If you see a few comments engaged in a pointless discussion and try to flag them in a quick succession, you'll notice that the system will slow you down: you are compelled to wait 5 seconds before you can flag another comment. I imagine that it is not casual and suppose you agree that it is a wise precaution, to prevent anyone from carelessly flagging comments.

But you can easily verify that there is no restriction if you up/down vote questions or answers without even reading them (or if you vote to close a question). If this policy is not casual, it is contradictory and inexplicable.

  • 1) Can anyone explain why the software is structured in this manner?
  • 2) do you think this restricting policy should be extended?

But the purpose of this post is to draw your attention to another problem: Careless serial voting in review tasks

I have been monitoring the review queues for a couple of weeks and here are some facts: when you complete a review

  • the page goes blank for a [couple of] seconds (1s), when you click the close button ([1+]1 s)
  • you are offered a choice of 5 options ([1+1+]1 s).

    a) If you click duplicate you are offered one [choice of many] similar question you must read in order to decide if it is a duplicate ([1+1+1+]3 = 6 sec)

    b) If you click the off-topic button you are offered another choice of 5 options ([1+1+1+]1 = 4s) (and if you chose the another site button you are offered another choice (+1 = 5 sec)

  • then you have to click vote to close (+ 1 sec)

I have considered excellent reflexes and eyesight and the shortest time possible, which is on average 7 seconds per question, just for the mere concrete technical/manual operations.

I have monitored the close review queue for a while and cast myself some 250 votes, and I have registered that quite often members vote several questions in the same minute (I imagine the recording log-system is accurate). Just to cite a recent example, 3 days ago (Jan 22) one member voted to close 7 questions in a row in one minute or so, and 19h ago cast up to 8 close-votes in a row: I couldn't check if also those were voted in one minute or so, but probably some of you can. You can also see there that over 95% of votes are close/leave closed votes, which is really a huge merciless percentage.

Now, subtracting (7* 6/7 sec) 36/49 seconds to one (or even 2 minutes) we realize that it is not possible to read 7 questions with enough care to decide if it is unclear, duplicate or off-topic. All those reviews had one or more contrary votes and in one case the vote was by John Rennie. The issue becomes even more serious when a question is judged as unclear, because I have personally ascertained that over 50% of those questions are clear enough if you take the trouble to read them carefully for a few minutes or to correct the faulty grammar.

This question is an eloquent example: even if you are an expert, it takes a few minutes to read it properly and control the equations. BrandonEnright, ACuriousMind,JamaIS were the first to review it and voted to close it as it had not shown some effort, RobJeffries was more careful and voted to leave-open, Fibonatic was conscientious, read the post carefully, checked the equations, found a mistake, signalled it to OP and rightfully concluded that the question should not be closed. An hour later PranavHosnagadi arrives, ignores Fibonatic's comment, hastily reads the post and determines its definitive closure. OP is comprehensibly disappointed and comments:

The reason for this being put on hold isn't valid in my opinion. I believe I showed considerable effort, and I asked for a critique of my approach and possible other approaches. – Arturo Don Juan

Having one's question closed is always a humiliating/shocking experience for a newcomer, some are frustrated, some outraged, but very few know how to react or that they can post a question at Meta.

Whenever I offered a sensible solution to a concrete problem in the past I have been showered with downvotes, this time I ask you a very simple question:

  • 3) Do you think we are being nice/fair to newcomers?
  • 4) do you think we should do something to be more considerate and respectful to students, and at least try to prevent careless, irresponsible voting to close?


  • over 5 700 questions have been closed, and over 750 of them have more than 2 upvotes

  • There is one member that has cast over 4200 votes only in the close queue (over 10,000 in total), if he had taken an average of 5 mins to examine and assess posts in a scrupulous manner he should have spent some 350 hours. (850 in total, which makes over 100 days working 9 to 5 without a coffee-break).

  • $\begingroup$ Comments purged. Permanent content lock applied. This time I'm going to use the language I softened in my last comment: posting a meta question is not license to engage in a endless, passive-agressive whingefest. We get it. You don't like the rules or the culture on this site. You think they are unfair and unfriendly to newcomers. However, you've taken your shot at bringing people around to your point of view and you've been shot down. Repeatedly. At this point it looks like trolling. $\endgroup$ Feb 1, 2015 at 2:52

2 Answers 2

  1. StackExchange does not like "noise" (i.e., bad questions, duplicates, etc). Adding a delay only serves to increase that noise and distracts us from answering the good questions that help fulfill our goal of being the canonical source of information about physics on the internet.
  2. No, there should not be any restriction.
    As someone with over 3000 reviews in the close queue, I can assure you that around 90% of questions in the queue can be voted one way or the other in about 10 seconds.
  3. This site, as is the case for all StackExchange sites, is not about a user. It is not about the 1 user asking that particular question, it's about the 100 who wonder the same question at another point in time (youtube link to a ~45 min lecture by Joel Spolsky from 2012) and will come to our site to find the canonical answer.
    By allowing bad questions (dupes, non-mainstream, no-effort HW, etc) for the sake of a new user, we would actually doing a disservice to the community now and to visitors in the future.

