is duplicate of WWI), but I didn't get lucky with my Weathertop question, although it was very well received and had a very well crafted answer.


2 Answers 2


In a general response, of course people will disagree, that's an inherent given where anyone has to come to a consensus and it is the reason the SE network works. You've got to think as well that when it comes to the various close reasons a lot of them are subjective in there understanding by default and will always be and so you won't get people agreeing on it. Unclear and opinion-based are some of the more obvious ones for this to apply to but it also applies to the others including needs more focus. (I won't touch on duplicates because they have an extensive history on this site and it's tangential to this discussion anyway).

So, we have a system that is subjective (and thrives because of it) and users who are subjective (because well we're humans after all) so you're always going to get people who think something should be closed and others who don't. Now onto your questions:

Is it allowed to have guiding questions in the same question?

Of course it is, there shouldn't be any rule against it, but anytime you add more that one question mark people will automatically be thinking this is potentially going to be too broad. However, all of the guiding questions can simply only be that guiding questions. As soon as you start leading the questions into requests for more information, i.e. more questions themselves, you're going to start falling into more problems.

Do image identification questions with cross universe characters/items lack focus?

No they don't and we've had extensive discussions on this subject themselves so I won't repeat it here. Here's a couple of related discussions on the matter. There is some more discussion on the matter but my Google-fu is failing me at the moment.

If there is, or if we can reach a consensus, how is it possible to deter single users with close vote privileges from adhering to his/her own standards?

It isn't possible and if someone wants to follow their own standards we can't stop them. We can say why we feel their close vote is wrong or against the rules but if they want to continue using it how they wish they can do so. In the most part the system works correctly because of the amount of users that need to close a question for action to be taken. And in the cases where closure or reopening goes against judgement/rules the mods can step in. As I said before though the system works because each user gets to have their own say (barring reputation thresholds of course).

Another point to focus on is that you've brought up a few examples to prove your point yet every question is different and should be treated as such. Sometimes it is as simple as changing a couple of words for the question to be on topic (any -> first example questions) and sometimes no matter how many edits you make you can never make the question on topic. Each question should always be treated on its own and on a case by case basis for the system to work.

That said as I am one of the users who initially voted to close your question and one of the ones you allude to I'll explain my reasoning in this case. I felt like your guiding questions fell more into the leading questions category. To me, personally, the second/third question whilst I can see the argument for them being incorporated under the first/overall header are leading into more information. Note that in the comments the questions were all answered separately as well supporting my point somewhat. In general where you say "if yes then {question} but if no then {question}" you're likely going down more of a leading questions route than a guiding questions one.

Your edits helped in this manner though and the current version of the question has been reopened, with one of the votes being mine. Though I actually think the question would be better without the edit section/guiding questions on the bottom.

I do want to make it clear though, because the start of your post here implies differently. I understood your question and did not think it was unclear, it was of course perfectly clear. And I did not vote to close because of it having a potential we don't know answer.

I will also note that your attitude doesn't help matters, whilst I didn't see it until this meta question, it likely put others off from helping you. Ranting in the edits to the question (where it doesn't belong at all and as a long time user I'm sure you know this) then ranting in the comments and to some extent this meta is a rant. And of course there was nothing in my decision (and I'm sure I speak for the others as well) that made any decision to vote to close or reopen it personal or harassment. Saying anything like that will only turn people away, try and work with them constructively instead.

