Today, I have seen (and answered) this question on zfs. For me, the question made perfect sense and has been well-researched and well-written. Yet, it managed to earn two close votes where the close reason given has been "unclear what you're asking". No voter bothered to leave a comment.

As I only can see some sense in the the "unclear what you're asking" close reason if specific information is being asked for, I am requesting to consider the following options:

  1. request a mandatory comment with this close reason, where the voter would need to specify what information is missing
  2. present a big, red "only check this close reason if you are actually familiar with the topic of the question and please leave a comment explaining what is missing" warning box to everyone who is checking the "unclear what you're asking" close reason. Only let the voter proceed if he has clicked the "Yes", "I promise" and "I really mean it" buttons in sequence1.
  3. remove this close reason altogether

1 I assumed this line would be recognized as obvious irony and taken with a grain of salt. Of course I do not really want to suggest a button sequence but simply something to make a voter aware that she/he should make a conscious decision here.

  • 4
    I have seen plenty of blatantly obviously unclear questions I could use as counterexamples. But this particular question doesn't seem to qualify, even before it was edited. I'd certainly like to hear from the people who did cast close votes on it. Oct 5, 2013 at 15:37
  • 5
    The more that comments are required for close votes, the less voting will take place. No one should be required to comment; It's one of those lovely management decisions that looks good on a draft board but is terrible in practice.
    – Wesley
    Oct 7, 2013 at 4:42
  • I rarely vote "unclear", because most questions that would be placed in this close reason are often clear enough to ascertain what they meant, but are either dumb questions to begin with or are ESL questions that just take a little patience.
    – TheCleaner
    Oct 7, 2013 at 13:13
  • 1
    @Wesley the point I tried to make is that "unclear" without specifying the part which is unclear simply does not carry enough information so the question could be acted upon. Also, it seems to see some abuse as "I have no idea what you're talking about, go away". As it stands, I cannot see the benefit of having this close reason in the list.
    – the-wabbit
    Oct 7, 2013 at 21:49

3 Answers 3


Currently, three Leave Open votes take a question out of the close queue and begin the aging of the existing close votes, if it had not already begun by the question receiving 100 views. When aging begins, close votes expire four days later.

This question received its three Leave Open votes and will remain open unless two other people go far out of their way to hunt down the question and throw close votes on it in the next few days.

I think that in general this system works, and seems to have worked in this particular case.

  • 2
    I'v always felt that the "leave open" votes are simply too weak to be able to stand against the close votes. This might be different if "Leave open" votes were automatically converted to "reopen" votes once a question has been closed. Currently, questions tend to be closed quickly but only reopened hesitantly and I think it is a pity if we get proper questions close-voted and the respective users pissed off in the process.
    – the-wabbit
    Oct 7, 2013 at 22:11
  • 1
    @syneticon-dj Or at least notify everyone who cast a "leave open" vote in the event the question is closed anyway, so they can cast a reopen vote.
    – mattdm
    Oct 13, 2013 at 2:16

I voted to leave the question open when I saw it in the queue, because I thought it was reasonable for various reasons that boil down to what you said at the beginning. It is, of course, subject area which I'm not familiar with really at all.

That said, I don't think the process is broken on the whole. Certainly it's possible for five people voting the same way to be wrong, but it seems to happen pretty rarely. What is actually needed is some real impact for leave open votes - they could do things like:

  • Require an additional close vote for every time someone clicks "leave open"
  • Automatically place a reopen vote from the user who clicked "leave open" on the question, if it is later closed

Forcing people to comment doesn't work, and certainly we need a close reason in that theme. It's the successor to the older "not a real question", and is intended for cases where the question is completely incomprehensible, or where we actually can't tell where the question is. For instance, if someone were to post a log and nothing else, or make a bunch of statements thinking we will guess what the problem is, the question should be closed and it should be closed with that reason.

I'm not sure why your question garners so much hate - I see it's got three close votes now, but you may notice it's not closed. This is why we require five votes. Looks like things are working as intended.

Poorly formatted questions also tend to attract down and close votes, rightly or wrongly. For instance, if I abuse the markdown code highlighting function and I highlight almost every word with backticks just because it's jargon or important, it makes the question less readable (and I suppose less clear). You should only use it for things like actual keywords (and then sparingly), and commands and other places where it improves legibility. Also use the > mark for block quotes, like this:

For me, the question made perfect sense and has been well-researched and well-written.

That is more natural than

For me, the question made perfect sense and has been well-researched and well-written.


For me, the question made perfect sense and has been well-researched and well-written.

The reason I think is readily apparent. I've gone ahead and boldly reformatted your stuff in the hopes that people get their hackles up about it less, as one of those close votes might well have been due to highlighting "man page" as code. People can be petty!

  • 1
    For the record: the question is not mine, but thanks for editing it anyway - it is in a much better readable shape now.
    – the-wabbit
    Oct 7, 2013 at 11:09
  • 1
    Also, I fully agree with you that "leave open" votes should be more powerful than they are now. Requiring additional close votes for each "leave open" vote should be able to fix the major flaws of the review close queue.
    – the-wabbit
    Oct 7, 2013 at 22:14

One of the reviewers who voted to close has often seemed (to me) to be something of a robo-reviewer, so I wouldn't hold your breath waiting for an explanation from them. It has a couple of "leave open" votes, but I've been clear on what those do.

Since a mod is looking at this meta question, maybe it could just be hammered open?

request a mandatory comment with this close reason,

Mandatory comments won't work... if someone decided a question was unclear but didn't want to justify it, they could just type in "blah blah blah" and/or delete the comment later.

remove this close reason altogether

NO! There are tons of barely-comprehensible questions that "unclear" is perfect for.

Having multiple buttons to click through also seems like throwing the baby out with the bathwater... and considering how much discussion it's taken to get an additional couple clicks for new askers, I doubt this would happen.

  • The only extra notice we (moderators) get on meta is of the question's existence. We don't get notified of answers unless we asked the question. Oct 6, 2013 at 5:21
  • 3
    +1 for the comment about comments. Mandatory comments encourages the bad, punishes the good, and misses the point.
    – Wesley
    Oct 7, 2013 at 4:46
  • I did not really mean to ask for multiple buttons - I've edited my question to clarify this. I can see how a mandatory requirement for comment fields could be circumvented, but I also cannot imagine a situation where a closure as "unclear" would give any constructive feedback to the asker if not accompanied by additional information. It seems we've gone great lengths to compose explanations for something like "off topic", yet there is something like "unclear" which comes with no explanation altogether.
    – the-wabbit
    Oct 7, 2013 at 22:24

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