Recently "When to use photos or illustrations in design?" (image of closed question here for historical reference) was closed by 5 high rep (for GD.SE) users including myself for being too opinion based and broad for our site. 4 hours later it was reopened by a single mod without any edits, comments, or discussion. Mods, of course, have this ability as part of their powers.

When should this power of single-handedly reopening be used and should there be any procedure along with using it?

For reference, a comparison for a different way to handle a similar situation is this meta question asked by a mod about the reasoning behind why a particular question was closed.

4 Answers 4


I'm the one who reopened it and I make no apologies for it. To make things clear I didn't discuss it with fellow mods or anyone else. None were on at the time or maybe I would have, but I wasn't going to wait either.

The discussions have already been had. Over and over.

Related Meta Discussions on Opinion Based Questions

So now the answer to your question, when should a mod use their power. When they see fit as PieBie said is the answer. But where PieBie says a discussion should be had and comments left I'll differ and say - a discussion was already had. Furthermore, in the exact example that you mention not one of the 5 people that voted to close it left any comment to the person that asked with a concern about it. Likewise on the question 3 weeks ago (What paper should a design print shop have on hand? whcih led to Why is this question about Paper Selections 'too broad'?) not one person that voted to close came into meta to discuss it.

But what feedback have we received as mods, during the election a number of members encouraged the mods to be more assertive with our moderation abilities.

Well, I saw no reason for the question to be closed. I saw no effort on the part of those closing it to explain why they voted that way. In fact we've been digging into close votes and some people don't even seem to read the questions just mass Open or mass Close (which we're preparing to address on an individual level).

We've already had the conversation about what is on-topic and what isn't. Part of my role as a moderator is to oversee those reasons. Where you see it as overstepping I see it as protecting the years that we've put into this site. Look through the meta - over and over members have wanted more Why questions, more good subjective questions. There are questions I don't agree with - a lot of the questions about automation I don't really think belong here. But the community does so I don't vote to close them, I don't hammer them, I don't even downvote them usually. I let the users that want them have them. If you can't bring yourself to do that regarding questions you don't entirely agree with than I don't think this community is the right place for you.

In summary you're asking why I reopened without discussion. Well there's been discussion I linked to a few of them above. I made one of them featured when I reopened it. The discussions been had. If members chose to ignore those discussions than that's on them. I'm not going to continue to ask the same questions to have fellow mods chime in then none of the non-mods comment and little change. The time for that has long past. It's been made clear that the community would like us moderators to do more because we don't have enough voters. So I stepped up and did. I appreciate that the other mods are stepping in and trying to justify this but at the same time, this isn't on them. It's on me. I did it and I'll tell you what - I fully intend to do it more regularly. I'm tired of fruitless discussions and watching good questions get closed.


We mods understand that it's no fun to overturn y'all's decisions. Especially if five high-rep users gave their opinions, it kind of defeats the point of the 'self-moderation' of this community. That's why we don't like using this tool often, if at all.

It has come to our attention, however, that reviewers regularly are voting to close questions that, even with the broadest interpretations, we can't see as being off-topic. Those votes are only rarely accompanied with comments on the why.

It is this incomprehension that made me start the meta discussion that Zach links to. These are hardly exceptions, we routinely see baffling close reasons on questions that, although a bit rough, could be diamonds with some effort (no pun intended). We are very concerned about this, especially since it happens so often. We lose potentially good or great content for incomprehensible reasons.

Please don't read this as an attempt to turn the blame around. We are honestly puzzled about the -- in our eyes -- inappropriate close reasons for what we see could be great content. It is the frequency of this happening that caused one of us to re-open this particular question without any comment or fanfare. Honestly, if we'd have to make a Meta post for every time this happens, we would have lots of these discussions on meta. That's not good for Meta, and it also creates a delay in the reopening of the question--one in which the Asker very well may have lost interest in their question.

