# Should this question have been deleted?

This question recently came up in chat, because a user lost reputation when their upvoted answer went overboard as collateral damage when its question was deleted:

Don't get me wrong, I think this is a dreadful question, and I think it was right to close it, but I don't think this should have been deleted. It's a bad question because it's just built on a large stack of misconceptions presented in good faith, but the response to that should be to answer with corrections to the misconceptions.

• Can the deletion voters explain their reasoning in this instance?
• Is there a site consensus that this sort of content should be removed, or that it shouldn't?
• Of particular note, the question had three upvoted answers with a total of eight upvotes between them, with answerer reps in the low thousands so they do feel the bite. Is there a site consensus that it's OK to remove low-quality questions that have decent upvoted answers?
• Just to point out that I would also like to know the reasons of why this was deleted. – user190081 Oct 18 '18 at 17:55
• Related: physics.meta.stackexchange.com/q/10650/25301 ...I don't have time now for full answer, but mostly boils down to me not really looking at answers when voting to delete b/c they're probably irrelevant to such low quality questions. – Kyle Kanos Oct 18 '18 at 18:32
• Also, not unsurprising that it's me, ZTH & AFT that did the deletion as I'm pretty sure none of the other 10k+ members on this site even bother trying to help out in this way. – Kyle Kanos Oct 18 '18 at 18:39
• @KyleKanos "...boils down to me not really looking at answers when voting to delete..." - I dont think that's the point. The point is that, the question itself (disregarding the answers) should not be deleted just because it contains misconceptions in it. – user190081 Oct 18 '18 at 18:43
• @user190081 it should be deleted because it's low quality & op made zero efforts to adjust it after ~2 weeks... – Kyle Kanos Oct 18 '18 at 18:44
• @KyleKanos The help page on moderation-tools says: "Closed questions that are of no lasting value whatsoever should be flagged and deleted". So yeah, I can see why this was deleted now. I didn't like the second part of your comment, since the author of the question seems to be a new user and I see no evidence that he was suggested to make changes to his question. – user190081 Oct 18 '18 at 18:49
• @KyleKanos I guess the thing I'd most like to hear you articulate are the reasons why you think a question like that is actively causing harm or, if it's not causing harm but it's just bad, why it should be deleted. I don't particularly care either way, but I do think that it's important that this be something where the site consensus is very clear on what flies and what doesn't (such as e.g. the voting on your answer here explaining your reasoning). – Emilio Pisanty Oct 18 '18 at 20:58
• This is particularly important because, to the bulk of the moderation-active population, an action like this is completely invisible. Even at 10k+ it is extremely hard to detect undue deletions if and when they happen, so I do think that we owe each other, as a community and as 20k+ users, a transparent consensus about how and when (and why) the deletion of non-harmful content happens. – Emilio Pisanty Oct 18 '18 at 21:01
• @EmilioPisanty duly noted; if you don't hear back from me (much) later tonight (-4 GMT), ping me tomorrow – Kyle Kanos Oct 18 '18 at 21:09
• @KyleKanos I don't think there's a rush here. I do think this is something that needs to be addressed, but it's by no means time-critical. – Emilio Pisanty Oct 18 '18 at 21:12
• It's worth noting that lots of obscenely off-topic/bad questions get closed within an hour (examples: physics.stackexchange.com/questions/435665 and physics.stackexchange.com/questions/435254 deleted), and may receive votes from people who aren't regulars in the queues/active close/reopen-voters. This one was closed 5 days after being asked, and deleted 10 days after being closed, which could potentially be an indicator that it's a borderline case for closing, and may not desperately need deletion (though I based that on a small sample size, it seems logically sound otherwise) – user191954 Oct 20 '18 at 5:21
• @Chair I don't see how it's useful to link to questions which have not been deleted or which were deleted by the system, by moderators, or by spam/abusive flags. They're simply not what this question is about. – Emilio Pisanty Oct 20 '18 at 11:35
• @EmilioPisanty I'm expressing surprise at the choice of questions which are deleted. Also, this question being discussed here is a question which was closed after an unusually long time. After that, I added links to questions which make me feel that what happened with this question was unusual. – user191954 Oct 20 '18 at 11:51
• I removed some unkind comments and their responses. Please remember to express yourselves in a friendly (and ideally coherent) manner. – ACuriousMind Oct 20 '18 at 12:08
• @ACuriousMind Coherent expression should not be considered optional in this forum. – Emilio Pisanty Oct 20 '18 at 12:16

Emilio asked that I turn my comment to an answer, so here goes, with edits, having responded to various comments:

Imo, what one should also be considering when voting for closure or deletion should be if it is a question that could often come up in search engines . I learned through the discussion here that closure does not take a question out of the field of engines and also that answers are still alive as far as reputation goes. If there is already a good answer, then I would not delete the question, reasons expanded below.

