Gilles has deleted a closed questions with +20 total vote and answers with similarly number of upvotes. I suggest the following polciy:

Moderators should not unilaterally delete closed questions:

  • with positive total vote,
  • questions containing answers with positive total vote.

Also the moderators should undelete the ones they have deleted so far.

Please express your agreement/disagreement about the policy by up/down voting this question.

Related discussions:

  • $\begingroup$ Can you give reasons for your position? As far as I know, there is precisely one such question (ID 1) and Gilles and I agreed that there is no use in keeping around a question that is too broad and whose answers are (apparently) inferior to Wikipedia. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Mod May 17 '12 at 1:07
  • $\begingroup$ @Raphael, see the linked discussion. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh May 17 '12 at 1:08
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    $\begingroup$ ps: I think the is a bit of over-moderation regarding closing/deleting questions at the moment. If you think such a question needs to be deleted you can discuss it on the meta first. If there is a particular kind of question that you believe the community is fine with deleting them then please obtain the opinion of the community about deleting those questions. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh May 17 '12 at 1:21
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    $\begingroup$ The essence of why these questions should not be deleted IMO: 1. they contain useful information (according to the votes by community), 2. authors have put effort to write them, it is disrespectful to them, 3. no one (other than the moderator(s)) has indicated a problem with them staying on the site or a need for deleting them. I don't think the moderators act this way on other similar sites like Mathematics. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh May 17 '12 at 1:27
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    $\begingroup$ I am against deleting closed questions on principle. However, here is a specific case, which Gilles discusses in his answer. 1) is apparently not given, and 2) has never been a good reason: should the results of effort that does not produce anything useful be kept around just for the sake of demonstrating effort? 3) Arguably, Gilles is one of the most experiences SE users around here. I don't know how moderators act on other sites; I don't have the rep there to see deleted questions. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Mod May 17 '12 at 1:33
  • $\begingroup$ @Raphael, different communities have different attitudes, it might make sense to act this way on Stack Overflow, it doesn't mean it makes sense on other sites like Computer Science or Mathematics. See the list of closed questions on Mathematics. Arguably Mathematics is one of the most successful sites on SE network. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh May 17 '12 at 1:38
  • $\begingroup$ Frankly, IMHO, that question was not a great one, despite the votes. For my money, I'd like it to remain deleted... although, and on a completely unrelated note, I've noticed that Gilles seems to be closing/deleting broad questions as too localized, whereas I'd close them as NARQ. $\endgroup$ – Patrick87 May 17 '12 at 3:49
  • $\begingroup$ I can't see the deleted question in this site, but they are some deleted questions on SO like this and this, both of the answers to questions has around +10 (or upper) but deleted, also do not delete because other sites don't do this is not a reason. $\endgroup$ – user742 May 19 '12 at 9:33
  • $\begingroup$ @Saeed, the point is not that no questions should be deleted, it is about unilateral deletion without consulting the community, particularly Gilles thinks that all closed question must be deleted after 2 weeks of no activity and is acting based on this view. He was claiming that this is the general SE rule, I mentioned Mathematics to show that this is not the case on a similar site. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh May 20 '12 at 0:17

Here is another example where useful information is deleted by Gilles. (I was going to refer a user on cstheory to the answer posted here but I can't since it is deleted, and it took me considerable time to find even the deleted post.) Moreover since it is deleted by a moderator other users cannot vote to undelete it.

Let me emphasis that this is not about deleting closed question per se, it is about unilateral deletion by moderators by default without consulting the community.

The arguments for justifying unilateral deletion provided so far are very unconvincing.

If users see a lot of closed questions, they’ll note that we don’t enforce the guidelines, so why should they? Without any final resolution, asking questions that get closed becomes something we are implicitly encouraging — a broken windows problem. If this goes on for long enough, we’re no longer a community of programmers who ask and answer programming questions, we’re a community of random people discussing.. whatever. That’s toxic.

This is a very illogical argument if by guidelines we mean "deletion": to put a bad guideline and then say that we have to enforce it because otherwise the guidelines are not enforced is absurd. If the guideline means not permitting off-topic questions, closure is a sufficient demonstration of that, it is also information for the user who might want to ask similar question, not only it shows that similar questions are not welcome, it tells them why they are not welcome.

