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It seems the bulk of questions being closed are being closed unilaterally by moderators or by agreement between moderators, and not by the "vote to close" mechanism. This is extremely irritating, as questions get closed suddenly and without any prior warning, meaning that you can spend a long time writing answer only to get a notification that you can no longer post it. Could the moderators please take a step back on borderline questions and let the community decide. They are of course free to vote to close, like anyone else with sufficient rep, but please please refrain from just closing questions (except for massive breaches of the site rules/faq). There is really no need for it, and it undermines the community driven nature of StackExchange.

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    $\begingroup$ This is an unfortunate situation @Joe and one we've had quite a few discussions about. Can you link to a few of the questions that you might be concerned about? $\endgroup$ – Deepak Vaid Jan 20 '11 at 12:37
  • $\begingroup$ @space_cadet: What prompted this was getting told the question was closed just after finishing a long answer to the question on charging a laptop off its USB port. However, I have also noticed a lot of other questions being closed over the last few days, and mods have made mention of internal mod discussions in response to questions on meta too.Let me clarify by making it clear that I have no position on whether these questions should have been closed or not,I simply feel the community should be doing this, not the mods.At least that is my understanding of how the SE model is supposed to work. $\endgroup$ – Joe Fitzsimons Jan 20 '11 at 16:00
  • $\begingroup$ @Joe: What question you were answering (which was closed) that prompted this post? $\endgroup$ – Robert Smith Jan 20 '11 at 18:05
  • $\begingroup$ @Robert: physics.stackexchange.com/q/3395 $\endgroup$ – Joe Fitzsimons Jan 20 '11 at 18:11
  • $\begingroup$ @Joe you should look back in the past questions on meta and you'll find some heavy discussions on this issue. I like your suggestion in your comment on @David's answer-to have candidate questions for closure be listed on meta for community approval. In general I feel the comment thread of a question is sufficient for this purpose, but we could use a more robust mechanism. Also it is understandable that you would feel violated after having taken the trouble to answer that question only to find it closed. But in the greater scheme of things that is not such a major disappointment IMHO $\endgroup$ – Deepak Vaid Jan 20 '11 at 19:01
  • $\begingroup$ @space_cadet: Not everyone reads every question, and so they won't always see the discussion. Having a single thread on meta makes it much easier to keep track of. $\endgroup$ – Joe Fitzsimons Jan 20 '11 at 19:21
  • $\begingroup$ @Joe I completely agree with your observation. $\endgroup$ – Deepak Vaid Jan 20 '11 at 19:24
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Could the moderators please take a step back on borderline questions and let the community decide.

The problem with that is that the community closing process takes a long time to work, if it even works at all. We don't have anywhere near as many users with vote-to-close privileges as Stack Overflow, for example. I've actually tried your suggestion in the past, namely leaving more questions open and hoping that the community would close them. In most cases, it didn't happen; the questions just languish and collect bad answers.

The current rate of closing questions is a direct reaction to recent posts on meta complaining about the decreasing quality of questions and answers.

They are of course free to vote to close, like anyone else with sufficient rep

Actually no, we don't have that ability. Moderator close votes are instantly binding.

...meaning that you can spend a long time writing answer only to get a notification that you can no longer post it.

If you're answering a question that you think might be closed... well, honestly, you shouldn't. But if you absolutely insist on posting an answer, bear in mind that there is a grace period of four hours, I believe, after a question is closed, after which you can submit an answer - as long as you started writing that answer before the closure, and you don't reload the question page after the closure.

One thing that is technically possible is to post a short "placeholder" answer (which must still be an answer, but it can omit details) to get it in before the question is closed, and then edit it later. That used to be a recommended procedure, but these days it's frowned upon.

