Saw three closures today (one was mine and I think is the most borderline, but that's what got me on this topic):

This is wrong.

  • "Bedroom" question was put on hold as "primarily opinion based." However, the OP demonstrated that they had deduced through several situations using reasoning that was pretty sound. From that point someone posted an answer that was, well, very good. Furthermore, it's pretty reasonable for people to search for this and I would more or less bet money that if deleted this question will be 1) asked again and 2) answered similarly. People do Google searches for stuff like this, would you want them to visit your site or not?
  • "Fish tank" question was, agreeably, broad. I posted it knowing that for a young community comprehensive answers become great wealths of information (StackOverflow, which is huge and mature, has a few ancient questions like this that would be off-topic if posted now). It received a great and comprehensive answer and within a day was closed as "too broad." It is senseless for a question to be closed as "too broad" shortly after receiving a comprehensive answer, that someone generously decided should be supplied here.
  • "Cat pees" was accused by moderator Z. as eliciting vague answers. However, it did not elicit a vague answer. It elicited one answer with a score of +2, which is actually high for a young community. Furthermore if this info is on the rest of the Internet, the point of any SE is that that info should exist in higher and more transparent quality here.

Bottom line, this practice is very harmful for a young community.

  • Answers should be better than questions and great answers should never be thrown away because they are on a poor question. This is pretty much the worst thing you can do, and in fact we have an ancient Reversal badge originally meant to incentivize great answers doing exactly this (I say "ancient" because SO now has the problem that -5 questions there really are abhorrent and should not be encouraged, but I digress). Better to work with the OP when the question goes unanswered or only attracts low quality answers for a week.
  • You want visitors! To stuff like, "How do I buy a fish tank?" and "What do I do if my cat keeps peeing?" People search for those things on Google. You would like them to come here, and find better, well-supported, commmunity-backed answers, faster than they would anywhere else.
  • While broad question can bring in visitors, it is important that they be structured in way that allows answers to be written that are valuable to the visitor. Questions in the format "What should I consider when {clear criteria}" allow the expert to provide highlight pros and cons, and allow people to make educated decisions. The bedroom question allows for neither a pros and cons answer, nor a specific answer. "Dude Gerbils are great" answers all it is currently suited for. In the past when the OP has been unable to format the question, one of the regulars tends to re-ask it better later. Commented Oct 31, 2014 at 11:18

3 Answers 3


On the litter box question:

We have had a consistent problem with people posting vague problems and not following up when asked for more details that will help us answer the question properly. We've been closing those questions as a temporary measure with a comment about some of the information that we need to answer the question. Once they are updated (if they are updated), we open the question again.

Relevant meta discussions for background reading:

On the aquarium question:

On the pet selection question:


Quick and dirty summary:

  • We've tried these types of questions before and they didn't work out.
  • This isn't a forum, we try to avoid discussions outside of the chatroom (and sometimes meta).
  • There is a difference between questions/answers that are useful to anyone, and questions/answers that are useful to only one person.
  • Not every question is a good question.
  • We don't have to take questions we consider to be bad, in the hopes that they'll attract users. Because our user-base is growing without those questions.
  • Those questions attract visitors, but not users. We should be focusing on attracting users who will stay and answer questions. Visitors will come on their own as long as we have content, which we need users to build and maintain.

Detailed Points:

Best small pet for a fairly small space in a bedroom?

This is clearly a recommendation question. The problem with recommendation questions is that the person who's going to be taking care of the animal is the best person to choose an animal they want. Any answers to a pet recommendation question are no better than if the person went through an encyclopedia of animal species.

Part of what we consider with questions, is whether or not the question is useful to anyone, or just the person asking the question. If a person asks a question that's only useful to them, then that question is nothing but noise on our site.

Yes, plenty of people google "What pet should I get?". But no one is going to find an answer that question that applies to them. What they're going to find are lists of animals, and then they're going to decide on what animal they want on their own. Again, nothing more than looking through an encyclopedia.

But the real problem with recommendation questions is that encyclopedias are a bettor format for them. We can't physically host an answer those questions with the format of this site.

Let me break it down to give you an idea of why that is:

  • There are an estimated 1,367,555 species of animals in the world.1
  • Of the estimated 65.976 vertebrates, there are:
    • 5,513 species of mammals.
    • 10,425 species of birds.
    • 9,952 species of reptiles.
    • 7,286 species of amphibians.
    • 32,800 species of fish.
  • Of the estimated 1,305,250 invertebrates, there are:
    • 1,000,000 species of insects.
    • 85,000 species of molluscs.
    • 47,000 species of crustaceans.
    • 2,175 species of corals.
    • 102.248 species of arachnids.
    • 165 species of velvet worms.
    • 4 species of horseshoe crabs.
  • And then there are 68,658 species without any decided classification.

First off, how would we list all those animals?

The answer is that we don't. People only think about a few select species.

So then why, with all these different species of animals to choose from, is it that the answers are only for a select few species?

The answer is that Everyone has a bias.

