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How do you teach relative keys to new musicians? was close-voted as "Too Broad". A comment was made that:

a "how" question needs to set out some criteria, otherwise that's a purely subjective judgement.

I'd suggest that ignores the inferences that a human being would usually make - e.g. that the question is asking for good ways to teach that topic, and that there are certain somewhat common assumptions that we can make about what 'good' teaching methods are (because we make those same assumptions on other questions about how to teach!)

Another recent one was originally worded "What are the best pentatonic scales to play over a major chord progression?". This one has been close-voted as "Opinion based".

I can see that the phrase 'What are the best...' is always going to represent a somewhat Pavlovian stimulus to those aware of the "Opinion based" close reason, myself included! However, again, I think this is just a fairly natural human way of asking a common kind of "what scales fit" music theory question. In fact I wouldn't be surprised if the information needed wasn found in answers to other questions, but at least if we'd voted to close as a duplicate, we'd have pointed the asker to at least one duplicate.

Perhaps I'm missing something, but in these cases, might we have judged the questions by rather 'inhuman' standards?

(I'm not trying to nit-pick unnecessarily based on just 2 questions; I think there are other similar examples that pop up now and again. The word 'recommendation' can often bring the close-vote vultures swooping too, for example, even when a question isn't necessarily looking for recommendations for specific equipment).

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    True. Several times I have found myself muttering 'knee-jerk reaction', and 'why'. Don't know, but are decisions such as this left to an individual, or, as should be, discussed before anything is done? Generally speaking, a good job is done in cleaning up the site. – Tim Jan 13 '17 at 9:11
  • @Tim as I was saying here even closed and then discussed might in some cases be better than "just closed and that's it". – topo morto Jan 13 '17 at 9:19
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    My concern here is the blanket 'too broad' reason for closing. There actually are not many ways to answer this in reality. No other answers were forthcoming, although it was blocked rapidly. Had there been a broadness it's strange that no-one else offered one of the supposed myriad of answers. – Tim Jan 13 '17 at 9:27
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    We've been at a lull quite recently in our close queue with only 3 users besides moderators really doing anything in the close vote queue over the past month. That being said on these specific questions there are minor issues that can be fixed with simple edits. – Dom Jan 13 '17 at 13:52
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    @Dom - in that case, and other similar ones, would it not be prudent for the mods ( the only ones who are able, I guess) to make those simple edits, rather than merely, it would appear, close? – Tim Jan 13 '17 at 14:36
  • @topomorto it's not always simple edits and in most cases especially when input is required from the OP putting the question "on hold" makes more sense. In general the "on hold" period is designed to fix issues with questions and should be the path we take when edits are needed, but the OP needs to make them or it needs to be discussed. Putting a question on hold does not mean it will or should be closed forever, but that we should sort the question out before we can answer it. – Dom Jan 13 '17 at 14:47
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    @Dom Sure - the on-hold/close system is a great way to deal with questions that are clearly problematic. But the intended topic of this meta question was a different set of questions that on the face of it don't seem particularly problematic in the first place (or at least if they were, it would be good to clarify why) – topo morto Jan 13 '17 at 18:05
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    @topomorto - That question is not Closed. As you can see from the notice under it, it is "put on hold as too broad" – Doktor Mayhem Jan 13 '17 at 18:30
  • @DrMayhem the ones mentioned at the time of asking were not in the 'closed' state, but the 'close' button had been clicked; the action of choosing to close had been taken. That plus the very small actual technical difference between the two states (as per my comment on your answer) often leads me to think, perhaps erroneously, of 'on hold' as a type of 'closed' state, rather than something distinct from it. I think meta.stackexchange.com/a/10583/233916 is in some accordance with my thinking! Nevertheless, I will attempt to add precision to the the wording. – topo morto Jan 13 '17 at 23:14
  • I have spoken with a few folks on this and I think terminology may be part of the issue. While the notice does say hold, you are right that the voting to close is described as voting to close. Sure, closing happens eventually if nothing is done when on hold, but folks may well think that hold is just closed. – Doktor Mayhem Jan 13 '17 at 23:23
  • @DrMayhem On the flip-side, if people are thinking when pressing 'close' that they are placing something in an benign, primarily advisory 'on-hold' state from which it is likely to 'recover', that could explain why it's sometimes done for what might seem like trivial or easily-fixable reasons. One of the premises of this meta question is that close-voting a question actually ends up being a one-way journey more often than it should in ideal circumstances. – topo morto Jan 13 '17 at 23:40
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    Well, with the first example you have given, it's not a good question, for a couple of reasons: it is not well defined, and there are a whole host of different, conflicting possible answers. So in my opinion it deserves to be closed as per site scope. – Doktor Mayhem Jan 13 '17 at 23:43
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    I'll have a good think and see if I can articulate something useful along those lines tomorrow then. Off to bed now, as it's Saturday already – Doktor Mayhem Jan 13 '17 at 23:58
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    If a question needs to be reworded then some guidance in how to reword the question would be useful. Putting a question 'on hold' and then closing as opinion based without giving any guidance as to why make the process of 'on hold' and 'closing' opinion based. I had no idea as to how to edit to satisfy the opinion of the person who put the question on hold. Thank you @Dom for taking the time to edit the question. – Keith John Hutchison Jan 14 '17 at 1:57
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    For that specific question I would want to know the OP's actual, practical, educational problem: what type of student is he trying to teach, is this a group class or one-on-one, adult or child, instrumental or vocal, rock or classical etc. Also, what have they tried? – Dave Jan 24 '17 at 14:57
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It would certainly be nice if we could assume that everyone who reads a question makes the same assumptions about what is wanted, and holds themselves to a high standard for answering, but that isn't the case. I don't think it makes sense to put the onus on everyone else when we can have the question writer ask something clear, on-topic, etc. that explains what they want.

