Update: discussion on specific changes to how deletion works is here:

Turbocharging the Roomba: solutions for premature deletion

This needs to stop: https://stackoverflow.com/posts/15348333/revisions

It doesn't help to improve close descriptions or encourage fixing and reopening if closed questions are going to be deleted within a few hours or minutes of being closed.

We get fairly regular complaints - via support emails, here on MSO, even on Twitter - about questions that've just disappeared with the asker left none the wiser. I don't have much sympathy for folks who ask a question and then leave for the weekend, but if you're responsive to criticism then you really should be able to step away for a cup of coffee before returning to the question. I think the 20K "instant delete vote" privilege is being misused in some cases; I'd prefer to not throw the baby out with the bathwater by taking it away entirely, but some amount of discretion needs to be applied if it's to remain.


Originally - as laid out in The Stack Overflow Question Lifecycle - there was a fairly generous review period after a question got closed:

  1. Once closed, the question can be reopened by voting to open in the same manner. If the question garners five (5) votes to reopen, the process starts over at step #3.

  2. If question remains closed for 48 full hours, it is now eligible for deletion.

If a question didn't get fixed and reopened in two days, then it seemed a pretty good bet that it wouldn't be fixed - so, fair game for folks looking to clean up the clutter a bit. I know I certainly made good use of this as a 10k user. Then, this happened:

Remove the 2 day limit on voting to delete closed questions.

20K users should have enough about them to know when a question should be deleted rather than leaving it closed.

Note that the request was for the removal of the waiting period to vote - but the implementation went ahead and removed the waiting period for actual deletion. So what was intended as an expedient way for savvy folks looking at an unsalvageable question to save themselves the trouble of revisiting it later became a tool that breaks the feedback loop between askers and the community.

How big of a problem is this?

It's not huge, but it's significant:

  • 1043 questions asked in the past 30 days have been deleted "early" by voters. Some of them are ridiculously bad - exactly the sort of rubbish that ChrisF had in mind when proposing this feature. Many are just run-of-the-mill poor questions.
  • 221 had at least one up-vote,
  • 112 had a score >=0 after being closed.
  • 52 were asked by folks with at least 1000 reputation on SO.
  • 395 had at least one answer.
  • 186 had at least one up-voted answer.

You can review all the questions here if you're interested (and have at least 10K on SO): http://jsbin.com/isobux/1

What should be done?

Well, if you're reading this, have over 20K reputation on SO and you're in the habit of casting delete votes on questions when you close them... Stop deleting stuff early if it's not egregiously bad. In particular, if you're voting to close it's really not hard to go back through your close votes and vote to delete after a couple of days - this wasn't possible when the 20k privilege was introduced.

Beyond that, I'm open to suggestions:

