# The SE is misrepresenting my close votes

If you look at An Operator Identity relating to Trace the close banner states:

marked as duplicate by John Rennie, Brandon Enright, Danu, Qmechanic♦ 38 mins ago

But I didn't vote to close as a duplicate, I voted to close as Off-topic/Homework-like. The SE obviously just takes the majority decision and then attributes it to everybody.

OK, it doesn't really matter and there are far more important things in life to be worrying about. However it would be nice if the SE didn't misrepresent my opinions.

• A downvote in the meta means you disagree with the question. Can whoever downvoted say what they disagree with? As far as I can see the only bit of my answer that isn't a simple statement of fact is it would be nice if the SE didn't misrepresent my opinions. Are you saying this isn't the case? – John Rennie Oct 2 '14 at 11:27
• I didn't downvote your question. But, I guess that's how the system works. If the close reason of majority of members is different from yours, then the question is closed with the major close reason, leaving a note saying "closed by <everyone who VTC'd>". I can't find the link now, but I bet there's a question on Meta.SE on this :) – Waffle's Crazy Peanut Oct 2 '14 at 11:43
• I don't know if this post should be tagged as bug since this feature is probably working exactly as they designed it to; not really a bug. This should probably be a feature request or discussion instead. – Jim Oct 2 '14 at 13:28
• For the record though, I agree with you for multiple reasons. That said, you are also right that there are more important things in life to worry about. And it is because of those things that I'm not going to post an answer to this discussion – Jim Oct 2 '14 at 13:30
• I agree with you. Madjority rulez - OK? I wonder what the close reason becomes when everyone uses a different reason. First person to vote? Person with highest reputation? Inquiring minds demand to know... – Floris Oct 2 '14 at 13:54
• @Floris: Obviously the only way to find out is to experiment! ;) :D – Kyle Kanos Oct 2 '14 at 14:25
• I thought once the new close reasons came on, for a brief period, it showed all the close vote reasons and who voted that way. So it would have, say, 3 people's names and the duplicate message and then 2 people's names and the homework message if that's how the voting went. I also thought the custom close vote messages were, at one point, put in that little box instead of the generic "Deemed not on topic" message now. Or maybe I was just dreaming at the time. But I liked it that way. – tpg2114 Oct 2 '14 at 17:09
• This has also bothered me for a long time. Especially if votes are divided 3-2, I don't think my vote should be decisive. Especially since some close reason leave room for re-opening after improvement, while other don't – Bernhard Oct 3 '14 at 6:48
• @KyleKanos: That's something I always wanna do! We should do it someday (when the mods are off). Sadly, I haven't seen a single question having four different close reasons! – Waffle's Crazy Peanut Oct 4 '14 at 7:58
• @Floris - Case in point: physics.stackexchange.com/questions/139028/… is closed as "unclear". I checked when there were four close votes. Two of us (including me) voted off-topic. The OP voted duplicate; I was impressed by that. One person had voted unclear. Apparently it's the plurality vote that dictates the close reason, and in the case of a tie, its the last vote that counts. – David Hammen Oct 10 '14 at 6:13
• I haven't the foggiest why that question was deemed "unclear". The question was very clear to me. It was just bogus (to me). My guess was that people who don't know how ellipsoidal mirrors work did not understand the question. That doesn't mean the question is unclear. So @JohnRennie, I empathize with your complaint. I was put on record as not understanding a simple mirror. – David Hammen Oct 10 '14 at 6:22
• @davidhammen - you are the last person I would associate with "not understanding mirrors". This is indeed a broken feature. Thanks for sharing. I thought the question had some merit - paradoxes are a good way to explore your understanding. "The exception proves the rule". Did you know "proves", in that context, means "probes"? – Floris Oct 10 '14 at 7:48

This has been a (highly upvoted/bountied) feature request on mother meta for four years, and even there more than once.

Only one of these is marked , so it seems there's not really consensus about whether or not SE may one day implement distiguishing close reasons.

• The link under "even" definitely says "status-declined"... – Kyle Kanos Oct 2 '14 at 13:43
• @KyleKanos: Huh, you're right. So much for my reading comprehension. – ACuriousMind Oct 2 '14 at 13:45
• It would be a nice feature, but probably makes the interface more complex with little value added. – Floris Oct 2 '14 at 13:53

I'm not necessarily saying I agree with the current design, but I think I can justify it somewhat.

The main point of putting questions on hold, or closing them, is to disincentivize people from asking questions that are inappropriate ("bad") for the site. We do this by cutting off their main reward: the answers. It's a form of operant conditioning. Strictly speaking, to employ operant conditioning we don't need to have close reasons at all; if we just indicate "good" (open) or "bad" (on hold) for each question, people learn over time what constitutes an appropriate question.

In practice, of course, that would take forever, and we don't want people to have to ask a thousand practice questions to figure out what our scope is. So we help them along with an explanation of why the question is "bad". That explanation could be left in a comment, but if you've ever tried leaving comments to indicate the problems with questions, you find that you wind up using more or less the same few comments 95% of the time. Close reasons replace those comments.

Now, consider things from the point of view of a new asker. A list of different people's names with different unfamiliar phrases is going to be a lot more confusing than a single reason that says "your question is not appropriate because [reason]." Basically, by narrowing down to a single close reason, we give askers of "bad" questions a specific target for the effort they're (hopefully) going to put in to improve the question.

Some questions are inappropriate for multiple reasons, and in those cases the preceding argument doesn't apply quite so well. But I think it still helps to show one main reason the question is inappropriate at first, and have the asker focus on improving that. Additional, secondary problems can be identified through comments. It fits into the natural back-and-forth process that tends to accompany a question being edited and improved.