Browsing through the delete queue in /tools, I often come across a few questions where the bottom links read something like reopen (1) delete (6). The number of delete votes required is scaled by the total number of votes on the question + all answers at a 1:20 ratio and as such, becomes astronomically high for questions that hit reddit/HN.

Now, getting 20 delete votes from the community like in this question, is a Herculean task and I was worried by the fact that if the question actually got reopened before it got nuked by a moderator, all the delete votes are vaporized and there is actually no way to convince a moderator that the community did in fact show support for deletion! Just to be doubly sure that this is the case, I tested it out on a question with a 4k user (beta's equivalent to 20k) on gardening.SE and sure enough, his delete vote disappeared when the question was reopened.

The problem I see here is that 10k+ users are trusted with maintaining the quality of the site and are allowed to vote to delete. However, all it takes is five 3k+ users to actually nullify all the delete votes! Should this be allowed? If there are 20 (could be even 50 or 100) 10k+ users who strongly feel that such a question should not even exist on the site, should we allow 5 users who are infatuated with it to override the others? What can be done to avoid this?

  • The "popularity ratio" was put in place in for a reason. Commented Nov 20, 2011 at 16:35
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    My point is that 5 reopen votes can nullify all the delete votes. I do not think that should be allowed. Commented Nov 20, 2011 at 16:36
  • Wait until it gets closed again and re-vote. Commented Nov 20, 2011 at 16:39
  • You mean accrue upto 50 delete votes, then bam! 5 users erase it all and now a different set of 50 must come and vote again? Are you kidding me? Commented Nov 20, 2011 at 16:42
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    Can you recast a delete vote on a question once your vote has been discounted by a reopen? And whilst the popularity ratio exists for a reason, if there are 107 delete votes on a question and 5 re-open votes come along and remove them, that doesn't strike me as a move by popular vote.
    – user142852
    Commented Nov 20, 2011 at 16:43
  • @Ninefingers It doesn't have to be a different set of users, you can re-cast delete votes to the same post. Also, I don't think there are many delete-worthy questions that need that many votes. Commented Nov 20, 2011 at 16:49
  • @Ninefingers I didn't test that. I'll have to wait for my user to come along to chat again. But even if you could, the point remains that it's hard to get it back up to those levels (only to be possibly wiped out again) Commented Nov 20, 2011 at 16:49
  • @NullUserExceptionอ_อ Oh, yes, there are. I'm not surprised by your statement though, because that's the platform you're running on for moderator, so wouldn't have expected any different. Commented Nov 20, 2011 at 16:50
  • @yoda Don't worry, I won't get elected. But I will continue to push this agenda. Commented Nov 20, 2011 at 16:51
  • @NullUserExceptionอ_อ see my screenshot in this answer for one example of a question that would require 15% of all the 10k+ users there are to delete it, even though in the current understanding of SE it would be downvoted and closed in minutes.
    – user142852
    Commented Nov 20, 2011 at 17:11
  • @Ninefingers While I would have no problem closing a question like this if it were posted today, I believe these questions do have historical value. But this "thing" of hunting down and deleting these question feels like a witch hunt. I can almost see the torches and pitchforks. See also: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/112443/… Commented Nov 20, 2011 at 17:18
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    In principle this seems to be a problem, but it hardly ever happens.
    – user102937
    Commented Nov 20, 2011 at 17:38
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    @NullUserExceptionอ_อ This is not a witch hunt. This post merely brings to light an inconsistency and what I consider to be a loophole in the system. This is in exactly the same spirit as your question on how a user could undelete their answer with one click when it was deleted by three 20k+ users. Commented Nov 20, 2011 at 17:47
  • @yoda I am not calling this a witch hunt: '... this "thing" of hunting down and deleting these questions feels like a witch hunt' Commented Nov 20, 2011 at 23:22

2 Answers 2


Bullet the blue sky

First, some data:

  • There are just over 3K questions that require more than the usual 3 votes to be deleted
  • There are just under 1.5K questions that require at least 5 votes to be deleted
  • There are 170+ questions that need at least 20 votes to be deleted
  • There are 36K questions that should be considered for deletion (closed, not duplicates)
  • The percentage of closed-but-not-deleted questions doubled in the month following the implementation of the current voting system and has steadily gone up month-to-month ever since.
  • The top answer on the question currently requiring the most delete votes? Yoda Conditions, on a question that would need 768 voters to remove. Poetic...

