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I just had an old question of mine closed by a moderator with the following comment:

I’m voting to close this question because it was asked a long time ago, and it is likely that an answer is no longer useful to the person who asked the question, or to the general bioinformatics community. Please feel free to edit the question and update it if you feel it's important to get an answer. – 7 hours ago

I then checked the mod's profile and saw that they've actually closed a total of nine questions with the same comment! I'm sure the mod means well, but this is a problem. First, a question's age is irrelevant, questions can be answered at any time and on SE sites we answer for the broader community not for the OP alone. So even if the OP has abandoned the question, that is no reason to assume that nobody else would benefit from an answer. So why would you want to forcibly bar a question from ever being answered?

Perhaps more importantly, there is no rule that says old questions should be closed, so I don't understand by what authority someone would presume to make this choice. Moderators have the ability to single-handedly close questions, but that should only be used for things that are blatantly off topic. Otherwise, it feels like the moderator is just imposing their own preferences and getting to choose what questions stay and what questions are closed. Again, I am sure the mod meant well, but this feels like crossing a very important line.

So, please reopen all of the questions you've closed just for being old. That is not how these sites work, you didn't come to meta to see if this is what the commnunity wants and, in my own opinion, closing such questions actively harms the site for no benefit whatsoever. The most important thing though is that closing such questions is imposing one person's choice on the rest of the community with no discussion or consultation. Please don't do this.

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  • $\begingroup$ +1 It seems unusual and without precedent on other stacks to close a question with net +3 score and no answer. These are usually the kind of questions which should be left open and encouraged to answer, as they represent difficult to answer but useful and well written questions. $\endgroup$
    – user438383
    Jul 4 '21 at 12:59
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    $\begingroup$ @user438383 yes, exactly. All 9 of the questions closed in this way had a net positive score ranging from 3 all the way to 8. $\endgroup$
    – terdon
    Jul 4 '21 at 13:29
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I agree. We should not assume that all old and non-answered questions are not interesting or unnecessary.

However, I also do see that bioinformatics is a fast evolving discipline and some of the unanswered questions are very quickly outdated. I do think it would be handy to have "question is outdated" closing reason. In this example, the OP must have talked about millions of Canu versions ago, it might be still a valid question, but I would not be surprised if Canu would have a completely different job distrbution mechanism. So, I would say in those cases, it would be handy to at least add a version of software people are asing about (but that would be probs the best specified very early on when talking about bugs).

Anyway, my whole point is - there is a fine line between old and outdated and we should try our best to never cross it.

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    $\begingroup$ The main issue is that this sort of thing should be left to the community. Moderators shouldn't close questions just because they're old. In fact, mods should try to avoid closing questions unless they are blatantly off topic since they close with a single vote and therefore don't have any oversight. So if the community wants to close them, fine. But the mods should not. $\endgroup$
    – terdon
    Jul 5 '21 at 17:10
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    $\begingroup$ Next, I would like to see some arguments for what harm such questions do. What benefit is there in deleting them? In your example, maybe it was a bug that has been fixed but maybe it is still a problem today. Unless we know it is no longer relevant, what do we gain by closing the question? Upvoted closed questions won't be deleted, they'll just stay there but cannot be answered. Why not leave them alone and maybe they even get an answer some day? I just don't see the point in closing them even if we did have some rule that would support it. $\endgroup$
    – terdon
    Jul 5 '21 at 17:12
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Bioinformatics Stack Exchange has an existing canned site-specific close reason:

Questions describing a problem that can't be reproduced and seemingly went away on its own (or went away when a typo was fixed) are off-topic as they are unlikely to help future readers.

I used this as a base, and added additional clarification to make it more obvious that it's fine to reopen a question if it seems useful (especially if the question can be improved / updated).

https://bioinformatics.stackexchange.com/help/reopen-questions

These questions were not closed just because they were old; they were closed because they had no answers, and there had been no question activity for a long time. In most cases, there were additional close reasons; I just thought that the above was the most appropriate. If you notice that your question is not getting answered, try here for some inspiration:

https://bioinformatics.stackexchange.com/help/no-one-answers

StackExchange encourages users to keep questions and answers current, in particular by bumping old posts that have no accepted answers. This means that old questions, even if inactive, will still get exposure in the new queue from time to time. Where this exposure doesn't encourage activity, it's an indication to me that the question is not sufficiently relevant to this community. I'm not interested in reopening these unanswered questions (which, to clarify, haven't been touched in years) unless they are modified to update and/or improve the question (or voted on to reopen by multiple users).

My bigger concern is in new questions that are rapidly closed, especially when they are created by new users to the site (e.g. here. I don't like this practise; it leads to anxiety in new users - what's the point of posting if my question won't be good enough for the rapid closers?

Update: After discussion, I have decided to no longer use this canned close reason, as its interpretation is ambiguous. Where questions remain that I closed with this reason (i.e. have not been edited or had a few votes for reopening), I have altered my close reason to one of the non-site-specific reasons and added additional clarification.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for replying. That close reason is for problems that cannot be reproduced (which doesn't apply here) or which went away on their own (again, not applicable). It's for things that only the OP experiences and nobody can reproduce on their machines, suggesting the issue is too specific, or for things that were just simple typos and so unlikely to help future visitors. It isn't in any way about "old" questions. $\endgroup$
    – terdon
    Jul 4 '21 at 15:02
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    $\begingroup$ As you point out, the SE system actually bumps old questions, precisely because they could still be useful! If the community doesn't feel they are relevant, then the community can vote to close them. However, having a mod do so on their own is just that mod imposing their personal take on whether the question is useful. All of the questions you closed were upvoted, meaning that the community found them useful. Just because nobody has been able to answer them doesn't mean that anyone should decide they should never get answered and mod-hammer them closed. Please don't do this. $\endgroup$
    – terdon
    Jul 4 '21 at 15:05
  • $\begingroup$ Finally, the last thing we want to do is encourage users to go and make meaningless edits to old questions and unnecessarily bumping them. That's actually generally frowned upon: that's what the community bot is for. We should edit to make our posts as good as we can, but we are not encouraged to just edit to bump them. So yes, I could offer a bounty, but the rest of the suggestions in "help/no-one-answers" aren't relevant to this situation. $\endgroup$
    – terdon
    Jul 4 '21 at 15:10
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    $\begingroup$ Please reopen these questions. If you really feel so strongly that they should be closed, then take it to meta and try to formulate a rule for this, but please don't do it single-handedly as you have done. Again, I'm sure you feel this is good for the site, but it comes across as though you feel you can ignore the rules and close anything you don't like. I have no doubt that this isn't what you want, but it really comes across that way so again please reopen the questions you closed just because they're old. $\endgroup$
    – terdon
    Jul 7 '21 at 19:25
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    $\begingroup$ I'm sorry gringer, but this really isn't up to you. You can't just say you're not interested in reopening, you are going against well established precedent across all of the SE network and stepping beyond your remit as a mod. This is really, really not cool. I also passed this by some of the other network mods in the Teacher's Lounge, this isn't a mod's job. $\endgroup$
    – terdon
    Jul 8 '21 at 10:20

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