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Voting to close a question

Stack Overflow grants the ability for experienced members to vote to close a question, citing one reason that it violates the site’s guidelines. We don’t dispute the importance of closing questions that are not appropriate for Stack Overflow. It helps keep the quality of content generally high, reducing the noise of poor quality questions that simply cannot be answered as provided. However, this privilege should not be used frivolously. Your first responsibility should be helping people drive to a solution to their problems, with close votes reserved for questions that don’t show effort to progress toward that goal.

In theory, the reason for the close vote “resolves” the question, and should guide the asker toward a next step (that may or may not be on Stack Overflow). But in reality, it can be frustrating to see your question get closed. This section discusses things you can do to ease that experience while also honoring the spirit of closures.

Allow some time for improvement before closing

After you have tried to [help improve the question], allow for a few hours for a response. If there is no action taken, then voting to close the question makes sense.

Closing a question as duplicate

It’s common for the same question (or the same general problem) to get asked repeatedly. Stack Overflow allows for new questions to be closed if they are similar enough to an old question that has upvoted answers. If you are considering a vote to close a question as a duplicate, we suggest following these guidelines in order to actually be helpful to the person asking the question:

  • Double check to see if the existing question and its answers directly address the new question. Don’t be hasty about judging the new question. This is especially true for contributors with enough reputation to single-handedly close as a duplicate. If you get this vote wrong, it could be frustrating to the asker.

  • Don’t downvote the duplicate, especially if the duplicate is using different words to describe the problem than the original. It’s better for search engines to be able to match many ways of stating the same problem, and point all the results to the same source of information.

  • After voting to close, leave a comment briefly explaining the solution proposed in the original and how it applies to the specifics of the new question. This allows the asker to gain more confidence that you’ve made the correct vote. It also allows the asker to disagree or ask for clarification in a followup comment directed at you.

  • If the asker disagrees with your vote, and you then disagree with that, ask them to clarify their question to state what is new or different in their scenario that is not addressed by the original. It might be the case that the asker just didn’t ask the right question to begin with. Be willing to help them improve the question so that they have the opportunity to get real help.