Our site has a lot of good content with lasting value.

It also has quite a bit of poor content - primarily old, closed questions that do not qualify for the automatic cleanup processes.

To summarize briefly the main cases where system deletion occurs:

  • Closed, unlocked questions with zero or negative score having no positively scored or accepted answers or pending reopen votes, that were closed for any reason other than duplicate nine or more days ago and haven't been edited in the past nine days. (RemoveAbandonedClosed)

  • Negatively-scored, unlocked, and unanswered questions that are older than 30 days. (RemoveDeadQuestions)

  • Unanswered questions older than 365 days on main (non-meta) sites with score of zero (or one, if the owner's account is deleted), fewer than 1.5 views per day on average, and fewer than two comments. (RemoveAbandonedQuestions)

This automatic process covers a good fraction of content that we don't want to keep around, but there are some obvious gaps in the logic, for example poor-quality questions that somehow managed a positive score, avoided being closed, or gained one or more positively-scored answers.

In theory, users with the Access To Moderator Tools or Trusted User privilege would carefully review these questions and cast delete votes when appropriate. Even questions with (accepted) answers can be deleted this way, and it normally only needs three such votes.

We have 26 users with the Trusted User (20k) privilege and 61 with Access To Moderator Tools (10k). Still, deletion without system or diamond moderator action rarely happens in practice.

This is partly due to the fact that 10k users have to wait for a question to be closed for 2 days before they can vote for deletion. This restriction is removed for 20k users if the question scores -3 or lower, but they are still encouraged to wait.

The simple reality is that people with the power to delete don't often encounter questions that ought to be deleted, when they are able to delete them.

The system does not provide a queue of questions for 'delete review', nor a usable queue of questions on which a delete vote has already been cast. Given the queue of feature requests and the very limited development time available, it is unlikely we will see a system solution in the short term.

There are currently 3,869 questions that are closed (not as a duplicate) and inactive for at least 9 days. Some (probably small) number of these will offer no lasting value to our site and might need to be deleted.

Some examples:

  1. Odd syntax error when creating view with SCHEMABINDING
  2. Foreign Key Error
  3. Getting a error message SQL
  4. why this query not update table
  5. trigger is not working properly
  6. How to return a single column value using a PostgreSQL function?
  7. how to insert into tables in sql server?


Discussion points:

  1. What do you think should happen to closed questions long-term?
  2. Would you be interested in contributing to the cleanup of valueless content?
  3. If so, how should we coordinate this (long-term) effort? (some sites use a dedicated chat room)
  4. For those of you with the power to vote to delete, what stops you using these votes?
  5. Any other concerns?

Input from everyone is encouraged - not just 10k+ users. Identifying content that ought to be deleted is something anyone should be able to do.

  • "...poor-quality questions that somehow managed a positive score, avoided being closed, or gained one or more positively-scored answers" - can you give an example? I'm curious about what kind of questions you'd consider worth deleting if they and their answer(s) are positively scored. Call me an inclusionist, but if such questions might help someone, and aren't hurting anyone, then why put any effort into deleting them? – Jon of All Trades Nov 1 '18 at 13:40
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    @JonofAllTrades One of the considerations is whether the question (well, answers) would indeed ever be useful. Of course many poor questions exist without any answers, so there's that. The wider problem with not deleting rubbish is it makes our site look low quality in places. Some delete-worthy questions have terrible answers that keep them alive. Finally, it's not about what I would consider deleting - I can do that already - it's about what the 10k+ users want to delete (or not). – Paul White Nov 1 '18 at 13:47
  • I think this community could explode more SEDE and also to take advantage from the automatic cleanup process. I give some ideas in the follow up post (here). Hope it helps. – Andre Silva Jan 14 at 0:56

If you sort the closed questions (link in question) by votes and jump to the last page you can look at the worst of the worst.

If you wrote an existing answer example for -7 question just delete your answer and the question should auto purge. The example above has been deleted; for users less than 10k rep, this is what it looked like:

enter image description here

If you didn't write the answer you can post a comment to the person who did, with a link to this post asking them to delete their answer...

If the person (active OP) who wrote the answer(s) does not want to delete it, maybe the question needs to stay.

If you downvote the really bad questions, they will get more attention.

If the question is bad but has an answer that adds significant value to the site, upvote it to get it out of negativity, this sorts them to the high value end of the closed question queue, so that focus can be made on the really bad ones.

Anyone with 125 rep can participate If everyone works from the last page of the Queue in the question, sorted by votes no one needs to look past a couple of pages, revisit it weekly during that slow time of your day/week. The high rep users can delete the really bad ones easily, and the low rep users will have a varied smorgasbord of posts to review.

