# Is “recommend deletion” secretly a vote to delete? [duplicate]

There's a rumor (attributed to Shog9 but not verifiable by me) that

If six users without the ability to delete "recommend deletion", the post will also be automatically deleted.

If this is true, I find it worrisome. It creates a parallel vote-to-delete that users between 2000 and 20,000 rep can vote in, even if some of these users are not even trusted to vote to close.

What's more, these users are presented with the choice in a way that stongly encourages them to vote for deletion, in that the only alternatives (apart from "don't know") is "looks good" and "edit it to look good". This suggests to users that if they understand the question and the answer (and so "don't know" is not right), there is no middle ground between answers that "look good" (or can be made to do so) and answers that ought to be deleted. In effect the UI is suggesting that unless the user would upvote the answer, he should vote for deletion -- even though the vote is presented to him as a "recommendation".

It feels very backwards to encourage users to vote to delete by making it free, whereas merely downvoting an answer costs 1 rep.

At least at Math.SE we have a significant population of answers that are not good answers, but nevertheless shouldn't be deleted -- downvotes are the right way to deal with them. These answers are often short enough to trigger the low-quality filter. Their major characteristic is that they often embody the first instinctive reaction of somebody looking at the question, but are actually wrong for subtle reasons explained in comments or other answers. Having them stay visible but downvoted conveys valuable information to the reader, namely that this intuitively "obvious" answer is in fact wrong. Deleting them would entail a loss in usefulness.

If the secret parallel deletion vote is real, I think that

• It should be made much more obvious to the user casting the "recommendation" that such a recommendation is in fact a vote that will cause automatic deletion without being reviewed by a moderator or high-rep user.

• The review interface really should provide a middle way between "looks good, I will upvote" and "burn it with fire!", such as "no action is needed" or "downvoting is good enough for this".

-

## marked as duplicate by gnat, Martijn PietersAug 27 '14 at 9:38

So are you saying that suggest delete shouldn't actually delete the post, but just put it in another queue for >20k rep users & dimonds to actually delete, or are you suggesting the UI be updated such that <20k users are not encouraged to make bad decisions (or both)? –  Servy Aug 29 '12 at 14:59
It's worth noting that 'looks good' is actually saying, exactly, "no action is needed". So really you're just asking to change the wording of the button, not make a new one. –  Servy Aug 29 '12 at 15:00
@Servy: That may well be the effect of pressing "looks good", but that is not the impression a relatively inexperienced user will get. So yes, changing the wording on the button would also be a way to satisfy my concerns about the "missing middle way". –  Henning Makholm Aug 29 '12 at 15:02
@HenningMakholm Which is why I feel it's not so much of a problem of the tool, but that the tool needs a good tutorial describing under what circumstances you should do each of the available options. You could possibly fix a bit by re-wording buttons or something like that, but at the end of the day it's a user training issue more than a programming/UI issue. –  Servy Aug 29 '12 at 15:12
@Servy: It still worries me that people who are not even trusted to close questions (resulting in a state from which mistakes are fairly easily discoverable and fixable) are now being trusted to delete questions -- which is very hard to discover and fix for other users, unless somebody happens across the deleted question in the short window of time it is one of the three last deletions shown in the 20k+ moderator tools. –  Henning Makholm Aug 29 '12 at 15:27
That brings me back to my first question. Are you suggesting that <20k users not be able to delete, or that the UI be updated to ensure they do it right? Half of your comments indicate one, half the other. –  Servy Aug 29 '12 at 15:30
@Servy: I'm suggesting that if <20k users are able to delete, then at least they should be made clearly aware that their votes-to-delete are actually votes that will be automatically tallied and that it is okay to vote to preserve a wrong answer. That would be a minimum to satisfy me. But of course entirely eliminating the feature would also satisfy my concerns. –  Henning Makholm Aug 29 '12 at 15:35
@Henning: these don't really behave the same way that "votes" do elsewhere. They definitely don't behave the same way that actual delete votes do. And frankly, I'm not sure how much more clear we can make it - if folks are clicking "recommend deletion" on stuff they don't believe should be deleted, then I'm not sure what to make of that. –  Shog9 Aug 29 '12 at 17:32
@Shog9: The point is that neither "Looks good" nor "recommend deletion" feels like the right thing to do for the posts I'm talking about. And since these are the only options (apart from "not sure") it is easy to get the impression that one should be recommending deletion for everything that doesn't "look good". –  Henning Makholm Aug 29 '12 at 17:38
@HenningMakholm As an inexperienced user, I have encountered exactly the problem you highlight here (which is why I find myself here on the meta). My first experience with the review system is clicking the "Not sure" button an awful lot. Close to 100% of the low quality answers I have reviewed do not "look good" but neither are they worthy of deletion. I needed to read your question before I understood how to use the system correctly, so thank you for indirectly documenting it. –  Chris Steinbach Sep 11 '12 at 22:28
@ChrisSteinbach Is that a bad thing? If you are an inexperienced user, then I assume it's expected that you won't be sure a lot. No one says you need to go into the review queue and start swinging the ban hammer. But going in there and taking action on things you know what to do is still a worthwhile effort! –  corsiKa Nov 15 '12 at 21:42
@corsiKa If there is ambiguity (and I suggest there is), then it could just as well work out that inexperienced users will choose arbitrarily between "looks good", "not sure" and "recommend for deletion". That would be bad. Henning's suggested "no action required" button is exactly what I was wishing for when I got started reviewing. Probably other newbie reviewers are looking for that button too. –  Chris Steinbach Nov 15 '12 at 22:10
@gnat can you please explain why it's a duplicate? –  Shadow Wizard Aug 27 '14 at 8:47
@ShadowWizard duplicate question officially explains how exactly and vhen “recommend deletion” serves as vote to delete –  gnat Aug 27 '14 at 8:52
@gnat true, but it explains new rules, while this one here is about how it used to be and still useful as it stands. Closing old question as dupe of a newer question is proper sometimes, but as far as I can tell, not in this case. –  Shadow Wizard Aug 27 '14 at 9:02

