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I am of the opinion that too many questions are being deleted, particularly those that are duplicates. It seems some people don't even blink when deleting a question with 10 or 20 answers, some of them very good, just because there's an exact duplicate.

I believe Jeff has previously stated the duplicates can be useful for providing more pathways to the answer. Sometimes people ask the same question in a sufficiently different way that the original isn't found so that link is created.

That somewhat contradicts the view that closed questions are one step away from being deleted. I'm not sure if this is the official stance or it has just come about.

I figure we can clarify this by requiring a delete reason. Unless a duplicate has no real answers whatsoever it should pretty much be left alone (imho). There's no harm in it being there and perhaps we can get some clarification on when are the right times to delete.

Edit: Ok, example was requested. Here's one: Why did a question get deleted?. The timeline was:

Someone posted Are regular expressions over-hyped? (now merged so original is gone). But the text was:

I'm a member on several forums that have a subforum dedicated to programming questions.

It is an observation that to almost every single question about finding data in strings, the most common answer is "use regular expressions". And if you're lucky, a link to a tutorial.

For many situations that people will generally recommend regular expression, it's pure overkill.

Many things can be done with substring() and split() functions, yet people always seem to put regular expressions on a throne. Why is this? Does this have something to do with the history of regular expressions versus these OO-language functions? Are the people who recommend regular expressions old farts?

Why in the name of the Matrix should I use a regular expression and test it, to see if a string contains a question mark, if I can just do string1.contains("?");

While in some cases, such as form validation, regular expressions are useful, I find that in most cases I don't need them.

So how often do you use regular expressions, not because it's useful, but because it's what you're used to using.

EDIT: if you're gonna vote to close this, at least have the decency to make a comment as to why!

So until (iirc) Marc intervened, 13 answers had been unceremoniously deleted for something that would've taken one of those offended by the question two minutes to fix. It's that cavalier attitude with deleting content and those taking personal satisfaction in it that I'm hoping to temper (shog9: "I don't regret the outcome. Indeed, it ended far better than i could have hoped for").

Lastly, it's worth noting that labels are important. For example, one close reason we have is "subjective and argumentative". Some view anything subjective as bad and vote to close it. Most of programming is subjective. Even "how do I code X?" can have several answers of relative and debatable advantages and disadvantages. Argumentative (eg trolling) is something else entirely.

The point of all this is that those reasons affect what people do (as most are trying to do the right thing so if they see "subjective and argumentative" they're just doing what they think they should be doing) so having explicit delete reasons should result in a better outcome: the right questions being deleted and less of the wrong ones being deleted.

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Interesting idea. Care to suggest some reason that you feel are (in)valid? –  dmckee Nov 15 '09 at 23:57
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Examples. Please. Personally, I don't vote to delete duplicates unless they're exact duplicates and have no useful, unique answers... –  Shog9 Nov 15 '09 at 23:58
    
Hard to find examples because any time I've found a question that has been overenthusiastically deleted I flag it to get it merged with another. Maybe moderators keep track of this as I've done it multiple times and I've seen other questions with 1-2 delete votes that (imho) should be deleted. –  cletus Nov 16 '09 at 0:02
    
As for reasons, I'll leave that to Jeff/Joel to enumerate the right circumstances in which to delete content. –  cletus Nov 16 '09 at 0:03
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I wonder if the real problem then, isn't a lack of merging. If questions are begin closed with valuable answers, and instead of being merged are being deleted... Then we have two problems: first, duplicates aren't being closed fast enough (so answers are being posted to the duplicate rather than the original), and second: they're collecting delete votes faster than merge recommendations. –  Shog9 Nov 16 '09 at 0:14
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It can take 3 minutes to get 10 answers on some questions. IMHO speed of closure to that level or faster is not realistic at 5 close votes and less than 5 close votes isn't necessarily desirable. At off-peak times it can take hours for questions that should be closed. –  cletus Nov 16 '09 at 0:41
    
Yeah, that's my point: once a question is identified as argumentative... or even as a duplicate... it might collect 3-4 close votes immediately, but then take hours or even days to be closed. Meanwhile, it collects answers that either duplicate or augment existing answers... or re-hash existing arguments. IMHO, the system worked better when it was one vote to close, one vote to re-open... with the exception of controversial questions, which would be opened and closed repeatedly. If only the one vote per user system was implemented after the the vote to close system... –  Shog9 Nov 16 '09 at 1:56
    
So a duplicate collects answers in the interim. So what? And what does that have to do with deleting it? At best it's a reason to merge and that's kind of the point. –  cletus Nov 16 '09 at 2:49
    
Right - we've already agreed that, at present, more merging is needed (deletion is irrelevant). I'm saying, we might have avoided that problem as well... if it was possible to close questions more quickly. Trying to get to the root of the problem, ya know? –  Shog9 Nov 16 '09 at 2:55
    
@shog9: I understand your point and while I agree that closing questions in a timely fashion is useful it is not by itself a solution because answers--even useful answers--can appear within 1-2 minutes of a question popping up. As such I consider the issue of how to close questions to be an entirely separate issue. As such I'd rather not cloud this issue by getting sidetracked. Feel free to start or bump another close question issue however. –  cletus Nov 16 '09 at 3:10
    
Maybe if a question is closed as exact duplicate then deletion should not be possible, only merging? –  Aaron M Nov 16 '09 at 20:15
    
@Aaron: possibly although there are also poor duplicates that have no answers. Do we want to force us to keep those around? Maybe but I don't know. –  cletus Nov 17 '09 at 0:14

2 Answers 2

Although not implemented in quite the same way as suggested, this is pretty much done - deletion takes more effort, merging doesn't destroy the source and salt the earth where it stood, close reasons have been trimmed and refined, the FAQ has been updated to explain the "why" of deletion and deleting duplicates has been thoroughly discouraged.

I think it's safe to say the problems that originally motivated this suggestion have been solved. And in a way that doesn't require selecting a reason that most users will never see...

And if you think of close reasons (apart from migration and duplicate) as reasons for deletion, this is even more done.

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I think I'd need a few more examples of questions that were incorrectly deleted to be convinced this is necessary.

Over time, I have seen a few closed questions deleted that I didn't agree with and had to undelete.

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I'm not going to argue it's an epidemic problem (far from it). I'm basically suggesting it to get guidelines on what should be deleted (either by some sort of statement or set of guidelines or explicitly by delete reasons). –  cletus Nov 16 '09 at 2:48
    
Here is one example where looking for reasons seems legitimate: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/102274/… –  Stéphane Gimenez Aug 13 '11 at 20:29
    
I'm pretty certain if the question is worth asking, it'll get asked again. –  user7116 Dec 21 '11 at 19:18
    
@sixlettervariables: What about people who answered the deleted question? What are the reasons to discard their efforts? e.g., stackoverflow.com/q/8584946 –  J.F. Sebastian Dec 21 '11 at 23:21
    
@JFSebastian: only one person was rewarded for their effort. The other two have answered the question for naught! Votes for everybody! As much as I can sorta sympathize (I don't know how many answers I've had deleted, maybe none), doesn't mean we shouldn't take out the trash. –  user7116 Dec 22 '11 at 1:03

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