My question was put on hold as unclear. I see a number of issues in this:

  • No intent was made to clarify the question via comments: it was just shut up. I consider it rude and unhelpful.

  • No reason was provided as to what specifically was unclear in my question and why the judges thought that it was unclear, put aside any hint on how I could improve the question to make it clearer. I consider it against common practice: it's the burden of accuser to give a reason for "jailing" a question, not the burden of the OP.

  • No way of responding or requesting re-consideration. I edited the question and added a comment about it, as requested in the standard "put on hold" notification, but I guess the closers do not get a notification when I update my question, so they don't unblock the question no matter now much detail I add to it.

  • Absurdly counter-productive. Other people do understand the question and do have good answers to it, but since somebody decided there should not be good answers to this question (or did not know the answer) people who do know the right answer cannot post it. What's the benefit of preventing others from giving answer to a question?

  • Time lost. Even if there is an option for users (with sufficient reputation) to request re-opening, this is unlikely to happen because while the question is on hold time passes and it fades out of the list of recent questions; generally a question not answered in the first half an hour attracts very few new visitors. Plus not all users know of the "re-open" link.

I do understand that some questions must be censored out -- say, those that promote racial hatred, those that "have attracted many low-quality answers," or those that are clearly off-topic. But I consider that such censorship should be applied with extreme causion instead of being common practice of treating questions with suboptimal wording (according to somebody's feeling).

I suggest to discuss it as

  • technical issue 1: the OP is not notified (via standard SE notifications) of the question put on hold (or suggested for putting on hold), and keeps waiting for the answer until it's too late.

  • technical issue 2: the closers are not notified of the OP editing the answer and requesting re-consideration.

  • ethical issue 1: the practice of blocking a question without ever making a single comment to it is extremely unhelpful to the OP.

  • ethical issue 2: forcefully preventing other users from answering a legitimate question to which they have a good answer does not make sense.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The post referred to is here: mathoverflow.net/questions/199329/… $\endgroup$
    – Todd Trimble Mod
    Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 2:17
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    $\begingroup$ @ToddTrimble Right, thank you! I did not mention this because I suggest to discuss the issue itself, not to unblock my particular post. Now I added a link to the question. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 2:23
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    $\begingroup$ A short comment: re "the judges" who closed the question, anyone (who has enough reputation) can vote to reopen a question - there is no need for the original closers to vote to close. Once a few users decide the question should be reopened, it will be. The link for unblocking you ask for, btw, is the "reopen" link below the question; it is in the location where the "close" link would otherwise be. I believe this link is only visible if you have sufficient reputation. Also, I suggest avoiding phrases like "violates their rights" - I don't think this is a situation where rights realy crop up. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 2:27
  • $\begingroup$ @NoahS OOPS, sorry -- probably on other sites I see this link because I have sufficient reputation. Will now edit the text accordingly. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 2:29
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    $\begingroup$ Also let me point out that there is an ongoing meta thread meta.mathoverflow.net/questions/223/requests-for-reopen-votes where users can appeal for questions (not necessarily their own) to be reopened. $\endgroup$
    – Todd Trimble Mod
    Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 2:34
  • $\begingroup$ @ToddTrimble Great to know it! Still my point is not re-opening my question but an ethical issue that this practice causes, especially with respect to new users like myself. This site is about helping, including helping to formulate the question and helping to gain confidence in fellow users. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 2:37
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    $\begingroup$ The ethics of explaining the specific reasons that closers have for deciding to close is a recurring issue. It's a little late here, but may return to this some time tomorrow (unless someone precedes me). There are many precedents for this discussion. $\endgroup$
    – Todd Trimble Mod
    Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 2:41

1 Answer 1


Putting on hold is a way of telling the OP that the question needs to be improved if it is to be kept on the site. If an edit is made, the question automatically enters the reopen queue, and users with sufficiently high reputation can vote for or against reopening the question. The original voters-to-close receive no notification, so it may be some other users that end up voting about reopening – either way, the question is always reconsidered if edited. This is the way reconsideration should be mainly requested. It is also possible to post a request in a specific meta thread for reopening requests.

If I recall correctly, you can write comments to the users who voted to close (user names are shown under the post) and those users will be notified. We tested this (see comments below), and it seems that pinging users who voted to close but did not comment does not work. You can ping those users that edited the post (although names will not be suggested), but not those who voted to close.

MathOverflow has a relatively narrow scope and the community seems to want to keep it that way. In order to do so, content that does not fit this scope should not be generated – hence the blocking of answers to closed or on-hold questions. This is not "forcefully preventing other users from answering a legitimate question" because putting on hold means that the question is not considered legitimate (for this site). As this meta question seems to be about this phenomenon in general rather than the specific post, I will not comment on the specific post.

I am surprised if the OP is not notified of the question being put on hold. If this is indeed true, it sounds like a genuine issue. Otherwise I think the behaviour of the site you describe is by design and appropriate.

Edit: Some other meta posts that you might want to look at:

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    $\begingroup$ Re: last paragraph, I agree, I think (if this is not the case already) the OP should be notified of their question being put on hold. Actually, I tentatively support the OP being notified as soon as a vote to close is cast, so they have a chance to edit the question to prevent closure (although I haven't thought about this much, so this may be naive). $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 2:38
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    $\begingroup$ @NoahS, good idea! Being notified of the first close vote would be useful. For some reason, it takes 250 reputation to see closure votes on one's own question (but even that does not come with notifications, I think): mathoverflow.net/help/privileges/view-close-votes Being notified that there is a nonzero amount of such votes should require nothing. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 2:42
  • $\begingroup$ I think not only the OP should be notified of the first vote to close (or at least see it!), but there should be a grace period before the question is actually closed (like a period for bounty) to allow the OP or other users to react or comment. If during the grace period the question is upvoted or there are upvoted answers to it, then, say, more reputation should be required to close it (and the closers would think twice I guess). As things are now, the question gets closed in minutes, before anybody could do anything. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 2:51
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexanderGelbukh, being on hold is essentially a grace period before being closed. If someone other than the OP likes the question, they can upvote and edit to improve it and then vote to reopen. Not allowing answers during the grace period is a designed feature of SE sites, but it is debatable whether it's actually good. Many users see answers to off-topic questions as disturbing noise. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 2:56
  • $\begingroup$ "If I recall correctly, you can write comments to the users who voted to close...." If you mean by leaving a comment with @name-of-voter in it, I think that @ can only be used to notify people who left comments, not people who voted to close. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 5:24
  • $\begingroup$ @GerryMyerson, that is what I mean. I know that autocompletion doesn't offer (at)user-who-voted-to-close-without-commenting, but I faintly recall reading that the notification still works. If it doesn't matter whether the comment is left by the OP, we can test it if you try to ping me in the OP's question at main; I voted to close but did not comment. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 5:32
  • $\begingroup$ Done. Anyway, I was just told earlier today, at math.se, that pinging doesn't work this way, so, if you're right, someone there has some explaining to do.... $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 5:38
  • $\begingroup$ @GerryMyerson, I wasn't notified of your comment at main. If the system hasn't changed, I forgot or misunderstood something. It's good to know that it doesn't work that way. I'll edit my answer. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 5:44
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    $\begingroup$ You may have this mixed up with editors. People who edit a question can be pinged (but their name will not be suggested). $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 9:06
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    $\begingroup$ @TobiasKildetoft, that was indeed probably the source of my mistake. Thanks for clarifying! $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 16:23
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ One can ping moderators (and only moderators) that closed. $\endgroup$
    – user9072
    Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 16:45

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