Dr Mayhem's answer is completely on point. Putting a question on hold isn't permanent or a punishment. I will elaborate a little below in response to specific comments here.


From Tim's comment:

would it not be prudent for the mods ( the only ones who are able, I guess) to make those simple edits, rather than merely, it would appear, close?

Anyone can edit. (And vote one way or another!)

One point of note is that no one should edit a question to ask something different. I will try to tweak where possible, but "How to teach X" and "What is X" are quite different, and so I left a comment leaving it up to Neil. From the editing sidebar (bold is mine):

How to Edit

► fix grammatical or spelling errors

► clarify meaning without changing it

► correct minor mistakes

► add related resources or links

always respect the original author


From topo morto's comment on Dr Mayhem's answer:

IIUC The route back from 'on hold' is in theory slightly easier (as edited on-hold questions go in the reopen queue), but on this site if it's true that there is not much activity around the review queue, is there really much practical difference between 'closed' and 'on hold'?

Absolutely agreed about the activity here. If the issue has been addressed, please feel free to flag the question or @comment me directly. I definitely want as quick a turnaround as possible in these cases. (I do catch a number of them in the "Reopen Votes" review queue, but you'd be surprised how many appear there after an edit that doesn't add anything in either direction.)


From Keith John Hutchison's comment:

Putting a question 'on hold' and then closing as opinion based without giving any guidance as to why make the process of 'on hold' and 'closing' opinion based.

The panel that appears with the On Hold reason is usually pretty solid, and more importantly it links to the Help Center which goes into more detail. Is there anything you think should be added there?

In the other example I had a concrete recommendation and left a comment as such, but this case I didn't feel I could add anything beyond what the help center says.

  • Thanks for your answer. I'm sure everyone feels that "having the question writer ask something clear, on-topic, etc. that explains what they want" is a good thing; this meta question was prompted by the fact that I and others couldn't see why the two questions mentioned actually fell the wrong side of that line. A bit of detail on that is what I was interested in when I asked this meta question. – topo morto Jan 14 '17 at 21:30
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One thing everyone needs to be aware of is that these posts are not Closed. They are put on hold and guidance is given not only in the reason for them going on hold, but most times in an extra comment left by voters or the mod who closed it.

This wording explicitly asks the OP to sort the issues (whether they be scope, clarity or whatever)

"On Hold" is the preferred mechanism to deal with any question that doesn't work in its current form.

That said, everyone above a pretty low rep level can edit, and we quite often do make simple fixes to grammar, spelling and formatting, and in some cases to the question - if we are clear about what the OP is asking. If in doubt, though, we don't do that last, as we try not to second guess what they mean.

And on a comparative basis, Music.SE comes in 61st out of 164 sites for %age questions closed, and fully half of our closures (438) are Offtopic (with another 122 Unclear, 108 Too Broad and 104 Opinion Based) - which looks pretty good to me.

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    IIUC The route back from 'on hold' is in theory slightly easier (as edited on-hold questions go in the reopen queue), but on this site if it's true that there is not much activity around the review queue, is there really much practical difference between 'closed' and 'on hold'? The problem is compounded if the questions seem fine in the first place and it's not clear what edits need to be made. – topo morto Jan 13 '17 at 17:51
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    The stats are interesting! I agree that we (and of course the mods in particular) do pretty well here! This question is just about one small area where I feel there might be an improvement possible (even if that is simply an explanation). – topo morto Jan 14 '17 at 0:01
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The construction of "what is best..." is often correlated with a vague, poorly researched question. Though often closed as "Opinion Based" (possibly as a knee-jerk response to what clearly looks like soliciting opinion) there are often other problems with the question; possibly including a combination of

  • Too broad, a vague "what is best" leaves open too many variables for the question to be answered
  • Too localized, to some extent "what is best" requires reading the OP's mind as far as what he/she prioritizes

When the OP resorts to a general criterion of "best" it can be indicative that they either (a) don't have a specific practical problem for which they need an answer, or (b) haven't done enough rubber duck debugging to have clearly formulated the problem for themselves.

  • So perhaps I am, myself, interpreting the 'turn of phrase' of the close reason too literally! Given that the purpose of the 'on hold' state is supposed to be to guide the answer towards improving the question, though, I think it's good to choose a close reason that gives that guidance; If the question is too broad, for example, we can use that close reason. – topo morto Jan 24 '17 at 15:12

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