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Prior to May 2017, accounts used to be automatically deleted if they met certain criteria. However, in May 2017, we stopped culling inactive users (see When will inactive accounts be deleted?).

Today, in the most recent blog post, it says:

As part of our new data-retention policy, we will now delete accounts that have been inactive for more than two years and where the user has never engaged in any meaningful activity.

What is the definition of "meaningful activity" here?

  • Wouldn't the definition look an awful lot like the one for "anything of significance"? – Nathan Tuggy May 22 '18 at 7:46
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    @SonictheInclusiveHedgehog: I mean, sure, but … why exactly do you need some bullet-proof 110% certain super-official definition of something that really isn't in much doubt and doesn't really matter all that much? – Nathan Tuggy May 22 '18 at 7:49
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    This may be relevant to many of the chat bots on the network, which often only have the minimal amount of participation required to unlock chat. (I doubt chat activity will be considered by this script.) – ON STRIKE - Jeremy Banks May 22 '18 at 16:50
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    @SonictheInclusiveHedgehog We'll get the right person to get an answer on this soon. – Joe Friend May 23 '18 at 20:32
  • @user1114 Any chatbot would have necessarily contributed meaningful activity in order to get enough rep to access chat. I can't imagine a world where upvoted posts don't count as "meaningful activity" (regardless of what else might also count). – Servy May 23 '18 at 21:58
  • Amusingly, this eventually solves my spam profile problem <3 – Journeyman Geek May 24 '18 at 5:43
  • @JourneymanGeek Why is that? – Sonic the Anonymous Hedgehog May 24 '18 at 5:52
  • they are profile scammers. So if no one does anything for 2 years, they have no meaningful activity and are gone – Journeyman Geek May 24 '18 at 6:04
  • First paragraph is wrong. Prior to May 2017, accounts should have been automatically deleted if they met certain criteria. As far as I know, this never worked, and the millions of stale ancient accounts is all the proof we need. It was bugged from day 1. – Shadow May 24 '18 at 19:04
  • @ShadowWizard Evidence? Also see prior revisions to the answer in the second link; it was completely rewritten. – Sonic the Anonymous Hedgehog May 24 '18 at 19:12
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As you can imagine, we have a large number of users who essentially opened an account, never did anything, forgot they created an account and stopped visiting the site.

Rather than holding on to that data forever, we plan to delete an account if a user:

  • hasn't visited the site in the last two years
  • and never asked or answered a question
  • and has a reputation of 1
  • and doesn't have a Developer Story or hasn't applied to a job or job search status ≠ actively looking
  • and hasn't opened or clicked any promotional email in the last year
  • and hasn't engaged in any other activity, such as edits, voting, bounties, etc.

As you can see, we are really targeting users who really, truly don't use our site. In fact, while building the query for the purge, we discovered that most of the impacted users fall into the tech-debt category: 2 out of 3 were imports from our 2011 move to network-wide single sign-on.

We will not notify affected users because there is no easy action they can take to reactivate their existing accounts. It will be easier for them to just create a new account from scratch if they ever decide again that they would like to be a registered member.

This will roll out sometime in June 2018; exact date TBD. Until then, inactive accounts aren't currently being deleted.

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    Thanks so much for the clarification! There's a similar question on MSO here if you hadn't seen it; I'm sure they'll love having this info, too. :) – Catija May 23 '18 at 21:56
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    When will this roll out? Also, does bullet 4 only apply to Stack Overflow, or are users who have Stack Overflow developer stories (for example) exempt from automatic culling on other SE sites? – Sonic the Anonymous Hedgehog May 23 '18 at 22:26
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    Finally, if you wouldn't mind, it would be great if you got a moderator diamond here, so it's more clear that your answers are from an official source. – Sonic the Anonymous Hedgehog May 23 '18 at 22:33
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    All Stack Overflow employees aren't given a moderator diamond; the Community team has tightened up internal policies regarding who gets one and who doesn't. I think that users with Developer Stories will be exempt from automatic culling on other SE sites, but I am not a developer and can't say with 100% certainty. We are still writing the queries and figuring out the mechanics. – Anita Taylor May 23 '18 at 22:36
  • I'm assuming that you only delete an account if all 5 of those conditions are met? (It clearly wouldn't make sense to delete if any of those conditions were met, but it's good to be extra clear here.) – Adam Rosenfield May 24 '18 at 17:13
  • Curious clarification... by "never" do you really mean "never"? Or does it only apply in cases where the question/answer wasn't deleted? As an example, lots of spam accounts post questions or answers but they're nearly immediately deleted - would these accounts also be removed? – Catija May 24 '18 at 19:02
  • @Catija this isn't meant to be used against spammers as far as I can tell. – Shadow May 24 '18 at 19:07
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    @AnitaTaylor what about actions like suggesting edits and voting? One can gain 1000 rep from suggesting edits, then give 2 bounties of 500 each (and/or downvote 1000 answers), falling down to 1 again. Will such account be auto deleted after 2 years of not visiting the site? – Shadow May 24 '18 at 19:09
  • @ShadowWizard But most mods don't seek and destroy accounts used for spam... we're not notified of them in any way, so we would have to go out of our way to find them and destroy them. Even with a two-year gap, I'd think that getting rid of the account eventually would be useful? Though, I guess Shog was just talking about auto-destroying accounts that had their only post nuked as spam. – Catija May 24 '18 at 19:10
  • @Catija sure, it would be useful, I just don't think it's part of the change introduced here. Adding checks like "were all the deleted posts flagged as spam?" would make things more complicated and prone to errors. – Shadow May 24 '18 at 19:11
  • @ShadowWizard I don't have a definitive answer for you, but I asked the dev who will be coding the query if it is possible to screen for "never edited a question" and "never gave a bounty." – Anita Taylor May 24 '18 at 19:16
  • @ShadowWizard there is a reason that other delete inactive user batch was disabled. I don't expect Nick will allow another query to run that takes 6 to 8 minutes to complete. Having all kind of extra joins for those two accounts that describe your case is a loss we can have, no? – rene May 24 '18 at 19:26
  • @AnitaTaylor If you could get the dev who's writing the query to also respond to this post, that would be very nice. – Sonic the Anonymous Hedgehog May 24 '18 at 19:36
  • So posting comments, chat messages, data.SE queries etc. will not matter? It's fine, but I'd be curious to know how many links will be "broken". – Nemo May 25 '18 at 13:13
  • It seems this has already rolled out. Can you please update? – Sonic the Anonymous Hedgehog May 29 '18 at 19:20
0

I do not believe the accepted answer is currently correct. I was doing a name search of users with my name and found

https://stackoverflow.com/users/4832957/james-jenkins-s?tab=profile

Member for 4 years, 3 months

1 profile view

Last seen Apr 25 '15 at 21:39

1 REPUTATION

The profile view count was 0 when I first looked, but it increased to 1, while I was finding this meta post.

The profile clearly meets all the criteria except possibly for "and hasn't opened or clicked any promotional email in the last year" all the other points are verifiably met by looking at the profile.

  • They have a developer story. – Catija Aug 12 at 16:59
  • @Catija maybe the image is counting as a developer story? For me it shows the picture and "This user hasn't added an item to their Developer Story yet." – James Jenkins Aug 12 at 17:02
  • @Catija how so? Their developer story is blank. The link exists always, even when one never put anything in there. – Shadow Aug 13 at 8:40
  • Anyway, that user might have "opened or clicked any promotional email in the last year" which saved their account from nuking. – Shadow Aug 13 at 8:40

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