When I answer questions which are candidates for closure or even deletions, this is my criterion, that a clear answer would be found even for a nonsense question , if it is nonsense that may be often asked by high school children interested in physics.

Low quality posts may reflect an average non physicist's ignorance , those are the ones that I consider worth answering, to clear up confusions. A confused post is different than a post where somebody proposes own theories, those yes, I feel no compunction in their deletion, and the same for answers. But naive questions imo should be treated gently, particularly of new users of unknown sophistication in physics. It is possible to educate people, and one of the purposes of this site should be physics education.

I would set the question above on the naive side, somebody who has not understood special relativity.

If there is a good answer to the question candidate for closure, and the question is on the naive or confused side, then I would not delete it.

Now low or high quality judgement is peculiar to the comprehension of the reader. A naive question can be judged low quality as also a confused one. My preference is to be gentle, as we are now advised also, and to try at the same time to educate a general audience.

As physics becomes more and more esoteric due to complex theories, it is necessary to develop narratives that are correct and simple, understandable by people with just highschool level physics, again in my opinion. It is the level of the answers that characterizes the quality of the site, not the question itself, as far as I am concerned.

Not to forget the discouragement of the heavy guns on a new user.

I am reading a fiction on an apocryphon with a lot of bible quotes:

• 1) This post is about deletion, not closure, so I'm not sure what your point is. 2) Closure does not remove a question from search engines. – AccidentalFourierTransform Oct 21 '18 at 15:01
• @AccidentalFourierTransform if you look at the copied image it says "closed". ,also the link provided. maybe it was changed to "closed" because of the fuss? or it is a semantics mix up? – anna v Oct 21 '18 at 16:45
• The post was closed indeed, but that is not the issue. Emilio is not asking why this was closed -- everyone agrees that it should be so -- but rather why it was deleted. – AccidentalFourierTransform Oct 21 '18 at 17:20
• @AccidentalFourierTransform I did click the link but did not realize it was possible to be both closed and deleted. – anna v Oct 21 '18 at 18:11
• @anna Most deleted questions get closed first. This thread is exclusively about question deletion, not closure. Closure does not remove questions from external searches, deletion does. It would be great if this answer could be amended to reflect those facts. – Emilio Pisanty Oct 21 '18 at 20:19
• It seems to me that Emilio's question is broadly, "Should low-quality questions with upvoted answers be deleted" and your answer here is basically, "We should answer these questions." I do not understand how this actually answers the question Emilio asked or why it's gained any upvotes. – Kyle Kanos Oct 24 '18 at 10:09
• @KyleKanos My answer is at the top "If there is a good answer then I would not delete it" . I will add it on the answer. – anna v Oct 24 '18 at 10:34
• That's better, though I disagree with the position altogether. Answers don't make an offtopy question on topic, so similarly an upvoted answer should not prevent an answer from deletion. Doing otherwise is inconsistent and drags down the quality of this site, imo. – Kyle Kanos Oct 24 '18 at 11:02

When I vote to delete, I judge based on the content of the question (in its current state), rather than the answers it's attained. Typically, if a question is

• sufficiently downvoted (e.g., $$\leq-3$$)
• closed for at least 1 week (so in actual closed state, not 'on hold')
• unedited since closure

it's, in my opinion, grounds for deletion regardless of answers: the content of the post is low quality & OP didn't make any efforts to improve it.

This website is not designed to answer any question posed, regardless of quality (if you want to answer any question posed, check out r/Physics or r/AskScience), we have standards (hence closure). Perhaps my standards of quality are higher than others (hence some of my reviewing stats?), I don't know. I do know that I'd rather not have -5 questions lying about for some hapless future users to think, "Oh, these people don't have standards, I can ask any old question" which I don't think is correct.

I would also echo AFT's sentiments about how answerers should handle low-quality questions (either don't answer it or improve the question).

