We have a moderator on here who just goes and closes questions on their own whim, even going through years old questions and closing them because they don’t like the answers that were posted:

How can I make cookies with no eggs?

And I’m not the only one who’s noticed it, as there’s at least one other user who has commented on it, asking why it was done: Why is a moderator unilaterally closing questions with existing topicality discussion?

(And as the moderator in question likes to remove questions by flagging them as duplicate when they’re only related: I am not asking why. I am asking how we get them to stop doing it )

I’m even willing to put my name in as a moderator again. I only stepped down as I was asked to moderate another site, and didn’t want to do two)

  • 5
    I sympathize with your overall goal of having more open questions that share knowledge, but I really don't think that the fact that you disagree with the reasons she's given for closing questions is justification for calling her problematic, or attributing motives ("on their own whim", "likes to close questions"). In any case, that framing leaves you asking two very, very different things here -- what's the escalation path for concerns about moderators, and should this question have been closed. Which one do you actually want to ask?
    – Cascabel Mod
    Jun 20, 2022 at 6:31
  • 3
    And the other Meta question you linked to is a poor example of what you are talking about, because it’s not an arbitrary unilateral move, but simply a very justified closure as explained quite extensively in the answers. For the record: Had I seen the post before the other mod, I’d have VTCed myself for exactly the same reason.
    – Stephie Mod
    Jun 20, 2022 at 9:25
  • 2
    I will say that I think the most useful part here is whether there's anything we can change, and so we need to get more specific, and find more examples - we have one that was (in my view) easily salvageable by editing, and one that was a justifiable closure (and people do often get upset about totally justified closures). That gives us one starting point, but it's not a ton to go on for adjusting. So: if you help us figure out what rules/processes/guidelines to flex or change, I will help make sure we adjust.
    – Cascabel Mod
    Jun 22, 2022 at 17:27
  • 3
    I don’t like how this question assumes to know the intent of this unnamed moderator.
    – Preston
    Jun 29, 2022 at 20:04
  • @Preston : I’ve been complaining about the rate of closures by this moderator for YEARS now
    – Joe
    Jun 29, 2022 at 21:08
  • 1
    @Joe Okay, well, if you'd like to reduce the rate of closures let's work to figure out patterns of questions that shouldn't be closed. I agree from looking at a fairly small number of questions that there's probably some amount of room for change, but I also think that a lot of the closures are totally reasonable and consistent with site/network rules and history. This isn't as simple as just saying "close less questions!". You've got a moderator ready to listen to and work with you; why not take advantage of that?
    – Cascabel Mod
    Jun 30, 2022 at 16:27
  • @Cascabel: Often good answers can fix a ‘bad’ question. I used to do that a lot back when I was a moderator here. It also requires not having an assumption of duplicates and looking at what the question is really asking rather than lumping it into some generic question as a ‘duplicate’. I don’t think that a question should EVER be closed because it’s attracting bad answers. That’s what protecting is for. It’s especially bad to close down questions from a new user, as that can keep them from participating long term. It’s disingenuous to say ‘fix and we’ll reopen it’…
    – Joe
    Jun 30, 2022 at 20:12
  • … Because that’s just not happening. It takes 5 people to reopen, but only one mod to close. That’s why I never closed a question unless 3 other users had already voted to close it. And I think that ‘duplicate’ is also questionable, as we often have cases where things have changed since the years that other question was asked. And some of the questions on here are BS anyway. (All of the ones from a certain former SE employee that were plagerized). And the mod in question seems to go through old questions to close, so I avoid linking to questions that I think could help people
    – Joe
    Jun 30, 2022 at 20:15
  • 1
    Answers don't fix questions on their own; the question needs editing to make sure that answers that don't fix it (and instead steer things off the rails) are not actually answers to the question anymore. That is, we don't close questions because they're getting bad answers, we close questions because they're asking for bad answers. We can reopen things after editing, and you're absolutely welcome to flag questions so a mod can reopen them if they're having trouble getting the votes, whether or not they were originally closed by a mod.
    – Cascabel Mod
    Jun 30, 2022 at 20:22
  • I also don't think that all duplicate closures are questionable. You're presenting "(y)our threshold for duplicate questions is too loose" as a starting point, which is great, but... again, let's see examples. Show me past questions you remember, or new ones you come across. Link to related questions as much as you want, and if a question gets closed as a duplicate and you don't think it is, flag it, and I will look at it.
    – Cascabel Mod
    Jun 30, 2022 at 20:24
  • Overall, you're describing a pretty significant variety of situations here, with a common thread of "I want fewer questions closed". I think that I likely agree about some decent fraction of the end results you're looking for (maybe not every question, but certainly some), and I'm more than happy to advocate for that and try to write down some guidance for us to get a little more consistency, but I can't just say "let's make all our close-vote criteria 30% more lenient", we need guidelines that close voters (not just moderators) can follow.
    – Cascabel Mod
    Jun 30, 2022 at 20:30
  • If you want to separately propose "moderators don't ever close questions with fewer than 3 close votes" and have a discussion about that specific idea, and let others vote on it too, we certainly can. There's more nuance in that than I really want to get into here.
    – Cascabel Mod
    Jun 30, 2022 at 20:31
  • @Cascabel : answers can fix questions in two ways: we have a lot of non-English speakers and people from regions that use different language. So a question that makes no sense to one person may be perfectly reasonable to others. There’s also a question as to what this site is trying to be… if you want to be a useful knowledge-base so people can look up existing information, or if it’s ONLY for the current questions. The rules that work for answering programming questions DO NOT work for cooking as there are often multiple issues such as ‘what’s available to me’ or local climate
    – Joe
    Jun 30, 2022 at 22:35
  • Closing a question is more than just saying ‘this question doesn’t belong here’. We used to have comments that asked for clarifications, and people would reword questions so they could stay in scope … but it’s almost impossible to get the 5 re-open votes these days. Maybe I’m just imagining it, but it seems like there are relatively few active users posting answers these days. Only 8 people have gotten 1000+ reputation this year. Or is that just a sign that we don’t have people left to vote up good answers?
    – Joe
    Jun 30, 2022 at 22:45
  • 1
    If a question only makes sense to some people, and one of the people who can understand it answers, that doesn't mean the question's fixed. Editing the question to share that understanding is what fixes the question.
    – Cascabel Mod
    Jul 1, 2022 at 0:56