If enough of these closed questions are allowed to hang around, they become clutter that reduces the overall signal to noise ratio — which further reduces confidence in the system.

The deletion only occurs after the question have left the front page, so this is not a real issue there. When searching, a user can search for non-closed questions easily using "closed:0" in their search so this is not a problem there either. It is like going over Internet and removing sites that we don't like so the Internet is more "clean".

Another argument which is expressed implicitly is that this is the general rule of SE sites. This is not the case as the Math.SE demonstrates. The guidelines on MSO are generally based on the situation on the trilogy (SO/SU/SF) and may not need to be required or even beneficial to other sites like CS.SE. My perception based, on the previous meta discussions, is that we agree that CS.SE is closer in nature to sites like Math.SE than to SO or cstheory, so if we are going to adopt policies from other sites, then it is more natural to check the policies on Math.SE than on SO.

Here are some arguments for not deleting upvoted posts:

  1. These posts can and do contain useful information (as illustrated by votes), so they make the Internet a better place,

  2. Authors have put effort to write them, it is disrespectful to them to unilaterally delete their posts, (Should I spend my time writing answers if a moderator is going to unilaterally delete it although there isn't anything wrong with my answer?)

  3. No one (other than the moderator) has indicated a problem with them staying on the site, if the post is really harmful to stay on the site then it shouldn't be difficult to convince others users about the deletion.

This automatic deletion of closed posts seems more to be about the personal taste of the moderators and than a required action to help the site.

Since this has resulted in confusion, let me repeat once again that this policy is only about unilateral deletion of upvoted posts by default. The existence of similar, larger, and very successful SE sites like Math.SE where closed questions are not generally deleted puts serious doubt about a real need for this automatic deletion of all closed questions. If a post or a type of post is harmful in general then it shouldn't be difficult to find 5 users to delete the question.

Unilateral deletion of upvoted posts by binding moderator powers should be limited to extreme cases where the community cannot act in time to deal with the issue and should not be a general rule, not highly upvoted posts without any user other than moderators indicating a need for deletion.