  4. The only thing that I think might be needed is more comments explaining how a post could be improved (obviously duplicates don't really need improvement since (a) the proposed duplicate is automatically left as a comment and (b) their wanted answer is given elsewhere). Many of us do this already, but a call for more action on this isn't harmful.

Note also that your "eloquent example" is explicitly off-topic as decided by the community; it's a "check my work" question. We are not a homework help site, so if we "lose" people who think we are a homework help site, I'm not terribly concerned.

I've stated elsewhere (on this Meta & in chat) that we can make mistakes in closing questions, the powers-that-be on StackExchange are well aware of our humanity, hence the Reopen Queue. They've also implemented a rule that if 3 people vote "Leave Open" then the question is pulled from the Close Queue (though it does not retract the close-votes already obtained). Thus, there are already some checks-and-balances implemented.

As an aside, and this has been mentioned several times in the past to you, if you really want the software changed (as implied in questions #1 & #2), take it to Meta.StackExchange and see what the developers (and the broader SE community) think about your proposal.

  • 17
    $\begingroup$ In how many seconds did you decide that: "Is the concept of force of inertia still used (and useful) ?" is unclear? How can 5 members with super-powers and super-reflexes not understand such a proposition in plain (and correct) English? and, what is off-topic or HW in the question: "Is it possible to determine the outcome of any impact knowing only the ratio of masses?" ? And why it was off-topic when I had 100 pts and it is on-topic when I have 4000? How do you judge the request to close this question? :) $\endgroup$
    – bobie
    Jan 26, 2015 at 11:50
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @bobie It seems to me that you don't have any actual evidence of widespread voting malfeasance, but rather you just feel raw - so to speak - about a few questions, some of them being yours. $\endgroup$
    – JamalS
    Jan 26, 2015 at 12:06
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @bobie If you are going to call out Kyle specifically for being cruel and lacking humanity by his close votes on people new to the site, you might also want to check his revision history and his ranking in the suggested edits queue. I'd argue he does a lot of work helping to make sure that good questions get fixed despite things like poor grammar/equations. $\endgroup$
    – tpg2114
    Jan 26, 2015 at 12:26
  • 12
    $\begingroup$ @JamalS, ..haha... "malfeasance" is even more funny than the "..equations leaping out of the page" your comments sure deserve an upvote! :-) $\endgroup$
    – bobie
    Jan 26, 2015 at 12:52
  • 15
    $\begingroup$ "This site ... is not about a user ... it's about the 100 who ... will come to our site to find the canonical answer." Still, those deciding a question is not "cannonical" are not some physics gods, are they? Also, the expectation to arrive at "canonical answers" is a fiction. An unscientific one, I must add, as physics is still struggling all over the discipline. Also, many problems have received contradictory answers here on Physics SE by users with outstanding reputations. Which is great, as science is not about answers but about arriving at them. $\endgroup$ Feb 2, 2015 at 14:16

I deliberately asked only questions in my post: from now on I want to separate the issues, the problems from my suggestions, which (legitimately) may not be popular or may be downright wrong, and should be mercilessly downvoted.

I must specify also that my posts at Meta are addressed to the SE Team who monitor the various sites, or, eventually, to its real owners, who care about the welfare of the network, and are not meant to gain popularity. You probably all know that I had the cheek to refute Newton himself (and Wikipedia) in a few answers of mine, which are extremely unpopular with the top users of this site.

It is rather sad to see that a post asking four questions about the correct functioning of the site can be flagged to close or locked: it is shameful and shameless to respond to questions not with sound arguments/ intelligent answers but with censure or censorship. It is also sad to see how self-referential and circular is the logic of the response. I have not offered solutions in my question, I was only drawing your attention to some hard facts.

I have documented that some members cast up to 7-8 VTC in a minute. This truth has not been questioned, nay, to my surprise the right to VTC a question in 10 seconds has been proudly claimed. Probably I am too old and my reflexes are dimmed as my eyesight and moreover my modest abilities and competence do not allow me to conscientiously review a question in 10 seconds.