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    $\begingroup$ I see. Well, that is certainly an explanation for th current situation, but I don't think it is a very healthy position for the site to be in. You easily have enough high rep users to deal with this, but the problem seems to be that they aren't. The way the CS theory site got around this was by having a question on meta that listed (as answers) which questions currently needed closing by the community. This worked really well, and I guess got everyone in on the practice of addressing the problem via the community. Could I suggest we try the same thing here? $\endgroup$ – Joe Fitzsimons Jan 20 '11 at 18:25
  • $\begingroup$ @Joe: I wouldn't object to that. We actually had that system in place before temporary moderators were appointed; see the question and this other question that references it. $\endgroup$ – David Z Jan 20 '11 at 18:48
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    $\begingroup$ @David: In the first post you link to @mbq explicitly suggests abandoning the community closing mechanism and instead flagging it for moderator attention. It is my understanding that this is supposed to be the exception rather than the rule for StackExchange communities. Sorry, I know it probably seems like I'm always complaining about the Physics SE. That's not really my intention here. $\endgroup$ – Joe Fitzsimons Jan 21 '11 at 7:46
  • $\begingroup$ @Joe: no worries, your complaints are pretty constructive ;-) Anyway, that sounds like what I've heard as well. At the time I didn't really know my way around this moderating business (at least not on SE sites) so I just let that question be closed, but having had the benefit of some experience, like I said, I'd be happy to let that practice start up again. I see that Ivo Filpse suggested using a dedicated chat room instead, which might work better than the meta thread as long as people know about it - what do you think? $\endgroup$ – David Z Jan 21 '11 at 8:11
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    $\begingroup$ @David: How useful have people found chatrooms here? The CSTheory one is a ghost town despite an active meta. $\endgroup$ – Joe Fitzsimons Jan 21 '11 at 8:13
  • $\begingroup$ @Joe: we do have a physics chat room chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/71/physics which sees some occasional use. In addition to the "official" discussions on site promotion we had there, occasionally people will pop in and post or check messages. If we can get a large enough number of the high-rep users to check in on it frequently enough, that chat room might work for this purpose. $\endgroup$ – David Z Jan 21 '11 at 8:17
  • $\begingroup$ @David: That might work. $\endgroup$ – Joe Fitzsimons Jan 21 '11 at 8:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Joe: it would be great if you could take point in trying to get that system going, as long you think it's a worthwhile endeavor. Basically I guess we just need to make everyone (but especially high-rep users) aware of the chat room and of the fact that there are actually useful messages posted in there sometimes. $\endgroup$ – David Z Jan 21 '11 at 18:12
  • $\begingroup$ @David: Ok, let me figure out how best to use the chatroom and then I'll post a proposal on meta. It's a little late here, so I'll have to do it tomorrow. $\endgroup$ – Joe Fitzsimons Jan 21 '11 at 18:34
  • $\begingroup$ @David: Having looked into the chat, it seems far to many clicks are required. and it makes it hard to check if a question has been closed. The meta solution seems better to me. $\endgroup$ – Joe Fitzsimons Jan 22 '11 at 18:08
  • $\begingroup$ I agree with @David's answer here. It's simply a matter of practicality. $\endgroup$ – Noldorin Jan 23 '11 at 2:53
  • $\begingroup$ @Joe: OK, sounds good. I reopened the old question so we can start using it again (unless it would be better for some reason to create a new question to accumulate questions to be closed). $\endgroup$ – David Z Jan 23 '11 at 7:02
  • $\begingroup$ The real problem is in the closing of problems that only a single moderator thinks are "pseudoscience". This is a problem because to a small degree, pseudoscience is in the eye of the beholder (even expert beholders) By the way, I down voted this because I disagree with it. But I think it's a useful comment and so I'm a little ambivalent. Am I just trying to earn a badge? Hard to say. $\endgroup$ – Carl Brannen Jan 30 '11 at 0:57
  • $\begingroup$ @Carl: a fair point, but there is a process by which the community (or another moderator) can reopen questions. So it's not the end of the world if one moderator is the only person who thinks something is pseudoscience and closes it - the consequences are temporary. $\endgroup$ – David Z Jan 30 '11 at 4:28
  • $\begingroup$ I saw this one recently and though, goodness, isn't that one outdated - but there was no sense messing with it. Now that it's up on top, this answer might well benefit from a banner at the top specifying that this is outdated, what the procedures look like now, and the rough timeline for the change (passing e.g. through this one). $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Oct 31 '16 at 0:46
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And in the voice of this...

This place is not a discussion forum. Simply. The structure and mechanism are not optimized to this purpose and effectively change each discussion (regardless of the disputants' intentions) into a clutter of randomly voted statements.

If you want to discuss something, use chat.

If you have built a working time machine out of slinky and rare-earth magnets and even managed to transport a living triceratops into the backyard, send a paper to Nature or Science rather than downvote someone's answer claiming it is not possible.

If you have your own formulation of quantum mechanics that involves nanobubble dynamics and lemon trees, don't enlighten a student that wants to understand quantization of angular momentum before his exam.

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    $\begingroup$ I don't understand the relevance. Sorry, I'm not being deliberately obtuse, I simply don't see how this answer is connected to the question. $\endgroup$ – Joe Fitzsimons Jan 23 '11 at 12:24
  • $\begingroup$ The linked Q was closed as a duplicate of this, so I answered here. $\endgroup$ – user68 Jan 23 '11 at 12:26
  • $\begingroup$ I see. I hadn't any desire for this to be like a discussion forum, so I was a little confused. $\endgroup$ – Joe Fitzsimons Jan 23 '11 at 13:07
  • $\begingroup$ @Joe Well, it is our fault that we have closed that other question. $\endgroup$ – user68 Jan 23 '11 at 13:18
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I was mentioned few times so I'll try to explain my actions.

I'm not encouraging to bypass the community close voting, I proposed to flag questions witch cannot be closed in a normal mechanism for some reason (for instance the question is not frequently visited on requires specific knowledge to be recognized as junk).

Yet mods are also to enforce some standard SE policies and guard some basic site level -- thus, for instance, I try to close questions that are just too vague or too lame before they got zyllions of "Dear X, there is something called conservation of energy..."-like answers and later stand as a bad example for future askers. I know it may be irritating since they are good sources of easy reputation, but sorry -- we all really don't want another Yahoo answers here.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the clarification. I couldn't care less about rep. It seems I am one of a relatively small group of professional physicists here, so the number is fairly meaningless. It's annoying for an entirely different reason: you can spend a long time on an answer only to find the question closed, and your efforts wasted. Community votes are much less sudden. $\endgroup$ – Joe Fitzsimons Jan 23 '11 at 5:03
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    $\begingroup$ @Joe I understand, yet I'm trying to achieve a situation when no one tries to answer such questions, rather just vote to close. $\endgroup$ – user68 Jan 23 '11 at 9:14

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