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    $\begingroup$ Ah, thank you for finally coming out with arguments. I disagree with them, but having something to disagree with is a step up. First, about your first example: that question's score is -1, 3 members voted to close, it's evidently bad by Stack Exchange standards. The answer does have some merit, and just might work on an on-topic question, but nobody bothered to try to improve the question in a month. If you tell me that you forgot and you're going to edit the question to make it suitable, edit the question and flag for undeletion. $\endgroup$ – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' May 23 '12 at 23:48
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    $\begingroup$ I strongly disagree with your anti-moderator position. Your proposed policy implies that moderators are less trustworthy than non-moderators. If you don't think moderators are doing a good job, this is a different issue, unrelated to the deletion policy. $\endgroup$ – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' May 24 '12 at 0:09
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    $\begingroup$ About #1: closed questions are considered unwelcome on the site, so the only posts worth keeping would be the answers. Answers to off-topic questions are not peer-reviewed (the site lacks the expertise). Answers to non-constructive questions are usually biased, incomplete or pointless. Answers to “NaRQ” are usually incomplete or misclassified. Answers to too-localized questions aren't helping anyone. If you think an answer is worth saving, either edit the question (don't worry about changing it radically if the original is unsuitable for the site) or repost the answer on a proper question. $\endgroup$ – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' May 24 '12 at 0:13
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    $\begingroup$ About #2: While authors make most of the worth of the site, they are not the only consideration. Authors are welcome to reposting the content elsewhere (on another question, on another website, …). Not answering unsuitable questions guarantees that your answer won't be deleted for this reason. If you disagree with a closure, object to the closure, not to the deletion. $\endgroup$ – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' May 24 '12 at 0:15
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    $\begingroup$ About #3: All the posts on this thread currently have a score between -1 and 1. This is not me against the rest of the world (namely, you and Dave). $\endgroup$ – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' May 24 '12 at 0:18
  • $\begingroup$ In my answer, I explain why deleting these questions was a “required action to help the site”. The main point is my response to #1 above: answers to unsuitable questions are not reliable, the site is better without them. $\endgroup$ – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' May 24 '12 at 0:20
  • $\begingroup$ @Gilles, well, I did express these arguments before, but I guess having a post is a better. :) (I wasn't thinking about editing the question, so no, I haven't forgotten, but I will edit it since I think this can be a useful question for others who might have similar questions.) $\endgroup$ – Kaveh May 24 '12 at 0:34
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    $\begingroup$ going back to the general issue, I don't think moderators are less trust worthy, but that also doesn't mean other users are less trust worthy. (I have stated similar views in the post regarding moderators being able to act as normal users in the MSO post.) The general moderation theory of SE (which I like a lot personally) AFAIU is that the sites should be moderated by the community and moderators are there to intervene when there is problem. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh May 24 '12 at 0:40
  • $\begingroup$ In Jeff's words: "But what do community moderators do? The short answer is, as little as possible!". Trusting other users means that we should trust them in making decisions also. The binding moderator powers should be used only in clear cut cases and also when it is required and community can't deal with it. (When deciding a policy it is better to count the votes on the main post for various reasons, for that reason I have stated that explicitly in the question. My comment was a reply to your comment above.) $\endgroup$ – Kaveh May 24 '12 at 0:51
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    $\begingroup$ I will respond to the counterargument later. ps: another quote from Jeff's moderation theory post that I like: "Even with active community self-regulation, moderators occasionally need to intervene. Moderators are human exception handlers, there to deal with those (hopefully rare) exceptional conditions that should not normally happen, but when they do, they can bring your entire community to a screaming halt — if you don’t have human exception handling in place." $\endgroup$ – Kaveh May 24 '12 at 0:54
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    $\begingroup$ I too prefer the hands-off approach to moderation and let the community do the job. It works well at CSTheory, and it surely will work well here too. $\endgroup$ – Dave Clarke May 24 '12 at 7:52
  • $\begingroup$ @DaveClarke, Kaveh: In my experience the community very rarely manages to delete any answer. Going through candidate posts is boring, and I prefer to do it once in a month or so; with the very limited number of votes per day, this is not workable, to the point where I don't bother, even on Unix & Linux where I have more delete votes than most people on SE 2.0 sites. For all but the worst posts (which are often deleted too fast by the 20kers), non-moderator deletion doesn't happen. $\endgroup$ – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' May 24 '12 at 19:05
  • $\begingroup$ Question, you mean. $\endgroup$ – Dave Clarke May 24 '12 at 19:06
  • $\begingroup$ I do not strongly disagree with your post, Kaveh, but I agree with Gilles' response(s) more. The observation that "The Community" will rarely take drastic action is, sadly, true, especially on new sites. Therefore, I think decisive moderator action is ok, and especially so on new sites (where relatively many can see deleted posts). Gilles' comments about nobody caring enough about the questions to edit and vote to unclose (not even the answerer!) are dead-on. Nobody cares to vote for deletion of obviously useless posts, either. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Mod May 25 '12 at 14:55
  • $\begingroup$ One consequence I can think of is to ask for a new notification "A post you answered/upvoted has been closed. Do you want to save it?" $\endgroup$ – Raphael Mod May 25 '12 at 15:36

I agree that the approach to deleting questions should be much less aggressive. Furthermore, deletion (except in the case of obvious junk and spam) should not be a unilateral decision.

Closed is not the same as (eventually) Deleted.

