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I bring as an example this question, that has been closed after ~12 hours: What exactly are electrons if they exist in orbitals without real boundaries?

The OP seems to be someone that does not use PhysicsSE too much, so he/she may be "intimidated" by the closure. Ok, the question was not super clear, but it was edited by a "high-rank" user. After all, "clarity" is somehow subjective. After ~3 hours since the edit (that improved a bit the question), it was closed. So, from the practical point of view, the edit has been nearly useless: probably, only few people saw the edited post.

Now, this website is reached by people from all around the world, living in different time-zones. Moreover, we usually spend ~8 hours to sleep. If the OP posts it in the evening, and then in the morning he/she has to go to school/work, then it is possible that the question will be checked after more than ~12 hours. Someone, living in a different timezone, will not even have the time to see the question (they may comment on it, or even add their interpretation.. this would in any case help the OP, even if the original post is not completely clear).

Would it make sense to have a period of (say) ~24 hours, especially for questions of "new users", in which the question can not be closed? In fact, a "new user" will never be able to re-open it, I suppose (but maybe someone knows some statistics).

PS: maybe the "early closing" may remain as a possibility in the case of homework or for very low-quality (or inappropriate) posts.

PS2: I think everyone should be allowed to vote for closing at any time (see e.g. this on stackoverflow META), the point is when it should be closed (a related PhysicsSE META is this: What guidelines should moderators use to decide when to close questions?).

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    $\begingroup$ This seems more appropriate for meta.stackexchange,com, since I don’t think individual SE sites have control over how closure works, other than customizing closure reasons. $\endgroup$
    – G. Smith
    Feb 5 at 18:36
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you @G.Smith. I was hoping to get some opinion from people using Physics SE (the communities may have different sensibilities), but the down-votes speak loud.. there is something "wrong" in my question, even though I do not understand what. $\endgroup$
    – Quillo
    Feb 5 at 19:03
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    $\begingroup$ there is something "wrong" in my question My understanding is that a downvote on a meta question can just indicate disagreement. In other words, downvoters are simply answering No to the two questions in your title. $\endgroup$
    – G. Smith
    Feb 5 at 21:56
  • $\begingroup$ Nice, so I should read the downvote as a sort of "poll". Useful to know, thank you again. $\endgroup$
    – Quillo
    Feb 5 at 22:08
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    $\begingroup$ I should have written “downvoters may be...” rather than “downvoters are...”. I can imagine various other reasons for downvoting, including the fact that PSE doesn’t have control over this (I think). $\endgroup$
    – G. Smith
    Feb 5 at 22:13
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Yes, closing does seem to discourage a lot of askers, especially those who don't understand how Stack Exchange sites work, but it's supposed to encourage them to improve the question, when possible. We close questions that are off-topic, for obvious reasons. We close duplicates because they've already been answered.

The point of early closure is not to discourage askers, but to stop answers being posted. If a question is potentially good, but it needs clarification, we need to close it as early as possible, if the OP can't fix it immediately. Otherwise, early answerers tend to try guessing what the OP's real question is, and we can end up with a collection of answers by different people who've interpreted the question in rather different ways. Sometimes, there can be good quality information in those answers, but the collective impact of the page is not good because the writers are all talking about different things. That can be confusing to the OP, and to future readers.

Also, when (if) the OP does finally clarify the question, that can invalidate some or all of those answers, or at least make it appear to future readers that the answers aren't properly responding to the question.

Bear in mind that Stack Exchange is a knowledge repository, not a help desk. Yes, we want to help the OP, but we want to help them in such a way that the question and its answers are helpful to future readers as well. A question and answer page has only one OP, but it may be visited by many thousands of people. Every day, vast numbers of people get useful information from the Stack Exchange network, but only a tiny percentage of those people actually post a question. They may not even be registered members. Most of those people find their answers by searching the existing questions and answers. To keep that knowledge repository useful, we have to be diligent with our quality control.

Here's an old essay by Stack Overflow co-founder, Jeff Atwood, on this topic: Optimizing For Pearls, Not Sand. It seems that the attitude of the company has shifted a little in the intervening decade, but for many of us in the community it's still a fundamental core principle.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you, this answer has some great points and the essay of Jeff Atwood is very convincing. $\endgroup$
    – Quillo
    Feb 16 at 13:18
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    $\begingroup$ @Quillo Thanks. Jeff's essay made a big impression on me when I first started answering on Stack Overflow, and I guess the attitude expressed there is an important factor in why I (and many others) continue to contribute to the network. $\endgroup$
    – PM 2Ring
    Feb 16 at 13:32
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I think you're somehow thinking closing questions means they are "undesirable". This is not true of this one: it just needs to be clarified. I did not participate in the VTC but reading it I have to admit that I would have voted to close this question because it lacks clarity.

