Quite often I spend a lot of time and effort to put together an answer to possibly not-so-robust questions (lacking details or an unclear question) only to be closed before I can submit. It is extememely frustrating because others have decided the question is beyond salvage or not worthy of answers when some of us are making an honest effort to help.

Overall I think the closing mechanism is used way too aggressively in this site as opposed to downvotes for not ideal questions. Maybe I am guilty too sometimes, looking at a question and thinking "well nobody could possibly answer this question as posed, or it is too trivial or it isn't a question, etc".

I would like to propose to put a lock on closing a question until answers have been submitted.

Maybe a 3day time limit before the closing happens, or if the server knowns when someone is typing (more than X number of characters) to flag the people voting to close that the question is being actively answered right now and postpone the voting process for after all the answers have been submitted.

I have resorted to submitting a placeholder answer, deleting it, authoring my answer, and then undeleting it. But this is an abuse of the system. And yes, answers have been accepted after closed and people have been helped if answers are submitted before the closing "axe" comes down.


4 Answers 4


A large part of the purpose of closing questions is preventing them from being answered. We close questions that we do not wish to encourage on our site, and receiving answers encourages people to ask more questions of the same kind.

For instance, if we waited to close every homework-like question until someone had given away the solution in an answer, then there would be little point in closing them at all - those just interested in getting an answer to submit on their assignment would get exactly what they wanted, and we wouldn't deter them at all from asking further such questions. If we only closed questions asking us to review non-mainstream nonsense until after people had debated with the asker for days, then again where's the point in closing the question after that? That just invites people to ask a string of poor questions that at least one person is interested in answering, rather than inviting them to ask questions that are actually useful and interesting to a larger class of people.

If you want to argue that we close certain types of questions that in your opinion should be welcomed here instead, you should do that. But trying to sidestep the discussion about what should be on-topic and what not by effectively removing most of the purpose from the closing mechanism so that anything goes is not something I think we should consider.

  • $\begingroup$ I agree in large with you. But whilst discouraging future questions, we also discourage answerers as some users won't bother with the process in case their post gets rejected in the end due to a close vote. The reality is that a closed question does not need general consensus but only a handful of me-too voters. A think a simple banner notification this question is currently being answered would at least give some pause to careless votes for close as it becomes evident that other users would also be negatively impacted. I do not agree that every closed vote needs to be closed. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 14, 2021 at 17:15
  • $\begingroup$ Case and point this question which was closed erroneously IMHO as it deserved an honest try for an answer. Applying the homework policy to this question was a stretch at least, and for the people trying to respond (me included), we felt cheated out of an opportunity to help. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 14, 2021 at 22:39
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    $\begingroup$ @JohnAlexiou Unfortunately, having a post that allows some users to help another user is not a criteria of whether or not a question should be open on PSE. Any question that is closed means that someone was "cheated out of" getting help on that question, so I don't see how that is a valid argument for what you are proposing. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 15, 2021 at 0:56

I sympathise because I have had this happen to me. In the past I have seen a homework question and thought that even though it was homework there was a nice conceptual discussion to be had. Then as I'm nearing the end of an answer explaining the concepts the question gets closed.

If this happens then consider posting your own version of the question, but making clear it's about concepts not just homework. Then post the answer you've been working on. For example I did this in How does the Hubble parameter change with the age of the universe? If you feel your answer makes a genuinely useful contribution then it's work keeping, but think long and hard about whether it is genuinely useful.

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    $\begingroup$ This is actually really good advice I had never considered. I think it should be noted that you should also make sure the conceptual question has not been asked on the site before. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 15, 2021 at 10:34

If this is happening to you frequently, then the problem is that you have different idea of what kinds of questions are on-topic than (some of) the people who are reviewing the close-vote queue. That’s a totally normal and okay difference of opinion. The way to deal with the conflict is not employ or develop some technical countermeasure so that you can post answers to closed questions. Instead, vote to reopen the question, or lobby on Meta that its closure was unreasonable, so that the community’s consensus can evolve to include more influence from your opinion.

Since StackExchange posts are submitted as plain text, you have lots of options for saving a draft of an answer in some other text-editing tool, to be pasted into the answer box when your question is reopened. I was recently reminded of the existence of the Meta “sandbox” for users who want to make test edits using the online editor and its preview system. A commenter also mentions https://stackedit.io, an independent website which is intentionally designed for this purpose.

I have resorted to submitting a placeholder answer, deleting it, authoring my answer, and then undeleting it.

In the extremely distant past, there was moderator advice about making “placeholder answers” which could be edited into proper shape even if the question was closed. However, the intent of that advice was that the “placeholder answer” would answer the question from the outset, even if the initial answer was incomplete. A number of users have interpreted that advice as license to make a content-free “stub” of an answer under an off-topic question, which they can edit into a complete answer and undelete even if the question is closed. Other users who notice new, complete answers to off-topic questions appearing long after the questions are closed tend to agree with you: it’s an abuse of the system. Don’t do that.

The best way to publish an answer to a closed question, and the best way to help the authors of closed questions that deserve answers, is to convince the community that the question is on-topic, and get it re-opened.

  • $\begingroup$ I have used StackEdit.io before too. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 14, 2021 at 17:59
  • $\begingroup$ By large this community thinks this my problem (from the downvotes). Take for example this question which was closed erroneously IMHO. When I started answering there was nothing indicating to me this is a homework problem, and applying the homework policy to this question was a stretch at least. This was someone asking for help modeling a complex system. The answer of I should have known better really goes to the core of my grievance with how the close votes are applied practically. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 14, 2021 at 22:44
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    $\begingroup$ @JohnAlexiou I don’t understand why the OP accepted that answer. You’ve assumed the known solution. I don’t think that’s the intent of the question. $\endgroup$
    – G. Smith
    Commented Mar 15, 2021 at 0:47

If a question is gathering close votes, but you believe that it's worthy of being answered, then you can assist the OP in salvaging it.

We don't just close questions because they are bad, or because they're duplicates. We close potentially good questions that need further work precisely to prevent answers from being posted prematurely.

When a question is too vague or unfocused, many answerers have a tendency to try to guess what the OP's real question is. So we can end up with a set of answers that are answering slightly different questions. This can be confusing to the OP, and to future readers. And if the OP does clarify or focus the question, they may invalidate some of those answers. I wrote about that in this answer from last month.

So it's better if we can get those borderline questions into shape before the answers start rolling in. However, I must admit that many OPs are likely to abandon their question once it's closed. They may even repost a duplicate or slightly modified version; the wording of the post closure notice (which was changed a year or so ago) can be interpreted as actually encouraging that undesirable behaviour. (FWIW, there have been various complaints about that wording on several meta sites).


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