There are the FAQ's, plenty of closed questions (heads on top of spears), and comments about what types of questions are appropriate, but since so many questions of the same type are closed, should they just get deleted? I'm assuming this would reduce clutter.

Closing questions may not be providing the intended disincentive. Seeing so many closed questions appears to put some users off: How long will this forum survive if the moderators keep closing questions

Hate to sweep them under the rug and would like to hear what is being done it.

Edit: I don't think the closing question process should be replaced with deletion. Most are in a grey area, but some are just obviously wrong. They're voted to close and get downvoted immediately.

  • 6
    I can't say this isn't tempting...
    – yannis
    Commented Mar 2, 2012 at 13:34
  • 1
    Terrible idea. Although a question is closed, it might still have some valuable answers that will help a lot of people. Don't do this.
    – Dynamic
    Commented Mar 2, 2012 at 21:26
  • 16,972 questions when it was 17015 couple of days ago... wonder what happened ;P If you haven't been doing so, please start using your delete votes, so we can notice delete worthy questions a bit faster.
    – yannis
    Commented Mar 3, 2012 at 9:23
  • @Jae - the point is, if it has something to offer leave it. We don't need 25 closed questions asking what language should I learn.
    – JeffO
    Commented Mar 3, 2012 at 17:44
  • @Dynamic - Closing prevents more answers. Is there any reason to believe the answers provided to the question before it was closed are going to be any more beneficial than answers that could have been provided later on?
    – JeffO
    Commented Sep 2, 2013 at 15:49
  • @JeffO For example, if a question isn't constructive it's probably going to get closed. That just means that the question wasn't fit for the site, but it doesn't mean that it didn't have valuable answers.
    – Dynamic
    Commented Sep 2, 2013 at 15:52
  • Possible duplicate of Why was my question so quickly deleted by a moderator?
    – gnat
    Commented Sep 5, 2017 at 12:00
  • five years later this has been resolved at last. "We have no obligation to keep your question around if it doesn't meet our community's standards. That's how it works here. Next time, you should read a site's rules and standards before posting your question."
    – gnat
    Commented Sep 5, 2017 at 12:01

5 Answers 5


Yes, yes, yes. These questions should be deleted - they are broken windows on the site. If they cannot be edited to meet the standards in the FAQ, they don't belong! As you say, they clutter up the site and hide the good information from everyone.

As for users that have a problem with closing questions: closing is a fundamental operation on Stack Exchange. It allows a community to reject questions that are off topic or are bad quality. If you let them remain, the scope of the community gradually implicitly increases until you have Yahoo! Answers. The quality of both the questions and the answers also goes down, to the same hole. I'm not talking about basic vs. advanced questions here; the quality of communication (how well the OP describes his problem and whether the answers fix it in a way he can understand) is at stake.

Therefore, these questions should be removed so that the best questions can get more attention.

From the SE post on deletion:

Why would you delete a question? Isn’t closing it enough?

  • Some questions are of such poor quality that they cannot be salvaged. They’re literally nonsense. Not every byte of data that is created in the world is infinite and sacred.
  • Some questions are so incredibly off topic that they add no value to a programming community.*
  • The mental cost of processing these closed questions is not zero, particularly for users who are actively engaged and scanning questions to find things they can help answer. *If users see a lot of closed questions, they’ll note that we don’t enforce the guidelines, so why should they? Without any final resolution, asking questions that get closed becomes something we are implicitly encouraging — a broken windows problem. If this goes on for long enough, we’re no longer a community of programmers who ask and answer programming questions, we’re a community of random people discussing.. whatever. That’s toxic.
  • If enough of these closed questions are allowed to hang around, they become clutter that reduces the overall signal to noise ratio — which further reduces confidence in the system.

*I believe this can be generalized to "that specific community" throughout the post, now that SE has sites for more than just programming.


Some closed questions get deleted by the system over time. At 30 days, unlocked and unanswered questions with a negative score get deleted. At 365 days, questions with a score of 0 or less (or 1 with a deleted owner), no answers, not locked, has limited comments, and a small view count will get automatically deleted. The checks are not run daily, but weekly, so there might be a few days between it hitting the point for automatic deletion and it actually getting deleted automatically.

