I'm puzzled by some of the close question decisions recently. Here are two examples (the first is my question):

(The second question was particularly popular.)

My was closed for being "not a real question" which both puzzles me and irritates me, as if I wanted to add a fake / noise question!

The second was closed as being "subjective and argumentative" which is even more puzzling. Surely it is not subjective if an author writes in a deliberately humourous way (though, yes, whether it is funny is up to the reader). And it is definitely not argumentative!

But I'm only using these as examples, there are plenty more.

I'm asking for two things here:

  1. Clarity as to what kind of questions are permitted.
  2. Latitude in questions. If we dismiss everything as "you can find it on Wikipedia / Google" and "that's subjective", it won't leave a lot left and many people (like those currently upvoting these questions) may simply "vote with their feet" i.e. leave.

Can we cut down the question closing?

Update: Just noticed this excellent question: What are some good SF books by authors not generally known for science fiction? I'm glad that one wasn't closed, but it seems that the rules (which I think need clarifying) are not being consistently applied.

4 Answers 4


No one can be required to explain their close votes, but since you ask, here's mine:

  1. Other than Douglas Adams, who are some humorous SF authors?
    At the time I voted to close this question, its title was:

    Who are the best humorous SF authors? Douglas Adams is a given, who else?

    Any question that asks for the "best" is likely to be closed as "subjective and argumentative"—which is what happened.

  2. Is there anyone like Terry Pratchett in the sci-fi world?
    The majority of people voting to close this one said it was "not a real question." When I voted to close it, I said it was a duplicate of question 1, because, in my opinion, it is.

    While Question 1 is closed, it still has ten answers—all/most of which are perfectly suitable answers for Question 2.

  • thanks, clear explanation of 2, and (correcting my previous comment) I appreciate that you added that explanation with the link at the time of closing. But for 1 - why wasn't it re-opened when the title was changed? Commented Jan 30, 2011 at 14:48

No, cutting down on the question closing is not a good solution. We still need to keep the good questions and close the bad questions. An “anything goes” policy will make the site unappealing because it will be too hard for visitors to find the good stuff amongst the chaff. “The rules are not being consistently applied” is not an argument to swing the rules towards one side or another.

This site is still struggling to find its identity. We're still disagreeing on which questions are the good ones. This explains why it's not very clear yet what questions are permitted. Hopefully this will be resolved in a few weeks, as we gain more experience of good and bad questions, and (just perhaps maybe) can reach some sort of agreement as to what questions are welcome here (or die trying).

Regarding these specific questions: I voted to close one, and would have voted to close the other, as “not a real question”, because it is overly broad. It's clear that we don't like questions with a long list of potential answers, and these two questions are prime examples. The case of recommendation questions (“I liked X and Y and Z and disliked A and B, what else might I like”) might be different, but even if they end up accepted, these two questions are still far too broad (just “I liked X”).

Note to closers: it's a good idea to explain your close vote in a comment, especially when you close reason is “not a real question” which is itself ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad.

  • @Giles: you've raised multiple points. My replies are: 1. I'm not arguing for "anything goes" but rule clarity and allowing more types of questions, like, "what is similar to" type questions. 2. Yes, the site is finding its identity; this question is intended to help that process. 3. I agree that close votes should be explained - but I also think that those that regularly close questions should get involved in this debate. The sooner this gets clarified, the better - then we can all move on to enjoying asking & answering sci-fi questions. Commented Jan 29, 2011 at 12:34
  • @Giles - PS I haven't voted on your answer because I would upvote paragraphs 2 & 4 and downvote 1 & 3 (though I appreciate your link in para 3). Commented Jan 29, 2011 at 12:35

Take a look at this question. It's pretty much been decided that any question that asks for a list of something will be closed. You'll note that 2 of the 3 questions you mentioned were in that list, and the last one is a hold-over from before this was decided.


Two of the close-votes for your question (mine and probably Dori's) were because it's a duplicate (of the second question you use as an example). Both questions are basically asking for humourous sci-fi - your question doesn't really distinguish itself from the first one in any significant way (it just uses a different author as an example).

It's unfortunate that (a) when a question is closed for multiple reasons only one of those reasons is shown (presumably the one with the most votes), and (b) that other people didn't close this as a duplicate (since that's clearly what it was).

Your question has two comments, each with an upvote, that already explain why the question was closed. (I didn't leave a separate comment, I upvoted Dori's, because it said exactly what I would have said). (I'm not saying that asking in meta was wrong, just that the question already has all the information about why it was closed).

For your second and third examples: it's not clear yet whether recommendation questions are acceptable (there are lots of other meta questions along these lines; reading the answers to those will probably give you a good understanding of the current debate). As a result, there's a lot of inconsistency as to whether these questions are closed or not. The more broad a recommendation question is (and both of these are extremely broad), the more likely it is to be closed, however.

Clarity: ask something where it's possible for you to accept an answer. For more detailed clarity as to which questions are ok, reading the relevant meta questions and answers would probably help (again, this is still in flux at the moment - eventually it will be in the FAQ).

Latitude: your point here is about "Googleable" and "subjective" questions. The existing meta questions are the best place to get information about those. In terms of your examples:

  1. Having duplicate questions does more harm than good, especially during the beta. Once the site is large, then there can be some value in having variations of the same question, but for now it just takes away from the original question.
  2. Until there's consensus about this type of question, they'll be close-voted by those people that don't believe they belong on the site. Those people believe that leaving the questions here, even down-voted, hurts the site.
  3. Just like (2).
  • thanks for the detailed and well thought through response. So, how can we get consensus? Do we just need to wait for the site to evolve? Commented Jan 30, 2011 at 14:53

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