As our sites has been in public beta for more than 3 years, we have a good user base with a lot of high rep users. Also we have a big lot of medium rep users that has got the magic power of review tools and ability to cast close votes.

It seems like this is beginning to hurt the site as questions that could be rescued by a simple edit is rather closed by trigger happy users with more than 500 rep points. These questions are often suffering from problems that are covered by known off-topic reasons, but can be made worth living and make the internet better by a simple edit to make it fit better with the StackExchange format. I feel that a lot of close votes are cast without trying to do the effort of looking into if the question can be saved by an edit.

See this meta post for some examples:

Please relax the policy on questions that ask for examples of a particular class of compositions

If you look at the Area 51 metrics, you see that the 3000 rep limit that is required for casting close votes on a graduated site, you will see that the recommended number of users are 5 with 3,000+ rep. Currently there are 5 times that (26 users with 3,000+ rep), so this should be well covered even when the site graduates.

Is there any good reasons for the site to not graduate? The only metric on Area51 that is not "Excellent" is the "Questions per day" which is "Okay". Raising the limit of who can access the moderator tools might solve the problem I address in this question. I am anctious to know if the site is close to graduation, or if there are some secret metrics that holds us back. I will not ask for "what is holding us back", but a comment from a super-moderator that knows this can give us a hint to just say if we have a long way to go or not would be very much appreciated!

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    Couple of very quick comments: we're doing pretty well now, but as has been discussed on meta a few times over the last couple of years, we just need to improve on the numbers to make it work. That's questions per day. Editing 'on hold' questions - a separate issue - is definitely a good thing and i would encourage everyone to do that when they have time. – Doktor Mayhem Apr 29 '14 at 13:00
  • I think part of the problem is that there are too many trigger-happy users that cast close votes too quickly. It is a bigger effort for power-users to re-open questions that are on hold, than to agree or disagree to close votes that has not yet come up to 5 votes. So the problem is that the question is set "on hold" too quickly. – awe Apr 29 '14 at 13:12
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    @DrMayhem: We will be getting more questions per day if we stop scaring away people with the behaviour addressed in this post. – Meaningful Username Apr 29 '14 at 13:13
  • Another problem by not graduating is that beta sites does not have possibility to target a different site if it belongs there in case of off-topic here. Currently I think the benefits of graduating are outnumbering the benefits of staying in beta. – awe Apr 29 '14 at 13:14
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    If a question is off topic, on beta sites you just flag for a mod to migrate them. Also, on small beta sites, if there is good reason to reopen after an edit, flag for a mod again. And unfortunately we don't get to decide when graduation happens. – Doktor Mayhem Apr 29 '14 at 14:57
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    @NReilingh Has the mod team considered rising the rep threshold for vote close privilege? I know it is not the root of the issue, but it might be of great help. Some of the users with 500 rep are not aware of these discussions, and are not as involved with the community. They don't know better. Higher rep often comes tied with more participation, involvement, and knowledge of the community's state and issues, which could translate into a wiser use of vote close (and other) privileges. – user1079425 Apr 29 '14 at 15:21
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    I would definitely like to see more edits and reopen votes. Our QPD has been rising over the past few months, we used to be <5 QPD. Does anyone have the link that shows our QPD/time graph? – NReilingh Apr 29 '14 at 15:22
  • @JCPedroza I'm not sure if that's possible. I think ideally, the reputation privileges would be calculated dynamically on a per-site basis based on activity and need, but that's a larger SE structural topic. – NReilingh Apr 29 '14 at 15:23
  • I feel the bigger problem is we need to decide together what is on topic and off topic and then enforce it. It is very clear that everyone has slightly differing options. – Dom Apr 29 '14 at 15:56
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    @Dom: It's clear that everyone has differing opinions about what's valid, but the attitude matters too. It's easy as a new user with recently obtained rights to vote to go ahead and be overly zealous, just because one wants to be involved. It is hard to set up rules that includes only good stuff while it removes the bad. I feel that we would be in a good place if we just relaxed a bit with the borderline cases. To me, the recently reopened questions all bring value. The first point I guess is to see if everyone semi-agrees on this... – Meaningful Username Apr 29 '14 at 20:32
  • I have voted to close several questions lately, but they have all been either "plz shazam for me" or shopping recs. my impression is that those questions are not salvageable. What specifically do you think people are closing overzealously? This SE actually seems a lot more accepting of questions than most that I frequent. – Bradd Szonye Apr 30 '14 at 9:00
  • @BraddSzonye: The ones in meta.music.stackexchange.com/questions/731/…. This one was closed at one point music.stackexchange.com/questions/17062/…. – Meaningful Username Apr 30 '14 at 9:34
  • @Meaning I did see the earlier meta post but felt that the questions it defended were borderline at best and in need of editing. I don't see it as a bad thing to put questions on hold when they need significant improvement. The other example you give is a great example of the process working as intended, if it was edited into a better question and then reopened. – Bradd Szonye Apr 30 '14 at 10:12
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    @BraddSzonye: I agree about the last question, but I believe it is only due to the recent discussions that it was reopened. In my experience closed questions remain closed. If we start to edit in order to avoid closing, or reopen more questions, that is a great development! – Meaningful Username Apr 30 '14 at 11:25