• That last strange-looking answer which may have been intended as a reply wasn't written by the OP. – user191954 Oct 20 '18 at 2:55
• @Chair uhh, yes you're right. – Kyle Kanos Oct 20 '18 at 2:59
• imo, what one should also be considering when voting for deletion should be if it is a question that could often come up in search engines . I believe deletion takes them out of the search engine field? If there is a good answer then I would not delete it. when I answer questions which are candidates for closure or even deletions, this is my criterion, that a clear answer would be found even for a nonsense question , if it is one that may be often asked by high school children. – anna v Oct 21 '18 at 4:23
• @annav future people asking the same question is irrelevant to whether a low quality post should be deleted. And as answers do not make a question on topic, I fail to see why answers would prevent a question from bring deleted. – Kyle Kanos Oct 21 '18 at 11:14
• @KyleKanos imo, low quality posts may reflect an average non physicist's ignorance , those are the ones that I consider worth answering, to clear up confusions. A confused post is different than a post where somebody proposes own theories, those yes, I feel no compunction in their deletion. But naive questions imo should be treated gently. It is possible to educate people, and again imo one of the purposes of this site should be physics education. – anna v Oct 21 '18 at 12:51
• @annav there are some posts like you describe that aren't terrible & don't deserve deletion (upvoted & open). The ones described herein are the terrible variety (downvoted & closed). Rather than trying to move goalposts or put up strawmen, how about we talk about the same thing? – Kyle Kanos Oct 21 '18 at 13:31
• Kyle the post in question is just "closed" not deleted. I think Emilo uses "closed" as "deleted", unless it was changed to "closed" due to the fuss. – anna v Oct 21 '18 at 16:49
• Kyle the post in question is just "closed" not deleted. I think Emilo uses "closed" as "deleted", unless it was changed to "closed" due to the fuss. – anna v Oct 21 '18 at 16:50
• @annav no, if you bothered to read the post (or even click the link), you'd see that the question is both closed and deleted. The closed question was voted for deletion by me, AccidentalFourierTransform & ZeroTheHero and we voted to delete it because it was very low quality (-5 score). – Kyle Kanos Oct 21 '18 at 17:03
• I did click the link but did not realize it was possible to be both closed and deleted. – anna v Oct 21 '18 at 18:10
• @KyleKanos Having a low score alone is not a reason to vote a question for delete. Delete vote should happen only if the question is not repairable (and there also some other requirements, for example it has no upvoted answer). This question was reparable, and it had a lasting value, deleting it was a (practically) irrecoverable content loss on a false reason. – peterh says reinstate Monica Oct 29 '18 at 2:03
• @peterh where do I say having a low score alone? No where, so please don't make shit up. I state that having a low score AND closed AND unedited since closure makes it a low quality, abandoned post. To read anything else out of that is a complete falsehood. – Kyle Kanos Oct 29 '18 at 2:11
• @KyleKanos It shouldn't have been already closed, on the same reason. And it is very well visible even without 10k, that it is not an exceptional event, but a common practice here. This question should have been fixed, upvoted and answered (by a layman-level explanation, what the QFT says for that). – peterh says reinstate Monica Oct 29 '18 at 2:14
• @peterh that it should be open is your opinion and not one that 5+ people w/ rep>3k would agree with you. It was closed for good reason and was later deleted for yet another good reason (because only you want low quality trash permeating this site). – Kyle Kanos Oct 29 '18 at 2:17
• @KyleKanos Furthermore, I see also very problematic, that the votes show, the community don't like to see if clear review mistakes are shown to him. The cause of this mistake was, in my opinion, the lack of the reviewer resource. The correct behavior would be to undelete and reopen the post, and explaining the cause of the problem (+ urging everybody to review more). – peterh says reinstate Monica Oct 29 '18 at 2:20

I reckon my standards are higher than average. I don't like low-quality posts to stick around, and I vote to delete them whenever I stumble upon one. Good questions do not make bad answers good, and good answers do not make bad questions good. Echoing Kyle, I don't look at answers when voting to delete questions, just like I don't look at the question when I vote to delete answers (well, of course I do, but mostly to understand the context; but the context will never redeem crappy posts).

I understand this will sometimes cause collateral damage. I don't feel too bad about it, for two reasons:

1. You shouldn't be answering low-quality/low-effort questions in the first place,

2. and if you do, at the very least edit the OP to make it less crappy so as to prevent deletion.