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    $\begingroup$ Closed (not as duplicate) generally implies eventually deleted. Please read blog.stackoverflow.com/2009/01/adventures-in-delclusionism and blog.stackoverflow.com/2009/04/… . If you think CS.SE should depart from the general policy, the onus is on you to justify why we should behave differently. $\endgroup$ – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' May 18 '12 at 13:20
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    $\begingroup$ As far as I can tell, you are the only one in favour of deleting questions on this site. There are certainly others on this site against it, based on the comments above. $\endgroup$ – Dave Clarke May 18 '12 at 18:48
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    $\begingroup$ As far as I can tell, you and Kaveh oppose deleting questions as a matter of principle, without consideration for the goal of making the site a better place for questions and answers about computer science, which last I looked was the purpose of the site. This is an argument I've seen happen elsewhere on Stack Exchange, mostly on Meta Stack Exchange. In these arguments, I've never seen a good justification for not deleting most closed questions. But if you think you do have good arguments, please share them. So far all you've said is “go against the accepted wisdom because I say so”. $\endgroup$ – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' May 19 '12 at 8:13
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    $\begingroup$ @Gilles, so far the post has received 4 upvotes and 4 down votes. That mean 5 agree and 4 disagree. It also seems that from those 4 disagreeing users, 3 are moderators and the other one has misunderstood the policy (based on the comment he has posted). $\endgroup$ – Kaveh May 23 '12 at 21:45
  • $\begingroup$ I agree with Kaveh and Dave. If a question (or answer) has been upvoted, the community has expressed the opinion that the question (or answer) makes the site a better place. By definition. $\endgroup$ – JeffE May 24 '12 at 21:10
  • $\begingroup$ @JeffE: I would challenge that interpretation for small vote counts. Even junk answers and questions get numerous upvotes sometimes (arguably by users who share the same misconcepetion about a site's scope, or just because the question/answer is cool/funny/etc.). Other than that, what to do with junk questions with good answers (assuming those exist)? SE is not built to keep answers without questions around. As long as nobody improves the question, as far as the SE model is concerned the post has to go. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Mod May 25 '12 at 14:59
  • $\begingroup$ @JeffE: I can see one alternative: if the answer has outstanding worth, incorporate it in a tag wiki if appropriate. I expect that to be a good solution only rarely. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Mod May 25 '12 at 15:00
  • $\begingroup$ @Raphael: So don't delete the question, then. (Are you short on disk space or something? Here, have a dollar.) $\endgroup$ – JeffE May 25 '12 at 20:55
  • $\begingroup$ @JeffE: Deletion does not even free disk space. See Gilles' posts for reasons why crap questions should vanish for good. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Mod May 25 '12 at 20:58
  • $\begingroup$ @Raphael: I've read Gilles' explanations; I just don't find them convincing. (In particular, "leaving bad content around reduces the signal-to-noise ratio" ignores the significantly more common good content that is also left around.) It's not so much Bad Content Must Be Deleted that I object to, but the attitude that a closed question is Bad Content even if it has upvoted answers. If the community votes an answer up, that answer should not be deleted, even if the upvotes are for "stupid" reasons, and yes, even if the question has been closed. $\endgroup$ – JeffE May 25 '12 at 21:15
  • $\begingroup$ @Raphael: tl;dr: The community's stated opinions should outweigh the moderators'. $\endgroup$ – JeffE May 25 '12 at 21:17

I agree with Gilles that most closed questions should be deleted after some time: they have little value. However, there may be exceptions. That is in my opinion not enough to change the default behaviour, but it should be considered. Therefore, I have a proposal to make.

It takes five users (with high reputation) to vote a question to deletion. Based on our current average level of involvement, I think it is unlikely that this ever happens even for questions that should clearly be deleted. We have three moderators right now, that is 60% of the necessary votes could be made by moderators without community involvement. As, arguably, the moderators are among the most trusted community members, a decision that has a majority among moderators should be acceptable for the community (individual dissenters notwithstanding). So, my proposal:

Every four weeks, we post a meta question to decide which closed questions of five to eight weeks ago should be deleted.

This question would have a fixed and relatively small expiration date. This does the following for us.

  1. It establishes a predictable time frame in which questions can be salvaged (at least four weeks).
  2. It gives ample opportunity to do so.
  3. Decision is not made by a single person; everybody can participate.

In the case that it is decided a question should not be deleted, those who want to keep it are responsible for improving the question. If that does not happen until the next meeting, the question is deleted without further discussion.

