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There are many questions that are closed which will never get edited and improved, simply because the thing that the user was asking about is not something that person can change. What's more, leaving unsalvageable content on the front page of a site isn't always best for its image.

One notable example is when users post programming questions on Meta Stack Overflow. Typically, these are deleted on sight. They don't get migrated because they're almost never good quality posts, and they won't get edited and improved because the user isn't asking about something that's even remotely on topic.

Basically, questions that are so off-topic that the user didn't have a clue as to what the site is really about can't be improved. It's not a matter of desire or how much involvement the community wants to have in trying to salvage the post, it's just that some posts just cannot be improved, such as this one where a user has an Ubuntu-related question on Stack Apps, the site for questions about the Stack Exchange API:

Closed question on Stack Apps

As you can see, my flagging options are limited to spam, offensive, and "other". Of course, StackApps has only one regular 10k user, so it's not like using the "other" option will create a heavy load for moderators, but on some active sites which teem with 10/20k users, using the VLQ flag option can help take a significant load off of moderators, since 10/20k users can cast delete votes to respond to those flags. Leaving unsalvageable content on the front page of a site isn't always best for its image, yet I feel a bit discouraged by having to use the other option in these cases, since these are typically things that don't require absolute moderator attention yet still require someone's attention.

Is it possible to bring this flag option back, at least for the off-topic close reason if nothing else?

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Doesnt the roomba handle these anyway? –  Manishearth Dec 9 '13 at 1:55

2 Answers 2

I've always been a bit confused about this flag in regards to questions. The reason specifically states it needs to be deleted yet dismisses when the post is closed, like it's an avenue for closing when you don't feel like selecting a reason? Why should that reason have anything to do with closure? Isn't that what "recommend closure" flags are for?

Some things to work around this issue, which I can only refer to as a misuse of a flag reason:

  • Don't auto-dismiss VLQ flags when a post gets closed. Only dismiss the recommend closure flags - those are the ones relevant to that event.

  • Change up the workflow in the review queue. Keep the Recommend Deletion button as you'd have on an answer, except instead of displaying the dialog of comments for why an answer should be deleted, display the close dialog. Maybe change the message at the top so users know what's going on:

    This question needs to be closed before it can be deleted. Why should it be closed?

  • Once a question is closed, keep the review going and just don't require further input on the Recommend Deletion button, and let it continue gathering deletion votes. If the question already has enough recommend deletes when the post finally gets closed, immediately delete it and complete review.

  • And of course, allow closed questions to be further flagged as very low quality.

This would make the process of deleting a truly crappy question from the site much easier, and emphasize to users that the VLQ flag is not a catch-all for a question that merely needs closed, since you would be forced to also recommend deletion in the queue.

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I'm not 100% sure I follow. My question refers to posts that have already been closed, not ones that are open but should be closed. What I'm talking about are cases where an already-closed question that I've stumbled upon on the main page, should just plain be deleted. In short, I didn't find this post as a reviewer in the review queue, and it's already closed. Hope this helps clarify. –  jmort253 Dec 8 '13 at 1:11
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My answer basically attacks the whole idea that a VLQ flag is even related to post closure. Basically, a question's state (open or closed) shouldn't have an effect on this flag. –  animuson Dec 8 '13 at 1:13
    
Makes sense. Thanks for clarifying. If the developers disagree though, I'm hoping we can at least get that VLQ flag back for closed, off-topic posts. I miss them. :) I don't like flagging as "other" unless I absolutely have to, as I know the flag queue is triple-digits most of the time... –  jmort253 Dec 8 '13 at 1:48
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I hope they realize how broken this is. A VLQ flag is essentially a recommend deletion on its own, and on a question is has an implied "this needs closed first" too. It gets closed, but then never deleted, and you can't recommend deletion again. That's like going to a restaraunt and ordering a steak with a side of potatos. You then get the potatos, but they never bring you the steak. "Where's the rest of my darn order!?" –  animuson Dec 8 '13 at 1:52
    