2 Answers 2


Rumtscho is not a "problematic moderator". I frequently disagree with them on decisions about duplicates, closing questions, etc. That's normal. There are few, if any, black-and-white rules judging questions. Opinions are going to differ. Even if I was a moderator, I would expect to continue arguing with Rumtscho.

And in the meantime, I have never had any difficultly questioning decisions here, and SA is blessed with fairly responsive moderators who explain their reasons for things.

If there are chronic problems, they exist in the mechanics of the site, which are a result of it having been designed around the needs of Stack Overflow. For example, see the confirmed answer to my "Unilaterally" question: the problem isn't a rogue moderator, it's that SE provides no place for the mods to post a list of specific decision precedents or "minor rules".

  • Thanks for this! Honestly as a moderator I feel the same way - there's a lot of history on meta and I don't really have a superpower that lets me know it all. I think that we'd be well served by curating our meta much better, e.g. tagging questions based on the types of close reasons they're discussing and whether the conclusions are regarded as part of the current rules, but that is a lot of work, and probably a project for the site as a whole, not just the mods.
    – Cascabel Mod
    Jul 6, 2022 at 1:13
  • Yeah, and even then it simply wouldn't be referencable. The only way to find out that a precedent-making decision has been made in an answer on Meta is to read every single question and its answers -- which is way too much overhead for "Can I post this question". We really need a place where we can have a simple bullet list, SE just doesn't provide us with one.
    – FuzzyChef
    Jul 6, 2022 at 18:22
  • Tagging is kind of the first step to building that actually-referenceable thing; once you annotate questions you have some idea how many rules there actually are. SE does provide us with a place for a really simple bullet list (the help center text, can't ever cover everything), and it does also provide us with a place for a slightly more in-depth bullet list (a designated question on meta, can cover most if not all things), we just have to actually create it.
    – Cascabel Mod
    Jul 6, 2022 at 21:02
  • Do we need to create a new tag for that? What should it be, Rules? Something else?
    – FuzzyChef
    Jul 6, 2022 at 21:04
  • I think we would want to actually think through the whole structure we're trying to create before doing any retagging, to try to have a somewhat consistent structure. Consistently applying close-reasons/closed-questions or some sibling is a start; adding tags for each close reason is probably a next step, and there's probably more that's relevant and useful if people are going to be combing through past questions.
    – Cascabel Mod
    Jul 7, 2022 at 1:50

So there's a lot here, especially taking into account everything mentioned in the comments. I'll try and address a few of the categories of things. I welcome requests for clarification, but if there are parts which anyone feels warrant significant discussion, or are somehow substantially wrong, I'd like to ask that you ask a new question.