  • Review queues (how would this work?)
  • The original "delayed deletion" idea
  • Get rid of early deletion entirely in favor of the auto-deletion that goes with spam and offensive votes.
  • ?
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    What you said. Posts need to be allowed to be improved. That is much harder when deleted quickly. – Andrew Barber Mar 13 '13 at 22:00
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    The larger problem is that too many people think close is a path to deletion. Posts should be deleted because their crappy, not just because they're closed. Not all closed questions are crappy. – Lance Roberts Mar 13 '13 at 22:02
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    How many of the deleted-with-one-answer questions were oops-you-made-a-typo questions? I can imagine that the clean-up-all-them-typo-questions effort could have made an impact on these statistics. – Martijn Pieters Mar 13 '13 at 22:02
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    @Shog9: The run-of-the-mill example you link to is such a typo question, btw. – Martijn Pieters Mar 13 '13 at 22:12
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    Browsing through those questions, I think you and I must have a drastic difference of opinion about what proportion of those askers would be willing/able to salvage those questions even under ideal circumstances. – joran Mar 13 '13 at 22:16
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    @Shog9: Right; there was a small misunderstanding on my part; it is fine to delete those, but we should give the OP a chance to at least read the response. If it gets deleted within a few hours of the 'you-made-a-typo,-ha-ha' answer, then the OP is none the wiser, which is the point you are trying to make. – Martijn Pieters Mar 13 '13 at 22:18
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    @LanceRoberts close IS a path to deletion. But the point of closing and not just deleting is supposed to be that there's a grace period where a post can be improved. – Ben Brocka Mar 13 '13 at 22:21
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    @MartijnPieters Wouldn't allowing users to see all their own questions, including deleted ones, solve that problem? – joran Mar 13 '13 at 22:22
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    @BenBrocka, no, there are plenty of reasons to keep closed posts around. Examples: Dupe stubs to point to the dupes and help searches AND historical questions or even new questions that have got enough activity that they make a good draw to the site (like the socks question). – Lance Roberts Mar 13 '13 at 22:24
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    @BenBrocka, I agree that of course you can't delete until it's closed, but too many see any closed question as something that needs deletion. Ones I do try to delete immediately are off-topic posts on Meta, but really those could use a little delay also just to help the user realize he posted in the wrong place. – Lance Roberts Mar 13 '13 at 22:27
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    As a simple first step, how about a more aggressive confirmation dialog if you're deleting a question, reminding the user to only do this if the question isn't salvageable or the author hasn't had time to fix it yet, etc. For closing you at least need to select a reason, but when deleting a question you aren't given any guidance about what criteria to follow. – Jeremy Mar 13 '13 at 22:52
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    @ShaWizDowArd Ugh, I hate the idea of any kind of special user privileges that are assigned and not earned. These sites are meant to be primarily run by the community, not by moderators and/or super users. – Rachel Mar 14 '13 at 13:53
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    There we go, deleted in under four minutes @Pekka. And yeah, I agree that letting the author view the question would be beneficial in cases like this (where, realistically, there's zero chance that keeping the question around would produce anything of value). That's not always the case though. – Shog9 Mar 15 '13 at 21:34
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    @Shog9 Fair enough, do both. But you can't keep frustrating yourself over users being too quick on the trigger when that is the privilege you hand out. (No matter how annoying it might be). – Bart Mar 15 '13 at 21:53
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    I think there's a pretty clear difference between off-topic (a question about programming that's just not the sort we tend to answer here) and ridiculously off-topic (a not-really-even-a-question about using Facebook), @Michael. Neither one is in desperate need of urgent deletion, but I'd be willing to argue that deleting your example is unlikely to cause anyone harm. – Shog9 Mar 15 '13 at 23:58

14 Answers 14


I'm here because of a personal email sent by Shog9 to the "top users of this particular feature on Stack Overflow" (I guess that means I delete stuff a lot), otherwise I've been avoiding SO and Meta lately due to frustration with the volume of low quality content on SO and the tools for managing it, including deletion.

The problem is not with deletion itself.

What is the point of a closed question? That's a broad topic but the end goal is to keep the quality of the content high. Too many posts about the exact same topic, crap questions that make no sense, or flame wars like Shark VS Gorilla and the site starts to suck.

So what's the problem? That posts are getting deleted? Or simply getting deleted too fast?

We get fairly regular complaints - via support emails, here on MSO, even on Twitter - about questions that've just disappeared with the asker left none the wiser.

Well that's the problem - the utter lack of feedback from the website itself. They asked a question and it vanished without a trace. Is it a bug? What happened? Should I ask it again?

I've addressed this issue here: Can the OP see their deleted question? If not, they should be able to. and here: https://meta.stackexchange.com/a/168222/159834

The fact that users can't see their own deleted questions has the following effects on overall question quality:

  • It affects my moderation behavior (and others I've talked to) by causing me to withhold delete votes, which means more should-be-deleted posts in search results and the "Related" sidebar.
  • It can lead to duplicate questions, since the OP has no clue what happened
  • It does not help the author understand what they did wrong, and what can be done to prevent it in the future (so, more low quality questions). How is the author expected to learn from the mistake?

There should at least be a warning, or inbox notification when your own question is deleted, especially when it's an active question posted only minutes ago. Even allowing a limited view of the post would be a big improvement (maybe only allow viewing for a certain amount of time, not forever).

Maybe the OP should be able to view the question for a specific amount of time, number of views, or until they click "OK" or something - just let them be able to see the votes, comments, answers, and closure reason, at least once, otherwise they won't learn anything. This goes for all questions, no matter if they are well-intentioned horrible crap or borderline cases like the one you're concerned about.

Delayed close votes seem clever - but then you have this new visible status of "pending delete in 48 hours" or something, and have to introduce "early undelete" votes or some crap to compensate.

it's really not hard to go back through your close votes and vote to delete after a couple of days

Sure it's not hard, but it's also not easy to remember and also takes extra time. Delete-on-sight is much easier, I'm not likely to change my mind in two days. With the amount of stuff coming in that needs to be pruned, this is a weak strategy.

Mistakes can be made sometimes, but I think the system's working fine as it is, and to be honest I don't think nearly enough questions get deleted. Don't hinder our ability to keep the site free from junk - it's one of the reasons SO is so successful. Instead, provide more feedback to the users who are posting it.

