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Once the question has been closed, one can cast re-open votes and a question requires exactly as many re-open votes as close votes in order for it to be re-opened. Given the homogeneity of time, I suppose this certainly means that a re-open vote, in effect, nullifies a close vote. If so, why a leave-open vote (which is an existent feature), cast while the question has not yet been closed, doesn't cancel a close vote?

One defense of such a choice of mechanism might be that re-open votes are supposed to be utilized when the question has been modified after having been closed and is in need of being re-opened. But, often, a question gets re-open votes without any significant modifications (or any modifications at all) in the question and such votes do count. So this defense is not satisfactory.

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    $\begingroup$ This doesn't seem to be specific to physics.SE and has been requested and declined multiple times at meta.SE, e.g.: meta.stackexchange.com/q/125/263383, meta.stackexchange.com/q/234302/263383 $\endgroup$ – ACuriousMind Apr 5 at 17:44
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    $\begingroup$ Cancelling it would essentially require votes to be removed without the vote owner's permission. Only the vote owner should be about to remove it, imo $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Apr 5 at 20:57
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    $\begingroup$ @KyleKanos Sorry, I didn't understand your point properly. Why does the proposed mechanism require removal of anyone's votes without their permission? Just like re-open votes can undo the effect of close votes, I am saying that leave-open votes should weight against the effect of close votes. Again, apologies if I didn't understand your point. $\endgroup$ – Dvij Mankad Apr 5 at 21:02
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    $\begingroup$ From @ACuriousMind's first link, this answer gives some insight into the rationale for the current system. This is definitely a network-wide issue, and not something that we can really address just on Physics. $\endgroup$ – rob Apr 5 at 21:31
  • $\begingroup$ @Dvij if the Leave Open vote is going to cancel a Close vote, it's essentially deleting it (because your LO vote drops say 3 CV down to 2). Voting to leave it open shouldn't cancel the existing votes, it should only do exactly what it does. $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Apr 5 at 22:17
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    $\begingroup$ @KyleKanos: I think the argument is that "Leave Open" and "Close" votes should work more like upvotes and downvotes on questions and answers. I wouldn't think that an upvote removes a prior downvote (or vice versa), even if it does "cancel it out" in the overall score. $\endgroup$ – Michael Seifert Apr 7 at 13:24
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Because Leave Open votes are a mechanism that works exclusively within the review queue.

The core mechanism for community-driven question closures is that

a quorum of five 3k+ regular users agree that it should be closed.

This is a hard-and-fast rule, with the only exceptions being (1) moderators, who have full control to be used where appropriate but in as minimal a set of circumstances as possible, (2) the dupehammer ability of gold-tag-badge holders, and (3) the ageing away of close votes (one a day after four or fourteen days, depending on views). Messing with this rule is a major design change to the system behaviour, and it should only be done after substantial analysis and for reasons of extreme importance. (Or, to put it bluntly: that's just not going to happen. SE is busy enough with other aspects of the system that the type of engine redesign you're proposing is simply not going to end up on their to-do list.)

The other side of the closure mechanism is the review queues, which exist to make sure that off-topic questions get enough close-capable eyeballs to ensure that they're closed if they need to be. To be clear:

the primary purpose of the Close Votes review queue is to prevent a situation where an off-topic question gets one closure vote, very few views, and then it slips off the bottom end of the front page, never to be seen (or close-voted) again.

It works by making sure that any such question ends up in a review queue where, if it does merit closure, it does get closure. However:

the Close Votes review queue is not intended to act as a Death Row corridor where the only way for questions to get out is by getting closed,

which would effectively mean that a single close vote would doom any question, negating the core rule above. There thus needs to be a mechanism by which on-topic questions cease to be considered, and this is what the Leave Open vote does: if the question gets enough Leave Open votes (at present, three of them), it gets removed from the queue. This is the only function that the Leave Open option was designed to achieve. (Moreover, given that the Leave Open option is only accessible within the review queue, it does not make any sense to have it act outside of the review queue.)

And this, of course, naturally raises some questions:

  1. So why was it designed this way?

    Because the Close Votes review queue was designed quite a while after the regular closure mechanism was in place (meaning: all the way back in 2012, i.e. four years after Stack Overflow started, with close-voting built from the ground up at the very beginning of the Q&A engine design). Since the review queues were an addition to the existing mechanisms, they were not built to modify the existing behaviour.

  2. OK, but why can't it be changed now?

    Because the core Q&A engine needs to serve the needs of an enormous variety of environments: from the voracious high-traffic environment of Stack Overflow, through a wide cast of 100+ Stack Exchange sites, each with its own community and culture, to the smallest beta sites with low traffic and relying on moderator actions to keep the flow in shape (or trying to pass that baton over to community moderation). This is a system used by millions of people weekly, and changes to the core behaviour should only be done if the disruption to the existing processes can be justified by the extreme need for the behaviour change being considered.

    And here there isn't any such need: the system is working just fine as-is.

Your proposed re-design could indeed work, but there's nothing in your post that even hints at an argument that the current system doesn't work. Both systems have their own logic, each with its idiosyncrasies (in the existing system, Leave Open only acts within the review queue, which some people (e.g. you) find confusing; in your proposed re-design, there is a review-queue-only option which significantly alters the balance outside of it), and, frankly, the logic gaps in your system are worse than the existing one.

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The answer to "why" is simply because design choices had to be made when the site was implemented, and it was decided to do it like this.

The suggestion to make "Leave open" more powerful was done in the past. Instead of what you suggest, a change was implemented which removes the question from the "Close Votes" queue after three "Leave open" votes.

Making close votes more like regular votes will be a big change to implement. Think about it: should there be a limit to "Leave open" votes? Should a user be able to undo a "Leave open" vote? How many times? Do you get a new close vote when you replace one with "Leave open" and vice versa? Should there be a special "Close Votes" table in the database, similar to regular votes (AFAIK currently close votes are technically "flags")? Or should this mechanism be generalized to flags instead (so that one could vote against spam flags for example)?

In the end, you're free to suggest that on meta SE, but unless you can provide some sort of analysis which demonstrates the benefits (e.g. how many good questions per day could be salvaged), and weight them against the disadvantages (e.g. such a change will probably inflate the "Close Votes" queue) you're unlikely to convince the SE team.

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