Lately we had this question which at this moment has 3 reopen votes and had 4 when I looked a few days ago.

It was unilaterally closed by Robert Cartaino and despite me flagging it twice, it wasn't reopened because he thinks it is not on topic.

Flag 1:

I'm nominating this question to be reopened (and would like a mod vote to offset the mod close vote) - we have taken questions about internet services relating to patents in the past. Imho it's not exactly about licensing but rather about services around patents - which would be a gray area. Plus, this site has changed in the last years, I think the community should decide if this question is closed or not. Best regards – DonQuiKong May 23 at 21:43 helpful

Flag 2:

My last flag here asking for a reopen vote was marked helpful, but nothing happened - I feel like I should ask again now. This question was closed with one moderator vote and now has four reopen votes. The community seems to think this should be allowed as a question, but we don't have enough voters. But you are clearly outvoted and I think the decision if something is on topic shouldn't be made by a single moderator against the community. So I respectfully ask you to vote to reopen the question – DonQuiKong Jun 2 at 9:20 declined - I don't believe this type of service is on topic nor within the spirit of this site.

I am totally fine with different opinions to what's on topic here, but my understanding of moderation on Stack Exchange is that the community should decide. A similar topic has had quite some attention on meta:

Add a way for moderators to cast a normal, non binding close/open vote

I'm now making this a patents-meta post instead of flagging it again because I'd like to continue this discussion.

@RobertCartaino: I don't think you should unilaterally close questions which might or might not be on topic. It's good that you do that for questions which are blatantly off topic, but imho the rest should be left to us.

So I propose that casting the last close vote to get us to five is okay, but if a question gets 3 or 4 reopen votes you should aslo retract your close vote - by reopening. Even if you don't agree.

This also goed d'accord with my understanding of the theory if moderation which says

Keep the site reasonably on topic by closing, migrating, or removing blatantly off-topic questions.

@All: What do you think, should we decide what's on topic, even if the FAQ, the help page or a mod disagrees? After all, this page never went through Area 51 and it kinda feels like we're still at some beta phase, so why not act like it?


I know you're asking about the bigger picture, but let's look at that specific question for a moment. I closed the question; I felt was off topic. It was not about the patent process but asking for a service that watchdogs unlicensed use of products/technology. Maybe I got it wrong, but if we're looking to "let the community decide", the community must agree with me because <tongue-in-cheek> nobody up-voted this meta post, nor did they vote to re-open that question.

<Wait, what?>

Of course, the red herring in that ↑ last statement is there IS no functional community on this site to speak of (to close or re-open posts). Unfortunately, SE simply willed this site into existence without first enlisting the support of a community to build it. That has never worked before… and it did not here.

There are no patent or government authorities behind this system and just about everyone we enrolled to operate this site is long gone. Without a functional community, I think we should have closed this site. But instead I was asked to unilaterally maintain this site absent any community self- moderation.

Unfortunately, this shell of a support system continues to pull in unsuspecting patent searchers looking for help. But the real travesty is when that rare, motivated, well-meaning user stumbles across this site expecting it to work like Stack Exchange. Sometimes they expend considerable efforts trying to make this site work, only to be abhorred that I'm doing all the moderation of a (non-existent) community unilaterally and want me to stop. This comes up every few months and it's always a contentious disappointment.

If you want me to abrogate that responsibility, I think the next step is to close this site. Frankly, the level of monitoring needed to watch every post to see if the community might close it first is simply disproportionate to the amount of time I'm supposed to allocate to this site. In the vast, vast, vast majority of cases, the question is asked and the author never returns. New posts typically get 10 views, 8 views, 35 views, 7 views, 10 views, 6 views in the opening days — so I end up watching and waiting and inevitably circling back to close the post. Meanwhile, the flags pile up… and I'm always on edge hoping someone isn't expending real efforts on a post that is ultimately off topic.

It's not really fair to anyone involved. I get that.

Incidentally, I know you are asking about the bigger picture, but it is completely appropriate to question the actions taken on a post. I may not agree with the flag, but unfortunately we will never have any kind of quorum to "let the community decide."

  • Thanks for the answer. I mostly agree - but in this case the question did have 4 reopen votes, which imho is something like a community decision. Is there no way to refer this site "back" (I know it was never there) to area 51? – DonQuiKong Jun 13 '17 at 18:48
  • @DonQuiKong I requested to close this site many times in favor of (hopefully) a more comprehensive and healthy scope development. Each time I was told no, so that's where we're at. – Robert Cartaino Jun 13 '17 at 18:55
  • Well, thanks for explaining the bigger picture. Oh and I'll keep trying to reopen such questions when I think they should be on-topic, hope you don't mind ;) – DonQuiKong Jun 13 '17 at 21:02
  • @DonQuiKong I appreciate the opportunity to get some air under this issue. It comes up a lot. – Robert Cartaino Jun 13 '17 at 21:40
  • I agree with @DonQuiKong. At the very least your reason for closing the question was incorrect. My criteria (and I admit I'm more lenient than most) is that if the question with a sufficient answer has some useful information content for the users, I tend to allow it even if it is slightly off topic. – Eric S Jun 22 '17 at 1:34

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