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    Ok, that gravatar is just freaky... – jcolebrand Mar 14 '13 at 2:03
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    Thanks for this, mog - I appreciate it. – Shog9 Mar 14 '13 at 2:30

I think one major issue is that deletions can't be properly reviewed, mostly because of the incredibly poor interface. The 10K tools are well hidden, even more so after the introduction of the new review queues. And even if you manage to find them, the list of recent deletions is extremely limited and uninformative, you'll have to actually visit each question to get the full story.

Adding just the question's score in the list, for example, would be awesome, I wouldn't have to waste time reviewing extremely low scored questions and could concentrate on deleted questions that might have a chance of getting undeleted.

I don't know if a recently deleted review queue would be the better approach in general, but it would certainly be a far better solution than the current. The review queues have their problems, but the interface alone is reason enough to adopt them for recent deletions and move away from the dumb lists in the 10K tools.

Another thing that might help would be a couple of warnings when someone is voting to delete. The examples that immediately come to mind is whether the question has been significantly edited since it was closed or whether there are pending re-open votes. I'm not so sure delayed deletions would be a good thing (in the long run), but a simple warning that the question had some activity towards getting re-opened seems quite easy to implement and might just do the trick.

  • I've found the limit of the deleted list to be 45. meta.stackexchange.com/q/94442/13295 – Lance Roberts Mar 13 '13 at 22:36
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    I have asked for a recently deleted review queue before now - meta.stackexchange.com/questions/148204/… – ChrisF Mar 13 '13 at 22:39
  • @ChrisF I know, your feature request is referenced in the question, that's why I didn't mention it. – yannis Mar 13 '13 at 22:40
  • Ah. I only scanned the question (after the first paragraph) my bad. – ChrisF Mar 13 '13 at 22:40
  • @ChrisF I'll throw a bounty there, it's a damn good idea and long overdue. – yannis Mar 13 '13 at 22:41
  • This might make it easier to monitor deletions on smaller sites, but it doesn't really help the OP learn from their mistakes since their post would still "go missing". Also, on SO the last 50 deleted posts in the 10K tools usually averages between 30 and 60 minutes ago, so I'm not sure that a delete queue would really be that helpful due to the volume of deletions. I've also had users tell me they vote to delete just because a reopen attempt is going on, and they don't want the question reopened. Many users are just way too delete-happy, and I don't think a queue will solve that. – Rachel Mar 14 '13 at 13:19

This would only be a sticking plaster, but let people see their deleted questions if only for the first 48 hours after deletion. The links to them would still remain invisible to everyone else (except moderators).

This coupled with notification of comments should give people enough time to correct the post (if it is salvageable) while still having it off the site.

Once it's been edited it gets moved to the "undelete" queue for review and hopeful reemergence onto the site.

Of course, if the question has been deleted due to spam or offensive flags then it should not be made visible to the owner. There's no point with these "questions".

  • Interesting idea, but surely the majority of questions that are quickly deleted are very unlikely to be undeleted. "Love this blog, great feedback {CHEAP HANDBAGS HERE} I'll use this site again..." sort of crap, or ones that are just plainly OT "What is best out of PHP and Python". Is there really a need to show those off to everyone just for the sake of a small minority of potentially valid questions? – JonW Mar 13 '13 at 23:50
  • @JonW - questions like that should be flagged as spam. I'll update the answer to cover this. – ChrisF Mar 13 '13 at 23:53
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    Heh... It just occurred to me that showing deleted spam to the author might work as a cheap way of hellbanning... Man, that'd be nice. – Shog9 Mar 13 '13 at 23:57
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    Not really a plaster, it's the biggest problem with deletion. And there's no need to remove the question after 48 hours. What harm does it do to have it there? – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Mar 14 '13 at 0:42
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    @Gilles - it seems like (up until now) showing people their deleted content is a big no-no, so having this as a temporary measure would allow those who hold that view to still be "right". Also it's a fix after the fact of deletion rather than a prevention of the deletion in the first place. – ChrisF Mar 14 '13 at 8:40
  • "except moderators" - currently these are also visible to 10Kers, do you suggest to change that? Side note someone may call your idea a sticking plaster but to me it more sounds like an elegant design – gnat Mar 14 '13 at 10:17
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    @gnat - non moderators can't see deleted questions easily (i.e. on their profiles) which is what I meant. – ChrisF Mar 14 '13 at 10:18
  • @ChrisF list shown in 10K-tools by review->tools->Recently Deleted->expand looks quite convenient, do I miss something? – gnat Mar 14 '13 at 10:29
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    @gnat The point is for users to see their own deleted questions. Even with 10k, you can't, unless you remember the URL. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Mar 14 '13 at 10:40
  • @ChrisF Jeff said over his dead body. But he isn't in charge any more: Shog9 is. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Mar 14 '13 at 10:41
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    @Gilles - well let's hope so. – ChrisF Mar 14 '13 at 10:41
  • @Gilles got it, thanks – gnat Mar 14 '13 at 10:43
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    I would still want to show deleted spam/offensive posts to the user. Often "spam" is someone promoting their personal website, software, or blog by posting it as an answer to questions, and deleting content that actually does answer the question with no warning doesn't really teach the user anything. Same thing with offensive - some things may be offensive in some cultures that aren't in others, and having your content get deleted as "offensive" when it's not actually seen as offensive by the OP is very confusing. – Rachel Mar 14 '13 at 13:13

