It is understandable that if a question has negative rating and is not according to the Q&A format gets reported and closed.

But I've noticed that sometimes there are questions that are also not compatible according to the Q&A format but nevertheless get very good rating (upvotes) and good response, they even have many visits, don't have any flags or reports, and yet they are closed again just because they are not compatible with the Q&A format.

This is an example of such question. As you can notice it is even favorited by some. I've seen many more similar like this one.

So my question is Why close these questions when it is obvious that they do provide some sort of help to other users?

Just as an example, it can be like some sort of exception to the Q&A, that if the question has more then, lets say +5 upvotes, +100 visitors, 3-4 answers and an accepted answer, etc. etc. then it shouldn't be closed just because it is obvious that it is a useful question.

  • 8
    That was my question actually - and a very early one in the history of SF, I personally wasn't up to speed with what was appropriate and not, not even sure if it was as clear back then as it is now - and personally have no problem with that being closed - if only because any answers to that given back in 09 would be out of date by now anyway.
    – Chopper3
    Commented Feb 22, 2012 at 10:36
  • Wow.. only now I did notice the date of that question - 2009. I saw it coincidentally when it showed on the front page.. I didn't knew that on the front page could actually be displayed so old question :)
    – Spirit
    Commented Feb 22, 2012 at 20:26
  • 1
    I believe that if Chopper3 saw such a question posted today he wouldn't hesitate to cast a close vote on it. ;) Commented Feb 22, 2012 at 22:17

3 Answers 3


One of the things we have to fight is topic drift, and letting popular questions that otherwise don't fit the stated topic continue to live on is a great way to ensure that what ServerFault does every day drifts away from our stated goals. At our very broadest our goal is to help people with server-stuff.

However, we've put several caveats in front of that goal in order to provide the best site we can to help people.

  • Questions must have a single, or very few, answers. So questions like that, which invite theorizing by anyone who answers and categorically can't have a single answer, are not a good fit. We had a lot of these kinds of questions in the first few months of ServerFault as people strove to get any content here at all, and such questions at least generated traffic and kept people interested. We no longer need that crutch, so they're getting closed now.
    • As a corollary, questions that begin with What is the best... generally fail this test, since 'best' varies per person and will generate many answers with differing opinions, and the asker will pick the one that fits their particular use-case. Are these questions helpful? Yes. But they're not a good fit. They're also spam-magnets.
  • The question must be a good fit for ServerFault, and not any other StackExchange site. In The Beginning, there were only two other sites. Now there are nine or so that overlap with us. This has caused some decided shifts in what we keep as answerable and what we close/migrate, which continues to cause confusion to people who'se questions are subjected to closure.
  • Questions must be more than just funny, they must have technical merit. Funny questions are very popular, and questions that are funny about stupid things are hugely popular (we like to point and laugh at the stupid around here, since we're not allowed to do it at work). Such questions tend to get a LOT of attention, and float to the top of Hot Questions list of StackExchange and draw in off-site people to help laugh at the stupid. These questions require a lot of moderator attention to keep topicality. Are these questions helpful? Actually, not generally.

Here is another point about closure. When I hammer something, I do look at the popularity markers of it before I act. Closure is a pretty light action, as it allows the question to continue to garner views and votes, just not new answers. Locking is the next step up since it prevents modification of anything in the question in addition to preventing new answers, and allows the question to continue to garner views. Deletion is the nuclear option since it robs reputation from people who answered the question and robs rep from the asker for upvotes and favorites.

I think little of closing questions, and quite a lot about deletion.


I would be lying if I said popularity had nothing to do with closing a question. If it's borderline but has thousands of views, that might be its saving grace.

But popularity really is quite low on the list of things that we look at when we close.

We close because questions are off-topic, un-answerable, and sometimes abandoned. Take the question you linked to for example:

  1. It's hypothetical. We only deal with real problems. If you have a hypothetical problem, phrase it as if it's real if you can. If you can't phrase it as if it were real, then it's off topic
  2. There's no right answer to that question. It's soliciting debate and discussion, which isn't what we deal with here
  3. Even if there was a right answer, it would be wrong in 12 months. In fact the accepted answer is already out of date

So really off-topic questions get closed regardless.


One point that you need to consider when looking at old questions is that the site has evolved quite a lot. That means questions which were acceptable a couple of years ago wouldn't last an hour now. We in fact do close quite a few old questions when they come to our attention because they're off topic now, regardless of whether they originally were or not. It's part of the ongoing clean-up process.

FWIW, I've cast a delete vote on your example.

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