Normally the bias doesn't matter. If I ask a question about cats, I want someone who spends time with cats to answer it. But with open-ended questions like "What pet should I get" no one is going to take the time to give a comprehensive answer. Partly because no one wants to suggest an animal they know nothing about.

All it leads to a lot of noisy discussion about what animals people like best, and thats something we want to avoid.

Everyone is free to ask for suggestions in the chatroom.

1 ICN Red List

How do I shop for and set up my first fish tank?

The only problem with your question was that you were trying to cram multiple different questions into one, which is against the rules. You had to have known this, otherwise you wouldn't have included your meta-comment about why your question(s) deserved to be an exception.

You broke the rules, I asked you to follow them, you refused, your question got closed. I don't see anything in that process that's broken.

Help! My cat pees on everything!

A question having answers does not designate whether or not a question shouldn't be closed, and it especially doesn't designate whether a question is good.

There will always be someone willing to answer a bad question. That's why it's important to close bad questions early, so that we not only avoid the noise it creates, but we can avoid the arguments of people's questions being closed when they got an answer.

The question was bad because there wasn't enough information to answer it. People don't always include everything that's needed when asking questions, and since we're dealing with live animals, there are many variables we have to deal with. It's created a couple meta discussions, the main one being: What common information should a question poster be expected to provide about their pet?

The answer was upvoted because it's good general advice on what to try to narrow down the problem, but it technically isn't really a solution to the problem, because we don't know what could be causing the problem. Since we don't know what's causing the problem, it's too broad for us to give an answer to, which is why it was closed.

I'm going to re-use the graph I used in this answer to illustrate that we don't have to worry about gaining users. They come on their own. Which means we don't have to accept bad questions in order to gain users.

Site traffic on pets.se

If anything, I think we need to worry less about gaining visitors, and more about gaining users, the ones who will stick around and write good answers to questions. None of which will happen if we hold to the same level of quality as Yahoo Answers. Visitors don't build sites, users do.

Bottom line is, if you think these questions are good questions for the site, I think you would be better off arguing why they're good, and why you think they're answerable, rather than saying that we should keep them because we need to attract users. Because right now, I can't say I see the value in those questions.

  • I like this answer with one exception; We do want to attract visitors, while the users who stay and contribute, keep the site active it is the 4000+ visitors a day we are currently getting who keep the lights on. SE is supported by advertising, and visitors per day pay the bills. Commented Oct 31, 2014 at 11:01
  • @JamesJenkins I made my answer more clear, but I don't think we need to focus on visitors, because visitors will come as long as we have content. But we need users to have content. It's sort of a "If you build it they will come" deal.
    – Spidercat
    Commented Oct 31, 2014 at 14:35
  • I like your change Commented Oct 31, 2014 at 14:37

@MattS. posted http://data.stackexchange.com/pets/revision/241383/315568/question-votes-compared-to-its-views in chat, in response to my request to look at votes in relation to visits.

If the best questions are the ones with the most up votes per visit. Said differently the questions that were up-voted by the largest percentage of people who read the question are presumably the best questions.

THAN: the best questions are the ones most specific to a small well defined group.

Disregarding the the highest one posted (27% approval rating) as it very new at the time of the survey. The questions with the highest approval ratings, are the ones focusing on specific issues relative to a small group.

Questions with 15%+ approval rating all have 100 or less visitors

Questions with 10-15% approval rating have 220 or less visitors

The first question with more than 300 views and a high approval rating is Putting a cat into a carrier with 461 views and 25 votes for an approval rating of 5%, again a very specific scenario

The first question with more than 1000 views is How should I discipline my cat for bad behavior? with 1040 views and 34 votes for a approval rating of 3%

*Where first = highest approval rating per visits

It is clear from this perspective that the best questions are specific and clearly defined not general or undefined questions.

All the questions that attract the most visitors are those with titles that grab peoples attention, the actual content of the question has little to do with attracting visitors. Famous Question & Notable Question

Approval rating on questions with more than 10k views are going to be skewed, but the highest voted Famous Question is Why is my dog drinking his pee after he urinates inside? with 18 votes and 17K visits, again a very specific question with narrow defined parameters.

The example Best small pet for a fairly small space in a bedroom is posted by an OP that has not returned to the site since asking it, there is insufficient information to provided a good answer for the OP, and it is not narrow or focused enough to add value to anyone else.

The example Help! My cat pees on everything! is also posted by an OP that has not returned, it got a quick answer that was very bad, and later a better answer. In hind site, we would have best served the community by putting it on hold sooner.

In conclusion just because a question can be answered, does not mean it adds value to the site or to the OP. Questions that are overly broad or with insufficient detail do not add value to the site, nor do they encourage visitors. I believe your assessment and conclusions in your question (or accusation) is incorrect.

Edit November 3, 2015

Test Question An attempt was made with the question What small pets should I consider for a preteen with limited space? to rephrase the "best small pet" question to narrow the scope as far as possible and make it as answerable as possible; it was rejected by the community (votes from 5 non-moderators) as to broad and opinion based. Note that this question is written by an individual currently in a moderator pro tem position, who has written over 100 question on the site with a vote of 1+.

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