I don't think a "stop doing this" post on meta is something that will work on a site the size of Stack Overflow. There are a lot of people who don't participate in meta and given the ease with which some tags generate rep, it's not hard for someone to amass 20k without learning the site's culture. However, I don't advocate taking away the privileges either, as it is indeed useful. Here are a few suggestions:

  • The delete link is very tempting and invites a 20k user to vote to delete it (after all, how bad is "very bad" is subjective). A simple solution would be to hide it behind a "tools" link (per post), like the "mod" link for mods. That way, the thought won't cross someone's mind unless they explicitly go through a couple of hoops to get to the link. (Perhaps also lump protect in there, so that the per-post tools link is more meaningful).

  • Allow delayed deletion. Just like mods can lock a post for X hrs, allow 20k users to delete something after X hrs (say, 12, 24, 36 and 48 hrs) until 2 days have passed. After that, it is immediate.

  • A deletion review queue. Many users are over zealous with their delete votes because of the belief (possibly justified) that if they miss this chance, it'll never get deleted. If you implement a review queue, people will be more content with checking the queue at their own pace and allowing the closed question some more breathing time.

  • An un-deletion queue, to review deletions. Right now, if something is deleted, it's gone for good unless the user makes a hue and cry over it on meta.

  • Filtering deletion queues by tag (like in the close queue). While one can easily gauge the worthlessness of a terrible question in random tag X, it's harder to gauge the worth of a borderline question in tag X if you are not familiar with X. Allowing users to focus on their favourite tags might reduce arbitrary deletions. I would even suggest that filtering by the user's top 3 tags be made the default rather than a hidden option, so that if you're voting to close/delete willy nilly in random tags, you explicitly chose to do that.

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    I agree with each one of these suggestions. I know that my name is probably attached to some of the deleted questions, I try to reserve my votes for those that are absolutely awful, but putting some protections in place would be very helpful. – Taryn Mar 13 '13 at 22:59
  • Defaulting to showing recently deleted questions in the reviewer's top tags is a great idea. – Laura Mar 14 '13 at 2:31
  • @LoremIpsum I didn't know that you can filter the close votes queue until you mentioned that. Thanks. – Jack Mar 14 '13 at 3:21
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    I think the postponing of deletion; whether specified (fixed interval as you recommended) by the user deleting the question, or implicit based on the age of the question, is an awesome fix. Those who "step away for coffee" will have every opportunity to fix their closed and deletion-pending question, and collect reopen votes; those who ask garbage and leave for the weekend (or just don't care) will have their garbage rightfully deleted, in due time. – Dan Lugg Mar 14 '13 at 6:52
  • Yep, hide the delete button. – Caffeinated Apr 9 '13 at 14:11

This is both a technical and a social problem.

It is not a new problem. You wrote at the time:

20K users don't need to wait, but... In most cases, they probably should. Hopefully, they've learned a bit of discretion in the time it took them to amass that.

As if.

On the technical side, giving 20k-rep users the ability to delete questions instantly gives them the impression that this is something normal. There are actually very few questions that really need to be deleted instantly, and all of them can be dealt with by any user with 15 rep by flagging. Flag as spam and offensive flags if applicable. If not, flag as “other” and make a case to a moderator that the question is so bad it must be removed from the site.

Socially, users need to be educated to the difference between a question whose presence actively hurts the site, and a question whose presence merely dilutes other, more worthy content. A horrible, unanswerable, irremediable question does not seriously hurt the site when it already has a score of -22. It can safely wait 48 hours for deletion.

(The questions that hurt the site the most are the ones that are bad, but highly upvoted, and get framed as SO's best instead of migrated to Quora. But that's another debate that I'm resigned to having lost.)