The onus is then on the OP to edit the question and clarify why a wavefunction that extends to infinity can be compared to a potential (or a force)that extends to infinity, how the Feynman quote implies anything similar (and similar to what?), and what properties suggest the electron has a conglomerate nature (which it does, without precluding its probability density to be delocalized).

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  • $\begingroup$ Yes, indeed that question is just an example and I agree it was not clear. My point is that closing so early could discourage a new contributor from improving it. Do you know if there is some statistics about "how early" questions are typically closed? $\endgroup$
    – Quillo
    Feb 5 at 19:34
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    $\begingroup$ @Quillo - but closing it is what sends the message that it needs work. $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Feb 5 at 20:19
  • $\begingroup$ @JonCuster I do not disagree, it is indeed a message. I wonder if it is interpreted as that from a non experienced user: is it effective? How many questions are improved? $\endgroup$
    – Quillo
    Feb 5 at 22:10
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    $\begingroup$ @Quillo very few are improved but not closing the question will certainly not improve it. $\endgroup$ Feb 6 at 0:43
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    $\begingroup$ @Quillo, some numbers can be found here. In the last year, 2075 questions were closed for needing details or clarity. Only 63 of those were reopened. An attempt was made a few years ago to collect examples of such questions here, without much success. But the feeling I get is that those that are reopened are cases where the OP is responsive to the comments. $\endgroup$
    – Urb
    Feb 17 at 13:39
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you @Urb this is indeed interesting. It amounts to the 3% of the total cases. $\endgroup$
    – Quillo
    Feb 17 at 15:26
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    $\begingroup$ @Quillo my own interpretation of this is that many of these users are just looking for a quick answer and, not getting one, just abandon the question. $\endgroup$ Feb 17 at 16:32
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I think is is a valid question: what exactly is an electron. A question that is not easy to answer at all. In fact, I've thought a lot about this question.

Ironically I believe modern Physics tends to actually divorce itself from the Physics and focus mostly on the mathematics, which is not entirely a bad thing. Conceptual questions can provoke the more nutty of our brethren, but it is essential if we want to move forward in our understanding. Because conceptual questions are often a matter of opinion (supposedly a bad thing), there are often no clear answer, and discussion can go on without end.

Perhaps it would be better to limit discussion on potentially open-ended topics rather than close them.

It actually disturbs me that questions like 'what is an electron' are closed by 'senior' members. Who can forget Einstein's query: 'What would it be like to ride on a light beam (closed)'.

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  • $\begingroup$ Hi, thank you for sharing your idea. My question here is more general (that particular question is just an example). The answer of @PM2Ring has some good points and partially changed my mind. I am not against closing, I am simply uneasy with very early closing (say, before 24 hours or so.. maybe an early warning instead of early closure). $\endgroup$
    – Quillo
    Feb 16 at 13:16
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    $\begingroup$ It should be noted that questions are typically not closed based on what they are asking about, except for the occasion where the question is not about physics. In this case the question wasn't closed because it isn't a valid physics question. It is a typical misconception among users who are not familiar with this site to think that if a question is closed that must mean other users think it isn't a good physics question. $\endgroup$ Feb 16 at 15:37
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    $\begingroup$ @Quillo: I'd like to know why the question was closed at all. It really is a fascinating question, the text of which is no longer available. For it to be almost immediately closed is disturbing. Frankly the site is poorer for not considering questions like that. "It is a typical misconception ... that if a question is closed that must mean other users think it isn't a good physics question" - what else would the natural conclusion to draw from that action? And how do we tell it isn't? My answer has already been down voted, but presumably I'm not to draw any conclusions from that. $\endgroup$ Feb 16 at 19:15
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, I agree on the fact that it's strange that the text is no longer awailable.. I don't know why! $\endgroup$
    – Quillo
    Feb 16 at 22:22
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    $\begingroup$ @Quillo The post was deleted by an automated method because it was closed with no upvoted answers. $\endgroup$ Feb 17 at 2:33
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    $\begingroup$ "what else would the natural conclusion to draw from that action?" I suggest learning more about the site through the help center and the meta posts linked therein. You should take the time to learn the site before taking your assumptions as fact. The particular question had been closed because enough users believed the post was not clear enough. It was not closed because of its relevance to physics, its lack of interest, etc. $\endgroup$ Feb 17 at 2:36
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    $\begingroup$ Re "Perhaps it would be better to limit discussion on potentially open-ended topics rather than close them": we are a question-and-answer community, not a discussion community. Closing a question doesn't necessarily mean we don't think its intellectual content is valueless or uninteresting; it means we don't think the question is going to get answers that are useful for the asker or for other readers. It takes skill to convert a vague-but-interesting question like "what is an electron" or "what would happen in this thought experiment" into something that's really answerable. $\endgroup$
    – rob Mod
    Feb 21 at 21:33

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