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I was looking at the deleted questions list today and came across about 20 questions all deleted by John Saunders, Gulzar and Mehrdad. Why === instead of == in PHP comparison? [closed] is just one example.

Now this concerns me on two fronts:

  1. 20+ questions is a lot to delete in one day for one user (well three users); and
  2. The fact that they're all deleted by the same trio suggests they're voting as a bloc. Now it could be that they're the only ones actively deleting but I know that's not true.

Jeff has previous stated that duplicates aren't necessarily a bad thing in that they can lead to the original and so on. I feel a little uneasy that there is simply some overeagerness going on here.


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How do you know it's not just one person with three hands for each sock? –  random Aug 15 '09 at 13:50
-1 for making assumptions, when you could ask me. –  John Saunders Aug 15 '09 at 14:35
Are they always in the same order? –  Brad Gilbert Aug 15 '09 at 14:44
@Brad: yes, same order. –  cletus Aug 15 '09 at 14:48
@cletus: Check everything before making general statements like "yes, same order." I'm sure I've voted to delete questions with 0 and 1 votes... I'm also sure that I've voted on a question with 2 delete votes by John and mmyers, for instance. –  LeakyCode Aug 15 '09 at 14:55
@cletus: Are you having a bad day? You're making a bad impression right now, and I had previously had a fairly good impression of you. Please, either take the time to get some valid data to back up your statements, and cite it, or else leave this alone as having been refuted. –  John Saunders Aug 15 '09 at 16:10
I love the Internet. You got an Aussie calling out two Americans and an Iranian for potentially being in cohoots. This is phenomenal television. Do continue. –  Eric Aug 15 '09 at 16:15
Ahah! if I'd known cletus was Australian, I'd have asked him if he was having a bad tomorrow. :-) –  John Saunders Aug 15 '09 at 16:35
@John: I see ~20 questions deleted by the same people, in the same order at the same time (although the time is only determined by the last vote) and I have to ask a question that I think isn't inflammatory but actually quite measured ("overeagerness"). I'm sorry if the scrutiny offends you. –  cletus Aug 15 '09 at 22:49
Your lack of valid data wouldn't offend me if you hadn't brought that to my attention. Feel free to use bad metrics and not tell me about it. –  John Saunders Aug 16 '09 at 1:06
See: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/912/… –  Shog9 Aug 16 '09 at 1:10
@Shog9: thanks for the link, but what was the relevance? –  John Saunders Aug 16 '09 at 3:00
@John Saunders: ah, didn't mean that as a reply to your comment, merely a comment on the question. I read this one and thought of the other - both appear to be... asking... if there is a problem with the current system for deletion. –  Shog9 Aug 16 '09 at 3:24
I'm not sure if "Order" is relevant here, last I checked users in the closed/deleted list are ordered by userid, not the order they acted in. –  Kent Fredric Aug 16 '09 at 5:50

7 Answers 7

I don't think that's an abuse. I recently got into habit to check recently deleted votes from time to time and cast my vote, if appropriate. I think more users should consider checking the 10k tools and trying to keep the system clean. After all, it's just like closure. Users with more than 10k reputation can vote to undelete posts if they think otherwise. I think this is the way system is designed to work as mentioned in the StackOverflow blog long ago.

Personally, I classify duplicates into different categories. One is a question that is a dupe of a relatively well-written and complete question and answer. For example, the question you mentioned links to "How do the equality (==) and identity (===) comparison operators differ?" which has an excellent answer (and I think they are even more dupes.) The original question text hardly provides any added value, so it makes sense to delete it. Of course, there are cases where I wish a merge option was available.

Anyway, I'd appreciate to know if there is an official policy/guideline for using "delete" votes.

By the way, I don't think I deleted 20 questions in one day. Your statistics might be a little bit exaggrated. The reason might be the fact that some votes are cast in previous days and the actual delete takes place (when the third vote is cast) another day.

