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Consider a run-of-the-mill closed question. Not an egregious case like spam or nonsense or a repost, and not a duplicate that should remain on the site. The question should eventually be deleted, assuming it is not reopened.

How long should we hold on before deleting the question? Considerations include:

  • Giving enough time for the asker or someone else to edit the question (to reword an unclear question, focus on the how rather than the what to make it constructive, etc.).
  • Giving enough time for the asker to realize the question is closed, to find out why (through the close reason, the comments, etc.), to recover the text of the question, etc. (Remember that askers cannot access their deleted questions, unless they have 10k reputation and have saved the link.)
  • Giving enough time for dissent to the closure to be voiced through reopen votes, comment, a meta thread, etc., and for the disagreement if any to be resolved.
  • Not waiting forever — the question should be deleted if it remains closed forever.

Note that this question is not about whether we should delete closed questions, but about how long to wait between closure and deletion. I found some tangentially related threads here on Meta: Why do I have to wait before nominating a question for deletion? ; Put a time window on deleted questions before performing the delete . Nothing very helpful.

I've seen extremes being practiced. On SO I often see questions that are deleted within minutes of their closure, without giving the time for the asker to notice the closure (and the occasional extreme case of a deletion without closure). On other sites where I'm a moderator, I've been told that two weeks wasn't enough. I think the right balance lies somewhere in between, but I haven't been able to find any policy discussion.

I hope that we can converge on a policy on how long a question should remain closed before being deleted. So: how long should we wait? Why?

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6-8 weeks! Sorry, it's obligatory. –  animuson Jul 4 '12 at 22:16
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@animuson Yes, but no, wrong application of the meme: 6–8 weeks is when creating something. Burninations and other major acts of destruction are immediate. –  Gilles Jul 4 '12 at 22:18
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Before the 60 days are up –  random Jul 4 '12 at 22:18
    
I'm a strong advocate of "be nice", but also be firm! On SO, the site has so much traffic that moderators have to make snap judgements, and if a mod becomes familiar enough with the outcome of a certain class of questions, he/she may remove it. On other sites, mods can take a more hands-off approach and spend more time guiding users at the bottom of the not constructive/NARQ curve. –  jmort253 Jul 4 '12 at 22:41
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Reminder: Don't delete duplicates, especially if they have answers worth saving. –  Shogging through the snow Jul 4 '12 at 23:15
    

4 Answers 4

up vote 16 down vote accepted

I hope that we can converge on a policy on how long a question should remain closed before being deleted.

For the majority of users able to vote for deletion, there's an enforced waiting period of two days. For things so bad they need to be deleted sooner, there are spam/offensive flags (and moderators).

Two days is a pretty good waiting period. If you're looking at a question that's been closed for two days, and no one is making any obvious efforts to fix the problems that led it to be closed, in most cases you should vote to delete. Or make a serious effort to fix it yourself.

The usual exception of don't delete duplicates, especially when they have answers worth saving apply.

20K users don't need to wait, but... In most cases, they probably should. Hopefully, they've learned a bit of discretion in the time it took them to amass that.

Of course, some questions should go away as quickly as possible. Very Low Quality (== complete garbage) questions, blatantly off-topic questions ("How do I cook a fish in a dishwasher as a writer?" posted on SO), trolling, spam, etc.

Unfortunately, this whole discussion ends up being a bit silly, because there's currently no /review tool for finding posts that've had their two-day grace period and are now eligible for deletion, and the 10K tool went away a while back. We should probably add a new one.

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Thank you for bringing up the (lack of) a /review tool for closed posts, Shog9. That's the only stumbling block I have with waiting to delete. As a 20ker, I run across plenty of just-closed questions that I'm pretty darn sure are never going to be improved, but it feels rude to vote-to-delete right away. I do sometimes anyway, pushing the buck onto the third vote to wait - I'm not going to maintain a personal queue of maybe I should delete later questions. I used the /review tool a bunch, when it was available to 10kers. –  Michael Petrotta Jul 5 '12 at 2:03

Taking the obvious cue from the blog post about keeping inflated senses of reputation intact:

First, if you’ve contributed something worthwhile to the site, you should keep the reputation for that even if it eventually gets deleted. “Worthwhile” here is defined as,

  • A score of 3 or greater
  • Visible on the site for at least 60 days

So it behooves us all to delete closed questions inside the 60 day mark. Two months is fairly long in the tooth now and we'll place that at the upper limit. Anything older is either junk or forgotten junk.

