I've recently reached enough reputation on one of the sites to be able to cast delete votes. I am not sure when a question is supposed to be deleted as opposed to just remain closed.

What criteria should I use when deciding whether or not to cast my delete vote?

  • 23
    Early and often.
    – Pollyanna
    Commented Jul 18, 2011 at 4:27
  • In light of this debate I think this topic could use some further discussion.
    – Brad Mace
    Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 18:17
  • 1
    @rene I think this should be reopened. There's a lot of specific guidance here (from a CM, so pretty official) on when to delete questions which doesn't appear in the dupe target. I've found this post useful and linked to it a lot; the other one, not so much. Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 15:58
  • Agreed, this isn't actually a dupe. This one gives guidance on when users should choose to delete while the proposed dupe is about when users can delete and when the system deletes.
    – terdon
    Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 16:02
  • @Randal'Thor and done
    – rene
    Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 16:26
  • @Pollyanna Please refrain from answering in the comments. If you have a viewpoint, it's far better to post it as an answer so users can vote on it, edit it, or comment on it. Thank you!
    – cocomac
    Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 19:46

4 Answers 4


Questions should be deleted when their content no longer adds anything to the site. Questions are closed for a variety of reasons, so let's look at each close reason and whether they should likely be deleted:


It depends; Look at the context of how they are asked.

You'll want to keep the question if the wording provides another way for a search query to find the content. It's a bit like a "see also …" entry in an index.

Delete it if the duplicate does not add terminology or alternate phrasing to find the question. It may not be worth cluttering up the system with this exact duplicate. There are several poorly phrased questions that will not direct traffic to us.

Off Topic:

Almost always delete it.

Off topic usually says "This shouldn't have been posted here in the first place." So, for anything not about topic [x] or the off-topic reasons, just let it burn!

Too broad:

Delete it if it says "this is nothing but a 'broken window', and we should get rid of it." This includes lists of questions where the only information is about 2 lines of text per answer or Wikipedia/internet dumps.

Broken window theory: The theory is that minor forms of bad behavior encourage worse ones: that a neighborhood with lots of graffiti and broken windows becomes one where robberies occur.


Always delete it.

Closing it before deletion provided ample time for the author (or community) to fix it up. If it wasn't re-opened by this time, it should probably go.

Primarily opinion based:

See "Too broad".

  • What about general reference?
    – waiwai933
    Commented Jul 22, 2011 at 20:28
  • @waiwai933: The "general reference" closure has only been rolled out on a few sites. Generally, I place "general reference" somewhere between "not constructive" and "not a real question", with a bias towards deletion. I don't see any reason to keep those around. Commented Jul 28, 2011 at 17:19
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    @Robert, you need to reference the quality of the answer in the Duplicate posts, so if there are good ones, it should just be flagged to merge. Commented Aug 25, 2011 at 7:25
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    What about answers? For example, if an answer is obsolete, what ought to be done? Commented Jan 15, 2013 at 6:54
  • @Manishearth Wiki-style editing is designed to improve answers and keep them relevant. Comments can be used to point out changing conditions and request updates. Voting helps make sure the most relevant answers stay near the top. Failing all those mechanisms, an egregiously deteriorated post can be pointed out in meta or through moderator flags, but it should be exceedingly rare to use these mechanisms to point out technical inaccuracies. Commented Jan 15, 2013 at 15:36
  • @RobertCartaino: Ah, thanks. The context was this post (as well as this). I wasn't really sure if the suggestions to delete were according to current policy. Commented Jan 15, 2013 at 15:41
  • @Manishearth I don't know the technical merits of the claims, but coordinating some sort of broad review or cleanup sounds like a reasonable use of meta. Commented Jan 15, 2013 at 15:49
  • 4
    I think this should be updated since some (well, most) terminology is obsolete.
    – Braiam
    Commented Mar 16, 2014 at 15:02
  • 1
    At the top this says "You delete a post when the content no longer adds anything to the site." but what if off topic, opinion based, or too broad questions add to the site and are useful for some? Should those just remain closed but not deleted?
    – mason
    Commented Mar 18, 2015 at 18:37
  • 1
    If it was a good, on-topic question and got good answers, and then the site's scope changed later, consider a historical lock instead of deleting. Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 15:38
  • 1
    I just got over 10K on gamingSE and I want to ask to be very sure: A ton of questions are asked there that are closed as off-topic for being tech support for modded Minecraft. Should these really ALL be deleted? If yes, I would go on a giant killing spree of closing old questions. :D Commented Jul 24, 2019 at 19:57
  • 1
    @FabianRöling You should ask in meta support for Arqade. In general, (1) you should never go on a spree of anything (especially if you just got access); (2) Don't be so quick to close/delete things en masse if they are not actively harming the site (e.g. attracting persistent spam). It serves no purpose to remove content that wasn't handled organically to satisfy some sense that maybe something is wrong on the Internet. It's typically a big waste of time better spent working on current activities. It can be disruptive and it ends up not improving the site in any meaningful way. Commented Jul 24, 2019 at 20:06

If it's closed, it's fair game: vote to delete unless you can see that it has some value for the site (in which case you should probably vote to re-open).