Yes, a sufficient number of delete recommendations (currently 6) will cause the post to be deleted immediately.

Why 6? It seemed like a good number based on the data... And also it matches the number of spam or offensive flags needed to automatically delete a post. Note that unlike spam/offensive flags, delete recommendations do not automatically confer a down-vote on the post, or a penalty upon deletion.

Why offer automatic deletion at all? Because requiring a moderator or three 20K users to delete a post that has been reviewed multiple times and universally seen as undesirable is a waste.

Note that in order for this to even be possible, the post has to first end up in the queue - either because the automated quality-check found it lacking, or because it was flagged. You can't just pick an arbitrary answer - even one that's been down-voted - and "recommend deletion" on it.

-
But at least users who flag for spam/offensive makes an active decision to try to get the post deleted. The review system presents ordinary users with a forced choice that very stongly suggest that unless the user can certify that the post "looks good", he is supposed to "recommend deletion". That wording is seriously misleading if "looks good" is intended to merely mean "does not deserve to be deleted". –  Henning Makholm Aug 29 '12 at 15:47
Can normal delete votes be counted towards that 6? For example, it doesn't make much sense that this is still sitting in the review queue. Surely my "delete" vote counts at least as much as a "recommend deletion" vote no? –  Mysticial Aug 29 '12 at 20:11
Good catch, @Mysticial - we'll be checking delete and recommend-delete responses in the future. –  Shog9 Aug 30 '12 at 0:12
@Shog9 You could even weight it. Since it takes either 6 "recommend delete" or 3 delete votes, it might make just as much sense to count a delete vote as 2 points and use a fixed threshold of 6. –  Mysticial Aug 30 '12 at 2:13
That sounds overly-complex - let's just say that six delete-reviews or 3 delete-votes will nix an answer. –  Shog9 Aug 30 '12 at 2:16
If the button actually deletes it has to be named "vote to delete", or simply "delete". Talking about "recommend" is seriously misleading, it implies that the recommendation would be checked by someone who knows what they are doing, but this isn't the case. –  sth Aug 30 '12 at 11:36
We have a button labelled "close" and some folks still think that's a recommendation, @sth. Much more concerning to me is the notion that folks are recommending actions they don't actually believe should happen. –  Shog9 Nov 4 '13 at 19:37
I guess this changed since the Let's get ride of the 10K flag queue, right? For example here we have 6 deletion votes but wasn't deleted at the end: stackoverflow.com/review/low-quality-posts/4990123 –  fedorqui Jun 6 '14 at 10:01
Didn't really change much, @fedorqui - only moderators can delete upvoted answers. However, as part of that change a moderator flag is raised when review sez delete, so it's less ineffective than it was before. That question was already closed anyway, but... I did some... stuff... to it. –  Shog9 Jun 7 '14 at 3:06
Brilliant! Thanks a ton, @Shog9 for the explanation and for the... stuff :) –  fedorqui Jun 10 '14 at 8:30
This doesn't apply to questions, through. –  Braiam Sep 3 '14 at 15:44

I don't think anything is wrong with the system insofar as we are discussing here, except for one thing; I do think that it could be useful for the Looks Good button to instead be titled, for example, Don't Delete.

I think Don't Delete gets across the point neatly: You aren't saying the post is "stellar" or even 'good', but you are saying that you don't wish it to be deleted.

-

I don't think this is a bad thing at all. A huge part of the new review system is to allow more community moderation. If six, count 'em six users happen to agree that a post, already marked as probably low quality should be deleted, I think it should be deleted.

Sure, the "parallel systems" bit makes it a bit complicated, but it's really quite transparent to the user. If you think it should be deleted, you press that button. If a bunch of people agree and no one disagrees, it gets deleted. That seems like exactly how content should be deleted. It's important to keep in mind that these are posts already algorythmically identified as likely crap, and a few Looks Good votes is all it takes to remove an item from the queue (and thus no more Recommend Deletion votes can happen).

