Several times a day, people make clearly off-topic posts on MSE. And I've noticed something of a trend with these posts.

Obviously, people vote-to-close them as off-topic. But they also get downvoted heavily. The thing I noticed is that... they don't usually get deleted. Or at least, not nearly as quickly as they get closed. A question closed in minutes will often linger on for hours or even half-a-day before finally getting the 3rd delete vote.

Yes, far more people have close-voting powers than deletion powers. But I think there is an additional reason for this disparity: people with delete powers don't see those questions.

When a question is sufficiently downvoted, it no longer appears on the front page. That is good, in that it removes bad things from the front page. But, that also means that the only way to find that question is to look at the Questions page. And that page is simply not as frequently visited as the main page.

As such, I think we would deal with these questions more effectively and efficiently if they weren't downvoted. Yes, they're bad, but that means they need to be gotten rid of. And getting rid of them requires visibility, which downvoting inhibits.

It's an odd catch-22.

  • 11
    But questions need to be at most -3 to be deleted (before 2 days).
    – user202729
    Oct 28, 2018 at 15:51
  • 2
    Users with deletion privileges should really be using the 10k tools in addition to their normal browsing.
    – muru
    Oct 28, 2018 at 15:53
  • 6
    According to this, those questions should have score > -8 to be on the front page.
    – user202729
    Oct 28, 2018 at 15:54
  • 9
    Part of the downvoting is sending a strong message to the OP and readers that we do not want those questions around here. -3 doesn't seem as strong a signal as -10.
    – user392547
    Oct 28, 2018 at 15:55
  • 3
    @Chair: Does deletion not send a strong message? Oct 28, 2018 at 15:56
  • 1
    @NicolBolas I don't think people who write those would differentiate much between deletion after being closed for a day, or deletion after being closed for an hour. Either way they don't get the help.
    – user392547
    Oct 28, 2018 at 15:59
  • 4
    @Chair: And I don't think people who write those would differentiate between -3 and -10. However, deleting off-topic questions more quickly makes the site better by removing content that ought not be here. That is the highest priority. Oct 28, 2018 at 16:02
  • 2
    Wrong. It's very rare for off topic question to survive more than few hours. To be honest I don't downvote off topic question if it's not really bad by itself and already has the required -3 for deletion, but I do not expect others to follow. Oct 28, 2018 at 16:07
  • 1
    @ShadowWizard: I've seen several this week alone that survived 8 hours. Oct 28, 2018 at 16:09
  • 1
    I have no data, so I can't tell for sure. A graph for vote/time before delete correlation would be great.
    – user202729
    Oct 28, 2018 at 16:09
  • 9
    So when you find these, please come to The Tavern, list the questions and ping me asking to cast delete vote. That's how we get rid of many of them anyway. :) Oct 28, 2018 at 16:10
  • I need someone to give me a 2,500 point bounty and then I'll cast delete votes :P
    – Laurel
    Oct 28, 2018 at 19:29
  • 4
    (Ironically?) this question has too low score to be displayed on the home page.
    – user202729
    Oct 29, 2018 at 11:23
  • 2
    @NicolBolas I listen. For MSE (or any low traffic site tbh) I think stuff works, if only enough people with the privileges would moderate based on the active tab instead of the front-page. You try to fix something that needs dedicated hands, not technology.
    – rene
    Oct 29, 2018 at 14:20
  • 3
    The real fix here is to put things in place to not have so many of these, as they're a direct result of a quarterly email that just went out. There's now an interstitial page that @Shog9 just rolled out that should help anyone paying even a modicum of attention that they're in the wrong place, but I'm also looking at other ideas. Will post a more complete answer when I have one.
    – user50049
    Nov 1, 2018 at 16:53

2 Answers 2


If I was an inexperienced asker and if I had my question deleted at small negative score I would think that possibly I just accidentally caught an eye of some overly strict moderator and maybe it makes sense to try my luck and ask again.

(no, I wouldn't count close voters in that obscure banner and no, I wouldn't check boring help center. Nor would I trust comments explaining something complicated about topics because these look like just personal opinion of an occasional passer by)

Large negative score would help me understand that really many people don't want me asking over here.

Things would probably be different if there was efficient guidance about question quality and topicality or safety roadblocks for confused askers. But in the absence of these downvotes could do the job about as well.

  • "Large negative score would help me understand that really many people don't want me asking over here." Or, you could look at the close reason under the question. Or the comment(s) under the question which are usually posted pre-deletion. I don't think we have a rash of people repeatedly asking off-topic questions. They're usually just one-off incidents. I think it's unreasonable to think that people would walk away from these incidents without knowing why the question was wrong, regardless of how many downvotes there were. Oct 28, 2018 at 17:12
  • 1
    @NicolBolas per observations at other sites where I am active, many new askers tend to ignore close banner and comments (and help center too) and I see no reason why it should be different at MSE
    – gnat
    Oct 28, 2018 at 17:18
  • Really? Do you see a rash of people asking questions that are genuinely off-topic who continue to ask such questions if their posts aren't downvoted enoug? And when I say "genuinely off-topic", I don't mean SO's frankly absurd designation of "lacking an MCVE" as being "off-topic". I mean "you asked a car question on a site about programming" kinds of off-topic. That's the kind of stuff MSE gets. Do you see a lot of people demanding that their car questions be allowed on a programming site? Oct 28, 2018 at 17:23
  • 4
    @NicolBolas you know, I study hot network questions. Because of that I sometimes visit sites focused on topics I am not familiar with. I noticed that when I am over there the only thing that feels easy to understand is post score - everything else seems either complicated or unimportant. And this is despite being closely familiar with how closing and commenting works on sites where I am active at, so I guess it is even more so for users who are even less familiar with how SE sites work
    – gnat
    Oct 28, 2018 at 20:29

The real problem is not whether users should heavily downvote off-topic question but how the site can avoid seeing this in the future.

Screenshot taken today

enter image description here

I am confident that these posts, with the exception of the duplicate request, will be deleted swiftly.

But the real discussion should focus on whether MSE users should spend time posting suggestions, and canned instructions in the comments when it should be easy enough for the system to verify if a new contributor has one or more accounts on SE, has already posted an identical question on a different site earlier and whether he or she is an active member of a different site.

For users who deliberately cross-post the same identical question on MSE, and/or have been an active and regular member of any SE site for at least 6 months, perhaps the best deterrent is an immediate suspension on MSE, lasting approximately one week.

  • I've just checked and, as I imagined, all the posts, excluding the duplicate, have been deleted. They are all 404 when I view the pages. Unfortunately, I don't know when they were deleted, but three hours is quite quick for non-spam posts. Oct 30, 2018 at 12:18
  • And of those examples how many of those users had posted the exact same question on another site?
    – Servy
    Oct 30, 2018 at 17:26
  • @Servy precisely one Oct 30, 2018 at 18:24
  • I imagine suspensions form Meta SE are difficult: They need to be implemented by mods and the only mods are SE employees. My mod flags here are processed slowly, and I get the feeling they won't have the time to suspend that many users. Automatic suspensions aren't reliable enough because I've seen badly-worded questions about SE getting closed as off-topic.
    – user392547
    Oct 31, 2018 at 12:31

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