The theory is that bad questions get closed and eventually deleted. The problem is that that does not happen:

Why? In some cases they’re duplicates and so should not be deleted. However, most of them are there because “almost nobody” ever deletes stuff on ELU. Some of you do — you know who you are. But for the most part, it doesn’t get done.

Please see this Meta.SE posting from one of the Community Managers on “When should I vote to delete?”. We are specifically instructed to delete all questions that are closed Unclear, Off Topic, Primarily Opinion Based; many to most that are closed as Too Broad; and few that are closed as Duplicates.

That is not happening.

Yes, part of the problem is that there is no delete-review queue to help remind people, nor are there any badges awarded for deletion to help motivate them. Right now all we have is the 10k delete post rankings, which is a far cry from a real review queue for deletable stuff.

But it still needs doing.

Please help.

  • 1
    For some reason the "881 answers with pending delete votes" link above is now taking me to the "closed questions with nonpositive scores" page, just as the "643 closed questions with pending delete votes" does. Yesterday the "841 answers" link was working as it ought to. Is anyone else experiencing this problem? (I'm using a Firefox browser.)
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Mar 19, 2015 at 22:13
  • @SvenYargs My bad. I edited it yesterday without correctly cloning it. I'll fix by and by. You can use the 10k tools for the most recently voted on 50, but that's mixed q&a.
    – tchrist Mod
    Commented Mar 19, 2015 at 22:16
  • Thanks, tchrist. I appreciate your call to contribute to the maintenance activities on this site. I haven't put much effort into that side of things (editing, deleting, flagging, closing) in the past, but I intend to become more involved in it from now on.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Mar 19, 2015 at 22:24
  • 1
    Are you suggesting that because one or two users believe a question should be deleted, and have cast their votes accordingly then that individual or persons must be right?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Nov 25, 2016 at 22:18

3 Answers 3


Even after reading the community manager guidance in When Should I Vote to Delete, this still doesn't strike me as a high-value activity. Some might consider these questions "broken windows", but if the broken window is tucked away in the basement and you only see it when you specifically search for that kind of window, is it really that harmful to the site? Some have answers that might actually help people, or discourage someone from asking the same bad question again.

But let's say for the sake of argument that we do want to delete them. Then let's improve the auto-delete task and just do it.

I mean, really if:

  • Five privileged users have already said that the question doesn't belong and
  • The OP has had time to clean it up and
  • Nobody has voted to reopen and
  • The Q/A scores are terrible, or even borderline and
  • It's not a duplicate (dups should probably stay as a 'see also...' reference)

What are the chances that this is a question worth keeping? Slim to none, I think, and certainly not worth having another batch of people re-review the question to make sure it should be deleted.

If there's such concern over accidentally deleting a worthwhile question, make a review queue. Otherwise forcing people to go through a highly manual task to clean these up does not seem like a valuable expenditure of time.

  • 2
    The problem is that the question may be crappy and should be closed but what about the good answers that were submitted? Do they deserve to be deleted too? Shouldn't I the author of an answer that has earned five or more upvotes be notified that my contribution is to be permanently deleted?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Nov 25, 2016 at 22:22
  • @Mari-LouA A question that are crappy and should be closed should not have been answered in the first place. Don't answer off-topic questions is a clear policy on Stack Exchange that should be followed by all users. They knew this policy and took the risk themselves when they decided to answer the question. Why do they have to be notified? I don't think they should be notified.
    – user140086
    Commented Nov 26, 2016 at 10:00
  • @Mari-LouA You don't get notified if you answer a question that gets deleted for other reasons, do you? I'm not sure why this would be any different. The powers that be can come up with whatever criteria they want for auto-deletion. If they want to spare questions with "good" answers, then spare them. My only point is that I see no reason for this to require human intervention. It's a boring, low-value activity, and I presume that's why "nobody" does it. (At least, that's why I don't.)
    – Lynn
    Commented Nov 27, 2016 at 21:00
  • I'd suggest that these broken windows aren't in the basement, but on the front of the house in the guest bedroom. You rarely see them, but the hordes coming from Google sure do. And then they say, "hey, I have a question like that; I guess I can ask it here." Commented Dec 2, 2016 at 0:26
  • @Nathaniel Then it comes down to whether you think the "This question is on hold because it's off-topic..." notice is enough to deter people from asking similar questions, which I'd argue is a completely separate issue. Either way, I don't really care if they're deleted. I just want the deletion (if that's the goal) to be automatic.
    – Lynn
    Commented Dec 3, 2016 at 0:49

I am a compulsive tidy-upper and throw-it-awayer, so I jumped on the Delete Queue enthusiastically and voted to delete five questions I thought had no redeeming qualities. I was too hasty on one of them, because the f-word turns me off, utterly. Not a good reason, as @Mari-Lou A pointed out above. The answers were worthy of keeping.

Fortunately, I was cut off at five deletes, and I went browsing and found So which "wich'" is it?, which had an excellent answer by Jon Hanna, and a brilliant comment by WS2, which evoked an unforgettable picture of eating a ham and cheese cardigan while wearing a cashmere sandwich. All in all, a gem -- a museum piece.

In summary:

take time to read the answers before you vote to delete!

I will go back to the Queue, vote to undelete the question that offended me, and approach each question as only the first part of a question-and-answers whole.

Addendum: It seems perverse to me that a user with 10K can vote to delete questions, but 20K is needed to vote to delete answers. When you delete a question, you delete all its answers. That requires more judgment than deleting a single answer!

  • I agree with your answer, but you need to note that many poorly-asked off-topic questions can generate great answers and it's extremely difficult to draw a clear line. Most people read a question, first. If the question interests them, they will go on and read the answers. The questions are what represent what ELU is all about, not the answers. A question should be edited and made on-topic. Otherwise, I don't see the reason why such a poorly-asked question should stay here. I believe you remember the question about "bare/bear with me" and if ELU keeps such a question, many users will be misled
    – user140086
    Commented Nov 26, 2016 at 9:50
  • @Rathony That raises Sven Yargs's question meta.english.stackexchange.com/questions/9686/…. Also, many of the questions on the list tchrist lnked to are very old...no one is going to see them unless they go searching for them. I'm going to leave these VLQ questions alone unless they have VLQ answers -- or at best mediocre answers.. In mining parlance, these questions are the tailings pile of the site; tailings piles can be remined when technology advances.
    – ab2
    Commented Nov 26, 2016 at 13:23
  • I agree. That's why I don't hunt to kill old bad questions. But I vote to close and delete them when they are answered by a new user, especially when I don't see any value of the question, not an answer. The reason is explained in my comment to Mari-lou's comment above. My argument is why do you have to keep the questions when you can't see them unless you go searching for them. We might have a different opinion on this issue, but actually we are talking about the same thing.
    – user140086
    Commented Nov 26, 2016 at 13:34

Update SEDE 20-11-2016:

  • 2
    Just because a question has downvotes, it does not necessarily follow the answers are equally bad, incorrect, or should be deleted. Sometimes the answers are highly upvoted e.g. english.stackexchange.com/questions/267272/…
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Nov 25, 2016 at 21:54
  • 1
    and this one has just been recently deleted. I'm not saying I like the question, but I am anti-censorship unless the post is explicitly racist which is not the case here english.stackexchange.com/questions/209600/… you need 10k rep to see the post. The two top answers were actually very good, and upvoted but that counts for nothing I see.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Nov 25, 2016 at 21:59

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