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I feel like there is a handful of users who stop by the site thinking "let's see, what can I close today?" or "Hmm... what looks particularly close-able?"

I am sure that's not the case, or at least that it's not so black-and-white, but still, for many questions by new users, if it is worded in a slightly non-standard way, or could be adjusted slightly to be better, there seems to always be one, or two close votes within hours, and these almost always appear without any kind of a helpful comment or explanation.

This makes the site less welcoming, and being welcoming is really important and part of our new SOP:

What makes this even more unwelcoming is that the silent close votes (those without any helpful comment) are invisible to low-rep users.

In SO or a few of the very high question-rate sites, the old "close early, close often" thinking was a way to keep heads above water. Here with what varies between 5 and 10 questions a day (it's picked up over the last several years, but I think it's roughly 4,000 questions in the last 1,000 days) this kind of quick, silent close voting is just not warranted.

I think there are at least two better and more welcoming approaches:

  1. One or two users leave helpful comments, then we just let the question sit for a day to make sure the user has had a chance to see the comments and make a change to the question.

  2. One or two users make a helpful edit to the question along with a helpful comment explaining why, and then see how things go.

I've been doing both of these for a while now and the results are quite good. Most of the time I get a "thanks" message, everything is fine, and the OP learned something through positive reinforcement.

On the other hand, closing the question makes a big mess, renders the question unavailable for answering, and requires more work to re-open it. To me that unpleasant experience seems punitive to new users, and profoundly unwelcoming.

Can something be done to encourage the silent insta-close voters to consider just leaving the question alone for a while, especially in the situation where the OP doesn't have enough reputation to even know that close-voting is in progress?

I don't know how to search for many examples, the most recent is Mass manufacturing of satellites which can probably be improved without the close/open cycle, and Game for teaching basics of orbital mechanics which had at least two close votes when I left my comment, and has since collected ten answers 41 up votes and 13 favorites.

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  • $\begingroup$ Short answer: no. Nothing can be done short of SE adding more hoops to jump through for people to get the close vote privilege. I'll try to get you a more detailed answer soon. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Dec 17 '18 at 13:12
  • $\begingroup$ @called2voyage perhaps there are no boolean-like solutions, but perhaps some soft solutions like local community guidelines or some kind of community awareness may be possible $\endgroup$ – uhoh Dec 17 '18 at 13:17
  • $\begingroup$ The problem is we've had those kinds of discussions before. In general, the people who do drive-by close voting are not the type who care about that kind of thing, and that is unlikely to change. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Dec 17 '18 at 13:21
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    $\begingroup$ A shopping question is not "slightly nonstandard", and seeing it treated this way is rather frustrating. There are two ways to resolve this. One is to continue denigrating voters who disagree with you until they get tired of this and stop contributing. The other is to try to understand their reasoning and come up with new arguments for why they are in fact mistaken. Repeating the existing arguments is not going to do any good, since they aren't convincing. $\endgroup$ – Nathan Tuggy Dec 18 '18 at 23:36
  • $\begingroup$ I guess there's also the third approach of living with the occasional minor systemic disagreement and accepting that posts will get votes, even sometimes a lot of votes, that don't seem warranted. Probably the best way, but not easy. $\endgroup$ – Nathan Tuggy Dec 18 '18 at 23:52
  • $\begingroup$ @NathanTuggy with +46 up votes and 10 answers with another +129 up votes, this question about educational resources on propulsion is community-approved. This isn't "what stereo should I buy". But my question was not written about only one question and I didn't add the specific question tag. My question is about how to treat new users and make sure their first question experience is as positive as possible. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Dec 19 '18 at 0:24
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    $\begingroup$ @NathanTuggy Closing editing reopening is a cumbersome process, takes days and work by 5-10 people. In low Q-rate sites it should not be the first choice. It may be necessary in high Q-rate sites but Space SE isn't one of those. SE doesn't funnel new users through a TOS or a "don't ever ask a shopping question" page first, you go to the site and can ask right away. SE gives us the great responsibility of being SE's front end and welcome mat. An occasional question, even a perceived "shopping question" doesn't break the internet. Let's go the extra m̶i̶l̶e̶ meter and work with new users nicely. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Dec 19 '18 at 0:36
  • $\begingroup$ @NathanTuggy I agree that shopping questions are trickier territory, but I do see a trend outside of that where questions that need refining are closed too quickly without enough commentary to guide the asker to write a better question. The solution to that, in my mind, is to step up and be the one to help guide the new user, if possible. I do agree that denigrating the closers is not a solution. Your second approach is not really an answer though--you're putting the burden on uhoh to come up with an explanation for why they are mistaken when uhoh is here asking for help. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Dec 19 '18 at 16:03
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    $\begingroup$ That said, this question is too focused on stopping close votes to be conducive to an open dialogue on the matter. I suggest we start a new meta discussion with a neutral opening to discuss the approach we desire to use to rough questions on the site. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Dec 19 '18 at 16:05
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As promised, here is the full answer. The best thing you can do in these cases is to comment on the questions to help the OP clarify things and to make a case for the question. Also, if necessary, you can take specific issues to meta to resolve.

Other than that, there is not really much that can be done. Close votes are discretionary by nature and are mostly anonymous until the question is closed. It is impossible to head off these actions by any other means than what I've already suggested above. You mentioned the possibility of calls to action--these have been done. In my experience, the majority of users who leave reactionary close votes do not care about the calls to action. They either will not read them or will not care about the points made if they do.

If you would like, you could propose some changes to the question closing mechanism or to privileges in general to try to encourage certain behavior. You could do that in another question here, but it would probably get better attention on Meta Stack Exchange. If you want to toss around some ideas in chat, others might have some thoughts.

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