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Would we rather have a close/reopen vote threshold lower than 5?


Recently, Stack Overflow experimented with and decided to change the threshold for close/reopen votes from 5 to 3.

They found an increased efficiency without measured negative effects. The change has also been tested on smaller sites, which may benefit even more because it may take a long time for enough experienced users to review the question and find consensus.

The downside, discussed on other Metas, is that aggressive close-voting from particular community members may carry more weight with a reduced threshold than it would otherwise.

See also:

https://webapps.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/4687/cancelling-election-lets-try-something-else-testing-three-vote-question-clos

https://diy.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/1478/can-we-get-the-close-vote-threshold-lowered-to-3

https://hardwarerecs.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/655/results-added-testing-single-vote-closure-on-hardware-recs

for some discussion on other meta sites.


Other related meta posts (and please feel free to edit in others as seen fit):

Inadequate moderation by the community

New moderators, please be more reserved with your close hammer


I've posted my own answer, but of course other opinions and perspectives are strongly welcomed.

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NO: we should stick to the current threshold of 5.

I have noticed wayy too many circumstances in which a question was being voted to be closed by 2-3 users inappropriately (i.e., the close votes were unfounded/not supported or the wrong close reason was chosen). Reasons for these inappropriate VTCs range from novice voters, rushed voting, malicious voting, and difference of opinion. By reducing the close-vote requirement, we will undoubtedly close more questions that do not fit the description for being closed.

We have two current problems on this SE site: (1) lack of review tasks being performed by current community members, and (2) decline in engaged users (+ an overall drop in visits overall!). I think this current VTC proposal is indirectly trying to account for these issues.

  • A 3rd issue is that the overall quality of posts has declined sharply in the last 2-3 years. I (among others) still hold posts to a higher standard based on older expectations of this community (i.e., one for scientists). Truthfully, the community has shifted much more toward consisting of novices and students here asking simple questions. At some point, our expectations just can't outweigh the masses asking the questions... [I digress...]

However, I don't think the close-vote proposal will have the intended effect. The root of our problem is community engagement. By changing the VCT threshold we would not be changing that engagement level. Instead, we would be allowing decisions for the whole community to be made by an [even fewer] select active individuals.

In summary:

We have a community engagement problem on Bio.SE (perhaps an irreversible one), but I don't think the current proposal will fix that root issue. Instead, such a proposal will just give more closing power to the select individuals (<1% I'm sure of all users) who do vote. I'm afraid that such "power" would come off as a form of elitism as it does on some other SE sites, and may even result in a further decline in community engagement.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks! I'm glad that an opposing view was shared. $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause Dec 20 '19 at 22:41
  • $\begingroup$ (by the way, I fully recognize that more users could choose to vote if they desired and that they willingly choose not to vote. So in a way, my argument could come across as artificial. However, from a functional standpoint, decision-making from a limited group (again recognizing that it doesn't have to be that way) comes across negatively for many users. (having been on the wrong side of less-than-desirable close votes on other sites before myself I know what it's like to feel like a select few users have all the say). ) $\endgroup$ – theforestecologist Dec 20 '19 at 22:45
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Yes: we should try a reduced threshold of 3 votes

In the last moderator election, one of the questions was about moderator use of the unilateral close vote. I think the general consensus has been that it's best to let the community handle whatever is possible for the community to handle, and yet sometimes the moderators have to step in to prevent an accumulation of questions that linger in the queue without a full 5 votes and either time out or attract poor answers.

It seems to me like changing the threshold would help a lot here - I would certainly drastically reduce my own use of the close-vote if the threshold were changed.

(see also New moderators, please be more reserved with your close hammer and especially AliceD's speculation about discouragement among voters in the community)

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  • $\begingroup$ I think it's definitely worth a try. +1 $\endgroup$ – AliceD Dec 19 '19 at 15:32
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    $\begingroup$ I agree that reducing the threshold would be worth trying, but only if there were clearer guidelines about what questions are off-topic (especially with regards to low-effort questions that aren't homework). $\endgroup$ – canadianer Dec 19 '19 at 21:01
  • $\begingroup$ @Bryan I think it's a well intended proposal that I could get behind, but see my answer for concerns... $\endgroup$ – theforestecologist Dec 20 '19 at 22:40

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