Users in need of education includes several SO moderators. Being an SO moderator involves cleaning up a lot of crap, that doesn't mean you should throw away the dog with it, even if it's wet and smelly. Even people who post bad questions should be able to read the feedback on them and attempt to improve them. When a question is deleted by a moderator, it's the end, the question disappears into the ether and no one can do anything about it, least of all the asker. It's important in particular not to delete a question (unless it is actively harmful, not if it's merely crap) until the asker has had time to read the feedback on it. Yes, SO mods, this goes for you too.

Fortunately, you are in a unique position to solve both problems.

  • Remove the 20k ability to delete questions early, or else make the delete votes take effect only at the end of the 48-hour period after closure. The delete votes should probably be canceled (with the opportunity to re-cast them) if the post is edited: while this is open to abuse, it is better than the alternative which is to let improved posts be deleted. Possibly the delete votes should only be canceled if there is at least one reopen vote, but waiting for 5 votes, even with the reopen queues, is asking too much.
  • Educate the moderators to make the difference between clearly unsalvageable questions and the rest, instead of immediately deleting any bad question.

A large part of the problem is that when a question is deleted, it is not visible to its asker. If people could see their deleted questions, they would be able to:

  • know what happened to the question, that it didn't vanish due to a technical glitch;
  • read and understand the close reason;
  • read the feedback provided to them in comments;
  • be notified of comments;
  • edit the question and flag for undeletion and reopening;
  • copy the text and ask a new, improved question;
  • copy the text and ask in a more appropriate venue; …
  • I agree with all of your opening analysis, but don't agree that the 20k ability should be removed entirely. A great number of posts that are correctly deleted would be clogging up the flag queue right now if not for the early deletion ability. – user200500 Mar 14 '13 at 0:50
  • @Asad Fortunately, moderators have a “decline” button for that. A lot of these early-deleted posts didn't need to stick around, but they didn't need to be deleted early either. There would be no need to flag them for deletion. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Mar 14 '13 at 0:51
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    I agree with edits cancel delete votes. Even if it's just edits by the OP. – jcolebrand Mar 14 '13 at 1:49

We get fairly regular complaints - via support emails, here on MSO, even on Twitter - about questions that've just disappeared with the asker left none the wiser. I don't have much sympathy for folks who ask a question and then leave for the weekend

I do.

No matter how bad or trashy or whatever your question was, if your question is deleted, you deserve to know about it. It shouldn't simply vanish into the aether. At least then you can review the question and see the reason why it was originally closed, including any comments that may have been added. Because without that feedback, nobody can improve.


I vote for don't change a thing, delete at will. Votes don't matter. Delete delete delete. Do not leave the broken window on the site for any period of time. Get rid of it.

Change what's visible to the asker. You should be able to see your own deleted content in your profile. Fix it, if you are so bothered, and flag it.

Edit: To be clear, I am not arguing against users exercising discretion, I am arguing against eliminating the instant delete feature for privileged users.