  • This doesn't seem to answer my question - that of how should this power should be used. It instead seems to focus on the current situation at hand, which I'm not addressing in the question (and is for other meta posts if desired) Commented Jun 25, 2017 at 20:41
  • 1
    Maybe it doesn't, but it gives some insight into the how and the why.
    – Vincent
    Commented Jun 25, 2017 at 20:51
  • Besides, a mod is hardly eligible to actually answer this question, right? That would be hypocritical at the very least 😉
    – Vincent
    Commented Jun 25, 2017 at 20:55
  • Given it's a discussion, I should hope that the mods provide input on the subject :P Commented Jun 25, 2017 at 21:59
  • True, but as the objects of the discussion, with our behaviour clearly being criticised by it, we shouldn't steer it.
    – Vincent
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 6:41
  • @Vincent So you're saying the referenced question is not POB? I admit I am coming from Stack Overflow, but a question asking "When should I use X technique" is asking for opinions. Further, if you are noticing a spate of troubling closures, shouldn't you talk to the users in question and get their input, rather than passive-aggressively (and unilaterally) reverting their consensus decisions?
    – TylerH
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 13:21
  • 3
    @TylerH Please bear in mind that we aren't Stack Overflow (and we don't want to be either). Because graphic design (the activity) is only part science in addition to part art, we are way more lenient in accepting opinion-based questions.
    – Vincent
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 13:34
  • 5
    @TylerH: Also the capability of basing such decisions on something other than opinion is the reason why graphic designers can make a living and are not replaced by random-number generators.
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 13:39
  • @Vincent I understand that, of course. Considering it, however, should the verbiage on the close reason for POB questions perhaps change, then? If it's not an accurate representation of your site's policies, and it's clearly causing confusion/concern here, it should be adjusted.
    – TylerH
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 13:56
  • @Wrzlprmft Sure, but it's still an opinion of what technique is better or what picture looks nicer. Any field can fall under that description. Even exact sciences have room for both elegant and clunky solutions.
    – TylerH
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 13:57
  • 1
    @TylerH If you think so, by all means, write a meta post to that effect.
    – Vincent
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 14:09
  • 5
    @TylerH Refering to the question that triggered this, it would be wrong to dismiss it as being a question of opinion or of what "looks nicer". There are objectionable reasons behind making a design decision on using pictorial vs illustrative elements in a project. Applying SO practices to a design stack isn't in anyway useful. It's part of the reason why this stack has become overloaded with Tech Support questions IMO.
    – johnp
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 14:13
  • @Vincent Done graphicdesign.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/3242/…
    – TylerH
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 14:27

When should this power of single-handedly reopening be used and should there be any procedure along with using it?

Just a few points that come to mind:

  • You can't know if the action was really single-handed. A mod action is by its very nature single-handed (since their hammer is very big), that doesn't mean there was no discussion behind the scenes and the other mods (and even other users) don't agree.

  • As to the question of when this power should/could be used: the only correct answer to me seems to be "whenever a mod sees fit". They're elected mods and have this power for a reason.

  • As to whether there should be procedure: I think there already is a procedure. Close votes come in, Q goes to CV queue, mod(s) see this and reopen (hopefully after a discussion). This might not be a procedure you're fine with, but it is a procedure.

All that said, I do agree that this particular case could have been handled a bit better. A simple comment stating that the question was re-opened after a mod discussion, maybe with a link to this meta, would've made things clearer for all concerned.


Obviously different questions and situations call for different responses and determining exactly what should happen is up to the person at the time, but I'd like to see some more transparency from the mods in general.

In cases where it's obvious what questions should be reopened - say a question has been edited well in response to a comment or closure, there's been discussion by those who closed the question and they agreed on reopening it, etc. - mods should be free to reopen a question, no questions asked.

But in cases where it's less clear and cannot be obviously reasoned from the question, revisions, or comments, and it wasn't just the mod closing the question single-handedly in the first place, mods should leave a clarifying comment at the very least, discuss the question in chat, or, if they still don't understand well why a question was closed the way it was, make a meta post about the question's closure before reopening it. That way the community is still involved and it doesn't appear to the community that the mods are single-handedly moving GD in a certain direction.

In any case, the mods should want the community to agree on them, because that will assure that moderation will be consistent and people are more likely to want to help moderate if they understand the site's closure policies. Being more transparent would help the mods have more community support.


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