23

From the help center, auto-delete section (emphasis is mine):

If the question is more than 365 days old, and ...

  • has a score of 0 or less, or a score of 1 and a deleted owner
  • has no answers
  • is not locked
  • has view count <= the age of the question in days times 1.5
  • has 1 or 0 comments
  • isn't on a meta site

... it will be automatically deleted. These are termed "abandoned" questions (RemoveAbandonedQuestions).

I have been reading about the scripts for auto deletion of posts in SE, and reviewing borderline questions to those scripts. By borderline I mean, almost all criteria are met except one. The 'comments' requirement caught my attention. Example, all assumptions above are true except the question has two or more comments which are as old as the Q (see questions from query 'b').

Wouldn't it be more in line with the Stack Exchange saying "comments are second-class citizens" to instead of setting the requirement based on a low threshold for number of comments keeping the question, to set it based on the date from the most recent comment (no matter how many comments)? The name of the script refers to 'abandoned questions' and a pile of old comments under an old question does not make it less abandoned, does it?

There are many other questions like that one hanging around and hindering useful searches.


Take a look at the following data retrieved from two queries in SEDE:

Table1. Number of questions to be deleted based on different scenarios for the comment rule in the RemoveAbandonedQuestions script:

                  total           most recent comment
                  n# of comments  older than n months          
              ------------------  -------------------
SE site****     < 2*         0**  12***      6      0(**)
------------  ------------------  -------------------
Super User        0  24750(6.3%^) 24625  24733  24802
Ask Ubuntu        0  12530(4.0%)  12412  12560  12602
Server Fault      0   7905(2.9%)   7839   7899   7922  
GIS               0   3137(2.9%)   3097   3128   3140
------------  ------------------  -------------------    
  • ^ Proportion of questions to be deleted in relation to the total number of questions.
  • * Number of comments < 2 is what is currently implemented (the baseline), i.e., no additional posts are deleted.
  • ** Number of Qs to be deleted if the comment rule was deactivated (no comment threshold required). Data was retrieved from query a).
  • *** Number of Qs to be deleted if date required from the most recent comment was older than 12 months. This was the maximum threshold for period of time used because it would not make sense requiring the comment to be older than the time threshold for the post itself (365 days). Data was retrieved from query b).
  • (**) The number of questions here should have matched the second column from section 'total n# of comments', but they were pretty close.
  • **** Unfortunately, the queries ran out memory for Stack Overflow and Mathematics.

If my queries are correct, it seems 'age of comments' are irrelevant to this matter, i.e., completely removing the comment rule would yield almost the same results than requiring the most recent comment to be at least 1 year old.

In other words, 'abandoned' questions which are currently being prevented from auto deletion due to the comment rule, also do have only 'abandoned' comments.


Meanwhile, if anyone is interested knowing about own comments preventing questions from auto-deletion, see this query and its description.


The following post is a near duplicate in Stack Overflow Meta: Time for roomba to ignore comments (credits to user gnat).

  • 10
    That criteria was probably used for performance reasons, because CommentCount is a denormalized column on the Posts table already. But if joining in the Comments table to get the last comment date isn't too expensive to cause the query to start timing out, I think that's be a good tweak. – animuson Jan 10 at 23:39
  • @animuson if that's put in place I wonder if it'd be worth reducing the last comment date to a month or so (if not removing entirely)? Another year seems like a long delay for a "any luck with this?" comment that goes unanswered. – PeterJ Jan 11 at 0:50
  • 2
    @animuson another possible reason is that in the past it was possible to use unanswered questions as dupe targets, see eg Time for roomba to ignore comments "Back then... it made solid sense to be careful about deleting old unanswered questions... in historical context that requirement for minimal amount of comments looks more like sanity check to ensure that question is not totally useless. Nowadays things are very different - practically opposite..." – gnat Jan 18 at 11:10
4
+50

I agree with you on this. In particular, when you say this it resonates with me:

Wouldn't it be more in line with the Stack Exchange saying "comments are second-class citizens" to instead of setting the requirement based on a low threshold for number of comments keeping the question, to set it based on the date from the most recent comment (no matter how many comments)? The name of the script refers to 'abandoned questions' and a pile of old comments under an old question does not make it less abandoned, does it?

I review many old unanswered questions and I think that if a question has had no answer posted, and it has long since ceased attracting comments to try and make it more answerable, then it can be considered abandoned.

I propose that:

  • has 1 or 0 comments

be taken out of the algorithm, and in its place, this be used:

  • has had no new comments for 365 days
-4

I often comment on questions asking for clarification or giving other feedback to the user on how to get a better answer. I would hate to think that I'm keeping bad questions alive while trying to be helpful.

On the other hand I see situations where the answer is in the comments and nobody ever pasted the answer as an actual answer.

In conclusion; I think that the questions that have comments that are flagged by your new rule as "abandoned" need to go in to a new "Review queues" section where people with review power can choose to close them or paste the answer in to the answer section and close out the question.

  • 3
    It would be too much work for little return in my opinion. Only a small portion of Qs are answered in comments and usually, such comments are one-liner and/or lack details to escape from downvotes and low quality flags. – Andre Silva Feb 4 at 23:11
  • 4
    A queue like this would probably gain a significant amount of backlog. Answering in comments is already discouraged and doesn't happen enough for it to be worthy of another review queue. – Pikachu the Purple Wizard Feb 4 at 23:22

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