Right now, it seems Kyle, Zero, and I are the only ones going through low-quality questions and voting to delete them when necessary, so I think it is justified that we somewhat "aggressive": it takes three votes to delete a post, and there are only three people doing any voting.

But we are human, so we won't always get it right. Good thing the mechanics of this site allows users to fix these kind of issues: there are dozens of users that can vote to undelete posts that were deleted and should not have been. It's true that deletion/undeletion is much less visible than closing/reopening, something I don't quite like (I want more users voting to delete, and a reliable mechanism to undelete those posts that should not have been deleted in the first place). But do note that the "delete queue" is just as visible as the "undelete" one.

In any case, and given the size of this community, we are not yet at a point that the special cases cannot be handled here in meta or in chat. So I do not lose sleep over it.

So that is basically my reasoning. Maybe we got it wrong this time, and that post really should not have been deleted. (But this is the first time someone complains, so we are not doing a terrible job either). Please do vote to undelete if you think that's the right thing to do.

• I'm wary of drawing statistical inferences here (like 'it's the first time someone complains') because there's all sorts of sources of selection bias. Heck, we can't even meaningfully estimate the size of the population - is it the first time in a hundred? in a thousand? – Emilio Pisanty Oct 19 '18 at 6:02
• imo, what one should also be considering when voting for deletion should be if it is a question that could often come up in search engines . I believe deletion takes them out of the search engine field? If there is a good answer then I would not delete it. when I answer questions which are candidates for closure or even deletions, this is my criterion, that a clear answer would be found even for a nonsense question , if it is one that may be often asked by high school children. – anna v Oct 21 '18 at 4:23
• @annav surely you must agree that low-quality posts degrade the overall quality of the site, right? – AccidentalFourierTransform Oct 21 '18 at 13:36
• @AccidentalFourierTransform I think that low quality answers are the ones that degrade the quality of the site . Naive questions do not bug me, particularly of enthusiastic highschool kids.. It is the quality of the answers that set the quality of the site, imo. Negative votes to a question , for not showing effort of research, or being confused take care of the questions. – anna v Oct 21 '18 at 13:55
• @annav I said "low-quality", not "naive". There is a big difference. – AccidentalFourierTransform Oct 21 '18 at 14:07
• Right now, it seems Kyle, Zero, and I are the only ones going through low-quality questions and voting to delete them when necessary You may be the only ones doing this systematically. You're not the only ones who vote to delete questions...? I do sometimes. – Ben Crowell Oct 27 '18 at 16:33
• @BenCrowell I'm glad to hear that. I wish more people did it. – AccidentalFourierTransform Oct 28 '18 at 2:34

The question is terrible. This is a new user and I would rather not pile it on but I will say that, IMO the post in question, in its contents and its form, is harmful to the site.

This post is unusual because these days I do not initiate much closure - although I did on this one - except for homework questions, so I did find the question to be particularly bad, and sufficiently many agreed with me to close.

I did not initiate deletion: Kyle and AFT have given their reasons, which I generally agree with. I will briefly add that it’s not a good sign for a question when the most upvoted answer starts by stating that the premise of the question is false and, IMO, nonsensical; indeed that’s reason enough to contemplate deletion.

It’s a pity an engaged user lost some rep as a result of this but it happens.

The question contains a false statement. It should be fixed. Not fixing it would be terrible, because it had left a false statement on the site. But the question itself is not terrible.

The OP is not a QFT pro, but this site is exactly for questions like this.

In my opinion, the correct behavior had been to ask the OP for correction in comments. Or, editing his question (changing increase to decrease). After that, the question could have been closed as dupe, or answered as usual.

I see no reason to vote this question down or to close, and particularly not to delete it.

• This answer makes no sense. Correcting the question's (severe) misconceptions in the comments is practically answering the question; without those false statements, there would be no question. It should be closed as unclear, since those questions are the kind of idea one gets without attempting to read anything about the subject, and there's no conceivable way that a person could ask a question like that after trying some research. I do believe that it shouldn't be deleted though. – user191954 Oct 24 '18 at 11:47
• It's also highly downvote-worthy, for similar reasons. – user191954 Oct 24 '18 at 11:51
• I've removed some comments of a personal nature. – rob Oct 29 '18 at 1:36