Original asker engagement

On the short end, take a look at the last seen date of the person asking. Give the asker a couple of days to come back and see their question in the ICU of closed questions. If they add a new post elsewhere on the site they no longer care about the closed question. Delete when enough votes have been collected or the hammer comes down.

Edits to clarify or steer it back

A week sounds about right, maybe two depending on the traffic/velocity of reopen votes available from users. The edit should either give it the shot it needs or clear up the fact that it doesn't need to stick around. In which case, again, peek at their last seen. Make sure it comes after the last activity on the question so that the community doesn't appear that harsh. And then smother with pillow whenever it's ripe for the looking at.

Based on question or answer votes

Disregard this false meter.

If no user is going to bother crafting the post to fit the scope and instead are just going to throw a star and an upvote, then they've done the most they're going to. Wait for the meta cage-rattling later on where they'll cite the votes and ignore the fact that stagnant waters breed malaria.

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Perhaps deletions triggered by delete votes should be automatically delayed if a week hasn't passed, while mod deletes still take place immediately. A "This question will be deleted in 3 days" notice type thing. –  Matthew Read Jul 4 '12 at 23:04
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@MatthewRead This sounds like Put a time window on deleted questions before performing the delete which didn't get a good reception. –  Gilles Jul 4 '12 at 23:50

I agree that immediate deletion after a closure is a bit extreme. I do try to reserve that action for the egregious cases that you mentioned. Two weeks, on the other hand, seems like plenty of time for people to react to a closure. If the OP doesn't care enough about their question to even notice within 14 days that it's been closed, then I think deleting it is perfectly reasonable. If it gets edited (and bumped) and still doesn't get enough reopen votes within two weeks (after the edit timestamp), I'd say the community has had a fair chance at salvaging it.

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I think it should depend on the reason for closure, and the quality of the post.

  • If it's a question of the one-line, throw-away type -- I'm learning Javascript, can you recommend any good tutorials? -- then I don't see any reason why it shouldn't be deleted immediately (or maybe an hour grace period). The questioner should have no trouble re-formulating such a question if they like.
  • If it's an unusually well thought-out and articulated question, with research to back it up and so forth (but closed for being not constructive), then obviously it shouldn't be thrown in the dumpster. I could imagine a reasonable allowance of up to a week, for the chance for feedback to be submitted and digested, and the question to be re-formulated.
  • For average questions -- you know the kind, not great but with some thought behind them -- I think 24 hours is a reasonable amount of time to allow the questioner to circle back and edit the question.

In the latter two cases, I think it would be nice, if possible, to give the person fair warning that their question/post stands to be deleted.

Edit Just wanted to clarify-- this answer is from the perspective of a user of the site. I know there are other considerations to weigh (logistical, etc) relating to moderation site administration policies.

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SO moderators currently have 368 flags in queue at the time of this comment. To put that in perspective, Superuser might have 10 flags at any given time. Stack Overflow doesn't have the tools or manpower to sit on poor quality questions for longer than necessary. Maybe leave a comment, but if the op doesn't take immediate action to correct the question, clean house. I appreciate the approach and your desire to try to give people a chance, but on SO, askers have to adapt quickly due to the sheer size and volume. –  jmort253 Jul 4 '12 at 22:43
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@jmort253 I actually cross-posted an edit with your comment. I can definitely see how the considerations you raise would outweigh the ones I raised in my answer. –  McGarnagle Jul 4 '12 at 22:47
    
You didn't pose any bad suggestions. In fact, on sites that require nurturing to grow them into vibrant communities, what you've proposed is definitely worth taking into serious consideration. :) –  jmort253 Jul 4 '12 at 23:55

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