The problem for Stack Overflow was questions getting unwarranted popularity, and answers to them getting a lot of credit, but not providing a lot of information. We have none of these two issues. At one extreme, we could leave the questions open, as they tend to die in total neglect. I would still like to see the "Please tell me the tones of song X" questions be pruned though, so it might be going too far.

It's pretty easy to give questions the benefit of the doubt. Wait and see if some interesting answers arise. This have been the case for all questions that have been debated lately; that they have interesting answers. What more can one ask for?

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    I agree. Wait out till the first answers tick in, and then see if the answers have poor quality as a result to the form of the question. But if you see early on that the question can be improved, please edit as soon as possible before bad answers are given! – awe Apr 29 '14 at 15:56
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    This sounds good @awe, I'm going to definitely try to edit first from now on - other users can always vote against the edits, or close once edits have been made… Think I might have been a bit "trigger-happy" myself... – Bob Broadley Apr 29 '14 at 17:49
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    @BobBroadley We all have been guilty of the lack of edits. We should try to be more inclined toward edits to carve that sometimes hidden relevance into the questions. – user1079425 Apr 29 '14 at 18:19
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    I have to disagree with this. The reason why questions are close is they are too broad, unclear, opinion based, and off-topic. If a question is any of these it should be brought up to the user. I do agree that we should give a user a chance to edit before closing (what the on hold stage of the closing cycle was suppose to be) to make improvements. I don't think any of us are mind readers so I think the editing should be up to the user because if we edit a post for a user it may not answer the question they wanted. Also because of the system in place letting question die ... – Dom Apr 29 '14 at 18:21
  • not possible because any unanswered question with a score of 1 or greater gets poked every few weeks. We have to decide as a community what our grace period should be and what is on and off topic and enforce it. – Dom Apr 29 '14 at 18:23
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    @Dom It is possible to both answer the question of the author and carve the question into relevance. The issue is often wording, rather than scope or subject. – user1079425 Apr 29 '14 at 18:50
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    @JCPedroza My point wasn't it's impossible to rephrase the question to make it work. Some times the edited question does not reflect the original asker's intent. I have preformed multiple rollbacks of edits of people who want to answer a question, but lose the OP's question in the edit. I'm not saying it happens all the time just say it happens and the poster came here to ask a certain question. What's worse telling someone they need to make their question conform to the site or changing the question asked to try and conform to the site? – Dom Apr 29 '14 at 19:01
  • @Dom The author should have the last word and decide if the edits are still on topic and which edits stay and which edits go away. If the author has no issues with a specific edit I don't see why you should. The author is not losing that control. – user1079425 Apr 29 '14 at 22:11
  • @Dom In other words, we don't have to be "mind readers", the author can provide feedback. If anything you shouldn't roll back edits, the author should be the one making that judgement. – user1079425 Apr 29 '14 at 22:23
  • I too am uncomfortable with editing questions to make them more topical. I would rather see people offer the OP polite, useful advice for what they need to do or write to make a question on-topic. And if the question must be put on hold until they do, I'm fine with that. It's how the system is supposed to work. Avoiding close votes doesn't make the site friendlier; being friendly and helpful does. – Bradd Szonye Apr 30 '14 at 10:18

A strong SE community needs expert users, both experts in the subject matter (music, here) and experts in SE itself. A strong SE community also needs helpful, friendly users.

When new users post poor but salvageable questions, the best approach is to improve the question and the poster. Be friendly, be helpful, and encourage the users to salvage their own questions through better research effort and editing. If you succeed, you’ll have a better question and a user who is better equipped to contribute to the community if they stick around.

Editing the question yourself may salvage the question, but it doesn’t do much to develop the user base. There’s also real risk of alienating the new user if you misidentify what they really wanted to know. It gets really messy if people post answers based on an incorrect edit. I like to help out by editing to improve format, grammar, tags, and other presentation issues, but I strongly prefer to help people do their own edits when it comes to anything substantive.

