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Questions are often closed on this site and I frequently see users confused as to why their (or someone else's) question was closed and users who debate the reason for closure - and often times they seem to be right. The closure reason given often doesn't appear to be correct. So Why exactly are questions closed on this site? When is a question left open and why and when is a question closed and why?

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When a question is actually permitted

There is a common misconception that there is an exact and specific set of criteria for what is acceptable on this site. There isn't. We have some battle-tested guidelines as to what is on and off topic and what is and is not permitted, but really these guidelines are just that: guidelines. They are subjective judgement calls and there will exceptions that tick all the boxes of these guidlines, but should still be closed, and questions that tick none of the boxes laid out in the guidelines that are left open. It can understandably seem a bit arbitraty, so hopefully this answer helps to clarfy.

This may seem arbitrary because, truly, the only criteria for allowed questions here are:

  • Is this question about the site's topic and going to result in answers which are about the sites topic?

  • Is this question likely to generate good answers?

  • Can this question be edited to salvage it into a question that will generate good answers?

If the above critera are met, then congratulations! Your question is not too broad, off-topic, or primarialy opinion based.

It is worth noting at this point that if your question was closed, (in most cases) 5 or more site veterans who have generated a lot of good content on the site, felt that your question was bad. This means it probably is (sorry! no offense!)—even if you don't see why. This could be for a number of reasons. But we want to help you figure it out and help you to see how you can ask better questions and give better answers. And you aren't expected to have a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies or Theology to participate here.

So what's with the close reason?

That being said, while moderators and veteran users here want to do their best to be welcoming, educational and helpful, we are all unpaid volunteers with lives and families. And frankly, we too came here to ask and answer questions. This topic is very personal to people and can also attract some real wackos and crackpots and community moderation here can be very time consuming—especially when having to welcome each new user and try to help orient them to the format and expectations of the site and provide constructive feedback for answers. Frankly, it can be exhausting and take away from our time doing what we really want to be here doing!—Participating!

This is often most reflected in answers. There is a solution to this, but and moderators admittedly don't use it enough:

The "Other" Box

Instead, we have some pre-canned close reasons—but one size does not fit all. Far too often we are negligent and take the shortcut of scanning the following reasons for closure and trying to figure out which one best fits the situation:

Close Reasons

And the only reason a question may be off topic is because:

Off Topic Because

I know, this is being lazy, but as a I said—so.. much... time... explaining... And, unfortunately, this can lead to the perception that these are the black-and-white yardstick against which all questions can be measured for permissibility. But again, these are just guidelines, not hard and fast rules. That being said, they are guidelines with a long history that we take seriously and that are tried and true and so we don't make exceptions to them willy-nilly. But that does mean that for every question that comes into the review queue, we are making a subjective judgement to see if a poor, flagged question is bad enough it needs to be closed, just edited, or downvoted. And often, questions do not neatly run afoul of the above guidelines.

What can I do? Any other advice?

  • Be patient and gracious with community moderators

  • Ask (respectfully, not combatively or defensively) why a question was closed so that you may better understand how to ask in the future. This keeps community moderators honest and holds us accountable to our madate to educate new users and our requirement to patiently explain as best we can.

  • Be respectful and a good upstanding community member. I have, on numerous occasions, helped reopen a question simply because a respectable, reputable community member asked. Their reputation and track record gave me faith, that if they backed the question and promised a good answer, they would not fail to deliver. Seek to emulate and be one of these people.

  • If you feel strongly about a question, try meta (here) or ask around in The Library. Start a campaign to have your question re-opened. Closures and holds aren't necessarially final and community moderators are often split on their views of a question. Just as 5 community moderators voted to close your question, if you can make your case to the community, you may be able to convince 5 it is a worthwile, topical question and get then to vote to reopen the question.

  • Try editing your question based on feedback. Again, closures are not necessarily final.

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