  • @PaulWhite edited for some clarity. As for 'encourage people' short of creating a review queue, which I am not sure you can do, you can only try to make it interesting. Looking through thousands of entries for little impact is not rewarding, in the scenario I propose, no one has to look at more than a page or two to get variety and results – James Jenkins Nov 1 '18 at 14:27
  • @PaulWhite I am not saying upvote if you think it needs a down vote, always vote they way you feel is appropriate. But if the questions leads to an answer that is really good, maybe the question has more value than originally granted. On sites where I am more active and I read EVERY question posted, a really good answer will often make me change from not casting any vote on a question, to giving it an upvote. Even when surfing I might read a question, and not vote, but then when seeing the answer, I go back and upvote the question, because now I understand. – James Jenkins Nov 1 '18 at 15:11
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    Ok. By the way, no we can't create review queues - I wish we could. – Paul White Nov 1 '18 at 15:20
  • @PaulWhite see this comment for answer on -14 question – James Jenkins Nov 1 '18 at 15:32
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    @JamesJenkins - I get where you're going with that but I think that question is not particularly poorly worded... I downvoted it because it is such a terrible idea... perhaps not the voting strategy the site was designed for. – Max Vernon Nov 1 '18 at 17:47
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    @MaxVernon Regarding voting (from the help centre): Voting up a question or answer signals to the rest of the community that a post is interesting, well-researched, and useful, while voting down a post signals the opposite: that the post contains wrong information, is poorly researched, or fails to communicate information. So you might be right with your assumption that Down-voting a bad idea might not be the expected strategy. – hot2use Nov 2 '18 at 8:09
  • @hot2use, when hovering over the downvote arrow the tooltip message will show "This answer is not useful". It is perfectly fine downvoting an answer because one thinks its content has a 'terrible idea' (= not useful). (/cc @MaxVernon). – Andre Silva Nov 3 '18 at 0:19
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    @AndreSilva I would object to your conclusion, because you are referencing answers and not questions as pointed out by MaxVernon and IMO a bad idea in a question is not the same as not useful. However, for answers I would agree with your idea that down-voting bad ideas/suggestions is a valid option. – hot2use Nov 5 '18 at 10:47
  • @hot2use, you are correct. I missed it was about a Q. I was mostly responding to your quote from the help center though. – Andre Silva Nov 5 '18 at 12:53
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    @hot2use: The tooltip on the downvote button for questions mentions "not useful" too. And I believe it would indeed be a little confusing if upvoting a question for its usefulness was fine while downvoting one for being the opposite of useful wasn't. – Andriy M Nov 5 '18 at 13:19

I love the idea of getting rid of low-quality questions that have limited utility for future visitors.

Per our discussion in The Heap, closed low-quality questions are unlikely to help, and in fact just add to the clutter making it harder to find a good answer. It would be really great if we could have only "open" questions, and a bunch of "closed as dupe" questions pointing to canonical questions with really great answers. We don't need 9 million questions with slight variations on a theme.

Somewhat commonly, I look for older questions that I can answer which don't have a good answer already. Many of them have low-votes and a lot are closed for various reasons but aren't eligible for auto-deletion as you pointed out in the question above. I'm going to be more diligent with either editing-and-upvoting questions to make them better, or voting to delete if the question is extraneous and not helpful.

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    I think part of what you are saying, is looking at the low quality questions as potential duplicates of existing high quality questions. That seems like a good idea. – James Jenkins Nov 8 '18 at 19:08
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    yes, James - exactly. – Max Vernon Nov 8 '18 at 19:09

Adding this as a point of view (not necessarily mine) to allow people to vote on it:

Closed questions with answers should be preserved because there is a chance that the answer might help someone else someday. If the question isn't hurting anyone, why not let it be, and save the effort involved in deleting?


I'll share my thoughts on discussion points 4 and 5:

  1. For those of you with the power to vote to delete, what stops you using these votes?

  2. Any other concerns?

I want to spend most of my time on the main site answering questions instead of doing administrative tasks. I feel that my experiences with SQL Server allow me to answer questions that most people can't answer in a good way or at all. My typical workflow is to go through all new questions that have at least one the 20ish tags that I've marked as favorites. I'll occasionally vote, comment, or mark questions to be closed. I don't mind doing moderation tasks when they are easy to do or are part of a workflow that makes sense. For questions that don't have a good answer yet, if I feel I can answer them I'll mark them as favorites for later. I tend to focus on more difficult questions because I'd like others to have a chance to contribute to the site.

I don't mind marking questions for deletion if someone asks me to look at them or otherwise brings them to my attention. But the idea of making a note of a question that I might want to vote to delete 48 hours later is ridiculous. It makes me feel like my time isn't respected by the site. I understand that development resources are limited, but my time is limited too. Doing administrative tasks isn't fun for me and I'm only willing to help out if the site makes it very easy to do so.

On the subject of deleted questions, I've left 362 answers on the dba site. 10 have been deleted. I deleted 7 of those because I later realized that I posted wrong information, I misunderstood the question, or simply thought better of it.

One of the questions was deleted by the author after I wrote the best possible answer that the question allowed. Honestly, it sucks that the author of that question disrespected my effort and completely wasted my time. I suppose such experiences can't be fully avoided on a Q&A site.

Two of the questions were deleted this month by a staff member in part of what I assume was some kind of clean up. The questions weren't great, but I like to think that my answers that gathered six votes in total weren't useless. I obviously have a conflict of interest here so I'm not the right person to say if the questions were worth keeping around. But most questions asked here aren't going to result in revolutionary or entirely unique answers. That's just the nature of database work.

Having 1% of my answers deleted isn't enough to make me change how I use the site. But if I had 5% or 10% of my answers deleted then I'd have to start thinking about if this site is a good fit for me. If I write a blog post for example it isn't possible for someone else to delete it. It is hard to accept other parties deleting your work because the question asker screwed up or because voters were fickle on a certain day.

  • RE "One of the questions was deleted by the author after I wrote the best possible answer" this no longer an option. Not sure when it happened, but the author currently can not delete a question once an answer is posted. – James Jenkins Nov 12 '18 at 19:10
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    @JamesJenkins users can delete their own questions if there's only one answer, as long as that answer doesn't have any upvotes yet. See the Help Center topic on deleted questions: meta.stackexchange.com/help/deleted-questions – jadarnel27 Nov 12 '18 at 21:21

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