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The Help Center says:

Questions that are extremely off topic, or of very low quality, may be removed at the discretion of the community and moderators.

This kind of question deletion is carried out quite often on other sites: as an extreme example, if you try to post something off-topic on Meta Stack Exchange, your question will be gone in a few minutes. In contrast, this has only ever really happened a handful of times on Chemistry.* In general, the moderators have shied away from doing this.

I want to consult your opinion on us using these deletion powers more widely. The main reason why I want to do this is that there are a few classes of unsalvageable questions which tend to linger around the front page for a long time. In an ideal world, these would be downvoted to −4, thus hiding them from the front page (note that closing doesn't hide questions). In reality, questions rarely get downvoted that much, which leaves a lot of stuff sitting around at −1 to −3 that people don't really want to see. I really suspect that this fosters some amount of negativity on the site.

At the same time, I realise that this kind of power can be abused. It is also impossible for the community to provide any kind of oversight. So, I wanted to also draw up guidelines which would clearly delineate what kinds of questions can be instantly deleted. I am happy to flesh these out more fully if the community is largely in agreement, but roughly speaking, I propose that:

  • The classes of questions which can be instantly deleted are:
    • Homework copy-pastes (example). That is, literally only the question. If there is even a shadow of "effort", then this should not be instantly deleted.
    • Completely off-topic questions (example). This does not include biology or physics questions.
    • Clearly opinion-based questions (example).
    • Clear-cut personal medical questions (example). This does not include general "safety" questions.
  • Every instant deletion must be accompanied by a comment explaining what went wrong and why the question is being deleted. This comment can be taken from a set of predefined templates, in order to minimise cognitive effort.

Finally, I also note that users with 10,000 reputation and above can also cast delete votes under certain circumstances. I therefore think it logical that these users should be "permitted" to cast delete votes on these classes of questions (if such permission was needed).

Please let us know what you think about this—it is something I have been thinking about for a long time and with our new additions to the moderator team I think we may be able to carry this out better than we could before.


* Note that Spring Cleaning is a separate matter entirely, which is focused on old questions: more like a human Roomba than anything. In this post I am referring to new questions.

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    $\begingroup$ In some questions OP doesn't know the rules and they add some effort later on. If we do go forward with this, we need to make sure this doesn't seem elitist. But I agree with the basic premise of this post. $\endgroup$ May 12 at 16:29
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    $\begingroup$ I agree, that's why I think it's absolutely essential to drop a comment, in sharp contrast to my usual attitude about downvotes and comments. One deleted question isn't a big deal for a profile (i.e. it won't lead to a question ban... yet), so OP can repost the question once they have figured out the rules (and if they are willing to). $\endgroup$
    – orthocresol Mod
    May 12 at 16:31
  • $\begingroup$ Then comes the question about how long we wait and what we consider to be effort. Would a photo of their effort which seems unsalvageable using mathJax (in a world where andselisk doesn't exist :P) count? Sometimes OP might not see the comment which can also lead to misunderstood elitist feelings. $\endgroup$ May 12 at 16:34
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    $\begingroup$ I think I was pretty clear on those fronts: (1) it is instant deletion, that is, no waiting (subject to moderator availability); and (2) any form of effort, even low-quality effort, should disqualify the question from being deleted. || (3) Users get notifications for comments. If they don't come back and see it, there's no longer anything we can do about it. $\endgroup$
    – orthocresol Mod
    May 12 at 16:36
  • $\begingroup$ Umm, I think maybe the post could use a better (more specific) title. BTW why you lock the q. with "historical significance" comment ;D $\endgroup$
    – Mithoron
    May 12 at 19:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Mithoron Not sure what other title to use, tbh. I lock them so that they don’t get deleted by roomba. $\endgroup$
    – orthocresol Mod
    May 12 at 19:38
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe "Should moderators delete inappropriate questions more often?" (I just meant the comment associated with locking could maybe be more adequate ;) $\endgroup$
    – Mithoron
    May 12 at 19:46
  • $\begingroup$ I believe strict deleting of non-salvageable question is essential for maintaining the quality of the site. Currently the main page is a major switch off for many, because of the -2/-3 clutter. $\endgroup$ May 13 at 10:08
  • $\begingroup$ @NisargBhavsar I should warn that this won't remove all of the −1 through −3 questions: I expect that it is quite a small minority, to be honest. $\endgroup$
    – orthocresol Mod
    May 13 at 10:48
  • $\begingroup$ @orthocresol I do understand that this will not remove all the downvoted questions but this will massively help in such a way that Spring Cleaning will no longer be a permanent task. We will handel new material in such a way that there is no longer a backlog. As everyone says, "Prevention is better than Cure." $\endgroup$ May 13 at 11:46
  • $\begingroup$ @NisargBhavsar Spring cleaning doesn't deal with this part of the deletions. These deletions are talking about just the front page deletions whereas in Spring Cleaning we deal with old deletions and clean up. $\endgroup$ May 13 at 11:49
  • $\begingroup$ @orthocresol One more thing I was curious about was, "How quick will be the quick response?" Because sometimes new users do provide details about the problem by editing it later on their own or sometimes when someone in the comments asks for it. I know that the question can be reopened after the edit is made but won't that just be extra work in closing and reopening if the OP was ready to give details? $\endgroup$ May 13 at 11:51
  • $\begingroup$ @SafdarFaisal I know that Spring Cleaning is different. I meant that if we handle questions in a better way from the beginning than we won't have a backlog to clear. A new question today will became an old question next year. $\endgroup$ May 13 at 11:53
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    $\begingroup$ @NisargBhavsar That's not strictly true; the kind of questions that I'm discussing here are almost certainly going to be closed and downvoted, which means that they will be automatically cleaned up by Roomba in the future. The things that we deal with in SpCl are quite different; those are questions which are "OK by the rules but not really helpful", and would never be deleted under the current proposal, which only seeks to delete things which are "100% not OK by the rules". $\endgroup$
    – orthocresol Mod
    May 13 at 12:00
  • $\begingroup$ @orthocresol Ok I get it now. But I still believe that this will be a good practise to clean the main page as soon as possible, as done in other SE's. The only problem with this I can see is the pace at which it is done, as I mentioned above. $\endgroup$ May 13 at 12:06
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I think if moderators want to take this on, great! If it leads to higher-quality (and fewer down-voted) questions on the front page of the site, that would be worthwhile. What would you do if there is already an answer, or if there is already a back-and-forth between the OP and other users, though? To me, that sometimes indicates that there is a willingness to improve the question, or an interest in the question.

