Referring to comments in question "How can I find Narrow band IoT module or chipset? [on hold]"

In the comments it is argued that "it is of an essentially transient value. In other words, the answer cannot remain the same long-term".

Surely you cannot propose that questions only remain open if the answer is valid until the end of time? It is my understanding from the Stack Overflow origins is that the upvoting and editing format exists precisely to allow questions to be re-answered over time. Granted, it doesn't always work, but is the general idea.

We are wanting people to come here and ask (basic) questions on a new and emerging field of technology, but we close questions because, although they are right now, may not be right in future? I think that it is banal over-moderating that will chase people away when it is needed the most. The Area 51 stats say that the number of questions asked per day "Needs work", but people are discouraged from asking questions. It's absurd.

Indeed one of the most popular questions is almost guaranteed to be irrelevant in a years time. Are the moderators suggesting that "How can I stop Alexa from ordering things if it hears a voice on TV" be closed because it is highly likely, considering the mainstream news attention that this problem has received, that Amazon is going to correct it on the next version?

3 Answers 3


Sometimes, the stated close reason is a shorthand for saying you don't seem to have put any real thought into reasearching this subject, or maybe you are just really out of your depth.

The trade-off is really in working out how to encourage people to do more work before asking a question. If these borderline questions don't get closed, I think it sets the wrong expectation for what will be answered, and that will discourage the regular users who are already here.

The question in case didn't seem useful right now, let alone in 6 months time. Seeing your answer makes the subject more relevant - but the ideal version of the question would set out the timeline of these protocols, and question if they are slideware, vapourware or about to break into primetime. A question which would be suitable for the same answer you wrote...

  • While I appreciate the more detailed answers, I'll accept this one. Maybe it is my problem that is transient. At this early stage I suggest that it is better to aggressively edit, rather than the shorthand of closing. With less than 5 questions a day I would encourage editing rather than closing and commenting. Today I edited and unclosed a question - and it took less effort than all the comments. Feb 8, 2017 at 21:06
  • 2
    @SimonMunro making a question better by editing is always preferred to closing due to low quality. One problem however is the fine line between making a good question out of a bad one while keeping (most of) the intent of the original author and essentially asking a new question in the shell of the old bad one. If it is too much of the latter it is better to ask a new question. Otherwise any salvaged question makes the site better. :)
    – Helmar Mod
    Feb 8, 2017 at 21:26

I'm not sure whether that question is a great fit for this site, but I don't think the close reason really gets the real reason across.

This site, and Stack Exchange in general, have found that 'shopping' questions don't work very well in a lot of cases. The close reason is probably alluding to this part of the Stack Overflow blog:

The former question provides the path of least resistance: a laundry list of products I can buy without thinking about it too much. But that answer will only be valid for a year at best. The latter question may take some thinking, but its answer will be valid forever… or at least until camera technology somehow shifts beyond lenses and sensors as we know them today. Thus, when it comes to shopping questions, don't ask us what you should buy -- ask us what you need to learn to tell what you should buy.

I can see the logic in discouraging these sorts of questions - any readers in future will come here, find some links to what they want, and... they're dead. The distributor may no longer stock the device, making the entire Q&A pair useless completely.

So why bother answering anything? It'll all be out of date soon! That might be true, but the Q&A still has some value to people using older versions of devices, or legacy technology. Whereas, with this question, the whole thing helps no-one at all once the links stop working.

That's the logic (as far as I can tell) behind putting these sorts of questions on hold - they don't last, and Stack Exchange on the whole doesn't really 'work' for those questions.

However, you've also asked about the bigger picture, and I want to address that here, too, if I can.

I think that it is banal over-moderating that will chase people away when it is needed the most. The Area 51 stats say that the number of questions asked per day "Needs work", but people are discouraged from asking questions. It's absurd.

This is a really big problem, and other sites have had the same problem. I think part of the issue is that many new users see closure as the end - "that's it, I won't get my answer now" - and they leave. That's not what we want to do here if we can avoid it, because it will drive users away, like you say, leading to blogs like this or even this complaining how harsh the moderation is.

