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tl;dr We're very quick (at some sites) in deleting closed off-topic questions. By doing so we're closing doors for people with "We are no longer accepting questions/answers from this account" post ban to lift it. What am I missing?


For years I've lived with thinking that we are not deleting questions for which the only close reason was "off-topic". We are not doing so, because:

Closed questions appears in search results (and deleted questions are not) and thus can be used as an example for other users to not re-post the same off-topic question.

Recently I was corrected that my thinking was wrong. And that in fact we're deleting questions closed as off-topic. Sometimes we're even doing this in less than three days since closing.

Now, I am taking the above and trying to fit it into FAQ explanation on what one can do when getting "We are no longer accepting questions/answers from this account" post ban. I am trying to fit that and I am failing totally.

The parts that are frightening me the most are these:

Automatic bans never expire or "time out".

Before you do anything else, fix your existing posts! (...) Poorly worded, titled, formatted, and overly long or short? Then fix them!

If a post was poorly received (downvoted or closed), those negative marks will continue to count against your account even if the post is deleted! Whenever possible, try to fix posts instead of deleting them.

To summarize:

  1. We are encouraging users with post ban to fix as many questions as possible instead of deleting them
  2. We are encouraging moderators to delete as many closed questions as possible. Sometimes even faster than 60 hours since closing

OK, I can see (and still fix) my deleted question. Right. But:

  1. To undelete question, I need four votes (plus mine)
  2. Deleted questions are seen by 10k+ rep users only (except me and mods)
  3. On some younger sites there aren't many 10k+ rep users
  4. So, there are a lot of scenarios where my question won't be undeleted
  5. This means that it won't be seen by a general community
  6. This means that it won't gain enough upvotes (after fixing) to lift the post ban

I can virtually spent my entire life fixing my closed questions and gain nothing. Only because these were deleted very quickly (or deleted at all in general).

What am I missing?

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    RE the last part: if your post is deleted and you think you've improved it enough for it to be undeleted, then you should flag it for moderator attention. With that said, I do agree that overall we probably don't need to delete closed questions. Like, if the question is problematic, then perhaps deletion is warranted. If it is simply off-topic and won't be picked up by the Roomba, then also maybe yes. But closed not-immediately-problematic and Roombable question can just be left up.
    – VLAZ
    Jan 27, 2023 at 16:07
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    If a question is really off-topic then no amount of editing will make it on-topic/reopenable/upvotable (other than changing it into a completely different question, which is also not allowed), so it does not make a difference if it is closed or closed and deleted. Of course there are some sites like Politics.SE where asking about internal motivations is off-topic but asking about publicly stated reasons is not, so there you can actually make a question on-topic, but I think this situation is not very common across the network.
    – Marijn
    Jan 27, 2023 at 16:17
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    @Marijn I believe that you first sentence actually explains everything. Care to craft this as an answer?
    – trejder
    Jan 27, 2023 at 16:56
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    "Faster than 60 hours" That particular instance was part of a global sweep-up of ID questions. ID questions were declared off-topic & the decision was made to hunt down & delete all old examples. Yours just got swept up with them, as explained in the recent comment. On the other hand, people who continue to post off-topic questions eventually hit the auto-ban [which would be quicker if more downvotes were received] so in these cases the early delete could be a kindness, of sorts.
    – Tetsujin
    Jan 27, 2023 at 17:44

2 Answers 2

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The question assumes that editing closed questions is a way for a user to get out of a post ban. This may indeed work in some cases, however for off-topic questions this procedure does not apply.

If a question is really off-topic then no amount of editing will make it on-topic/reopenable/upvotable (other than changing it into a completely different question, which is also not allowed). Therefore, it does not make a difference if it is closed or closed and deleted.

There are some sites where "off-topic" includes aspects of how a question is framed or asked. An example is Politics.SE where asking about internal motivations of a politician is off-topic but asking about publicly stated reasons is not, so there you can actually make an off-topic question on-topic, or Skeptics.SE where you need to include a "notable claim" for a question to be on-topic.

However, I think this situation is not very common across the network, and questions closed for this reason (which is officially named "Not suitable for this site") are actually about the topic/subject of the question, in which case editing will not help the asker lift a post ban. Deleting these questions therefore can be considered as clean-up effort without significant disadvantages.

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Sure, it's extremely unlikely for deleted questions to get undeleted by people who just stumble across them. But you don't have to wait for people to show up:

  • Meta is the most effective way. Post a question and show the work you've done to improve your main site question. Some sites have very active metas. Moderators (except on SO) are also alerted to any new meta posts.
  • Some sites have chat rooms dedicated to this type of moderation. Even if they don't, someone in the main room may help.

Remember, it only takes one moderator to undelete your question and/or reopen it. And on those sites that don't have a lot of high reputation users, the reputation to do anything is usually much less (2k for the same privilege to view deleted posts that's unlocked at 10k on sites like SO).

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  • About your first point. I won't be able to post anything (including meta), if I have a post ban... I don't know about chat. But, that's technical.
    – trejder
    Jan 27, 2023 at 16:55
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    @trejder Meta counts as a different site for the purposes of automatic post bans, so plenty of people who are question banned on the main site can and do post on its meta. (It's apparently possible to get an automatic ban on meta but it's much harder to get one. I've never seen it happen before, probably since you would have to be repeatedly being a nuisance to trigger such a ban on meta.)
    – Laurel
    Jan 27, 2023 at 17:03
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    Sorry, I was more than sure that "Yes" answer to "Does this apply to meta sites too?" question means: "Yes, your frontpage post ban also blocks you from asking at the same site's meta". With your clarification it seems that I must understand it rather as: "Yes, you can get a post ban at meta as well". Thanks.
    – trejder
    Jan 27, 2023 at 17:13
  • @trejder you cannot get an automatic question ban on the per-site metas. It's possible here on Meta.SE, however, it's apparently hard. If you are suspended on a site, then you cannot post on either main or its meta. As well as have other restrictions. But that's the only limitation that affects both main and meta part of a site.
    – VLAZ
    Jan 30, 2023 at 7:20

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