During my ventures in cleaning, I came across another phenomenon of quasi-dead questions, that won't get cleaned up, but (most) are essentially noise. There are a few (currently 227) questions which have a positive score, but are closed (excluding duplicates) and no-one "answered" them before they were. And by that I mean that they are unanswered by SE definitions (they might have no-scoring answers).

In my opinion, they are noise. There is little to nothing be taken from them in general. I did not go though them, but a few I saw were abandoned. About half of these questions (currently 137) have not been active within the last six months.
In general they might be in not too good shape, often scoring lower than two (cut-off after the first page of search results). But with these questions, there is some reputation on the line, typically lower than 10, for the OP.

There are a few options:

  1. the radical approach: delete
  2. the semi-radical approach: delete, after a thorough review, salvaging all information in the comments section, might include discussion in dedicated chat room
  3. the almost not radical approach: delete, after salvage and try to contact OP to rescue the question, then reopen
  4. the communism approach: disown, turn the contents around to fit our site and make it community wiki, reopen, and possibly answer
  5. the minimalism approach: clean up tags and format, let it be
  6. something else

How should we proceed with these questions? Are there criteria I have forgotten?

On a side note: Please also exercise your right to down-vote. Questions that do not fit well in our system will get cleaned up after a while when they have a negative score. In some frantic cases it let's us also see whether a question is controversial or not.

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    $\begingroup$ Disown, reopen, close, delete, dismember and incapacitate. O.O $\endgroup$
    – M.A.R.
    Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 7:37
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    $\begingroup$ I think Roomba takes care of most of these eventually, but there are always questions that are prohibited from being Roomba'd by a single upvote or comment. That's when peeps on SO usually either delete comments or downvote so the question qualifies for Roomba or vote to delete themselves. $\endgroup$
    – M.A.R.
    Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 7:41
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    $\begingroup$ @M.A.R. Yes, the general trouble I have is, that when I vote to delete, I do delete. I do down-vote most of them though. But sometimes one is not enough. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 7:45
  • $\begingroup$ Then I guess there is no course of action except posting a link in chat, if you're unhappy with mod-deleting them yourself $\endgroup$
    – M.A.R.
    Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 7:47
  • $\begingroup$ Keep the ones that are receiving traffic. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 22:40
  • $\begingroup$ @Melanie Traffic is not really a criterion for quality, and even if the bring traffic they are not helpful since they have no answer. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 14:20

1 Answer 1


Firstly: Not all of them have to be deleted. As far as possible we should aim to salvage questions. However, for those that are truly useless, I support

the semi-radical approach: delete, after a thorough review, salvaging all information in the comments section, might include discussion in dedicated chat room

As I mentioned in an earlier comment I'm worried about taking route (1), i.e. delete without oversight. It is not that I do not trust the moderators to make decisions in the best interests of the site. (After all, I am one too...) I just do not believe that this is a healthy approach to take. We have all the powers to be benevolent dictators but that does not mean that we have to sacrifice transparency and accountability. This is especially important with a site cleanup, which is something the entire community should be participants in. (Compare to, for example, detecting sockpuppetry and suspending users, which is a moderator task and does not necessarily need to be shared with the public.)

That means that every action we take should be a consensus decision, and every action should be documented somewhere. That raises a couple of questions.

  1. What counts as "consensus"? My opinion is that two mods should be enough. You may disagree. Feel free to raise any objections in the comment section.

  2. What is the best place to document this? A meta thread would be possible, but is too crowded and too painful to monitor consistently. A chat room would work best.

I disagree with trying to contact OPs, especially when they have been inactive for a long time. The Stack Exchange Terms of Service are very clear on this (Section 3):

You agree that all Subscriber Content that You contribute to the Network is perpetually and irrevocably licensed to Stack Exchange [...]

OPs therefore no longer have any rights over their questions. We usually do not remind people of this, simply because of courtesy: we would like to respect people's wishes as to how their questions will be handled. However, there is a limit to this, and if we waste time trying to contact long-gone OPs it will significantly slow down our progress.

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    $\begingroup$ It only takes three users to dovn-vote any closed score 2 question (the majority) to negative, and therefore making it eligible for the deletion scripts, there would be not really documentation about it. I therefore would say that if any two users agree, it should be okay.// Any closed, unanswered question with score >2 will be removed after one year, I would argue that in some cases we should just accelerate the process, or turn it into a "good" question if possible (It probably isn't). However, I think a chat room works fine for discussing such cases. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 28, 2017 at 5:52

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