So, I know there have been several questions asked about this, but I wanted to see what the current viewpoint was.

The two questions in question are

I was going through the re-open review queue and the first one was the first question linked. I looked at it, understood that it wasn't exactly with the site policy (too broad, etc) but I thought that since there seemed to be a bunch of support for it in both the number of votes (59 on the question, and 32 on the most upvoted answer) and it also seemed like an interesting exception to have, I voted to re-open.

Then, the next question that came up was the second question linked. I read through the comment discussion, and was about to vote to re-open because I thought it was another interesting exception (coincidence that they came up at the same time?) and there was a lot of support in the comments. However, I saw this Meta discussion in the comments and stopped to read it. Since there were conflicting answers with a fairly close number of upvotes, I wanted to know what site policy was before continuing to vote to close (I could've skipped, but I wanted to know in case others came up).

Can I have a official answer on this (or, if there's conflict, or a maybe, an explanation of the boundaries)?

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    $\begingroup$ Weird that this question was downvoted. It's not like it's even taking a definitive stance that can be disagreed with, so I'm not sure what the vote was conveying. $\endgroup$
    – user10851
    Aug 4, 2016 at 22:53
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    $\begingroup$ If I wasn't so busy I would dig up the many meta.stackoverflow and meta.stackexchange links where this was thrashed out in the early years. $Popularity \ne Topical$. It took years to get a majority on Stack Overflow to come around to that position but they did because it eventually became obvious that "fun" questions can pollute a site dedicated to quality questions and answers. But I will leave you with this: blog.stackoverflow.com/2012/01/the-trouble-with-popularity. $\endgroup$ Aug 4, 2016 at 23:10
  • $\begingroup$ @dmckee, so is official policy to leave closed those answers? I just read several things where it was like, "Some are okay, some are not" and others where it was like, "Death to all list questions!!" So I didn't know which was right. $\endgroup$ Aug 4, 2016 at 23:11
  • $\begingroup$ Reading the link dmckee provided, I voted to leave the second question closed (sorry about the first question). If anyone disagrees or agrees, please still post an answer. Thanks. $\endgroup$ Aug 4, 2016 at 23:21
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    $\begingroup$ I'll leave it to someone else to point you to whatever policy we have on list questions, but please don't vote to reopen a question because it has a high score! If you think a question is too broad, you should mark it as too broad, regardless of how people are voting on it. As a matter of fact, there seems to be a weak correlation between score and closeworthiness, in the sense that questions which get a very high score are a little more likely than average to be closeable. $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    Aug 4, 2016 at 23:30
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidZ, understood...perhaps I misunderstood the purpose of the re-open queue (don't worry, these are the first two that have come up for me like this). I thought that it was about a. whether or not edits fixed the problem for which they were closed, b. whether or not they should still be closed according to close reasons, and c. whether or not they were an appreciated question (roughly measurable, in my mind, in upvotes) that had answers that were also good (also roughly measurable in upvotes). So I will not think about the third item when voting to leave closed or re-open...my apologies! $\endgroup$ Aug 4, 2016 at 23:35
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    $\begingroup$ @heather Ah, yes. For reopening, you should definitely think about (a) and (b), but not about (c). $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    Aug 4, 2016 at 23:49

1 Answer 1


If a question is close-worthy under the official close reasons, then it should be closed, regardless of popularity. This site strives to be a place where quality and professionalism find a home. We intend ourselves to be a place where physicists can turn for answers. Making exceptions for interesting or popular questions creates the problem where questions unsuited for the site's goals can do well and even outperform questions that are a perfect fit for the site. Not only that, it establishes a precedent. Each exception we make increases the difficulty in turning away those kinds of unwelcome questions in the future. Furthermore, making exceptions purely on the basis of votes shows that we more favour popularity over physics. Because of the large number of non-professional physicist users, many low-level and/or incompatible questions can become very popular. Our site's ambitions favour the higher-level questions. Favouring popularity, therefore, can be counterproductive towards making this a quality site for professionals.

On top of all of this, one must ask where it ends. There is a slippery slope from allowing any questions that are popular or interesting to closing questions for being uninteresting. I know that sounds ridiculous and I'm sure no one here would ever start doing that, but if new users see us making exceptions for interesting questions, they might get the idea that interest is more important than quality. When the site turns over and we here are no longer in the majority of high-rep users, they (not knowing any better) might consider it okay to close questions that are uninteresting. Can't you just see this being a meta post in the future: "If we can re-open off-topic questions that are interesting, shouldn't we be able to close on-topic questions that are uninteresting?" To which an answer might be "Yeah, we've done this as long as I've been a mod. I'm hesitant to say yes to closing any on-topic questions, but let's see what the rest of the users think". Abracadabra, all of a sudden the site is no longer about quality for professionals and it is now about serving popular physics to the general public.

Maybe I went off on a bit of a rant there. Long story short, questions closed for a good reason should remain closed. No exceptions because of popularity or general interest. This is StackExchange, not Quora.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you, this answers my questions perfectly. $\endgroup$ Aug 5, 2016 at 12:41

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