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    I'm in favor of that under limited circumstances, but that's really not a solution. Look at the question I linked to at the top: so far as I can tell, the asker did everything he was asked to - he discussed the problem, edited to clarify, and was collecting reopen votes... At which point the question was deleted, stopping any further discussion, reopening, etc. – Shog9 Mar 13 '13 at 22:07
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    So normal users are not part of the correction process at all? The only way you can get any sort of feedback on your edits is to flag a moderator, who (it is entirely possible) doesn't have anything to do with the tag. – user200500 Mar 13 '13 at 22:08
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    @Shog9 Hm, perhaps as a first step existing re-open votes should delay the deletion. – yannis Mar 13 '13 at 22:09
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    @Shog9, I'm cynical enough to believe that for every good question worthy of saving, there are 200 worthy of deleting (and 180 of those still don't get deleted). If 1 gets tossed out along with the others, so be it. (It was probably a duplicate of an earlier good question anyway.) – Anthony Pegram Mar 13 '13 at 22:10
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    @AnthonyPegram a) I do believe you are pulling those statistics out of thin air. b) The other suggestions here do nothing to hinder the deletion process. If you've cast a delete vote, no further action is needed on your part to cause the question to be deleted. All this does is provide a window for you to change your mind. – user200500 Mar 13 '13 at 22:12
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    On Stack Overflow, it's always a safe bet that you can throw a dart at your screen and hit a question that can be deleted without any great loss. And yet, we still haven't implemented random deletion. I don't buy into the idea that it's not worth 20K+ users' time to differentiate between reasonable questions and utter trash - that's contrary to the very rationale for giving them instant delete votes in the first place? – Shog9 Mar 13 '13 at 22:12
  • @Asad, random statistics pulled out of... thin air... but based on the "199 out of 200 programming applicants can't write code" article that should be further amended to "but can ask horrible questions on StackOverflow." – Anthony Pegram Mar 13 '13 at 22:14
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    My subjective impression is that premature deletion is a problem. Especially in the problem tags where deletion even of mediocre content is viewed as a measure of self-defense. It's incredibly unfair to delete something from under the author's nose that could be salvaged. – Pekka Mar 13 '13 at 22:15
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    I'd suggest letting people see their deleted content before any other related issues, because god damn that is a source of massive amounts of confusion, frustration and gnashing of teeth. I'm not opposed to reducing some of the super short deletions that happen, but let's fix the elephant in the room first. – Ben Brocka Mar 13 '13 at 22:22
  • @Ben that's a very fair point. – Pekka Mar 13 '13 at 22:29
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    @BenBrocka I think that request is only half of the elephant. It argues for showing deleted content on the profile page even if the user can't see the actual post. Just doing that wouldn't help much with these premature deletions. That said, I personally favour both opening up their own deleted questions to sub-10k users and showing deleted content in the profiles similar to how we show it for reputation - hidden behind a checkbox. – Adam Lear Mar 13 '13 at 22:31
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    @AnnaLear if it is going to behind some checkbox you guys better make sure it is really clear with some big red flashing hand drawn arrow. Or even better enable it by default. – PeeHaa Mar 13 '13 at 22:37
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    @AnnaLear yeah, I'd like it to be so that you can always see your own deleted stuff period. Making the link work is at least as important as showing it in the profile – Ben Brocka Mar 13 '13 at 23:36
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    A question with a score of -20 is not a broken window. It is a small patch of chipped paint. It can wait. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Mar 14 '13 at 0:40

I would go for the "delayed deletion" idea, where votes can be cast right away, but the deletion doesn't happen for 48 hours. If the question gets edited then it can go into a queue for undelete votes.

If we have the delay, then we should be able to cast undelete votes for the question in that 48 hour timeframe. You might also look into delaying deletion if there are reopen votes cast for the question.


My issue with delayed deletion is that >20k users are often the first to respond to questions that are spam or otherwise utter rubbish (like the one Shog9 links to above). While such questions will be eventually handled by moderators, they shouldn't remain on the site any longer than they have to.

Instead, what if the privilege to vote to delete early for 20k users applies only for questions with a negative score (similar to voting to delete answers?) This would let 20k users handle the spam or rubbish posts, which almost always have a negative score by the time they are closed, and questions that have had some time to be fixed but haven't can still be deleted after two days have passed.

One could alternatively set the threshold to a score of -2 or lower, which would prevent a user from deleting a question at score 0 by hitting downvote before hitting delete.

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    I agree in principle, but in practice a poorly asked question can (rightly or wrongly) attract a bunch of downvotes without being either spam or unsalvageable rubbish. The first question Shog used here is an example of that. It is currently negatively scored, but was edited to be improved. Whether it's now a great question is debatable, but it's certainly not so bad that we need to get it off the site ASAP. – Adam Lear Mar 13 '13 at 22:36
  • @AnnaLear That's one possible counter-example, but consider that many of the rest of the statistics Shog cites to show that this problem exists rely on the current scores of questions. Targeting the solution to that metric seems the logical response. (There could be a similar limit against questions that have answers with up votes, similar to the self-deletion rules) – David Robinson Mar 13 '13 at 22:41
  • @AnnaLear: furthermore, this would have stopped the second example Shog linked to (the "within minutes" link) from being deleted. – David Robinson Mar 13 '13 at 22:59

I'm in favor of both showing a user their deleted posts in their profile, and allowing users to cast a delete vote that will vote to delete the question in X days.

Users won't learn what they did wrong if we delete their content before they have a chance to see that it got closed and why it was closed.

A closed question is not going to harm the site if it stays around for a few days before getting deleted, and it may even be beneficial since it will educate other users who come across the post about what not to do.

From what I've read on meta, most users vote to delete when they vote to close because its easier than remembering to come back later to cast the delete vote. A way for users to say "Delete this in X days assuming no substantial edits are made to the post" would likely fix this problem.