I don’t think it’s a bad thing to put a question on hold, pending improvement, so long as people are actually being friendly and helpful about the improvement process. The system works pretty well if you let it, and a new user who is willing to go through the closure, revision, and reopening cycle is an excellent addition to an SE site. In contrast, drive-by users only contribute as much as their questions are worth, and if the best you can do is to edit a poor question into a marginal one, then it isn’t really improving the site or moving it toward graduation. Since there’s a real risk of driving away subject-matter experts with too many marginal questions, I don’t think we should be aiming to salvage poor questions unless we can actually turn them into good questions, or turn their posters into good users.

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    Definitely agree on the last part, about only keeping questions with potential. I do feel that good, or potentially good questions have died prematurely. But it seems we're already on a track to redemption due to these discussions. And I agree that caution should be applied in order not to lose the original intention of the question. – Meaningful Username May 1 '14 at 10:00
  • My experience has been downvotes and closevotes without comment. This is not friendly and welcoming nor is it helpful and does tend to limit my own enthusiasm for asking questions. – pro Jul 16 '14 at 0:41

What I think we should do is to expand our scope. A lot of the questions that are closed as off topic, might not really be useful to a lot of future users, but they might be to some.

For instance, we could allow a few questions like

What are some good books about musical theory?


What were the main influences of X?


Which scales are used by Tom Morello?

The latter one has 2 close votes and has been discussed here on Meta, but I think it is a good question, that might actually be kind of helpful to future readers.

The former two questions might be closed, if someone asked them here, but I personally think that they might be useful.

Think about it like this: Someone (who doesn't know this site) googles 'music theory books' and the results return some questions from our site. Then he visits this site.

I know that the answers are bound to be personal opinions and it's bound to be a bunch of them, but we could make it a community wiki post.

There are some similar questions on StackOverflow:

I know that all of these are closed, but all of them have quite a lot of views.

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    The python progression question is locked -- i.e. not considered a good question there. Thus it is not a good example unless you are merely proposing that these types of questions be maintained as honey pots. That being said, just the other day I found a useful SO question where the answer was a list of libraries that do video processing (I can't remember exactly what I was looking up), so it is not impossible for questions whose answers are lists of resources to be generally useful. – Dave Apr 30 '14 at 13:46
  • @Dave He knows it is locked, read the last line of his post. I'm assuming he is presenting them as an example of usefulness, not as an example of relevance to that site. We, as a separate SE, can have different relevance dynamics. If it is useful for musicologists and performers and it is still not on topic according to our current rules, maybe it is time to make a revision to those rules. – user1079425 Apr 30 '14 at 14:47
  • @Dave, I know they are closed. My point was that they have been viewed quite a few times. Personally, I find them interesting and have found a couple of books from these kind of threads. What I try to say is that we could have some similar posts here as well – Shevliaskovic Apr 30 '14 at 14:52
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    I think we should have community wiki's for good books for a specific instrument etc., much like stackoverflow.com/questions/388242/… – Meaningful Username Apr 30 '14 at 14:56
  • @MeaningfulUsername, exactly what I think – Shevliaskovic Apr 30 '14 at 15:05
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    Other SEs (like English Language & Usage) put resource lists like that on meta rather than on the main site, for what it's worth. – Bradd Szonye Apr 30 '14 at 22:09
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    @BraddSzonye: That could work too. We should just decide on a way to do it and start this. I've already bought three books due to answers on this site. The potential as resource for intermediate to advanced books is very good I believe. As it is for beginner stuff, but that is easier to find elsewhere. – Meaningful Username May 1 '14 at 9:56
  • The fact that these questions have a ton load of views, does not necessarily mean that they are good for the site. The main reason they have been made off topic on SO is that they ended up bloating the site and drove away attention from the more useful technical programming questions that was the core questions of the site. This became a big problem. – awe May 12 '14 at 14:45

Pre-graduation, I cannot agree with raising rep limits. We finally have enough active users such that mods are not essentially the sole arbiters of content. I don't want to go back to that and I think it would be purely harmful.

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    Definitely - for those of us who are mods, we do get a lot of flak for either closing too fast or not closing fast enough. It is a relief when a site grows to a size where community can close and we can step back a bit to be more janitorial, handling flags and exception etc. It is better for the community as well - 5 votes is a much better consensus than 1 mod's decision! – Doktor Mayhem May 13 '14 at 11:58

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