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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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UPDATED ANSWER -- 2 years later (May 2021):

Dropping vote-to-close thresholds has been a topic discussed across many SE sites for years. As of May 2021, there's now a formal effort to test minimizing the threshold to 3 votes across the SE network. The 45-day 3-vote test will occur on 13 sites (Not Biology) throughout May and June 2021. We'll await the results and future updates...

Here is the META post about this test: Testing three-vote close and reopen on 13 network sites

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  • $\begingroup$ Marked this as "accepted" for visibility and since any future decisions on this will likely depend on this test. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Commented May 7, 2021 at 18:43
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    $\begingroup$ I've recently experienced a wave of very good, curious questions (and discussions) that are close-voted some 2-4 times, near the 5 threshold. Most of the questions are elementary and without prior duplicate questions one could point to. I try to disproportionately answer these and keep receiving positive feedback. Some get closed after several good answers are posted, for no good reason. I feel we have a real potential for false close voting. In my opinion, threshold lowering to 3 would be really unhealthy for this SE. I'm all for experimenting, but the close-reopen threshold sits well at 5. $\endgroup$
    – S Pr
    Commented May 10, 2021 at 11:00
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    $\begingroup$ @Spr I actually agree. Though, in fact, what I don't think has been been adequately articulated is that we have both problems simultaneously. We have really awful posts that linger in the close queue picking up bad answers and either staying opened or having to be closed by mods. AND we have plenty of posts being closed inappropriatly (usually due to narrow and inaccurate views of site policies or of what constitutes "biology"). Therefore, as I stated in my other answer, the best solution would be better participation. Our numbers continue to decline, so not sure how SE will handle our site $\endgroup$ Commented May 10, 2021 at 14:09
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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 Mod
    Commented Dec 20, 2019 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). ) $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 20, 2019 at 22:45
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This answer is in the nature of a reflection, with a suggestion that we try to accumulate more information on which to make a decision. To provide a one-liner:

We should determine how difficult it is to find 5 votes to close an off-topic question on SE Biology, and drop the requirement to 3 votes if the barrier is too high.

We are scientists. We are used to taking decisions based on evidence, but at the moment I think there is insufficient to do so. I wonder whether there may be, on average, too few people who have enough privilege to vote to close that actually view most questions. But I don’t know. So,

  • What proportion of questions are viewed by fewer than 100 people?
  • How many of the viewers of such questions have the 3000 reputation needed to vote to close?
  • Of the questions that are closed, how many are done without a moderator short-circuiting the closure procedure?
  • What are the numbers like if you take out the obvious personal medical and spam questions?

It strikes me the only people likely to have any of this info are the mods. Looking at the users who have increased their reputation this year (as a surrogate for activity) I would estimate that not more than 20 have enough reputation to vote to close. Given that people have interests in different biological fields — I never look at natural history questions or those on physiology — this seems quite low, and is possibly the reason that, in my opinion, a lot of poor questions do not get winnowed out.

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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 Mod
    Commented Dec 19, 2019 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
    Commented Dec 19, 2019 at 21:01
  • $\begingroup$ @Bryan I think it's a well intended proposal that I could get behind, but see my answer for concerns... $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 20, 2019 at 22:40
  • $\begingroup$ I agree on this. +1 $\endgroup$
    – Chris Mod
    Commented Apr 4, 2022 at 15:48
  • $\begingroup$ Late to this answer but I’m in favor as well. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 27, 2022 at 15:49

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