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German Language SE has been discussing whether they should have only three close votes instead of five to close questions. Stack Overflow lowered the close/reopen vote threshold from 5 to 3 in December 2019.

I am bringing this up because on sites where few people participate in moderation tasks, close/reopen votes can expire before they reach the threshold of five. (For example, the question To what extent are the stylistic devices in Death of a Salesman and The Stranger similar? reached three reopen votes that all aged away. Similarly, the question Modernism vs Realism currently has three close votes which might also expire.)

This situation may have been exacerbated by the fact that two users who participated a lot in moderation tasks were elected moderators a few weeks ago, which means that we need more other users with non-binding votes to look at the review queues. (Close and reopen votes by moderators are binding, which is why moderators here usually wait until there are four votes in the queue, so their own vote has the same weight as a non-moderator's vote.)

You can gain moderation badges by participating in the review queues. But if that incentive is insufficient, what can be done to improve the situation? How would people feel about lowering the close/reopen vote threshold from five to three?


Update: This question has also been discussed on Japanese Language SE, where CM Catija shared some important information in an answer (emphasis added):

The number has to be the same for every close reason but we can change the number required to close a question to 3 or 1. We've run a couple of tests on other sites and are willing to test it on others. If you'd like to run a test here, have a discussion about it and then have one of your moderators ping me once you've made a decision.


PS: Personally, I prefer more review queue participation. We don't get inundated with off-topic questions so checking the queues really doesn't take much time.

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    I'm upvoting this question because I think it's a discussion worth having, not because I necessarily support the proposal of lowering the threshold. – Rand al'Thor Jun 21 at 11:11
  • How many reviews actually "age away" is there some stat accessible in that regard? – Skooba Jun 23 at 20:58
  • That's a good point. I don't have any statistics at the moment; I guess we need someone with the SEDE skills to write a query for that. – Tsundoku Jun 23 at 21:12
  • Also, I don't know of any reason except tradition for why getting 5 reviews is considered optimal. It makes sense to me that different sites can have different thresholds, and testing whether 3 (or even 1) works is a good idea. – Brahadeesh Jun 25 at 6:49
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Do NOT lower the threshold.

This is still a Beta site. The reputation requirement is only 500 for close/reopen votes.

There are 117 users with over 500 reputation. So in order to gain the close/reopen vote you need ~4% of the user base. If we can not get engagement from more than 4% of the user base there are bigger problems than the review queues.

While I know moderators tend to not like to user their "hammer" unless it is the final vote, if there is a problem with questions hanging out in the review queue for too long, the best solution would just be for the moderator to use their privilege and close/reopen the question.

The only thing to decide would be how long does a moderator let a review sit in the queue before casting the binding vote. I am not especially active on this site (except for voting and reviews) and usually only visit once or twice a day, but most of the time there are no reviews. If there are it is only one or two.

So I pledge my support to keep up visiting the review queues... will 4 other users do the same?

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After checking similar questions on Japanese Language SE and Spanish Language SE, the main motivation for lowering the threshold on those sites is or was getting questions closed that are off-topic, e.g. translations requests, or duplicates. This is not the issue that we are dealing with. For example, recommendation requests usually get closed by moderators here before they reach three close votes from non-moderators.

Our issue is not that we get too many questions that are blatantly off-topic; our issue is that we don't get enough eyeballs on edge cases. Lowering the threshold from five to three does not solve this issue. For this reason, I am not in favour of lowering the threshold: it hides the issue of insufficient eyeballs instead of solving it. As Rand al'Thor pointed out in a related question, we have enough 500+ rep users to get edge cases reviewed by five persons.

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    I agree with this. We're not getting so flooded with off-topic questions that we need to give people's close-votes more power. I'm not sure how to solve the issue of getting more eyeballs on edge cases though. Maybe making more meta posts about such cases to get the community discussing them? – Rand al'Thor Jun 27 at 8:55
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I'm in favor.

While we don't have nearly the same level of content as SO does flooding in, it's worth noting that the site has (relatively) recently lost a lot of its high reputation users; some deleted their accounts, others stopped participating entirely, and others simply aren't touching the moderation tools.

It's been over half a year now since a whole lot of things went down on the network that caused a lot of high-reputation users to scale back or entirely stop their activity. Lit always had an unusually high number of high rep users who were active around the network and/or moderators elsewhere, and so their absence now is being felt.

(Personally, after I stepped down as a mod here I reduced my activity on the network as a whole at first. While I've more-or-less returned to posting normally and engaging in some of my personal pet projects (e.g. image descriptions) in the months since then, I haven't really been touching the curation tools here on Lit; I needed a bit of a break from that on this site.)

In any case, the fact remains that Lit definitely doesn't have as many high-rep users helping to curate content as it once did, and two of the most active users who did help with that now have diamonds and thus have unilateral votes (and so are a bit more hesitant). Bringing the close threshold down to three would definitely mean more community closures without involving a diamond.

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I would prefer if you didn't lower the threshold. If you do lower it, I would prefer if you lowered it only for closing as off-topic or reopening after that, and stayed at 5 votes to closing as a duplicate or reopening from that.

I'm scared of questions that are closed and reopened multiple times, with sometimes several close or reopen votes hovering over it for a long time until they expire, without edits that significantly change the meaning of the question between. It seems like that leaves the end result too much to the chance, and meanwhile the whole procedure is unpleasant.

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    It is not up to us to lower the threshold; we can only request it (if the community supports the idea) and hope that Stack Overflow Inc. adapts the threshold. I'm not sure if there can be different thresholds for different close reasons. – Tsundoku Jun 21 at 18:48
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    Controversial duplicate closures are common on Science Fiction & Fantasy, but not here on Literature, where duplicates themselves are extremely rare. – Rand al'Thor Jun 23 at 20:48
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I don't see the necessity. I strongly advocated for reducing the number of required close votes for Stack Overflow, but that was largely due to the close vote queue routinely having 10,000+ items and a large number of votes simply aging away. (The situation got bad enough that there's a dedicated chatroom for close voting on Stack Overflow). As I write this, however, our close vote queue has exactly 2 items in it, which hardly seems unmanageable.

If the queue ever gets to the point that it's growing past what reviewers can handle, then I'd believe that this is necessary. For the moment, however, I just don't see why it's needed.

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