  • 3
    The main point of this question is this: When I ask a question, I want to make sure that it is well received by the community, but for at least a year now, ever since the Weathertop question, I am always thinking how well you and Valorum will receive it. Your preferences right now overrides the preferences of the community. It deters other users from participating. I contacted to a few other users for the previous questions and they also expressed their discomfort and stated that this is one among many reasons why they refrain themselves from participating more in Scifi SE.
    – user65648
    Oct 20, 2020 at 8:46
  • 1
    I really hate the need to ask for back up in the Meta each time I ask a very legitimate question received not so well by very few but very active individuals.
    – user65648
    Oct 20, 2020 at 8:47
  • 3
    @C.Koca Our (my_ preferences don't and simply can't override those of the community. A question needs 5 votes to close and I am only one of those with Valorum being another. We can only ever be a minority in voting to close if the community is against us. If my voting to close (and I only do so when I believe it to be correct) is deterring people though that is both a good and a bad thing (if something should be closed after all we don't want it asked here). That said though we do want the content here if it should be so I would like to hear from these others if you can point them here or me..
    – TheLethalCarrot Mod
    Oct 20, 2020 at 8:49
  • 2
    @C.Koca ..to them. And of course you don't need to ask meta each time you ask a question, in fact your question here was reopened before your meta question was even asked. That is the system working correctly. Your question was closed, it was edited into a more suitable state and then was reopened.
    – TheLethalCarrot Mod
    Oct 20, 2020 at 8:50
  • 1
    You are not just the two, you initiate a bandwagon effect. Whatever standards you use in the VTC process clearly violates the overall SE standards and your approach causes a shift in the site culture. It is not helpful. The question was exactly in its current form, except from ranting when it was further VTCed by three more users. They could have edited the rant out and not VTC, but they didn't do it that way. So your argument that your question is edited to a more suitable form is not valid.
    – user65648
    Oct 20, 2020 at 8:53
  • 1
    @C.Koca I mean the question is different than how it started out. And there's nothing anyone can do to stop people robo reviewing. However, in this case note that neither of us were the first vote to close and so we didn't initiate anything. "Whatever standards you use in the VTC process clearly violates the overall SE standards" This is a very bold statement with no backing to it. SFF has had complaints over duplicate closure before but never really normal closure (in the general case not related to specific questions) so from my experience this simply isn't true.
    – TheLethalCarrot Mod
    Oct 20, 2020 at 8:56
  • 2
    The meta post is not really a rant. I am tired of fearing you and Valorum VTCing legitimate questions. This is especially unhelpful when you don't comment after the VTC. If you believe no comment is needed, it means the question clearly needs to go, i.e., reasonable amount of edit cannot make the question into a good one. However, the question getting reopened immediately after states that this is not the case.
    – user65648
    Oct 20, 2020 at 8:56
  • 1
    @C.Koca 1. It's not really a rant but it has some ranty parts in it, I only mentioned that tangentially to the other rants you made on the question itself as a pointer to try and improve your communication. 2. I didn't comment because there were already comments going into more detail than I could so it wasn't needed. 3. The question has been edited to make it better so I believe it is now reopenable as did others. 4. There is nothing to fear, especially not if it is only us two, if others VTC the problem may actually be in the question and not the VTCers.
    – TheLethalCarrot Mod
    Oct 20, 2020 at 9:00
  • 1
    I can't really force anyone to do anything here, contribution is all voluntary, but you have to keep in mind that people are deterred to participate in this SE because of the vague VTC policies. I am one of those people who started to participate less and I know quite a few who stopped participating at all because of this. Please try to stick to general standards rather than your perceptions if you don't want to alienate people.
    – user65648
    Oct 20, 2020 at 9:06
  • 1
    @C.Koca I'm talking about myself of course. The question was edited after my VTC. I can't speak to other users reasons. And actually I find it isn't a bandwagon process and that is even demonstrated in your specific case here considering it was left open in review. I will also note that the view numbers aren't accurate. Those 100 people could be 25, they just opened the post several times. It also took 7 hours to close so I'm not sure where you're getting immediately from.
    – TheLethalCarrot Mod
    Oct 20, 2020 at 9:06
  • 3
    @C.Koca As a person with only modest rep, who is less active, but does have close vote privileges here, I strongly object to the concept of "close vote bandwagons". I can't speak for everyone with close vote privileges, but I make all my own decisions on close votes. While I greatly respect users like Valorum and LethalCarrot, I don't always agree with they close votes. That said, users like Valorum and LethalCarrot definitely have a well-developed sense of what questions are a good fit here and what questions aren't. You'd do well to listen and not argue when they try to advise you. Oct 21, 2020 at 8:04
  • 2
    @C.Koca If the way the community moderates this Stack causes you to lose interest in the Stack... well, maybe that's all for the best. SE sites are not for everyone. There are enough users who like the SE model on most Stacks that convincing those existing users that things should be different is going to be an uphill battle. No site on the internet is going to be perfect for every user. SE sites are pretty focused on specific topics for specific types of Q&A. Anyone who wants to go outside of the narrow SE parameters is bound to be disappointed, and might enjoy other sites more. Oct 21, 2020 at 8:08
  • 3
    @C.Koca At the risk of beating a dead horse, I also want to note that for your question, the SE system worked exactly as designed: You asked a question that was not a great fit for SE. It was put on hold. You edited the question to make it a better fit. Your question was then re-opened and now has an answer. The close votes were part of the process to signal to you that your question needed work. You received that signal and made your question better for SE. And now your question is there and open with zero close votes (at this time). SE success! Oct 21, 2020 at 8:12
  • 2
    @ToddWilcox You are actually doing victim blaming yet still I will try to give you the benefit of the doubt. It is not the only SE I am active. Granted all SEs have different culture, this is by far the most hostile one. I used two examples of duplicate marking. At one occasion, WWII influences on LotR question is marked as duplicate of WWI influences. Another time, "Why Hobbits weren't killed in Weathertop" is marked as duplicate of "Why didn't Nazgul do a second sweep". In this SE only, answers make questions duplicate.
    – user65648
    Oct 21, 2020 at 8:52
  • 2
    @ToddWilcox You can check the edit history of the question where you can see for yourself that the question is not edited much. I just repeated the title in the body. Questions which might cause open/close wars, i.e., questions for which closing might be open to discussion, it is good practice to leave a comment. Closing questions are not punishment to OP, it is a way to keep community clean. This is why when it is not clear, it is very important to leave a comment to guide the rest of the community.
    – user65648
    Oct 21, 2020 at 9:00

On multiple subquestions in the same post

One of the major warning signs for a question to be "too broad", or to use the new name "needs more focus", is when it is asking more than one question in the same post. It even says that in the close reason itself:

This question currently includes multiple questions in one. It should focus on one problem only.