The exception to this (and it's a big one!) are questions closed as duplicates. These can act as "guideposts" to direct users to a question with answers. If the closed question itself has answers, then flag it for moderator attention and request that it be merged - merging migrates the answers to the original question and leaves the duplicate question, locked, to guide future readers.

  • 5
    I was about to downvote until I read The exception
    – jjnguy
    Commented Jul 28, 2010 at 23:26
  • 2
    If all closed questions (bar the exception) are fair game to be deleted, why aren't they deleted by default?
    – Oak
    Commented Jul 28, 2010 at 23:35
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    @Oak: It's a fair question. Closing questions makes them candidates for deletion; it doesn't necessarily qualify them for deletion. There are many reasons to close, but only one reason to delete (the question does not add value to the site, or simply adds noise). For example, there are a number of very popular (but slightly off-topic) questions that are not deleted because they add value, but are closed/locked because they keep getting bumped to the front page when someone adds the three-hundredth answer.
    – user102937
    Commented Jul 28, 2010 at 23:38
  • 2
    @Oak: best reason I can think of is that it gives the rest of the community a chance to review the closing. If five people close it, and it doesn't get re-opened in two days, there's a fair chance it's just not that important. Of course, this falls apart when it comes to very obscure and very broad questions (that old bikeshed paint color thing again...) but ideally that's how it works.
    – Shog9
    Commented Jul 28, 2010 at 23:53
  • Isn't another exception the historical lock?
    – bjb568
    Commented Oct 25, 2014 at 3:20
  • 1
    Even at almost 50k reputation I had not seen (or at least, actually registered) the guidance to request migration when closing a duplicate with potentially useful answers. Upvote for that alone. Would appreciate a pointer to official documentation, if that exists.
    – tripleee
    Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 10:23
  • Historical context: almost three years later in this post Shog9 asked to Stop deleting stuff early if it's not egregiously bad.
    – markalex
    Commented Aug 29, 2023 at 10:09
  • "early" being "in less than 2 days", @markalex - a thing enabled by another change made a bit less than a year after I wrote this.
    – Shog9
    Commented Aug 29, 2023 at 14:28
  • @Shog9, I understand that. It's just that this your answer was brought up in this discussion about early deletion of closed question as argument "for". I wanted to leave a context here for future readers, to not be confused by partially outdated answer.
    – markalex
    Commented Aug 29, 2023 at 14:49
  • Figured it might be something like that @mark - thanks for digging up the context!
    – Shog9
    Commented Aug 30, 2023 at 18:55

It pretty much comes down to if you think the post is helpful on the site or not. I normally limit myself to deleting blatantly off-topic posts or actual spam; if I have any doubt as to whether a post is useful I'll leave it alone. When I first discovered I was limited to 3 delete votes/day I thought that was incredibly low (in my mind I compared them to 12 close votes/day) -- I've never run out. Generally moderators delete the incredibly off-topic stuff before the 2 day waiting period is over, and spam flags take care of the spam posts

One thing people seem tempted to delete that you shouldn't are duplicates; if a duplicate is posted it's because that asker phrased the question differently enough that SO couldn't find the matching post automatically, so there's a good chance future users will search for that same problem using that same phrasing, and it's nice to have the closed post there to direct them to the right place


As per Jeff's post here, and answer here:

Questions which contain useful content contributed by your peers should generally be merged, not deleted.

I wish people wouldn't delete questions with good answers. You're destroying the useful contributions of your peers!

It's all about usefulness. Many questions get closed, but have useful answers that we want to preserve. Deletion votes should be based on usefulness, and that means usefulness to somebody, not just because it doesn't apply to your individual programming needs.

If a question is useful, but fits one of the close reasons, and has no potential for really useful answers, then it should be locked.

  • 3
    I believe locking is for different purposes, mainly to stop ongoing edit wars and comment discussions, as this meta-thread suggests.
    – Oak
    Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 18:30
  • 1
    @Oak, that is definitely the main reason for locking, but it also serves the purpose I've stated. Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 18:31

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