I notice many questions on SE sites are closed. Why are these kept around?

Take exact duplicates, for example. Some of these have value to searchers since it becomes slightly easier to find an answer to a question, but if other users were capable of finding an exact duplicate, are they really helpful?

And what about questions that are garbage, or off-topic. I don't see any reason to keep these around at all. Any reason why these could not be automatically deleted after a set time period?

  • You can just vote for delete. However, that vote link only appears after 2 days. With 10k tools it's easier to maintain them. – BalusC Feb 8 '11 at 19:16
  • Of course, but why require users to do that if there is no reason not to do it automatically? So I assume there is a reason or two, and would like to know. – Oystein Feb 8 '11 at 19:19
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    More Google hits. – BalusC Feb 8 '11 at 19:24
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    peer review. Some folks get really really upset upon seeing questions deleted. It used to be considerably easier for 10K users to remove old closed questions, but there was a big fuss about it. An automated system would likely result in deafening screams. So now they sit around until enough users decide to re-open them, or a moderator deletes them. – Shog9 Feb 8 '11 at 20:32

Users with 10k reputation can vote to delete closed questions, which usually causes them to decay in a steady / granular fashion. Some things stay around because having several slightly different incarnations of the same question is helpful (as you suggested) for searching. There's also a lot of question merging going on behind the scenes.

Then, there is the cruft, which the content review system tends to expose.

In short, we don't intentionally keep low quality stuff around, it just takes a little time to flush it out given the sheer volume of SO.

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  • Does that mean there is a problem here? How many delete-votes are needed to delete a question? Should that number be decreased? – Oystein Feb 8 '11 at 19:40
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    @Øystein It takes 3 votes to delete for most questions. If a question and its answers have many, many votes, though, it increases proportionately. – Grace Note Feb 8 '11 at 19:41
  • I just spent five minutes pretty much writing your answer as a comment to the OP under Philippe's answer. That'll teach me to write anything before I've read every word on the page.... (+1.) – Pops Feb 8 '11 at 20:05
  • @Popular Demand - If it takes more than a minute, it should probably be an answer :P – Tim Post Feb 8 '11 at 22:55

For duplicates see : Handling Duplicate Questions Point 3 - Borderline Duplicates

... people tend to ask and search using completely different words, and the better our coverage, the better odds our fellow programmers can find the answer they’re looking for.

Everyone does not have the same level of searching ability.

I would not want closed questions to be automatically deleted, I posted a question on finding a certain option that did not use characters in SO searches (#). So deleting these questions puts to waste previous work done by users of duplicates. Some of us really try hard to find it, I spend sometimes up to 15 minutes doing different search terms.

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  • I see the search value in duplicates, but I find the keeping of off-topic and garbage questions puzzling. – Oystein Feb 8 '11 at 19:32

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