The new plan is intended to use more democracy and less moderation to achieve a happy medium in making decisions about historical content.

Unfortunately, the voting system designed as a sanity check on close votes is not ideal for this.

Once the first delete vote is cast, those opposed to deletion can do nothing but sit and fulminate until the vote passes. And that could take months, since they don't expire.

Then, 10 of those folks can reverse the process, and what do we have? A war, and a call for moderator intervention.

Here's my alternative. A vote to delete a question that would have required 10+ votes in the old scheme should lead to an actual poll. For a fixed period of time, anyone with the required rep could vote for one of three outcomes: (1) leave open (2) mark historical (3) delete.

At the end of the period of time, a simple majority wins, and mods are called in for ties.

Now, people can express their opinion immediately, and the result reflects the total sense of the community on the subject.

  • 3
    Jonathan Swift is rolling in his grave. Mar 6, 2012 at 22:12
  • 1
    I hope so. Otherwise it would be boring.
    – Rosinante
    Mar 6, 2012 at 22:26
  • 9
    It isn't a modest proposal unless your argument supports cannibalism.
    – Zoredache
    Mar 6, 2012 at 22:55
  • I also suggested an expanded list of delete voting options here, slightly less well thought out than yours, though.
    – joran
    Mar 6, 2012 at 23:13
  • 2
    @Zoredache Maybe I should find a way for questions to delete themselves.
    – Rosinante
    Mar 6, 2012 at 23:50

4 Answers 4


Once the first delete vote is cast, those opposed to deletion can do nothing but sit and fulminate until the vote passes.

They can vote to re-open. An opened question can't have delete votes cast on it.

Outside of duplicates, rare is the question that should be kept around, closed but not deleted. And we have locking for those.

  • They may not want it opened. They may just want it to be not deleted.
    – Rosinante
    Mar 7, 2012 at 12:54

I think your point about people not being able to vote to keep a question raises a valid point. We can't assume that 10 individuals automatically speak for the majority. However, I don't think that we should allow people to vote to keep a question open. SE has a strict policy on what content should be kept, what shouldn't, and it is quite clear, at least to me. We want useful content to make the Internet a better place.

What I think will happen if your idea is implemented is that the community will end up deciding what question we keep alive based on if they like the question or not, and not if it is relevant on the SE network or not, as per the current rules. As Jeff said here, the community should have a voice in the matter, but can't be running this network. If we let the community decide what question we keep, we'll end up keep questions such as "Which is the best company to work for" and whatnot.

I would agree with some sort of way for the community to flag existing question as having an historical value for SE though, as you suggested. Now, SO has very strict rules on the content allowed on the website, and questions that do not meet the requirements are now deleted on the spot. So I believe that your proposition would be applied mainly to existing questions (e.g. the strangest language feature). Maybe in this case we could have a time window (a few days or weeks?) to identify those questions, flag them as being of historical importance, then assume that everything other question that do not meet the SE standards are material for deletion.

  • Laf, if you read the blog, you'll find that the management now wants to keep some historical questions 'because people like them'.
    – Rosinante
    Mar 6, 2012 at 22:47
  • I agree, but the community will end up voting for questions they like, but have no historical importance. I agree with the idea of keeping good historical questions (strangest language feature), but the ones like "Which is the best employer" (fictitious question) should be eradicated. My point with the blog link was more to point out that the community should have a voice in the matter, but in the end its will should go through a filter (SE's well-defined standards).
    – Laf
    Mar 6, 2012 at 22:49
  • 2
    If we let the community decide what question we keep, we'll end up keep questions such as "Which is the best company to work for" and whatnot. I disagree. Many in the anti-deletion camp are perfectly willing to let such questions die. It's the questions that contain genuinely useful information that the argument's mainly about. Mar 6, 2012 at 23:27

An actual poll does the opposite of what people are asking for with these questions. Instead of making them go away, it would force them to be shoved in people's faces for days while the poll actually occurs. More to the point, I don't see a poll causing significantly less contention here than the plain old deletions we're already using.

  • 2
    These questions aren't in anyone's face. They're closed. I'm a big-time deletionist, and even so I'm proposing this to be fair to all sides.
    – Rosinante
    Mar 6, 2012 at 22:17
  • @Rosinante: Then who's going to see the poll? Nobody. Mar 6, 2012 at 22:22
  • 4
    The same 20k users who currently hover over the delete queue having this argument in the first place.
    – Rosinante
    Mar 6, 2012 at 22:23

No no no! (Well to be honest, maybe, I'm just trying to make a point.)

We shouldn't give up trying to form a rational discussion about this.

Open vs. historical vs. delete isn't rational. It's black and white, ... and grey.

However, the idea greatly improves on what we have now. Perhaps we could use it not as a binding open/close/delete reason, but as a way to receive feedback from the community, and allow them to be heard.

How to act upon the poll we can see at a later time. A bit as how 'mark helpful' for anonymous users works.

To summarize: leave it open for discussion, allow improved/easier feedback, let mods have the final word.

  • Or, combine my scheme with @Shog9's original 'take it to meta' option. Open a poll, and open a discussion. The poll keeps the loudest people from winning.
    – Rosinante
    Mar 6, 2012 at 23:51
  • "The poll keeps the loudest people from winning." You are implying it should still be a poll which decides on the eventual fate of the question? Mar 7, 2012 at 0:05
  • 1
    That's my suggestion, fwiw. The mods want us to decide, let's use a more functional way of measuring group sentiment.
    – Rosinante
    Mar 7, 2012 at 0:22
  • Fully agreed on the measuring (not the eventual decision), but that doesn't matter that much. :) It's a start. However, it seems like an expensive feature for only a handful of questions. Mar 7, 2012 at 0:25

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