My opinions on deletion in general, and the suggestions made here so far

  • If a question has been re-opened, the community hasn't yet settled on whether or not it belongs on the site. Deletion isn't supposed to be some "sneak attack" thing.
  • I don't like the idea of allowing folks to delete a post while it's open - that defeats the whole purpose of closing. You might as well just skip voting to delete and try to slam it with "offensive" flags (a practice usually considered abuse).
  • Delete votes should expire on some sort of schedule, just as close and re-open votes do. If you can't get a group of people to agree here and now (whereever/whenever that is), you shouldn't be able to do an end-run around them by scraping together votes elsewhere.
  • The number of delete votes required on some of these questions is insane. INSANE.
  • The current situation is a perfect argument for getting a few people together, making a good argument, and bending the ear of a moderator to your cause.

The real problem, and a real solution

IMHO, the root problem here is an extreme overreaction to mmyer's complaint - we went from a system where three people could effectively delete all closed questions that weren't re-opened within two days, to a system where it would take a concerted effort by scores of dedicated voters using all of their delete votes to even keep up with the worst of the worst. Meanwhile, the addition of the summed answer score to the question score inflates the worth of poll questions beyond all reason - why waste a precious vote on a question that probably won't ever be deleted without moderator intervention?

The slap was softened somewhat with the introduction of vote-limits that increase with reputation, but the number of votes required for the bike-shed stuff is still insane in comparison to the votes available.

So instead of trying to hang on to cast delete votes tooth and nail, I think the algorithm for calculating needed delete votes should be changed. If, instead of using the sum of answer scores the maximum answer score was used, the number of closed questions needing 20 or more votes to delete would be under 60. If the average of answer scores was used (thereby penalizing bikeshed questions...), there'd only be 20 of them.

This would still require a fair bit of effort to remove a very popular question with a very popular answer - but that's fine. It wouldn't do the same for a question with dozens of "meh" answers - and it would provide clear motivation for someone wanting to keep such a question to

  1. Vote to re-open it.
  2. Delete or flag any lousy answers on it (since they'd bring down the average).

Both of these motivations are currently insufficient or completely lacking.

  • The simple and completely sufficient solution would have been to just restrict deletion so that everyone could only vote once for deletion of one post. Deletion was just broken because the same person could vote to delete again and again every time the deleted post got undeleted. Deletion as it is now just ensures the the crappy questions will stay there forever.
    – sth
    Commented Nov 21, 2011 at 4:01
  • you can probably status-completed this one (even though it was not a feature-request) since the delete votes are now capped at 10. Commented Feb 25, 2013 at 18:08
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    While this is why delete votes are capped at 10, @Lorem as you say it's not a feature request (and the behavior you describe - reopen nullifying delete votes - still exists in any case). Personally, I still think the delete workflow needs some work - bookmarking this for future reference.
    – Shog9
    Commented Feb 25, 2013 at 18:12
  • Alright, sounds good. Commented Feb 25, 2013 at 18:56

Just forget about deleting stuff. Those rules that questions require lots of delete votes were put in place precisely so that such crap questions wouldn't get deleted any more. Having reopen votes revert delete votes just helps this goal.

(In fact, forget about closing. Closing questions is "just irresponsible", as we have been told by a moderator before.)

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    -1: "Closing questions is "just irresponsible", as we have been told by a moderator before." The quote said, "closing and deleting questions without considering the answers is just irresponsible." Don't take a moderator's comment out of context and then remove vital words like "and deleting". Closing is very different from close+deleting. Commented Nov 21, 2011 at 4:57
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    @Nicol: When I asked in a following comment if he really meant that closing is irresponsible he answered with "Closing is the first step towards deletion." That comes down to that closing is irresponsible when there are any decent answers on the question.
    – sth
    Commented Nov 21, 2011 at 12:55

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