  • 1) unclear: it is impossible to honestly reject a question (by a non-native speaker) in less than a few minutes. Even if the grammar is correct, anyway, it is not easy for a student to clearly frame his question. Nobody can ever be bothered even to correct typos or basic mistakes, to help non-native reviewers.
  • 2) duplicate: it takes a few minutes to read a question and the linked possible duplicate[s]. Than you have to be very careful to understand if it is really a duplicate or is different in a subtle way.
  • 2a) sometimes the question to be closed has already received more, and more-useful/detailed/interesting answers. Closed questions are eventually deleted, is it right to eliminate the better question?
  • 3) no effort-HW. There is nothing wrong in banning HW-questions. I wrote my first post on that issue here. But there is nothing more despicable than incoherent, contradictory, schizophrenic behaviour. If you state that HW are good if one shows some effort, you have to be consequently patient and carefully analyze the post and check if OP has done some/enough effort. And that takes much longer than 10 seconds. I've stated elsewhere (on this Meta & in chat) that we can make mistakes in closing questions, the powers-that-be on StackExchange are well aware of our humanity, hence the Reopen Queue.... your "eloquent example" is explicitly off-topic as decided by the community.. - Kyle Kanos

The worse aspect of the issue is that the so-called community is identified with just a select group (roughly a dozen members from the 3k+ club), who have the effrontery to claim the right (or superpowers) to assess 7-8 posts in one minute, do not acknowledge they make lots of mistakes (casually, that is the usual number of downvotes a question gets here when it is felt as a threat to the status quo) and, even if some do, it is practically impossible to reopen a question, because same members who voted the closure are allowed to decide its reopening and are even allowed to declare off-topic the questions that criticize their careless behaviour. What happened to

  • this question (marked as unclear) is really indicative of the contempt the community has for newcomers and the reluctance to redress a blatant wrong. All members who pretended not to understand it or insulted the poster refused to give a justification or even an explanation , and
  • this question is indicative of the discrimination of newcomers: two identical questions were closed and deleted (marked as HW-off-topic) when the OP was a newbie, and became perfectly on-topic (when posted ad hoc) last week. Isn't that eloquent enough?

I am still waiting for a reply to the second question here to see how the awareness of our humanity works in reality

What is therefore my answer to the questions? I think we are not being enough fair to students, and our comprehension or humanity should be greater. My suggestion is articulate and you can choose any bit you approve, or mix them:

  • questions by newcomers (or users who already posted bad questions) might not be published immediately, they might be put in a separate queue, just as we are doing with First post/ answer. There the posts by non-natives might be corrected and made more clear for non-native reviewers, who sometime have problems with comprehension.
  • in the same queue the really bad questions might get a first screening and be put on hold, preventing people from answering, giving time to the reviewers to take a conscientious decision
  • nobody should ever be allowed to cast more than a VTC in one minute.
  • members who voted to close should not be allowed to vote same question to leave it closed
  • obviously enough, reviewers criticized for wrongly closing a question should not be allowed to close the Meta-question
  • question at Meta should never be closed when they criticize policies or actions. If the post contains rude words only those words should be eliminated.
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Your first two bullets are already done: the First Post queue is there for exactly those reasons. Bullet 3 is entirely wrong. Bullet 4 doesn't make sense. Bullet 5 is an impossible task. Bullet 6 is also entirely wrong. $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Kanos
    Jan 27, 2015 at 16:15
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The First Post queue screens first posts for both bad questions/answers and so-called "hidden gems." This is exactly what you proposed. The fact that the question you link is being downvoted signifies that it is a bad question. I'm not sure how you can justify the judgment that it's a good question. $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Kanos
    Jan 28, 2015 at 13:42
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Your proposal is for new posts to be screened, that's what the First Post queue does. Calling it something else or adding some odd stipulation doesn't change the fact that it's already being done. Bringing up a bad question as an example only proves the point that the current method works. $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Kanos
    Jan 28, 2015 at 15:08
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Again, adding a stipulation doesn't change the fact that the system already does this. $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Kanos
    Jan 28, 2015 at 15:13
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Note also that the official policy is to close immediately, rather than try giving a "buffer time" that you are promoting. $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Kanos
    Jan 28, 2015 at 18:15
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The probable real reason of the continous VtC rampage is sad... unfortunately, I can't write this here, in the fear that also I will be "temporarily" suspended for the eternity. $\endgroup$
    – peterh
    Sep 3, 2016 at 18:50

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