In addition, I've seen many meta posts about Question Bans, where users don't understand why they've been banned because their profile doesn't show any really terrible post scores, and I'm sure you get many support tickets about those too. The usual response is to undelete the user's deleted posts and tell them to go "fix them up", but by having the deleted posts already listed, users can already see the most likely cause of their ban, and they can "fix" their posts without getting a moderator involved to undelete the posts.

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    I'm in favor of showing their deleted posts, although I still don't have a handle on how it would help the end user: "Ok, I see my question is deleted...so undelete it." – user7116 Mar 14 '13 at 14:58
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    @sixlettervariables It will help them see what they did wrong so they can learn from it, and it will give them a chance to edit their post if they are trying to get out of a question ban. It will also help them in cases where the post contains some useful information to them, and they want to go back and see it. I'm always going back to old posts of mine, and when I want to find info from a deleted post, I currently need to search my rep history or badges for the link, and hope that it's listed there or that I'm remembering the dates right. – Rachel Mar 14 '13 at 15:12
  • I self delete a lot of my answers to keep the place clean. What I mean though for other users is how will they know what they did wrong and how to fix it when their only recourse is to come onto Meta or to repost their question (which they already do). (I agree it will help more seasoned users though). – user7116 Mar 14 '13 at 16:22
  • @sixletter Typically the close reason and comments are enough to point them in the right direction, however if the question is deleted before the user sees it's been closed or the comments on the question, then they can't know what was wrong in the first place. Also, something that may not make sense initially might become more clear as you learn more about the site, which is another reason I support users being able to view their deleted posts - so they can go back to their deleted questions later after they've learned more about the site to understand the closure better, or fix their post. – Rachel Mar 14 '13 at 16:28
  • I don't necessarily disagree, just I rarely see terribly helpful comments on your typical closed and deleted questions. Usually any links or comments given won't help the user as they have already read and ignored the advice. – user7116 Mar 14 '13 at 16:29
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    I believe Jeff's original reason for not showing the question to the OP was that it would be too convenient to copy-paste unchanged into a new question. More people would then be question banned, not fewer. – Bo Persson Mar 14 '13 at 16:56

My suggestion is as follows:

  • Allow high reputation users to normally vote to delete a post
  • Do not delete the post (just yet).
  • If it has been more than N(=24?) hours, and the question was not edited/received sufficient reopen votes, delete it.

However, this requires a shift in the thinking of closed questions as well. Make them more visible and more easily reopenable once they get edited. Because right now, even with the help of the [cv-ring] reopening a question is extremely difficult.

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    N=48, seems more reasonable to me, but +1. Additionally, it would be nice if questions you had cast a delete vote on automatically notified you of any edits. It might be argued that this is annoying, but if you're casting a delete vote you have to put up with at least that much responsibility. – user200500 Mar 13 '13 at 22:07

This is especially a problem with "Subjective Questions." Not all subjective questions are bad, or not allowed on this site. Most questions will have some subjectivity, but the problem is if the question is closed and deleted immediately, there is no option for healthy discussion as to whether the question is subjective enough to close, or how it could be improved.

  • See also the blog post Good Subjective, Bad Subjective. – P.Mort. - forgot Clay Shirky_q Apr 28 at 1:04
  • that's an interesting post, and has some good points. I do disagree on one of the points though. "After all, who can say for certain what order one should watch the Star Wars (saga) with your children for the first time?" Everyone knows you should watch it in the order it was made. lol =) – Millard Apr 28 at 2:20
  • on a serious note though, one of the major problems on this site is that most people think that no subjective questions are allowed at all, which is not the truth. Some are, as long as they are not too subjective. (I realize that's a blurry line, but we should just use common sense) – Millard Apr 28 at 2:22
  • This looks to be subjective ;) I think that it's better to discuss on the corresponding per-site meta what does it mean "Good subjective, bad subjective" for corresponding the community as the system could be designed one way but very rarely will be used exactly in the way that it was designed (i.e. here we have discussions on a system that is not designed for that) – Rubén Apr 28 at 20:48
  • What's hillarious about this is I'm not entirely certain whether your joking. – Millard Apr 28 at 21:35

I have no data, but I see this far more with what looks like single-handed mod deletion (which is actually just response too flafs) than with the build-up of community votes. That's in , at least.

  • Per-person, sure. As a % of the total, no - mods account for well under half of all deletions, early or otherwise. – Shog9 Mar 19 '13 at 20:27

Aytime a redeemable question is deleted before it's had a reasonable chance at being edited and fixed, that's genuinely bad, and we should strive to have that happen as little as possible.