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    $\begingroup$ Hmm, this is one aspect I hadn't considered... $\endgroup$
    – orthocresol Mod
    May 13 at 10:49
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    $\begingroup$ Here's what I think... if there's some back and forth in the comments, then it should be edited into the question ASAP. This is generally true even outside of the context of this proposal, but I feel that we're very bad at doing that (obviously partly my responsibility too). If there's an answer... that's a tougher call, but I would still lean towards deletion, unless the answer is exceptionally good. In my experience, it's very rare that answers on these types of question are worth keeping, anyway: bad questions tend to beget bad answers. $\endgroup$
    – orthocresol Mod
    May 13 at 12:14
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As a reply to Karsten Theis' answer,

What would you do if there is already an answer, or if there is already a back-and-forth between the OP and other users, though?

Not many in our community instantly answer such questions. In fact, as a pattern, I haven't seen anyone answer such questions for a while now. If there is a back and forth that means OP has put in some effort and so it gets disqualified from the list.

I see one major issue however, the difference between closing and deleting is the issue of rep.

Once a question is deleted only 10,000 rep viewers can see the post and only they can comment on it and help the OP until undeletion. (I say this looking at my rep count of 3700). On the other hand if closed, all users can still see the post and tell the OP what has gone wrong and lead to closure. Are the moderators willing to take this burden on themselves?

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    $\begingroup$ Realistically, I don't think there's a lot of tailored, back-and-forth discussion to be had in these cases; I'm almost certain it can be summarised up in that one single pre-deletion comment. However, if the comment character limit is too stingy, I'm also very open to writing longer guidance in the form of a meta post. Then the comment can link to the meta post. This is also an idea which we have been toying with for a long time, but never got around to doing. $\endgroup$
    – orthocresol Mod
    May 13 at 12:30
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    $\begingroup$ @orthocresol OPs who post a screenshoot as "question" are less likely to follow a link than the general population. Maybe a one-liner is exactly what they need. It is nice to have the meta post as a way to document what type of questions the community does not wish to keep - in fact, I think you started that metapost with your question here. $\endgroup$ May 13 at 16:45
  • $\begingroup$ Just to clarify: 10000+ reputation gives you the ability to see, not to comment, or have I missed something somewhere? $\endgroup$ May 20 at 21:41
  • $\begingroup$ I would not know @Martin-マーチン (I'm nowhere close), but doesn't that make this worse? since instant deletion would make it impossible for the OP to clarify their issues in the off-chance that they were ignorant of the rules. $\endgroup$ May 21 at 7:24
  • $\begingroup$ In my opinion: no. First of all, you have to know the link to the deleted post. So no-one will stumble over it anyway. Misunderstanding the rules is one thing, but once you notice your question was deleted, then you should read up; I think ignorance will remain anyway, so that is not my concern. You can still make changes. Then the moderators who delete it should leave a boilerplate comment. $\endgroup$ May 21 at 20:09
  • $\begingroup$ @Martin-マーチン 10k only lets you see deleted posts (and flag them for moderator attention I believe), commenting on them is a moderator-exclusive privilege. I don't think the OP can even comment on their own post after deletion, but I could be mistaken. $\endgroup$ Jun 10 at 20:44

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