Here on Programmers, we also have the Structured Tag Clean-Up Initiative, which deals with poor tags on the site. Part of this process is also identifying questions within the tag that can not be salvaged and deleting them manually. However, this only addresses one tag at a time. Also, there are closed questions in good tags that are both inappropriate for this site and unsalvagable - these won't get caught by STCI.

Closed is meant as a temporary state. Most questions should not go from closed to deleted quickly. The purpose of closed is to give the community a chance to turn the question into something good, while preventing answers. It's much easier to save a question with no or few answers than one with a lot of answers - edits to a question that invalidate answers don't make sense. The reason is that invalidating answers would lead to answers getting downvoted because the answerer was unaware the question changed and didn't delete or change their answer - these would be unwarranted downvotes.

As an aside, perhaps someone could build a Data Explorer query to show all closed questions, ordered by date (oldest first) and then votes (most negative first). Perhaps an additional piece would be to restrain it to those questions that are at least 3 or 4 months old. Questions that show up in this query could be targets for immediate editing or deletion. I'm not sure if we want to stack this clean up initiative on top of STCI, but it might give us some data to work with.

  • There are so many: which language, about my job, my degree, my resume, questions that get closed on a daily basis that aren't going to go through the whole: close, review, redo, reopen process. I wouldn't suggest deleting them all. It's up to the admin.
    – JeffO
    Commented Mar 2, 2012 at 14:44
  • @JeffO They aren't going through the process because the community isn't doing the process. This is all community driven.
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Commented Mar 2, 2012 at 14:46
  • Thank you for focusing on the questions with low scores instead of questions with high scores, as the ones with a high scores are much more controversial and often contain some good information in the answers. Here's your query, sorted by month posted first, than by score.
    – Rachel
    Commented Mar 2, 2012 at 15:10
  • Thanks, @Rachel. Unfortunately, I can't view the results at work - it tries to download a file. I'll try to analyze it over the weekend and post my thoughts on it. And the only reason I started with the low scoring questions is because that's how the system works. However, date is the primary sort. If a purge happens by date, the high and low scoring would go at the smae time.
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Commented Mar 2, 2012 at 16:08
  • @ThomasOwens I suppose ideally it should be some combination of the two, where it's sorted by score but weighted by date. So older questions with higher scores will potentially show up before newer questions with lower scores just because they are older.
    – Rachel
    Commented Mar 2, 2012 at 16:11
  • @Rachel See the query in my answer /cc: Thomas.
    – yannis
    Commented Mar 5, 2012 at 10:42

There are some extremely poor questions that unfortunately won't be automatically deleted. I've used this SEDE query to identify them and I deleted quite a few questions that:

  1. Were closed at least two months ago, and
  2. There were no edits since they were closed, and
  3. Didn't have a single re-open vote, and
  4. They weren't duplicates or migrations (migrations are a bit tricky), and
  5. They had no highly upvoted answers.

However this is way outside a moderator's responsibilities, deletions should happen by the community (10K+ users) and we should intervene only in exceptional circumstances. I would really appreciate it if you started using your delete votes.

  • There are only 45 users with over 10k rep, and at least half of those I haven't seen answering/commenting questions in quite some time.
    – Rachel
    Commented Mar 5, 2012 at 12:31
  • @Rachel Community apathy is a concern, which is why I took the time to delete some of the more clear cut questions. You are active on the site and can vote to delete, so please consider spending some time doing so. And you should vote to delete a bit more liberal than I describe in the answer, since your vote is not binding. Vote to delete if it's obvious crap and closed for a couple of months with no recent edits (or any other set of criteria you feel are appropriate)... Unless of course you feel the question is salvageable.
    – yannis
    Commented Mar 5, 2012 at 12:42
  • If I do come across something that is closed and I feel should be removed from P.SE entirely, I do vote to delete. But that usually isn't the case because the closed questions I tend to come across have information I find useful, so I don't vote to delete them. I usually prefer to use my time on here to do things other than browse closed questions.
    – Rachel
    Commented Mar 5, 2012 at 16:31
  • @Rachel Well, I only meant to say that I'd appreciate your help, not that you are somehow obliged to clean up crap. One thing that I certainly miss is ignoring the crap...
    – yannis
    Commented Mar 5, 2012 at 16:36

There are many reasons for closing a question instead of deleting it.

