On more than one occasion, I edited a question I felt had potential, improving its worst flaws (e.g. lack of clarity). My edit was approved by others and I got two reputation points for the edit. I then asked a moderator if it could re-opened in its improved form.

The next two things in sequence surprised me. 1) The question was deleted, costing me my two rep points, which I can understand. 2) In compensation, the number of my "helpful flags" was increased by one.

What happened? 1) Did my attempt to improve the question "prove" to others that it wasn't salvageable? 2) Did I get a "helpful flag" for (indirectly) pointing this out?


When a question is edited it shows back up on the recently active questions. People read it again and it takes time from people. Deleting a question removes it from view and allows the OP (if he or she should desire) to be able to edit it (you can edit deleted posts if you can see them - such as 10k users and the OP can) and flag it for undeletion. In the meantime, deletion prevents further down votes of the question and can reduce the comment drama that can detract from the rest of the site.

Most recently, this happened with the question Steps for App Development? (10k link):

The original version:

App Development minimal knowledge

I want to create some mobile and web applications quickly. I am aware of the 'full stack' but I do not know any of its associated technologies. If I were to use 'back-end as a service' what is left for me to do in deploying an app besides simply coding it?

The edited version:

Steps for App Development?

I want to create some mobile and web applications quickly. I am working in 'full stack' environment but I do not know any of its associated technologies. If I were to start there and use 'back-end as a service' what additional steps do I need to take in deploying an app besides simply coding it?

And the comments on it:

meta.programmers.stackexchange.com/questions/6483/… – gnat yesterday

I made the question "less broad" by asking for "additional steps," and wonder if it can be re-opened in its current form. – Tom Au 22 hours ago

@TomAu that still doesn't make it not too broad. What technologies are known? What end result is desired? Mobile and web apps are very different. Is this android or iOS or that windows phone thing? Do you even have the right hardware? If we're talking about web apps is this to be on the intranet? or the cloud? There is much more information that the OP needs to provide to make this an answerable question. – MichaelT 22 hours ago

With this question, I can think of dozens of ways to answer it for various combinations of technology. For ruby, it would be one thing, for a php another, for python another, for the .NET suite another, for Java yet another. And then I'd answer it answer it differently if this was being deployed on the corporate intranet vs putting it out in the intranet... and then there's the mobile bit that is very different from web apps.

In this case, the OP doesn't even know where to begin and no amount of tweaking of the question will change it from that unless the OP provides the additional information about the actual problem being encountered and the path they are trying to follow.

The comment that gnat provided to Why was my question closed or down voted? exactly details what is wrong with the question and that all of those things need to be fixed before it is reopened.

Deleting the question prevents people from spending additional, undue time on the question. Questions that don't fix the close reason (and really fix it, not just a slight narrowing of scope) don't get reopened. Transforming it from one close reason to another (for example, unclear to a poll) is also not a useful edit. Consider how the question would be answered and if those answers would be ones that meet the desired quality of Programmers.SE's answers. If there are too many possible answers or the answers would require pages of tutorials then it is still too broad.

Bumping a heavily down voted closed (or on hold) question will draw increased scrutiny of the question which, if it's not a good question, can lead to it getting deleted more rapidly than the roomba would (and in some cases because the roomba won't).

If there is an edit to be made, fix all of the problems and make it into a good question not just a less bad one. Alternatively, ask clarifying comments for the OP to respond to (and if the OP puts it in the comments, then edit those comments into the question).

  • I "fixed" the question to the best of my ability. If that process drew increased scrutiny and early deletion, maybe that was the best outcome. When I fix questions (more successfully on my other, better sites), I try to give them their "best shot." That doesn't mean automatic reopening, only an early "review."
    – Tom Au
    Oct 2 '14 at 15:07
  • 1
    It was reviewed - programmers.stackexchange.com/review/reopen/78542 . The thing is that if you know that it can't be reopened with the edit, you need to look into why. Just tossing it back into the reopen queue isn't enough. We would like to have a good open question that can get good answers, but it needs to be a good question first. If people don't think the question is salvageable often a speedy delete is in order. Changing the question from one wording of too broad to another wording of too broad just makes it take longer for the roomba to delete it.
    – user40980
    Oct 2 '14 at 15:19
  • 1
    Please consider when you make edits if it can be answered authoritatively, or if it is a question that is now a poll of opinions or if the question still lacks enough information for it to be answered properly. When making the edit, think about all the ways you could answer it. If it is more than two, look at how it can be brought down to just one or two. If you can't think of any answers, you may not know enough about the subject matter to edit the question into a good one. If you can think of three or more, it is likely still not a good question.
    – user40980
    Oct 2 '14 at 15:21

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