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My only (unofficial) guideline would be to check the original to make sure it has tags and title keywords similar to the duplicates to make sure it's easy to find before deleting the dupes. As cletus mentioned, duplicates can serve as a trail to the original, so if the question is different enough, but leads to the same set of answers, I think it's okay to close, but not delete, the dupe. –  Bill the Lizard Aug 15 '09 at 14:27
Yes, I wouldn't vote to delete a question if the wording was significantly different. Still, some crap dupes have really good answers. I really think we need a way to delete the question and keep some answers. –  LeakyCode Aug 15 '09 at 14:29
Oh, yeah. Just flag for a moderator in those cases. We can merge the questions so all answers are preserved. –  Bill the Lizard Aug 15 '09 at 14:30
In one recent case, the question content was exactly the same but the title was markedly different. The answers were better on the original. I decided to change the title on the original to more closely align with the duplicate (which was better), then update the duplicate links and delete the duplicate (I was #3). I think this improved the original, improved search, and removed a duplicate with no additional information. –  tvanfosson Aug 15 '09 at 14:34
@tvanfosson: Yes, this is exactly the sort of thing I'm talking about. Improve the title and tags on the original to make it more searchable. The reason the duplicate exists in the first place was because the original didn't come up in a search. Good find. –  Bill the Lizard Aug 15 '09 at 14:37
@Bill: "The reason the duplicate exists in the first place was because the original didn't come up in a search." You are assuming that people look at the search results. Many of them don't. ;) –  LeakyCode Aug 15 '09 at 14:39
@Mehrdad: Well, I can at least hope most people search before posting. :) –  Bill the Lizard Aug 15 '09 at 14:42
@Bill: LOL! I'd make hope italic, rather than most. –  LeakyCode Aug 15 '09 at 14:44
Every time you go to ask a question, you get a list of some possible duplicates. –  Brad Gilbert Aug 15 '09 at 14:47
Brad: which is powered by a well-known crap: The SO Search ;) which is recently updated and it can only search in the title effectively. –  LeakyCode Aug 15 '09 at 14:51
And I'm convinced many people don't even look at the list of possible duplicates. At the least, I think many do not scroll the list. Yesterday, there was one where I simply pasted the question title into the search box, and found an exact duplicate in the first four hits. There's no way that user spent even two minutes searching. –  John Saunders Aug 15 '09 at 15:56

I'm not in any voting block! You need to go make the acquaintance of Mr. Occam. The simpler explanation is that people with 10k+ reputation get access to a tool that shows the questions with the highest number of delete votes. All it takes is a single delete vote for a question to show up on that list. Anyone checking that list can decide to add a vote. It only takes three votes! Hence, no voting block.

Regarding the statement that 20+ is a lot of delete votes in a day: every two or three days, I'll use the tool that shows questions in order of when they were closed. There are 278 pages of closed questions, about 20 per page. Over five thousand closed questions sitting around. Now, that includes migrated questions, which I think should be deleted automatically after a month or so, but that's still a lot of questions.

When I do use this tool, I'll usually try to go through two pages worth of closed questions (starting from about page 7, which is where the two-day-old questions usually start). About 1/3 of these wind up being migrated, so they can't be deleted. Of the rest, I find that 80% were closed for good and clear reason, and I'll vote to delete. Perhaps another 10%, I find that were closed for questionable reasons, and I do nothing, or else I may add a comment questioning the closure. I may edit a little.

But in about 10% of the cases, I find that I disagree with the closure, and I'll vote to reopen. I may first do some serious editing, or try to correspond with the OP to get clarification. These are often cases where a question is closed as "not a real question" either because of bad English, or because the closers misunderstand the technology the question is about.

So, don't even portray me as some mad deleter!

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Let me put my question (and it is a question, not an accusation) in some context. Take a look at Why did a question get deleted?. Here was a question with a dozen useful answers that a select few decided to delete for little reason other than them not liking some of the wording instead of, say, fixing that wording.

Consider this comment:

I don't regret the outcome [the question got deleted]. Indeed, it ended far better than i could have hoped for

Deleting content is a big step and I get particularly nervous when I see this kind of cavalier attitude towards it. Not only cavalier, but deriving pleasure from the outcome? I personally would hope for some objectivity or impartiality, a measured response even.

Not that I'm attributing such motives to this case but ~20 questions that get deleted by the same trio in the same order warrants a discussion(imho) where the worst thing that's said is the suggestion of "overeagerness".

If you look through some of those questions, some were obviously good candidates for deletion (no or few answers, clearly a duplicate) but some had a half dozen or more answers, which again makes me a little nervous.

