Yesterday I asked the question: Should either the area or the length of a square be proportional to the data that is being visualized?. Today I wake up to find it has two close votes.

I am so disappointed. Through spending time on the site and reading this meta-site I am aware how desperate we are for questions about design that are not of the form How do I do X with Adobe Y? For example my previous question, Fitting an object to an artboard in Adobe Illustrator, was exactly like them and I feel a bit guilty when I ask those kind of questions. So I'd been hoping that a more general more principled question would crop up in my work and I was delighted when it did.

But no - at least two people think my question should be closed.

How on earth can we encourage people like me to ask questions about general design principles when such questions receive close votes?

  • 3
    Well yes ive noticed that the community has been a bit trigger happy lately.
    – joojaa
    Apr 22, 2015 at 14:22

3 Answers 3


I was as surprised as you were to see close votes on this question. This is indeed the kind of content we want to encourage, judging by our current on-topic definition.

The close votes aren't al bad, though. First, remember they are just votes: a question needs five of them to actually be closed.

Moreover, one of the votes was for 'unclear what you're asking', possibly a user who had a similar problem with your question to the one I had initially--misunderstanding or misreading it.

To actually answer you question: the best way to keep encouraging 'people like you' to post and answer questions like these, is upvote them, upvote the answers and disagree with any close votes. you can disagree with a close vote (not on your own questions) by reviewing the 'close votes' review queue.

  • Can one take back close.votes by the way?
    – joojaa
    Apr 22, 2015 at 12:44
  • 1
    @joojaa yes, but you can't vote again after unless the question is closed/reopened. There might also be a timer until you can reissue the vote (weeks - months) if it doesn't get closed/reopened in the meantime. The same applies to reopen votes I think.
    – Dom
    Apr 22, 2015 at 12:54

I think the close votes were probably more to do with the question's clarity. I read it at least 3 times before I really got what you were asking.

I think close votes based on clarity should try to give some advice towards what they're unable to understand, but we can't force users to spend that time.

I voted to leave open anyway.

Personally, I too feel discouraged by close votes, especially when they pile on thick and fast. But, on the flip side, you could just see it as a fault of the question, and try to improve your explanation as much as possible.

If you want me to help you rephrase it with an edit, comment on this post and I'll give it a go as soon as I can. :)

  • 5
    I personally think if users aren't prepared to take the time to give some advice about what they couldn't understand, they probably didn't try very hard to understand the question in the first place, and they shouldn't be voting to close. Apr 22, 2015 at 14:00
  • 2
    Agreed, some close votes appear quite quickly after a question is asked, and sometimes with no comments on the post at all yet. My number one rule is pretty much 'Try to put myself in the OPs shoes before taking an action or giving a comment, how will they feel about this?', as well as basing on what's already occurred before my actions.
    – Dom
    Apr 22, 2015 at 14:16
  • 1
    people seem to use closing as a proxy for downvoting because it is free.
    – joojaa
    Apr 22, 2015 at 14:21
  • 1
    @joojaa that's an interesting point. The line is getting a bit blurry. For example, both down votes and close votes are used for questions that don't show any research effort. Perhaps it needs to be addressed and a distinction better defined.
    – Dom
    Apr 22, 2015 at 14:26
  • @joojaa downvoting Qs is free, as well.
    – Vincent
    Apr 23, 2015 at 6:49

I find your question to be difficult to understand and unclear. I however didn't Close Vote it.

Here's my feeling:

Area = Length x Width

So, your question isn't clear to me because Area and Length of Squares are proportional to one another. If either is proportional to your datum then the other must be. There is no way to have a Length::Datum without also having an Area::Datum.

Something is missing in the way you worded it.

That said I've repeatedly spoken out about Close Votes being given so hastily and really believe many users are so set on Upvoting and "welcoming" people they don't use the Downvote correctly. Your question, if anything, is more warranting a Downvote or two. Downvoting states:

This question doesn't show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful

That I could agree with. You didn't really explain what you've tried and why it didn't work, you didn't provide any sources of information you researched before asking... and while I think it might have the potential to be useful in the current wording as I explained than to me it is unclear.

But unfortunately because of the Rep system many SE users think they're doing the community a favor by Close Voting instead of Downvoting.

  • 2
    Agree.. it was unclear to me as well.
    – Scott
    Apr 22, 2015 at 16:57
  • 1
    Yeah. I must agree It makes no sense to close something without downvoting. Unless you think the question should be migrated. And for gods sake if you downvote comment so the OP can rectify the situation.
    – joojaa
    Apr 23, 2015 at 6:54
  • No. For a square the length equals the width and so your formula becomes Area = Length x Length and thus doubling the length leads to a fourfold increase in area. They are not proportional: increasing the length of a square by a factor of n increases the area of the square by a factor of n squared. Perhaps you are thinking of a rectangle, though the question is very explicitly about squares?
    – dumbledad
    Apr 23, 2015 at 6:58
  • I wasn't sure how to show research effort. I was pretty sure that I needed to use area instead of length but my reasoning was mathematical and did not seem appropriate on the site. I was hoping for (and received!) answers that filled in the design side of the choice. I thought about including my failed Google searches to show my existing research but in the past that's proved counter productive.
    – dumbledad
    Apr 23, 2015 at 7:04
  • @dumbledad now I'm no math genius but, "length leads to a fourfold increase in area" is a proportion from everything I know. Area=Length*Length as an argument is just silly when it could also be A=LW or A=WW, given that L=W in order for it to be a square. What variable you want to use is irrelevant.
    – Ryan
    Apr 23, 2015 at 7:38
  • OK, what variable name would you choose to describe the length of a side of a square? Whatever name we choose, 'fred' say, if we double fred the resulting area goes up fourfold. Changes in fred are not proportional to the resulting changes in the square's area.
    – dumbledad
    Apr 23, 2015 at 8:26
  • @dumbledad do you not get that it's irrelevant?
    – Ryan
    Apr 23, 2015 at 8:37
  • The essential thing is that the length of the side of a square is not proportional to the area of the square. I completely agree that what variable name you choose to call the length of a side of a square is irrelevant, unless it causes you to assume (incorrectly) that the length of the side of a square is proportional to the area of the square (as it would be for a rectangle).
    – dumbledad
    Apr 23, 2015 at 8:44
  • When you say "Area and Length of Squares are proportional to one another" that is just not true (for a square).
    – dumbledad
    Apr 23, 2015 at 8:46
  • @dumbledad I need to try and get back to sleep so won't be replying after this for a while but -- answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100203000230AA945jA
    – Ryan
    Apr 23, 2015 at 8:53
  • Exactly - as that answer points out "area is directly proportional to x^2" i.e. the area of a square is directly proportional to the square of its sides, not just the length of the side, the length squared. That's what "^2" means in the answer you cite. Anyway, I hope this doesn't give you bad dreams - sleep well.
    – dumbledad
    Apr 23, 2015 at 8:55
  • 2
    This question was 100% clear for me, because I work in this branch of design. It's a very well-known issue in info design, the title alone was enough to recognise what was being asked about. Sometimes I see questions in branches of design that I'm not a specialist in, and I have trouble understanding the question: but I don't vote to close them, I leave them for the people who do understand. No-one's an expert on everything. Apr 23, 2015 at 10:27
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    p.s. Ryan, in answer to your confusion, to put it mathematically it's between Length = Datum, therefore Area = Datum squared vs Area = Datum, therefore length = square root of datum. Yes, there's a relationship in both, it's linear relationship vs exponential relationship, 1-2-3-4 vs 1-4-9-16, straight line on a graph vs smooth curve on a graph. Apr 23, 2015 at 10:31

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