I spent much of the past week involved in a rather extended discussion about closed questions. Near as I can tell, here is the logic:
- ELU has a lot of closed questions, at least compared to other StackExchange sites.
- Instead of closing questions, we ought to fix them and answer them. After all, doesn't this community exist to help people?
- When a question gets closed, no one else can provide an answer; therefore, closures are a bad thing. Also, closures might make newer users feel unwelcome.
- Since questions are getting closed instead of being left open, these closures indicate that ELU is a down-arrow clicking clique, a bunch of anal-retentive geeks who need to get a life, people who are busy protecting their own little fiefdom from alleged pollution, run like a monopolistic cartel by a bunch of pseudo-intellectual pretentious linguistic professor wannabees. Moreover, ELU is, without a doubt, too snobby, and the rudest community on StackExchange. (The text in italics is not mere colorful language of mine; these were taken as excerpts from the discussion – some of which were upvoted).
So, I examined the last 20 closed questions on ELU. Here's what I found:
1) Why “an” is used in “December 1972 U.S. astronaut Eugene CERN an becomes the last person to set foot on the moon”? [closed]
- answer (explained in two comments): because it's supposed to say "Cernan", not "CERN an".
2) What is the correct pronunciation of “Regex”? [closed]
- answer (explained in two answers and several comments): It's pronounced with a hard g. Moreover, a link was provided where this specific example was discussed in a more generic but related question.
3) Usage differences between Smile vs laugh vs Sneer vs chuckle vs giggle vs titter vs grin vs beam vs smirk vs simper vs snicker vs Singger? [closed]
- answer (explained in three comments): Some of these are ways to laugh, and some are ways to smile, but this question as a whole is probably asking too much as a single question.
4) Why do you write “receive” with “ei” but “retrieve” with “ie”? [closed as duplicate]
- answer (explained at duplicate question): Basically, English vocabulary is a mix of mostly proto-Germanic and proto-French, the languages in use by the Saxons and Normans respectively during the Norman invasion and occupation of the British isles. (NOTE: there is much more to this very detailed answer than I have copied here.)
5) Does Doctor means PhD. or Physician? [closed]
- answer (explained in comments): The word can be used as a title in either case.
6) Do Shakespeare use the word “whence” incorrectly? [closed]
- answer (given in one answer): It's a flexible word, and it's a bit harsh to suggest that Shakespeare has made a mistake.
7) A girl who (or whom) I have a crush on… (?) [closed]
- answer (explained in two answers): "whom" is formally correct, although "who" is often used in conversational English; for more information, see this duplicate.
8) Which one is correct, non or non-? [closed as duplicate]
- answer (not given at the question, but easily found at duplicate): There are three types of compound words in English: closed, hyphenated, and open. There are also four useful articles cited at the duplicate.
9) Which one is the correct form: “The only thing which doesn't work is the engines,” or “The only thing which doesn't work are the engines.” [closed]
- answer (explained in several comments): The short answer is "are"; there are other considerations explained in the comments.
10) what is the meaning of expressyou: Want to know whether it is "Convey you". or is there any other word that can give the message reflect your character. [closed]
- answer: This question was not answered in its original form, but one user has tried to reword the question, and subsequently provided an answer to that interpretation. Since that time, it has received three reopen votes.
11) Should punctuation characters have a preceding space? [closed]
- answer (provided in a comment): Short answer: no. Long answer: for more information, see this duplicate.
12) Would the wrong form of your or you're be considered a spelling or grammar error? [closed]
- answer (explained in an answer): That would depend on the intent of the writer.
13) What is the meaning of the word “nonlesson” [closed]
- answer (explained in a comment): It's a simple negation. In the context of "lessons learned" it would mean either (1) a lesson that was not learned (i.e, a repeated mistake) or (2) something that was thought to be a lesson, but was not (i.e, an erroneous conclusion).
14) “I got it covered” vs “I've got it covered”: Which is correct and why? [closed]
- answer (explained in two answers): It can mean different things in different contexts; sometimes one is slang for the other.
15) What does the “did” in this sentences refers to? [closed]
- answer (explained in a comment): It refers to the word differ in the previous sentence.
16) Usage difference between modest vs decent? [closed]
- answer (explained in one answer): Modest and decent have overlapping semantic ranges. They can mean the same thing, but do not always. (NOTE: The answer includes much more elaboration not provided here).
17) What is the plural of “conch”? [closed]
- answer (explained in three different answers): When "conch" is pronounced to rhyme with "honk", the plural is "conchs"; when pronounced as a near-rhyme with "launch", the plural is "conches".
18) In the Catholic rosary, there is a short prayer called "Glory Be." Would the plural be Glory Bes or Glory Be's? Likewise, do you say 10 Hail Marys? [closed]
- answer (explained in an answer provided): Use an apostrophe. Moreover, more information is provided via a link to a related question.
19) Where to place the word “easily”? Is it: Do you want to edit and share your bookmarks easily? Or: Do you want to easily edit and share your bookmarks? [closed]
- answer (explained in two answers): Best to put it at the end.
20) What is the question to be asked to get an answer "The 44th president of United States of America is Barack Obama." [closed]
- answer: Not provided, but the links to 17 duplicate questions were provided.
If we want to talk about quality as a whole, these questions don't strike me as particularly well-researched, or intriguing to a serious language enthusiast. They seem more basic than profound. (If that observation paints me as a snob, I apologize. I call 'em as I see 'em.)
Still, if the issue is really about helping people, just about all 20 O.P.'s got an answer to their question, despite the fact that these questions may have been ultimately closed.
So, what is my question?
To those who have been bemoaning the fact that a high closure rate allegedly portrays us an uncaring, insular community – and to those who see us openly characterized as “geeks who need to get a life,” and respond with a hearty “Hear, hear!” – I ask:
- Which of these questions should have remained open? Why?
- Even if a few of these questions should have remained open, do you really believe an overwhelming majority of these questions should have remained open? In other words, do these closures really portray a reckless and egregious misuse of privilege by so-called power-users? Please explain.
- Do you find any difference between a community that closes questions while still providing answers (perhaps through links or comments), and a community that would close questions without providing answers? In other words, does the closure itself outweigh any helpful information that was provided by members of the community?
I ask because this week wasn't the first time I've seen this line of reasoning: a lot of questions get closed, therefore you're all just a bunch of snobs. However, when I search for evidence of that snobbery, I keep finding a slew of rather mediocre questions – usually with helpful answers, by the way – rather than hard evidence of an unhelpful clique. But maybe I'm just missing something, in which case maybe you can help me out.