  • $\begingroup$ I am sure that over time, unwritten guidelines would merge that would allow moderators to delete many questions without discussion. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Mod May 25 '12 at 15:11
  • $\begingroup$ I like the idea of this policy. It's in fact something I'd like to happen everywhere, at least until the site that becomes too large to sustain it: drawing attention to closed questions could get them reopened, which is a benefit. I don't think the specifics you propose are optimal: I would favor a meta post every M days (M=30?) with a list of posts closed more than C days ago (C=15?); after a D-day discussion period (D=7?), all posts that have not been salvaged (by reopening, typically after editing) are deleted. $\endgroup$ – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' May 25 '12 at 17:58
  • $\begingroup$ @Gilles: I'd really prefer to do that in the chat, and in the time frame of an hour or so. If you can't make it, sent us the questions you want kept beforehand. We could a list of links to chat transcripts around in a dedicated thread. In particular, one reason for such a meeting is that I think it would be a good idea in any case, that is for mods and involved users to come together and discuss assorted (meta) things. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Mod May 25 '12 at 20:23
  • $\begingroup$ @Gilles: But certainly rather a meta-thread solution than none. I just think that it is too much overhead. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Mod May 25 '12 at 20:24
  • $\begingroup$ I don't want to do it in chat, it requires everybody to be available at the same time. If you want to hold a chat event, why not, but it shouldn't be cluttered with minutiae discussions such as whether to delete specific questions. $\endgroup$ – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' May 25 '12 at 20:25
  • $\begingroup$ @Gilles: Fair enough. I guess we can always discuss controverse deletion-candidates in chat if necessary. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Mod May 25 '12 at 20:28
  • $\begingroup$ By the way, we had a meta thread somewhat like that on Science Fiction & Fantasy, when we cleaned up a kind of questions which we'd declared off-topic: Culling list and recommendation questions $\endgroup$ – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' May 25 '12 at 20:30

We already had a discussion about this specific question. The outcome of the discussion was this question is not useful as is, and should be improved or removed. There were follow-up discussions in chat too. The author of the question agreed that the question was not useful and could not be salvaged.

If you approach this issue from first principles instead of policies, this particular question asked for a general explanation on the subject of a Wikipedia article. Said Wikipedia article is markedly better than the answer produced by our community. Thus having the thread on the site made the site and the Internet worse, by distracting from the existing, better material. Even if a better answerer should come later, that person would serve the Internet better by improving the Wikipedia article.

We have also already had a discussion about question deletion. As I wrote there, it is the general policy on Stack Exchange to delete closed questions (duplicates excepted) if it becomes clear that they will not be reopened.

Your proposed policy would lead to keeping bad content around. It would be harmful for the site.

Moderators need not be singled out regarding question closure or deletion. Since moderators' votes are binding, they must only act in clear cases, but that does not imply that they should refrain from doing their job to maintain the site both as community members and moderators.

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    $\begingroup$ And rather, all other users (with the necessary rep) should participate in cleaning up by voting thus. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Mod May 17 '12 at 1:30
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    $\begingroup$ As I expressed in the other thread I don't see how it is harmful to the site. I haven't seen this behavior on similar sites like Mathematics. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh May 17 '12 at 1:31
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    $\begingroup$ @Kaveh I've already explained why keeping closed questions around is harmful. I know some sites behave differently, but I see no reason to imitate them. $\endgroup$ – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' May 17 '12 at 1:36
  • $\begingroup$ A closed question might not be alive but it doesn't mean it is not useful or it is harmful. If you think they are harmful then please explain what real harm they are doing. It is easy to search for non-closed questions and their closure makes it clear that the policy is enforced. To be clear, I am not saying no such question should be deleted, I am saying that this should not be done based on the personal preferences of the moderators and the general community should be involved. If you think keeping a particular question or type of question is harmful then discuss it with the community $\endgroup$ – Kaveh May 17 '12 at 1:40
  • $\begingroup$ and the community agrees then delete them. This is more true about question where the votes indicate that the community finds the information in the question/answer useful. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh May 17 '12 at 1:46
  • $\begingroup$ @Kaveh Again, please read the two meta threads that I linked. $\endgroup$ – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' May 17 '12 at 1:48
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    $\begingroup$ I have read them: the second one is about closing/opening not deleting and I don't have a point against that, in fact I have upvoted your post. Regarding the first one, as I said above, I don't think the things you have mentioned are really harmful. But I will reread them again to make sure I am not missing anything. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh May 17 '12 at 1:57

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