Also, while in some cases the user clearly didn't look at the suggested questions for a duplicate in many cases you won't easily find the duplicate because you've worded the question differently. In some cases, I've had real problems finding a question I know exists. So the duplicates have value in pointing people to the "original".

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Cletus, that question has not been deleted. It is closed and locked. See stackoverflow.com/questions/11598/…. This is not an impressive way to make your case. –  John Saunders Aug 16 '09 at 1:09
And where do you see that comment? And how did you determine what order they were deleted in? And did you consider the possibility of - time zones? Or, we each do our delete runs at a particular time of day? Because the hours of the day always arrive in the same order, in my experience. –  John Saunders Aug 16 '09 at 1:12
cletus, you should assume that if I close a question, I'm planning to delete it. That won't always be true, but assume it for the sake of discussion. Then, if you seem me close a question as a duplicate, and you believe I should not vote to delete it, add a comment saying why not. Same with everything else. If you don't think I, or anyone else, should have voted to close a question, then add a comment detailing why not. Maybe it's one that should be merged. Maybe it should remain for search reasons. But "help us help you", by commenting at the time. –  John Saunders Aug 16 '09 at 1:14
What's the relevance of the worst interviewee answer question? As for assuming you'll delete anything you close, I'm not sure where you're getting that from. I'm commenting on ~20 deletions. If timezones is all it comes down to, then fine, that answers that part of the question. Overeagerness in deletion however (in general) is still an issue worth discussing. –  cletus Aug 16 '09 at 1:53
@cletus: I am informing you that you should assume that if I vote to close a question, I will vote to delete it. Therefore, if you see that I'm one of those who has closed a question, and if you believe I should not vote to delete it, then that's your cue to tell me why not, via comments. You'll have two days to convince me not to vote to delete. –  John Saunders Aug 16 '09 at 3:02
@John: well I'm glad I asked then because we should clear this up. Basd on what Jeff has said, clsoing doesn't automatically mean deletion otherwise why the distinction? Why not just vote to delete? So we should get a clarification on what the guidelines for deletion are. I will reiterate that Jeff has said the linked duplicates have value and that's something you should consider. –  cletus Aug 16 '09 at 3:12
@cletus: maybe we're just at opposite ends of the Earth, but you're not understanding me. I do consider those things. I'm offering to you the opportunity to attempt to change my mind. In only about 20% of closed questions do I currently choose not to delete. So if you comment on 100% of the questions I've voted to close (as seen in the close message in the question), you will be wasting your time only 20% of the time. So, come on! Engage! Show me, case by case, which you think should not be deleted. –  John Saunders Aug 16 '09 at 4:11
@JohnSaunders, now the question says "A moderator has deleted this post and it cannot be undeleted." So it's a good way to make his case after all. –  Kyralessa Feb 28 '12 at 23:17
Just as students who've been hazed insist of hazing newbies, users who gain the delete privilege feel a perverse pleasure in using it. To quote Robert Cialdini, "persons who go through a great deal of trouble or pain to attain something tend to value it [...] highly". –  Dan Dascalescu Mar 26 '13 at 6:50

Some people are, by nature, more meticulous about organizing information. It doesn't surprise me to find that those people who have that bent might be more likely to show up as closing/deleting questions. I sometimes take a tour through the 10K tools and do a bit of clean up, but it's not part of my regular routine. People who have made it part of their regular routine are going to show up more often as deleting questions.

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These guys are heroes!! There is a ton of stuff which needs deletion, but it doesn't seem to get done. May you receive some kind of community service badge.

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I see you've changed your Gravatar. –  Brad Gilbert Aug 15 '09 at 14:49
@Brad: Indeed. Its a ferret. –  Paul Biggar Aug 16 '09 at 1:12

What I'm missing from this post is why they would "vote as a bloc"? (And just as importantly, why the rest of us should have a problem with it) What harm are they doing? what are they gaining for themselves?

Are they deleting questions you feel should not have been deleted? If so, I think that's a much more relevant issue.

And if not, what does it matter whether they vote as a bloc or not?

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Well, it matters to me whether I'm accused of doing things I haven't done. –  John Saunders Aug 15 '09 at 22:03

Random interjection: you can't really search for the "==" or "===" operators in the search box unless you know what they're called in plain english.

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And knowing in English won't help if the English version is not included in a question or answer. –  John Saunders Aug 16 '09 at 3:03

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