We have a lot of bad questions to clean up, and not very many delete votes to do it with. So it's commonplace to downvote questions worthy of deletion to make the "roomba" delete them for us rather than wasting precious delete votes.

The only problem with this is the roomba is kinda complicated, and that answer is written from the roomba's POV rather than the delete voter's POV, so it's not immediately obvious under what circumstances I should use downvotes and/or close votes instead of delete votes. After studying that MSE answer for a while, I believe the most useful algorithm for me to try to remember is:

if question is locked, migrated, has reopen votes, or is not worthy of deletion
    ignore these questions for the purpose of this algorithm
else if there is an accepted answer
    delete vote
    close vote (not as duplicate) if not already closed
    if question and all answers have non-positive scores
        roomba in 9 days
    else if question and all answers have "low" score
        downvote them until they have non-positive scores
        roomba in 9 days
        delete vote

Have I missed or misunderstood anything?

  • 1
    As an aside, we appear to be wasting delete votes on programmers.stackexchange.com/questions/294763/… and programmers.stackexchange.com/questions/294746/…. Does this mean we have active delete voters who aren't familiar with the roomba rules, or just that the questions are so offensive we want them dead now?
    – Ixrec
    Aug 30, 2015 at 13:10
  • 2
    30 days or 365 days is a long time to leave crappy questions floating around. I prefer catching and deterring low-quality content as soon as possible, and find later cleanup tedious. So my workflow is ↓V and CV, then immediately DV if the Q has no reasonable chance of redemption. DVs are uncomfortably scarce, but I tend to have just enough unless I actively go hunting for old questions.
    – amon
    Aug 30, 2015 at 14:24
  • @amon Maybe I should do some SEDE queries later to see how many of these there are. Personally I'm seeing more than enough to spend my delete votes on, but that might just be because I only just hit 10k.
    – Ixrec
    Aug 30, 2015 at 14:25
  • 2
    @amon After thinking about the 30-day roomba a bit more, I realized that we might as well assume that anything worth deleting is also worth closing, and closing means you can target the 9-day roomba, so that lets me simplify the "algorithm" a lot.
    – Ixrec
    Aug 30, 2015 at 15:51
  • 1
    @Ixrec Looks like MichaelT and gnat were the ones who started to delete those two questions you linked. Just to spite you, I cast the final delete vote on both :-)
    – user22815
    Sep 1, 2015 at 1:16

2 Answers 2


I delete as soon as I can in cases where the question is unsalvageable. This might have something to do with having more delete votes than close votes (delete votes scale with reputation). I've got 30 delete votes a day - many days I don't use them all so I'm not delete vote constrained. So no, I'm not wasting delete votes unless there is something that I want to delete today that needs to be deleted now rather than later when I'm out of votes.

My reasoning as to casting delete votes on many questions is thus:

  • Questions that are unsalvageable consume space on the front page (if scored at -3 or higher); new questions; and, if a user is editing it, active questions.
    • This space is valuable - it is where people look when they hit the site.
  • Having the question get less than 2k rep users trying to fix the 'i' to 'I' and the like for the 2 rep that it brings results in a poor user experience for them when the question is ultimately deleted (they lose it) - thus delete it before they spend their time on a question that will be deleted.
    • This also applies to the trivial edits that don't fix the question and keep showing up in reopen reviews. Not that we're ever backed up on those, but its a "sigh, no, this isn't enough to reopen it."
    • It is likely a worse user experience to go from 1 rep to 6 to 4 to 9 to 7 to 5 to 3 to 1 (as down votes and up votes mix and eventually get collected by the Roomba) than it is to remain at 1 and have it quickly deleted.
  • We get our share of "why is Stack Overflow Programmers.SE so negative" questions. And while it is indeed sweeping the questions of the users who misunderstand the site under the rug (so to speak), it helps present our best foot forward - look at the new questions, look at the active questions, look at the front page - that is what we want. Or at least, I want to be able to say that.
    • I write this, there's a -6 debugging question, a -6 user poll, a -4 how to use windows XP, a -4 why did facebook do that, a -5 something about IIS, a -4 debugging question (with accepted answer - that will never get deleted by the Roomba), -3 how to explain a broad concept to a stranger, a -5 shark vs gorilla, a -7 unclear something about scripting languages being accepted (no, wait, two delete votes that weren't mine - that one is gone).
    • I want to see more things from our second page that are good in the newest questions. Once they get off the front page and newest questions first 25, it becomes harder for them to get visibility. Visibility that they lost because someone asked "What well paid programming jobs can be gained for maths majors" or "Unexpected IndexOutOfBoundsException".
  • People that get answers to their polls, discussions or debugging will try it again because they got help once before. Even if its in the comments on a -3 score question. Deleting the post through user action (rather than automated script several days later) sends a stronger message about what Stack Exchange's focus is. Deleting the question before it gets the answers doesn't reward the person for asking an off topic question in the first place.
  • There is also the "support our mods." They get the occasional flack about "deleted by mod fiat! Those evil diamond mods delete everything!" By having a "Deleted by MichaelT, Thomas Owens" in there, I try to do my part of "no, the community moderation was acting on it - it wasn't just mods with super powers."
  • the other reason to use delete votes is that its a very obvious option: I look at the roomba algorithm with horror if I have to use that to decide what to do. If I think a question needs deleting, the only sane thing to do is click the 'delete' button, that's what its there for!
    – gbjbaanb
    Sep 9, 2015 at 10:55

That's a very good question but I think every user having a privilege to delete may answer it a bit differently.

Amount of delete votes is limited and one better takes care to use them efficiently. From this perspective, questions that are to be auto-deleted are lower priority indeed. When voting on these, one needs to decide whether it is worth it to "help" system to have a question deleted sooner than it would happen automatically, or it makes better sense to vote something else.

One kind of "doomed" questions I prefer to vote delete (YMMV) is those with titles looking like broken windows. "Help with career as programmer", "recommend me tutorials", "problem: syntax error when adding 2 and 2", stuff like that.

  • This is especially so when question title contains words that are blocked at Stack Overflow - "problem" and "help". Very presence of such questions sends a signal to folks blocked by quality filter over there that they can try their luck here. If it additionally happens that such question gets migrated to SO (losing negative score along the way), this is not just a signal, a royal road for one willing to use Programmers as drafting area for off-topic implementation questions (that's by the way why I never vote to migrate such questions - at the very least, I'd edit blocked words out of the title before doing so).

Another kind of "doomed" questions I tend to vote delete is ones that already have two delete votes. It sometimes happens mind you that I find it harmless and prefer to leave it hanging around until auto-deleted, but this happens very very rarely. Overwhelming majority looks like a terrible content deserving speedy deletion.

This is not surprising, if you think of it. Single delete vote may be emotional, but for two high-rep users to fall into a blind rage is really unlikely. (I sometimes even wonder why moderators don't use this simple heuristics to check for questions worthy of a fast removal).

Only thing I would recommend against is to be emotional when voting to delete. As you can see from above, this will most likely lead to your vote being wasted without making a difference. Try sticking with carefully calculated decisions, re-check delete votes tab in your profile to learn whether these work as you wanted to or not, adjust your criteria if needed.

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