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Recently a question was closed because it was "a very basic one", "lacking own work". It was asking how a problem could be undecidable while it had a nice characterization. I thought this was a question with a twist, and it made me smile. It is like the questions I get while lecturing, when you think "ah! here I should have added a warning". With problems like this own work does not help much, it is a basic "aha" which needs just a nodge in the good direction.

At the same time we are all happily answering totally utterly boring questions like TM's for $a^ib^j$ ($j>i$) which I think indeed show a very basic lack understanding of what is possible with a TM.

So, I think sometimes people are treated a little harsh here.

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  • $\begingroup$ It seems I misread the question; sorry for that. I'm reopening. As for the other example you link, that one should have been closed. We have been closing many of that kind and I think we should continue to do so. You yourself can cast these votes, you know! $\endgroup$ – Raphael Jan 4 '14 at 18:36
  • $\begingroup$ @Raphael Great, thanks! The "vote for reopen" gave no place for any arguments, so I had to start a discussion here. Sorry. $\endgroup$ – Hendrik Jan Jan 4 '14 at 22:19
  • $\begingroup$ No need to say sorry, that's exactly how things are supposed to work! (I was referring to close-voting on the question you thought should have been closed.) $\endgroup$ – Raphael Jan 5 '14 at 16:51
  • $\begingroup$ No need to berate other questions to make your point. Comes off as hypocritical. $\endgroup$ – Patrick87 Jan 17 '14 at 23:33
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I agree with you and Raphael that the first question should not have been closed as "too basic", and I think Raphael has provided a perfectly reasonable explanation and response. Hey, we're all human.

That said, the first question has other.. blemishes and could be improved. One problem is that the question doesn't give any indication of why the author thinks that "we can test for regularity using the Myhill–Nerode theorem". This is a sign that the author hasn't put in as much effort as he/she could have (he/she should have tried working out the details, and then maybe he/she would have figured out the answer for himself/herself), and it also forces answerers to try to guess what might have been in the author's mind.

In general, when you see a question that you think should not have been closed, here are some constructive things you can do:

  • Editing the question to improve the question to address any comments it has gotten and any plausible, anticipable misunderstandings and to make it more useful to others.

  • Cast a re-open vote.

  • Post here to ask others to cast re-open votes.

  • If it was closed by a moderator and you think that was in error, flag it for moderator attention.

Obviously, you've done the third. Obviously, everything worked out fine in the end. Just mentioning other constructive actions one can take, for others who may be reading this, in case they find it helpful in the future. In particular, I encourage you to consider editing questions to improve them, if you see a question that you don't think should have been closed. That can be very helpful.


All in all, I'm not persuaded we treat people too harshly. Very occasionally we make a mistake, but generally the process seems to be self-correcting, and I think we get it right the overwhelming majority of the time. And hey, no process will ever be perfect. So I don't think we have a major problem; I think we get the balance about right. Just my opinion.

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for that list! Let me add that users with enough rep can access the review tools (see top bar). It has a Reopen queue where all questions with at least one reopen vote end up. Therefore, opening a meta thread to call attention to a question may not be necessary at all (right away). $\endgroup$ – Raphael Jan 10 '14 at 9:37

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