Today I saw following question:


The complete question was:

For example, I recently wrote:

"Der Kampf dauerte, während Georg König war."

This was corrected to andauern.

I then, instead of closing as off-topic like I usually do, chose to VTC as "unclear what you're asking" and left following comment:

What exactly is your problem? Have you looked it up in a dictionary? right now the answer could be about anything. please add more details what your exact problem is in distinguishing these words. - link

There was a second close-vote added, and roundabout 15 minutes after I commented, an answer was posted.

While the answer may be correct in itself, it is not in the slightest helpful to the one asking the question IMO. It ignores the problems that OP might have with understanding the difference of 2 words and is in fact nothing but a "better dictionary entry".

That is somewhat sad, because if that question had been reformulated before an answer was given it could have become something much more. One of the pearls that Jeff Atwood describes in this blog post

now to force a reformulation of the question there is exactly one alternative. Closing it rigorously.


Closing a question:

  • prevents it from being answered. - We want exactly that! because:
  • allows editing and commenting for clarification. - We want exactly that!
  • can be reverted, when clarification is completed. - Well that exactly is the plan!

But now!

Closing the question:

  • prevents it from getting additional answers. - We don't like that! We can do better than a dictionary entry!
  • allows editing and commenting for clarification. - But OP has probably already left, as he got an answer. Thus the question rots away in mediocrity!

This is somewhat sad. So the question is. Can and should we close questions faster, possibly even by binding moderator vote?

And if yes, how?

2 Answers 2


The example you gave is not a good fit for what you wanted to tell us here.

It is pretty obvious that any dictionary will not help to translate "to last" because both, "andauern" and "dauern" are given on the same line in all dictionaries I consulted.

We may ask for an edit of the question to say so but in such obvious cases as this it may be not of such great help. Improvements from dictionary links will be marginal in this special case.

Other questions which were more obviously poor or unclear get quickly closed from the meanwhile quite active community. Whenever the community lags in closing a question it may be that there also is at least some disagreement on the close reasons or people wanted to wait another while for an eventual edit.

A moderator should not step in every time the community is reluctant to then authoritatively put questions on hold with his binding vote. Most poor questions get closed by the community within 24 hours. I believe this is fast enough for a site as small as our's.

Sometimes questions having the potential to be great questions but were poorly written may be better salvaged by an edit than closed, especially if there are great answers. Examples of such recent edits which improved the question:

Whenever somebody took the effort to salvage such a question we should once more be extra careful to cast our additional close vote.

  • 1
    I disagree on the reluctancy of "closing" questions. IMO this is seen too much as a punishment here. For reference, on CR regularly moderators close questions by binding vote, even though the community would have just been marginally slower. There questions often get edited and reopened, which is one of the goals of putting questions on hold. Almost everything that gets closed is salvageable, and stuff that isn't gets deleted quite fast. IMO it is also not the job of the community to ensure question content quality by editing, but by putting comments and wait for OP to edit. [...]
    – Vogel612
    Commented Jun 19, 2014 at 19:13
  • 1
    Questions that need reformulation are closed too slowly IMO and your answer does not actually address the issue I wanted to express... Especially because editing a question, that already has an answer often (at least partly) invalidates already posted answers. This mix makes it difficult for all users :( If users here on German Language are reluctant to close, because they await edits, then IMO we need to educate our users that have close voting privileges...
    – Vogel612
    Commented Jun 19, 2014 at 19:16
  • Well, up to today reopening of an edited and improved question appears to be impossible without the help of a mod. Community reopening however is a prerequisite for putting a question on hold the way it was meant to be. Often the contrary happens: a close vote was cast, the question was then edited and improved but sadly the Q still being in the close review queue will inevitably be closed later even after the initial close reason was then invalid.
    – Takkat
    Commented Jun 19, 2014 at 21:25

I disagree on "closing very fast"/"faster" (well, I have no idea how fast it was in 2014).

Hardcore users are ready to act like within 15 minutes. OPs - especially new contributers - are ready to react like within a few days. No matter the urgency they wrote.

So when something e.g.

  • is unclear what asked
  • can be enriched by (more) context)
  • is obviously no spam
  • in no clear duplicate

then I think the community should hold their breath, unbreathe - and put a comment about the missing content.

And when OP does not return within a week or returns but does not act - then close it anyway. Some OP return the next day, also interact using comments - and when the communication "what should be done with the question" still fails - then it can still be closed.

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