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In the comments on both the question and answer on this meta question, I was having a brief discussion with two users regarding the degree of friendliness and openness TSE shows to new users.

OP brought to my attention one of their questions which has been closed as unclear.

It's not obvious to me why someone found this unclear. I'm sure the close voters had their reasons, but I have voted to repoen. However, this post is not a campaign to get this question reopened. What I'm saying is: When we cast a vote to close as "unclear what you're asking" I think it's pretty much our duty to also drop a comment explaining why, and requesting clarification. Nobody seems to have done that here.

The meaning of "on-hold" (rather than "closed) is that OP is supposed to be able to improve the question and perhaps get it reopened. If we don't explain why the question is unclear, how can OP clarify and improve their question?

If a previous close-voter has already commented in such a way, and that is also our reasoning, we can of course merely upvote that comment along with the vote.

Voting to close as unclear without explaining why or requesting clarification comes off as a bit impolite, IMO. This applies even when voting to close the questions of old-timers. However, I think it's especially true if OP is new to the community.

Such comments also enable OP to ping us, saying "I've clarified now, can you review and perhaps retract the vote?" Thus, it encourages improvement and increases the overall quality and activity on the site.

As Mark Mayo put it in another post:

If you're voting to close, welcome them to the site, and explain why you've voted for their question to be closed. It's very discouraging for a new user to come on here, ask a question, and just get it closed off with no feedback. Always leave a comment if you think it'll help.

To clarify, this post is only about voting to close as unclear. I often VTC as duplicate, off-topic and too broad without leaving comments because those closures often explain themselves. (Through the notices, etc.) However, I feel that when VTC as unclear, a comment is quite crucial because otherwise it's difficult for OP to clarify. They need to know why it's unclear before they can clarify.

Of course, it doesn't have to be a long comment. A single explanatory sentence or question will typically do.

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I'll disagree with Karlson on this one. You don't have to, but it's not very helpful.

Just like the discussion on meta about closing Q with no research, my approach is a case by case.

New/recent users will get a comment, a link to the FAQ or some sort of explanation as what exactly is going on.

More established users are expected to know how things work, so dupes and off-topic are self-explanatory, though unclear still needs a comment in my opinion. When voting unclear I try to always request clarifications, and sometimes I'll delay voting if the Q was recent enough, to leave them time to answer/edit/update.

Are we more concerned about upholding our guidelines or welcoming and helping out people ?

  • 1
    @pnuts I know what you're saying, there's a lot of low-quality questions. But how many questions are closed as unclear per day? A couple, probably less than five, I should think. If we have time to review a question and cast a close vote as unclear, I think we also have time to drop a one-line comment saying "Could you clarify X?". Also, I don't see why we would consider the interests of future viewers and the interests of users who ask unclear questions as contrary. The way I see it, they all have the common interest of having a quality site with good, clear questions, and so do we. – Revetahw Nov 1 '16 at 10:04
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A good writer will be able to figure out why it's unclear and fix it. But not everyone is a good writer. "It's totally obvious to me what I meant!"

So, while an explanation may not be mandatory, it's certainly a nice thing to give.

In fact, a similar argument could be made about other reasons. And down-votes.

It's really easy for a newcomer to many SE communities to interpret unexplained down-votes as insiders rejecting an invader or even personal hostility (which unfortunately is sometimes the case!)

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There was a similar discussion on Meta Stackexchange going back to 2010. While it may be courteous to explain what is unclear it has never been the policy of Stackexchange to require people doing so. The action of voting to put on hold is a valid action same as the action of others to reopen the question.

Similar logic and rights apply to downvotes on both questions and answers.

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    I often VTC as duplicate, off-topic and too broad without leaving comments because those closures often explain themselves. (Through the notices, etc.) However, I feel that a comment is quite crucial when VTC as unclear because otherwise it's difficult for OP to clarify. They need to know why it's unclear before they can clarify. These questions are often salvageable, but often not if OP isn't told why it's unclear. – Revetahw Oct 31 '16 at 15:44

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