I've been noticing a trend of increasing participation on the process of voting to close questions. This is great, as for a while we've had a bit of an issue with lack of participation leading to far too many blatantly off-topic questions (and far too many unilateral closures).
However, with this positive trend, I've started to notice a corresponding negative one: the apparent use of a close vote as a kind of "super downvote." By "super downvote" I mean using closure votes to indicate that a question is "dumb," "bad," "stupid," or similar.
That's not what close votes are for. To borrow from @LessPop_MoreFizz's similar post from Gaming, there are five reasons you should vote to close a question.
- If it's a duplicate of another question.
- If it's too broad. Questions are expected to be reasonably scoped. Asking how to make an entire game, for pro/con lists, feature comparisons, large itemized lists, links to resources (including art, sound or tutorials)... all of that falls under "too broad." If you think you know the answer to a question, but think it would take you too long to reasonably write it out, that question might be too broad.
- If it's off-topic and outside of the scope defined in the Help Center or by our meta policies. Note that that does not prohibit "stupid" or trivial questions. Please make an effort to read and understand the meta policies as defined by their post content, not just the topic titles!
- If it is not clear what the question is. That is, if the question is vague or ambiguous, or if there is no question at all (as opposed to merely poorly written).
- If it is primarily opinion-based. This is meant for questions that will incite arguments, polls or extended discussion. This is not the same as merely not being useful or interesting. "Opinion-based" is specifically defined in this context as likely to solicit argument. If the answers to the question are capable of being supported by objective facts and evidence, and aren't subjective feelings, it is probably not opinion-based.
If question doesn't fit those five criteria in some way, don't vote to close it. You have a regular downvote you can apply if you want, and that's a better alternative.
I bring this up not because we currently have an epidemic of falsely-closed questions, but because we have an increase in active close-voters and some of the questions I'm seeing in the queue (more than I've seen in the past few months) don't really belong there. I'd like to head this problem off before it turns into something serious, thus this PSA.
For the most part, it's the "off-topic" closure reason that seems to be misapplied most often, and specifically the "questions about how to get started" close reason. By way of clarification, a question fits the mold of a "how to get started" question when the asker is seeking to bootstrap an education. When the asker is soliciting advice on books to use, courses to take, languages to pick, what to study, how to study, didactical processes or progressions... all of those are "how to get started / what technology to use" questions and are appropriate to close.
A question is not, per se, a "how to get started" question if
- it includes the words "how do I get started," "where to begin" or similar
- it is a very simple problem
- it has more than one reasonable, well-scoped answers
- it is asked by an inexperienced user
- it is a difficult problem
Remember that if you can vote to close, you are also capable of editing questions, and you should probably prefer making those edits to closure. It's fairly easy to turn many off-topic questions into on-topic ones by replacing particular phrases like "best way," transforming queries about how specific games did something to ones about implementing some akin to what a specific game did, and boldly cutting suggested answers from the question text itself to avoid turning the question into comparison and pro/con lists.
If you don't have the time or desire at the moment to make an edit, that's fine. But don't use a close vote as a more powerful or impactful downvote just because you don't have the time or because you don't like the question in its current form.
That's what the regular downvote button is for.