Related/followup to this post.

Many posts get closed for being unclear. In a previous discussion (above link) someone suggested that we are closing too many questions as unclear. In my answers there I disagreed, noting that we are not actually closing the questions as unclear. We merely put them on hold, and the questioners choose not to do the relatively easy work that would result in the question getting reopened.

That said, it is a shame that so many questions that are put on hold for this reason end up getting closed. It is very likely that some/many/all of these questions could have been good questions had they simply been fleshed out more. A one-sentence-long "bad" question can easily be made into a three-sentence-long "good" question.

So, why is it that so many of these questions aren't getting fixed, and what can we do to change this?

As an example from today, this post was put on hold. The original text of the question was:

Heard about getting drunk on Shabbos tisha b'Av but don't have a mekor.

After being put on hold, the question was edited to read:

Heard about getting drunk on Shabbos tisha b'Av, I think the mekor is a medrash, did anyone else hear of this?

Aside from the close reason notice that somewhat explains the issue, there was a comment from Double AA that said:

What exactly is the claim you are trying to source? That you should get drunk? Shouldn't? Can? Can't?

The poster responded with:

@Double AA minhag

Double AA left another comment:

@Ar3 minhag to what? You have plenty of space; just use two or three sentences to describe clearly what you are looking for

No further edits were made (by the poster; I did in fact make an edit to add a tag).

The post received two votes to reopen and then was deleted by the poster.

It seems a shame that this post was deleted. If I had to guess I would say that the poster heard that some people have a custom to get drunk on Shabbos Tisha B'av, and that there was possibly a source for this in a Midrash. If this was indeed his question, he could have easily edited it to:

I heard of a custom to get drunk on Shabbos that falls out on Tisha B'av, and it might be based on a Midrash. Does anyone know the specific source of this custom?

I have almost no doubt that written in this way (or something similar) the question would have been reopened. It might even have attracted a good answer that would have been enlightening to many readers. Now, though, it will only be seen by users with > 10,000 reputation who may or may not know what the question is asking.

Now I don't think we did a bad job explaining why the question was put on hold. So what could we have done to encourage the user to fix the post rather than delete it (or even just leave it)? Note that this was a new user (without even any experience on other Stack Exchange sites), and I imagine that this is true in many such cases. I don't mean to pick on any individuals involved, nor even on the specific case. This is just an example to illustrate the issue.

Is this a case of "you can't help someone who doesn't want to be helped", or are there concrete steps we can take to reduce the number of on-hold questions that end up closed/deleted?

(I guess an answer to this can simply disagree with the premise that this is a problem. I wonder if there is any way to get statistics on percentage of on-hold questions that get fixed vs get closed/deleted.)

  • Related to the close-reasons tag on this question, I would conflate this with a "should a downvote from someone who didn't / doesn't comment cost more than one by a voter who did"? Which I just saw is a recurring topic. – Micha Berger Jul 24 at 16:11
  • Where I think I can guess what the poster wanted to say and after a decent interval in which he could have edited the post, I have edited the question myself. I leave a comment asking the OP to change the edit if he does not like it. This way, with the slight risk of inaccuracy in the question, we can save interesting questions from being lost. – Avrohom Yitzchok Aug 2 at 15:53

One thing I have observed on several sites is that new users don't understand editing. That's not surprising; most forum sites are post-once, and then the discussion happens in comments/answers from there. Even though the "edit" link is there, right under the question, people don't always notice (or look for) it.

When I'm asking a new user for more information that should be edited into the post, I try to work the magic link [edit] into my comment. The link turns into the edit link for the post being commented on. That comment might look something like this:

Welcome to Mi Yodeya. Could you clarify what you've heard that you want to find a source for? Are you looking for a source for drinking on Shabbat Tisha b'Av, or one for not doing so? You can [edit] to add information to your question.

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    It is a chidush for me that writing edit is enough to get the edit link. Before I was copying the full link from the edit button. Thanks ! – mbloch Jul 20 at 4:06
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    @mbloch thanks for your diligence in pointing out editing, and I'm sorry you've been doing it the hard way all this time. – Monica Cellio Jul 20 at 14:55
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  • @DoubleAA thank you - this inspired me a new meta post – mbloch Jul 22 at 17:48

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