I oppose any change that makes how the system of close/delete votes work more complicated and less transparent. We already have tremendous communication problems surrounding these issues. Do we really want to add layers of "delete votes take effect after X hours, unless the Q has 1 reopen vote within the first Y hours, blah blah blah"? It's already complicated enough that it necessitated an entire blog post explaining the life cycle of a question, and still most people don't fully understand.

Efforts to minimize unwarranted deletions should add as little friction to the system as possible. IMHO we should do only the following two things:

  1. Show deleted content (or at least just questions) to everyone, if you wrote it. (For the love of God, why has this not happened yet?!)
  2. For all users, when they pass 10k rep, the first N delete votes trigger a short alert:

    Please be careful not to delete content prematurely! Is this post salvageable? Has enough time passed that the author has had a chance to edit and improve it? For more detailed information on how to use your delete votes responsibly, see here [link]. (This message will appear N-1 more times.)

Personally, I think N = 5 is sufficient, and you could roll it out such that everyone above 10k rep sees it for 5 delete votes, and then only to people just crossing the 10k threshold.

My rationale here is: who's behavior is going to be easier to nudge? It might be mean to say this, but I think that the vast majority of people writing questions that end up being deleted are unwilling/unable to provide good questions. Some are, but the numbers are against us. On the other hand, I think the overwhelming majority of 10k+ rep SO users have already shown that they have an understanding of how the site works, and a desire to contribute good content. Some 10k+ users are bad apples, but I think the proportions are reversed compared to the askers of deleted question.

So nudge where you're likely to get the most bang for your buck: the communities' "regular" moderators.

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    Yeah, insta-deleting duplicates is probably slightly more dangerous than insta-deleting anything else; at best, you're throwing away a bit of a signal that the original is potentially a common question and at worst it wasn't even a duplicate to begin with. And of course, not being able to see the link to the original is really crappy for the asker, who now has access to neither the answers to his question, or the answers to the one it duplicated. – Shog9 Mar 14 '13 at 2:39
  • @Shog9 I agree that dupes shouldn't really be deleted, but you still haven't provided evidence that many of these question were truly "instantly" deleted. Do you have data on the actual time gaps? Because the ones I look at seem like at least several hours pass, and frequently more. – joran Mar 14 '13 at 2:59
  • @Shog9 ...not to mention the fact that half of my proposed solution entirely obviates the concern about deleting dupes. If the poster can see all their deleted questions, the damage done by deleting a dupe (to the OP) is negligible. – joran Mar 14 '13 at 3:06
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    So out of 17, 7 are duplicates which by default shouldn't be deleted. 8 should not have been deleted early: the 2 redeemable ones, the off-topic ones (give the asker time to read the comments, and to request migration or re-ask), 2 of the “hopelessly unsalvageable ones” (unsalvageable for SO, yes, but not for the asker, who should have time to read the feedback), and one of the typos (I'm giving the one where the asker had acknowledged the comment the benefit of doubt). You don't think that a 15/17 failure rate is evidence of a serious problem? – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Mar 14 '13 at 10:47
  • @gilles I think you're focusing too much on te first half of my answer and not enough on the second half. – joran Mar 14 '13 at 12:37
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    While I do agree that making deletion more complex is not nice, I fundamentally disagree with your basic position that the current attitude towards early deletion is not a major problem, and that most early-deleted questions are irredeemable. Again, I point you to that 15/17 failure rate. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Mar 14 '13 at 13:18
  • @Gilles That portion of my answer was clearly poorly communicated. My point was that Shog9's post seemed to complain about the instant deletion of content that was potentially redeemable. And then he has this huge list of questions, and I see plenty of questions that shouldn't have been deleted (like the dupes) but very few that were instantly deleted and that were redeemable. So I think Shog9 wasn't very clear about whether the problem is a specific type of deleted content, anything that's deleted that shouldn't be. – joran Mar 14 '13 at 13:21
  • @joran Almost all duplicates should stay on the site. “Redeemable” isn't applicable to duplicates: they aren't going to be reopened but should stay as search fodder. Of the 10 non-dupes you selected, 8 should not have been deleted early. This is not just about redeemabilty but also about letting the asker see the feedback. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Mar 14 '13 at 13:25
  • @Gilles Yes, I never thought otherwise. – joran Mar 14 '13 at 14:06
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    Almost all duplicates have no busienss being anywhere near this site. This myth that they are helpful must end. There are 800 kajillion "object reference not set equal to instance of object" duplicates on SO. Do we need to keep all of those? If there are dozens upon dozens of duplicates, delete delete delete and delete again. – Anthony Pegram Mar 14 '13 at 14:34

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