If someone asks multiple unrelated questions in the same post, then that should be closed, and maybe edited or broken up into more than one question post. To stretch the point to an obvious case, I think we can all agree that "why didn't they use the Eagles to fly the Ring to Mordor? and what exactly is Tom Bombadil?" should be closed and split into two questions.

On the other hand, not every post with more than one question-mark in it should be closed! Sometimes there are multiple related sub-questions which are all part of the same main query. That should be fine, and that seems to be what you're referring to by "guiding questions" here. I'm not going to try to wordsmith a policy to define when multiple questions should be considered "related" and when not, as such things might need to be decided on a case-by-case basis, but certainly there are cases of both types. Your question counts as a case where the different questions within the post are related enough that it shouldn't be closed, and indeed has been reopened before this meta post.

How to convince people that multiple questions in one post are indeed related?

(Not for your question, which has already been reopened, but as a general principle.) If people are voting to close a multi-question question as "too broad" / "needs more focus" even though the questions are related, consider editing the question to make that more clear. Try to put yourself into the minds of the close-voters, and assume good intent. OK, they think it's too broad because there are three different questions in it; write something to address their concerns and convince them that those questions are closely related enough to fit in one post.

That "assume good intent" part is important, by the way. You're much more likely to convince people by trying to see their point of view than by attacking them. Using terms like "close vote mafia" doesn't help your case and won't endear people to you - even if your main point is correct!

What about those multi-image ID questions?

Certain topics and types of questions have their own particular history on this site. People have been posting the occasional multi-image ID question since years back, and it's often more about fun cooperation and community building than a question that the OP really needs answered. They've been discussed on meta before, and some people do think they should be closed as too broad, but they're generally (if grudgingly) accepted since having them around has never caused any trouble. If you want to make a case for closing them, open a new meta about that.

People abusing close votes

In some ways this site is indeed quite close-happy, and some users more than others. We do have a number of questions getting wrongly closed, although a good proportion of them do get reopened afterwards. But there are different degrees of what might be considered "abuse" from close voters, with correspondingly different levels of mod action possible.

  • If a question very clearly shouldn't have been closed, I'm willing to modhammer it open (and take the flak on meta from the close-voters if necessary). But some questions are pretty borderline and I can see both points of view on whether they should be closed or not.
  • If there's a consistent pattern of clearly inappropriate close (or reopen) votes from a particular user, we can send a moderator message and remind the user about whatever scope policy they're ignoring. I've done that once or twice in the past. But, again, it's harder to justify taking action in more vague situations, where people just have more or less strict interpretations of scope policy rather than acting way out of line.

Note that it (usually) takes five users to close a question. If there's just one or two overly strict close voters, it's not enough to get lots of stuff closed. You mentioned a "bandwagon effect", which is sometimes true but IMO not (as you suggested) a natural consequence of the Close Votes review queue's existence. That queue has two buttons, and sometimes a question escapes it quickly with unanimous Leave Open votes. If a question gets closed by five people, and doesn't get reopened afterwards, that might be more of an indication of some actual consensus rather than just a few people misinterpreting policy.

I'm aware that that's not always the case, and sometimes even valid reopen votes fail to gain traction (e.g. if the same people who closed a question just quickly vote to Leave Closed in the Reopen Votes review queue and nobody else even sees it). I know that this is a problem, but I'm not sure what to do about it, even as a moderator. Part of the problem is more from the nature of the system than any particular bad actors.

For what it's worth, most of the controversial closures on SFF are duplicate closures. These are the exception to the rule that it needs five users or a mod to close something, since some high-rep users have gold tag badges and therefore dupehammers. Partly due to this, and also a hotly disputed meta policy, a lot of dupe closures are contested and controversial. That's a discussion I'm not getting into here, though :-)

One last point: you've put a lot of emphasis in this meta discussion on a couple of high-rep users, but it's worth noting that they were not the ones who put your question up for closure. It originally entered the review queue due to a close flag from a low-rep user (someone without even the 3k rep required to VTC themselves), and was removed from the queue after three Leave Open votes (as well as three Close votes), but then went on to receive two more close votes not from the queue.

  • I wouldn't say that "a lot" of dupe closures are controversial. Probably less than one per month results in any level of eyebrow-raising and less than a fraction of those result in a meta. It used to be a bigger problem because a subset of vocal users would oppose many more closures. They seem largely to have stopped
    – Valorum
    Oct 21, 2020 at 15:47
  • 6
    @Valorum It's true that most dupe closures aren't controversial, but also true that most controversial closures are dupe closures, which is what I was saying. I'd say both sides of the debate are usually just a small group of vocal users, not only the ones that you don't agree with.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Oct 21, 2020 at 18:09

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