Why shouldn't it cost rep? Well, why should it? Why should cleaning up low quality, extremely brief posts hurt me? Downvotes cost rep because it's marking a post as incorrect; downvoting is different from cleaning up garbage. If you penalize users for cleaning up garbage you're going to start finding a lot more garbage than people willing to clean it up.

The review interface really should provide a middle way between "looks good, I will upvote" and "burn it with fire!", such as "no action is needed" or "downvoting is good enough for this".

No. The low quality review system is not about voting; that's why there's no voting buttons. The post is either acceptable as a post on the site (Looks Good or Edit) or it's not (Recommend/vote for deletion). You can vote if you feel strongly afterwards, but voting isn't part of the workflow for a reason.

-
I don't particularly care if downvoting is part of the workflow or not, but there should be a clearly visible way to say "this is a bad answer, but in a way that the ordinary voting system is better at handling than deletion would be" --- that is, does not look good, but should not be deleted either. –  Henning Makholm Aug 29 '12 at 15:13
You seem to be saying that anything that does not look good is automatically garbage that should be deleted. I most emphatically disagree with that. –  Henning Makholm Aug 29 '12 at 15:14
@HenningMakholm there is. That's what the "looks good" button is for. You seem to completely misunderstand my point and the general use of the interface. –  Ben Brocka Aug 29 '12 at 15:17
Also you seem to assume that whichever automation used to place the already marked as probably low quality is necessarily right. I have seen it err again and again. It would be a tremendous loss for the site if everything its feeble little digital mind cannot see the value in would be deleted, unless it actively "looks good" to enough users to stop the system from campaigning to be deleted (how many users are that, anyway?). –  Henning Makholm Aug 29 '12 at 15:17
(atsign preserver text here) @BenBrocka: Are you seriously claiming that the average user would consider a button reading "looks good" to be for "questions that don't actually look good but look bad in a way that should be dealt with by voting on the post rather than by deleting it"???? –  Henning Makholm Aug 29 '12 at 15:18
@HenningMakholm I don't assume it's automatically right, but it's an extreme limiting factor, AND it's not being used automatically; it requires six people with a fair amount of rep to all agree, before other people mark the post as "looks good". That is a VERY narrow window that most assuredly means "this is not a good post and should really be deleted" –  Ben Brocka Aug 29 '12 at 15:19
This is turning not constructive fast. "Looks good" means "don't delete; this is an answer". That's it. –  Ben Brocka Aug 29 '12 at 15:19
(atsign prserver) @BenBrocka: The average user will assume that the text "Looks good" is intended to be interpreted according to its meaning in the English language, which is manifestly different from the meaning you claim for it. No matter how much you write "that's it" afterwards. –  Henning Makholm Aug 29 '12 at 15:21
(atsign preserver) @BenBrocka: The window is gaping wide when those fairly low rep users (2000+) are being asked to decide between "looks good" and "delete", and are not being told that they are supposed to click "looks good" for every question that does not deserve deletion, no matter whether it in fact looks good to them or not. –  Henning Makholm Aug 29 '12 at 15:23
@HenningMakholm By that same logic, users also know that they shouldn't be clicking delete for an answer just because it's factually wrong, as long as it doesn't meet any of the delete reasons provided. If they don't think it 'looks good' and know that they shouldn't delete it, they will be forced to either 'not sure' it, or come to meta and figure out what they should do (which would be click 'looks good'). You assume that the default action, if they don't know what to do is to click delete. You need to prove that assertion. –  Servy Aug 29 '12 at 15:25
@Servy: I'm not hypothesizing -- this is due to a concrete event at Math.SE where a user had clicked "delete" for at least one justifiably-downvoted-but-deserving-of-existing answer, because he (entirely correctly) didn't think it "looked good" and interpreted the selection of options in the UI as guidance that everything that doesn't looks good deserves to be deleted. –  Henning Makholm Aug 29 '12 at 15:31
@HenningMakholm Well then it's a good thing that you need 6 votes to delete, not just one. No matter how good your UI is, or what requirements you have for people to be able to use the tool, some people will make wrong decisions (either as mistakes, due to lack of understanding, or maliciously). The system is designed to deal with that. The fact that one person did the wrong thing for one post isn't evidence that the entire review system shouldn't exist. –  Servy Aug 29 '12 at 15:39
@Servy: When the system directly encourages the misunderstanding (by presenting the user with a forced choice between "looks good" and "delete"), then I don't think "designed to deal with that" is a reasonable description of it. –  Henning Makholm Aug 29 '12 at 15:40
So do you have evidence that lots of people are having this problem over extended periods of time? My guess is that it's something the people first using the review system will have problems with (which will always be the case), but very quickly they will learn what is appropriate. Because of the votes required for an action to be taken, there shouldn't be any significant negative consequences as a result of mistakes during this "learning period". –  Servy Aug 29 '12 at 15:45
@Servy: Can you propose a realistic mechanism by which users will "very quickly learn what is appropriate"? I cannot see any. The learning period until a user learns (by chance? or what) that "looks good" does not actually mean "looks good" but instead means "may be good or bad, but is not something that should be deleted" may well be infinite. –  Henning Makholm Aug 29 '12 at 15:50