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Admittedly I promised myself to stay clean of the inherently difficult recent discussions regarding deletion of questions (e.g. Question deletions are getting out of hand and The Great Question Deletion Audit of 2010, but alas ;)

Being 'hit' again another time by answering an old question only to observe it being deleted shortly thereafter I wonder about the moderation rationale/policy regarding this, I presume it works like so:

  • Somebody (i.e. me in this case, see the Google Cache in case you lack the reputation) answers/comments/edits an old question.
  • This triggers the question to be 'active' and consequently attention by high reputation users and/or moderators.
  • They look at it, wondering what the fuzz about this old one might be and decide to vote for deletion (or delete it right away).

Now, in principle this is fine with me, as mentioned I do not want to discuss whether or not to delete etc., but:

  • Any casual user might be quite surprised why his activity triggers deletion, while other related and often pretty similar questions stay untouched and prominently visible while puzzling around still. To continue on the example there are several low quality questions linked as related that might be candidates for deletion too then, e.g.:
  • Granted, the question I provided an answer for might have had a somewhat more offensive tone (the author appended a disclaimer though), but I think the well reasoned answers provided there do actually deliver more value than several of those to the questions mentioned above, YMMV of course.
    • Again, I'm not opposing the deletion, just questioning the chain of events and decision transparency.

So I wonder: Shouldn't responsible/sensible deletion of (old) questions imply looking at related ones too?

I don't want to judge on or even ask for anybodys time allocation, but I'd think having a quick peak at related questions while voting for or performing a deletion should be quite fast and actually benefit the very intent of the actor, shouldn't it? This could improve fairness, transparency and, not the least, the quality of the sites content even further, IMHO.

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

See these posts:

These posts are all about the fact that certain questions will be closed for "little or no reason" when other questions of a similar nature are left open.

As noted by TheTXI, this is a logical fallacy that assumes that the other questions were under the same scrutiny when they were asked.

StackOverflow has a two year history, during which the community has evolved. Therefore older (similar) questions may have been asked at a time when the community was still attempting to set boundaries, and we did not yet have Meta to discuss issues like this. (We had UserVoice which was not as amenable to discussions of this nature.) Older questions like this get "grandfathered" in, in the sense that they are so old and have a large number of answers and votes, so they can't be deleted.

Additionally, even now, StackOverflow is moderated by the users, and the users are not a single-minded body, but rather a large group of people sharing a common interest (but no coherent singular opinion). There are daily waves, the peak of usage is around midday in New York (IIRC). This means that the users who are voting to close at noon (your time) are not the same users who are voting to close at midnight. Additionally, questions can similarly sneak by on the weekends.

This is an issue in every judicial body that has enforcement that requires interpretation. It absolutely does not mean that every open question is valid. When questions are closed and similar questions are left open, it generally means that the open question should be closed, and not the other way around.

Now, onto the meat of your question.

Shouldn't responsible/sensible deletion of (old) questions imply looking at related ones too?

No. It does not mean that at all. All moderation is done based on attention. The moderators monitor the front page, and check out the flagged posts. The users with delete ability use the site as they normally do, and vote to delete when they notice something worthy of delete. The same applies to all those who are voting to close. All of these users are volunteering their time in order to try and clean up the community. So the fact that they are voting to delete at all is helpful. (Ignoring the question of whether or not their vote is valid, they at least felt that it was).

The most important thing is cleaning up the front pages (Hot, Active, Newest, etc.) because this is what the bulk of the users will see.

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+1 for your thorough summary of the background (which saved me reading through lots of related posts, thanks much!). I do understand your final argument regarding what the bulk of users will see, and likely this is indeed the correct point of view. Still 'based on attention' would imply the 'Related' links as well for me I think, as these do appear prominently too as long as a question isn't deleted at least; which is your point then, of course - guess I should just stop answering old resp. apparently abandoned questions ;) – Steffen Opel Jun 15 '10 at 13:13
@Steffen You have the right intentions. You are on SO for the right reasons, and that is finding difficult interesting questions and attempting to solve them. You should continue to do that. You should understand also that getting attention for an old question could cause it to be closed, but on the other hand, it could cause it to attract positive attention and gain more interest and upvotes. It works both ways. I say keep trying, and try not to let it bother you when things don't go your way. =D – devinb Jun 15 '10 at 13:43
Accepting this answer now as it addresses my question thoroughly - even though I'm not fully convinced yet devinb definitely has a point ;) – Steffen Opel Jun 28 '10 at 8:08

The question you refer to wasn't closed (you posted in it, after all) within 2 days. Thus, the only people who could have deleted it are moderators, and the author. Considering said author was last seen just after midnight, I can't tell you when it was deleted but it is entirely possible that he decided, for any reason, he wanted to delete it when it was brought back to the front page. With less than 10000 reputation, it's then meaningless for the author to even think about deleting related questions because he won't have the ability to do so.

devinb covers the angle for moderators in general. I agree that it is helpful to grab things in strides at times, but it's a measure of who is willing to go that extra mile. Which, at the end of the day, is just that: extra.

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Well, Jeff was the one who deleted it. Nevertheless, it still won't have any impact on cases where the user might've spotted that it was on the front page, and decided to delete it. – Grace Note Jun 15 '10 at 12:49
Thanks for clarifying the moderator condition here - guess I implicitly integrated recent cases observed elsewhere ;) – Steffen Opel Jun 15 '10 at 13:03

The general benchmark I use is:

Would a new user, finding this old meta question, be illuminated, or confused?

For this "where's the API?" question I found it to be the entirely the latter, so I deleted it.

A historical record of questions about things that have changed completely -- without some kind of useful / insightful discussion of why the change was made -- isn't terribly useful.

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Thanks for explaining your rationale (+1), which I completely understand (and agree with). This does not fully address my question though, which would translate to 'Why didn't you take the opportunity to delete e.g. API(pre-alpha) link too immediately for example?' As mentioned I don't want to argue with anybodies work pattern, just bring to attention that this can be quite confusing - your time cleaning up the site is much appreciated of course! – Steffen Opel Jun 15 '10 at 13:02

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