  • Concern: questions have been marked as duplicates when they're only related.
    I share this concern to some extent, and have discussed it with the moderator in question. I am optimistic that we can find better places to draw the line, resulting in some questions getting comments explaining why they're essentially the same, and other questions not being marked as duplicates. However, I think we need more examples to actually reach alignment.

  • Concern: this moderator is acting unilaterally too frequently.
    I share this concern to some extent. I think that the site should consider switching to three votes to close, rather than five, due to the size and number of active users with close vote privilege. This would reduce the need for moderators to act on their own. The OP has additionally proposed never acting unilaterally; I don't think that's the right balance, but I do think that less frequently might be good, and have raised this suggestion. In particular, I think that in cases which are potentially borderline, and in which there is little risk of substantial consequences (e.g. edit wars, large discussions, high activity due to HNQs), it's fair to wait for other votes. This will likely require more discussion amongst the moderators to sort out, and I welcome specific suggestions. (Note that historically, the close vote queue here is slow enough that waiting is often not a good option; I hope that 3 vs 5 votes helps with this, but I anticipate it will not entirely fix it.)

  • Concern: questions have been closed because of their answers.
    I see some room for improvement in related areas, but I haven't yet seen examples where it's as simple as this and a closure seemed unjustified. We do not close questions because of their answers - if an answer is somehow unacceptable, we take action on the answer, not the question. However, if that unacceptable answer is a good match for the question, i.e. the question is asking for unacceptable answers, then it is appropriate to close the question or edit it to salvage it. I strongly prefer the latter, I believe most users feel the same, and I think we moderators should shift somewhat in that direction. The one complication is that unilateral editing also often runs into issues, including hostile responses from the OP, and edit wars. Therefore, when it's unclear that the OP will find the necessary edits acceptable, it is preferable to ask for clarification, and at some point close the question if that clarification doesn't come. The question can still always be reopened - and we welcome flags so that we can more quickly reopen questions when they've been sufficiently clarified.

  • Concern: a specific moderator is "problematic", acting based on "whims", etc.
    I don't really see evidence of this. There is disagreement with some of a specific moderator's decisions. I disagree with some of their decisions too, but I agree with the majority of their decisions, and in the cases where I disagree, it is clearly not simply about whims or ill intent. This is all addressable by (re)aligning moderators with each other and with overall site rules.

  • Concern: old questions have been closed.
    This seems normal. If an old question is brought to light that should in fact be closed by current site rules, then it is correct for it to be closed, and a moderator does not have a way to inject it into the close vote queue. If users disagree with the moderator's action, they can vote to reopen, and they can also flag, and at least for the time being, we can make sure to double-check these among the moderators, avoiding any issue of a specific mod being out of alignment.

  • Concern: highly-voted questions have been closed.
    This seems normal, especially given that the examples I've seen were fairly old, and likely very popular, potentially HNQs. Upvoters are not always the best judges of topicality and subjectivity; site rules were enforced much more laxly in the past; and HNQ-skewed vote totals are not comparable to other questions. We need to look at highly-voted questions with a careful eye, judging how they match up with the site's rules.

  • Concern: some questions have been deleted.
    I'm still looking into this. I believe that the SE network as a whole has found that historical locks aren't really very helpful, so the question is whether these questions should be deleted, or only left closed. All of the examples I've seen here are extremely old (e.g. 8 years), and closure was very clearly justified, so this is a nonurgent issue, but I would like to understand the best approach for the site here with respect to deletion.

  • Very +1 on "3 votes to close" (also should be 3 votes to recommend reopening).
    – FuzzyChef
    Jul 5, 2022 at 21:01

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