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While I was searching through meta I've found several postings about deleting. How it works, who can do it and so on. But I never saw a comprehensive list, in which cases someone should delete their own questions or answers.

I usually delete my answers when I see that there is a much better answer from someone else that covers what I am talking about. I also delete answers that got down-voted, as long as I understand the reason behind it. Until now I have never deleted one of my questions, only answers.

Is this a good approach? Or is it better to keep questions online for some reason, even if they do not really contribute any more information? I am looking for some best practices here to optimize my deletion decisions.

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Consider the votes on answers you're considering for deletion. If the votes are positive then you might not want to: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/90062/… –  Kelvin Mar 15 '12 at 19:14
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2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I don't know about a comprehensive list, but in general the question one should ask one's self is:

Does this post (be it a question, answer, or even a comment) contribute to the community?

The scenarios you describe, where a better answer exists or an answer has been downvoted for good reason or is shown to be misleading/incorrect, are definitely good reasons to delete something.

That's not to say that you should delete any answer which is beaten by a "better" answer. Your answer may not be the most upvoted, it may not be accepted, but it may still very well contribute to the community.

  • Maybe you added a piece of information not present in the "better" answer.
  • Maybe you presented the answer in a way that's a little easier for a novice to understand.
  • Maybe you approached the problem from a different angle which revealed more complexity in the problem than was previously identified.
  • Maybe your answer isn't the best answer for the person asking the question, but it does provide insight and information on the subject which may be useful to someone who finds that question days/weeks/months from now facing a similar problem.

As for deleting a question, that's certainly a less common case. More often than not (I'm guessing), questions are deleted by mods than by the people who asked them. But the same overall guideline generally applies (with the exception of rules against deleting, such as if good answers have been provided for the question).

If it doesn't provide any value whatsoever to the community, delete it.

  • Maybe you've re-thought the problem and it turns out you didn't understand it well enough to ask a meaningful question in the first place. (Consider an edit to the question first, of course. But it's possible that the entire premise of the question just doesn't really make sense. In that case, feel free to delete.)
  • Maybe you've discovered that the question is actually a duplicate (while researching the answer on SO, naturally) and isn't popular enough to get close votes. And maybe the original question provided you with your answer. If that's the case, go ahead and delete it. (And don't forget to upvote the original question and useful answers.) Edit: See @Daniel DiPaolo's answer for more insight on this. There are plenty of options for dealing with questions.

etc.

It's really a case-by-case basis and there's a lot of overlap between good questions and answers on any given topic. If the content is good, regardless of the presence of "better" content, then keep it around. Even if it has low votes, low views, etc. Good content is always welcome.

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You can delete your own question anytime no upvoted answers have been posted to it, for any reason. Once an upvoted answer has been posted, the system considers the question to have value, and prevents you from deleting it.

You can help keep the community clean by deleting your own questions that are closed or will be closed, having no upvoted answers.

Of course, if an answer has been posted that actually helped you, rather than deleting the question you should accept the answer and leave the question posted, even if the answer got no upvotes.

There are some people who come here, ask a question, get an answer, and expect to be able to delete their question once they get their answer. It doesn't work that way. In practice, the community owns all questions and answers, not the poster.

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On the flip side, I recently deleted a self-answered question on gaming, because it was too localized... by deleting the answer first, then the question. The question I asked about was a bug in Team Fortress 2 and a patch fixed the problem two hours after I asked said question. Ironically, deleting said question delayed me getting the copper team-fortress-2 badge until someone else asked a question with that tag to bring the question number back up to 100. –  Powerlord Apr 22 '11 at 21:25
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