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Discussion in comments on this question have raised an interesting point:

Our community seems to be fairly evenly split on how we should handle "are there any" questions.

Yet the question was closed.

I am fairly strongly on the side of it being closed, for reasons I mentioned in that comment thread, as well as in various meta discussions we've had regarding list questions. However, in this case I am wondering if closure is appropriate considering that a significant number of users obviously disagree with me.

What is our policy for closure in such cases? Is there a reason to close despite an apparently split community, or should we err on the side of caution and leave such questions open until the community can come to an actual consensus on policy?

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  • I fully agree with this question, but I'm worried that everything that can be said on the topic was already said on Meta one you linked to. People who go "I FEEL it's a list, evidence not needed" will close and trash. People who go "Let's see some evidence before closing" will be left with the hard work of finding older closed questions and reopening, with the damage of the "closed" stigma and the question being old already done (and all that, even assuming they find 5 people to VTRO via the reopen queue). – DVK-on-Ahch-To Oct 2 '13 at 15:16
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    I came up with this Google search to find a bunch of past discussions on the topic. 'me too' was the best phrase I could think of that would be used on most discussions of list questions. – user1027 Oct 2 '13 at 15:32
  • @DVK The way I'm leaning is if everything to be said has been said, then we don't have sufficient support for closing, and perhaps moderators, at least, should not be closing (since it isn't clear-cut). Also, if we have a clear-cut policy, even if its a clear-cut policy for when we don't have a clear-cut policy (!), we can at least point to that when we find these things. – Beofett Oct 2 '13 at 16:02
  • @Keen That's the primary reason behind my opinion on the topic. I think "me too" answers are a real problem. But apparently the argument isn't compelling for a lot of people. – Beofett Oct 2 '13 at 16:03
  • @Beofett There's also the issue of Meta not being a really good implementation of determining consensus. How useful is a 2 year old discussion, especially when the issue has been discussed often since then? Are the votes on the most popular discussion to be considered canon, or should we go with the most recent discussion? How do we easily find the most recent discusion? etc, etc. – user1027 Oct 2 '13 at 16:07
  • @Keen All good questions. Its something that I think is lacking a bit in the current meta system. I feel like we should have a specific, collated set of rules, and that if a specific meta discussion shows a clear consensus, those rules could be altered to reflect that. But then, how do you determine what is sufficient consensus? The idea of self-governance is a good one, but like any form of government, it has its flaws. At least we don't need to furlough anyone (yet!). – Beofett Oct 2 '13 at 16:12
  • @Beofett - what's wrong with a clear cut policy of: #1 if the question attracts mee-to answers, protect it; #2 if any of them are from non-new-users - which renders protect useless - then close. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Oct 2 '13 at 17:16
  • @DVK I believe we've already discussed this here. I'd rather not muddy the waters of this question with yet another side-bar discussion about whether we should allow list questions. Let's just stick to what action we and the moderators should take, if any, for questions where there isn't a consensus. It doesn't need to be specifically about list questions. – Beofett Oct 2 '13 at 17:34
  • Looking at this specific question, a good criterion might be "can the question actually be answered as it stands?" I'd argue that this question cannot be answered because it's impossible to give a definitive "no" - nobody knows every single work and nobody can say that nothing exists. So if the community is split, that may be a useful tie-breaker: since a "no" is impossible, the question should clearly be closed. – user8719 Oct 2 '13 at 18:07
  • @JimmyShelter I called this type of question "one-sided answerable". Few seem to be concerned with this exhaustive knowledge issue; the driving concern is list/"me too". Note: this Meta question is about consensus issues not about that category of question. – Paul A. Clayton Oct 2 '13 at 19:27
  • How much control do we have over the FAQ? Can some of the major decisions be more officially codified there as they're made? I, myself, spent months on the main site before I ever noticed that there even was a meta site. – phantom42 Oct 3 '13 at 12:30
  • @phantom42 I believe we (or rather, the moderators) can edit the "what types of questions should we not ask" section and a few others. There is also a "FAQ" tag here on meta, which gets much less visibility, but some people do reference it. – Beofett Oct 3 '13 at 12:37
  • @Beofett - i'm a bit confused whether the process of adding things to FAQ actually works (e.g. meta.scifi.stackexchange.com/a/2718/976) – DVK-on-Ahch-To Oct 3 '13 at 12:40
  • @DVK Yeah, I'm hazy on the process, too. – Beofett Oct 3 '13 at 12:49
  • @phantom42 Go ask a separate 'how much control do we have over the FAQ' meta question, and a mod will provide a thorough answer. ;) – user1027 Oct 3 '13 at 15:21
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Well, since no one else has offered a suggestion....

I suggest that our policy should be that in situations where the community has not been able to develop a clear consensus, we should err on the side of being welcoming to new users, and leave the questions open.

What determines a clear consensus, or lack thereof, is a bit harder to define. However, I would propose that, at the very least, if a meta discussion has no answer with a high (5 or more) positive score, or two contradictory answers that have high (5 or more) positive scores within 5 points of each other, then we should consider it to be an issue for which there is no clear consensus.

Granted, we cannot have a policy that dictates when people should use their close votes; such a rule would be unenforceable anyway. However, having a policy like this could possibly help people decide whether to VTC or vote to reopen. Even better, it may help encourage people to participate in the meta discussions where we haven't been able to come to a consensus.

Remember: many of our marginal questions come from new users. If we can be a little more tolerant (while offering constructive, positive advice on how to improve the question), we may retain more users.

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