As you've noticed, the question was closed with a moderator's binding vote (which in this case replaced two normal users). On a site like this, I don't think we can avoid that; we simply don't have enough active close-voters, so moderators will have to intervene in many cases. However, don't mistake a moderator closing something with official, binding, unchangeable site policy - we have to use our binding vote if we want to vote to close, like it or not - there's no 'vote to close as normal user' option.

How can we fix this, and balance site quality with not chasing away honest beginners? That'll require a little more work, I suspect:

  • Leaving comments saying how to fix the post when voting to close (for both normal users and moderators) will help new users to see what's wrong and fix it.

  • Editing questions after they're closed to salvage them is a good idea so that new users get their answer, and the question remains good, clear and likely to help many people in future.

As for this question itself, I do see why it's very counterintuitive to close a question and deprive a user of help just because it probably won't help people in future. Personally, I think it shouldn't be hard to edit the question to be more useful to others and get it reopened, so I'll try my best to improve it without invalidating your answer to it.

And, above all, remember: this site is built and run by you, so don't forget to use your editing and reopening powers to help build the site; as moderators, we're here to help keep the site in line with what you want, so we are listening!

  • 1
    +1 for "don't mistake a moderator closing something with official, binding, unchangeable site policy - we have to use our binding vote if we want to vote to close, like it or not - there's no 'vote to close as normal user' option." This question was discussed between the moderators, and we collectively concluded that it needed to be put on hold until and unless someone spiffs it up.
    – anonymous2 Mod
    Feb 8, 2017 at 20:14

First of all, thank you very much for posting this on Meta. We are, as you noted, at the beginning of our existance, and as such, we need to stretch; we must ask questions; it is imperative that we be open to asking questions. Are we headed the right direction? Are we being overly zealous about closing? Are we, as you suggested, scaring away valuable traffic?

I would like to note several things about the question referenced. I would remind you that the transient nature of this question was only one of the reasons for closure, and, in my opinion, not the strongest. However, let us address it quickly before flowing on to the other reasons.

1. Transient nature

As you said, every question and answer is to some extent of a transient nature; meaning that Google could put out a new version of their Google Home in which it is no longer possible to do something that is possible with the current version. However, these are not foreseeable changes, whereas we all know and expect that price and suppliers of a given product will definitely change.

Hence, the question referenced gives us answers which are expected to be short-lived, whereas the goal for questions on this site is that they would last indefinitely (not infinitely!).

2. Finding a particular product vs. updated product

While questions like these are fairly easy to answer, they generate a lot of content that needs very frequent update or removal. This is not the same as the Alexa question you referenced, which could always be applicable, provided you still have an older (the current) version of the Echo.

In other words, if I am asking how to do something with a Nest Thermostat, we can expect that the answers will be basically applicable indefinitely, even if they become applicable to a smaller and smaller audience as newer versions come out. However, when we move into the realm of sales prices and suppliers, questions become applicable for only a limited timeframe - and frequently only to a limited audience at that, since most places will not ship to all world-wide locations.

3. Buying advice

Buying advice is primarily opinion based. Okay, I know someone is going to say, "This doesn't have to be the case; it could be edited out." Then, I say, Edit it! The purpose of an on hold period is to give the community an opportunity to see that this question is in risk of closure and edit it up to status quo.

That being said, buying advice questions tend very strongly toward either opinion-based or too localized.

It is a fine line, I will freely admit. It's not an easy call to make. As you said, we need questions; we need askers. However, as a community, we have discussed this kind of question before, particularly in chat. And I have come to a conclusion which Stack Exchange has long supported: if a site cannot produce enough excellent material to keep it afloat, adding mediocre material won't help it stay afloat long term; it will just lower the standard of the site and actually chase away professionals, who begin to realise that their excellent questions and answers cannot compete with the mediocre material which Joe on the street can create by making a quick Google search and pasting in an opinion on "where to buy," etc.

All this having been said, I personally feel that this question is not very far from staying open. I would personally move for re-opening if someone took the time to spiff the question up a bit to give it a less transient nautre, also making it less opinion based and localized.

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