Ah, I see what you're getting at. VLQ gets handled just because you as a mod take some kind of action, even though the action for which the flag was initially raised for is never addressed. –  jmort253 Dec 8 '13 at 1:57
    
Part of what's missing here is a queue for 10K users to review closed posts that might need to be deleted but which the system can't be trusted to judge. We'd always planned to finish rolling the actionable 10K tools into /review, but just haven't gotten around to it yet... –  Shogging through the snow Dec 9 '13 at 0:59

This isn't really necessary.

Let's look at why this was removed from closed questions:

If a question really needs moderator deletion it can be flagged with a custom reason stating why it should be obliterated. Otherwise people with enough rep can simply vote to delete it later. -- ThiefMaster, moderator on Stack Overflow

Yes, please. Almost all of these flags are useless in light of the accelerated question deletion process for bad closed questions. These don't require moderator attention, and frankly many of them look like they're from people hoping to farm helpful flags for badges and the like. – Brad Larson, moderator on Stack Overflow

Stack Overflow has easily the largest number of 10K and 20K users on the network. And yet, they couldn't keep up with these flags and the moderators on the site found themselves daily handling VLQ flags on closed questions. One of the moderators even wrote a script to detect this scenario, so that he could clean these pointless flags out with less effort...

But the redundancy created by that "accelerated deletion process" wasn't just a happy accident; it was the very reason for its creation:

If we deleted those automatically, that would cover 70% of the questions deleted manually in the last month, and 73% of questions deleted within 2 days of being closed. Forget delayed deletion - for the majority of questions, no one would need to bother deleting them at all.

This goes beyond just VLQ flags, of course - it also lifts a huge burden from the mods and 10K users who would otherwise have to find and then vote to delete these. But let's look specifically at VLQ flags...

During the month of October, 2420 VLQ flags were marked "helpful" when the flagged questions were closed on Stack Overflow... Of those, 2076 were later deleted. Here's how that breaks down:

Other     11   
Moderator 74   
Owner     397  
Community 1594 

That's right - question authors did more to clean these up than moderators and 10K+ users put together, with Community handling the bulk of the effort.

What about those other 344 questions that got closed but not deleted? Well, those were closed as duplicates, or had up-voted answers, or got re-opened, or simply ended up scoring > 0. In other words, they attracted some signal that hinted they might not be as terrible as VLQ would imply. That's not to say they won't still end up deleted eventually (or that they shouldn't); simply that the need for timely removal isn't so great.

As for getting ugliness off the front page of the site, you do have a few other options:

  • There are flags for spam and abuse - if someone is posting nonsense, use them.
  • Down-vote. A sufficiently low score removes questions from the homepage and feeds them into other systems (such as that used for automatic deletion) that can further reduce noise later on.
  • Earn 10K reputation, so that you can help clean up bad stuff that the roomba misses...
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So why does VLQ on questions still exist at all? As for cleaning up closed question, what's missing is a delete queue. –  Gilles Dec 9 '13 at 1:04
    
That's an excellent question, @Gilles. Truth is, we very nearly ditched it entirely a few months back... But there's a bit of a problem: see, folks are using it. Folks who aren't using the close or offensive or spam flags. It's a way for folks to say, "I see a problem but I'm not sure how to describe it". We might still get rid of it eventually, but with all the other changes we were making to the system (every single close flag save Duplicate changed), it seemed like a bad time to get rid of the second-most popular flag for questions. –  Shogging through the snow Dec 9 '13 at 1:33
    
For what it's worth, I go through the VLQ review queue on several sites (but not SO, not any longer), and I don't feel I need to react differently to questions in the VLQ queue and questions in the close review queue. The VLQ queue questions tend to be worse, but I can make my own judgement on that when I review. –  Gilles Dec 9 '13 at 1:36

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