  • Closed questions can be edited to be brought back on-topic, and re-opened. This would never happen with a deleted question.

  • It is not always agreed upon that the question should be closed. By allowing more users to see the question, it can be evaluated by the community and determined if the question should actually be closed or open.

  • Closed questions can be viewed by any user, while deleted questions can only be viewed by users with over 10K reputation. This would restrict a large number of our users from editing or voting to reopen closed questions.

    In addition, many people come here seeking answers which can be found in our closed questions. Having a closed question with answers they can read discourages them from posting new questions, and sets an example.

In summary, I would strongly disagree with any decision such as this. You would be cutting the community out of a large part of the moderation process, and the SE sites are meant to be community-run Q&A sites.

  • Is language X better than Y? Should I change majors? How do I hack Facebook? It's a judgement call by admins, but it's obvious which ones have to go.
    – JeffO
    Commented Mar 2, 2012 at 14:46
  • I don't think finding answers in closed questions should be encouraged any more than posting the question in the first place.
    – JeffO
    Commented Mar 2, 2012 at 14:52
  • @JeffO Just recently someone was asking in chat about sites they could use to hire a programmer. That sort of question was originally on-topic here, and I knew I had seen a question like that before, so I found the question and gave him the link. By providing an existing closed question to a programmer-related question in chat (afterall, we are programmers.se), we can answer his question and stop him from posting something off-topic that will be closed
    – Rachel
    Commented Mar 2, 2012 at 15:00
  • 1
    I'm not advocating deleting all closed questions. What would you suggest we do with the next 5 questions that ask the same thing and just get closed? Isn't one example of a closed question enough?
    – JeffO
    Commented Mar 2, 2012 at 17:59
  • @JeffO I must have misunderstood your question then, because I thought you were suggesting we delete questions instead of closing them. My answer is the same though. There are major differences in Closing and Deleting questions. Often edits can be made to bring a question on-topic, sometimes questions are incorrectly closed, and quite often the answers between the questions vary. Deleting a question instead of closing it basically means there is no hope for the question.
    – Rachel
    Commented Mar 2, 2012 at 18:09
  • I think there is a group of closed questions that have no hope.
    – JeffO
    Commented Sep 2, 2013 at 15:59

Alternatively less questions could be closed.

  • 4
    Alternatively people would finally understand that closed doesn't mean dead, and they would step up, improve and reopen questions.
    – yannis
    Commented Mar 2, 2012 at 13:39
  • 1
    What are the odds a question ever gets reopened? For those that ignore closed questions, it's tough to know when they've been updated enough to reconsider.
    – JeffO
    Commented Mar 2, 2012 at 14:02
  • 1
    @JeffO The odds are pretty high, provided the community puts some actual effort in reopening a question. If you ignore closed questions in the first place, there isn't much to discuss, is there?
    – yannis
    Commented Mar 2, 2012 at 14:10
  • @YannisRizos - maybe reopening a question should be easier than it is right now? Does the 4 day expiration apply to closing like it does to votes to reopen?
    – JeffO
    Commented Mar 2, 2012 at 14:48
  • @JeffO current discussion about this and yes open votes last 4days unless another is is added, then its refreshed to 4 days, then after 4 days votes expire at one per day. An open vote can only be cast once per question (per closing?).
    – Ryathal
    Commented Mar 2, 2012 at 15:28
  • @JeffO Yes re-open votes expire similarly to close votes, and a recent request to change that was declined, unfortunately.
    – yannis
    Commented Mar 2, 2012 at 19:29
  • @Ryathal You only get 1 re-open vote for a question, ever. Doesn't matter if your vote expires, if the questions been edited, or if it got closed a 2nd time, your vote has been used and you cannot vote to re-open again.
    – Rachel
    Commented Mar 2, 2012 at 19:58

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