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This is a follow-up to What can be done to improve Physics.SE as an active forum for physics researchers and student's?.

Although I disagree with the motivation behind that question it does seem to me that there are a lot of frivolous and lazy questions at the moment. By this I mean questions that are either copied and pasted from homework texts, that would be answered by a quick Google or that would score high on John Baez's index.

Site members can already vote to close a question, but we can't vote to delete (though we can flag for moderator attention). I wonder if we should have a facility to vote to delete in the way we can vote to close.

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    $\begingroup$ John, why do you disagree with what is said in the About, namely that Physics SE should be a Q&A site for active researchers, academics and students of physics and astronomy? Your first sentence in the second paragraph just makes me curious about this ... $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Mar 20 '13 at 10:00
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    $\begingroup$ @Dilaton please have that discussion elsewhere. Physics Chat perhaps. $\endgroup$ – David Z Mar 20 '13 at 10:03
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    $\begingroup$ Regular users can delete, but the reputation requirements are rather high (10k+ to delete older, closed question, 20k+ for recent closed questions). This site doesn't have enough high-rep users to enable effective community deletion. $\endgroup$ – Mad Scientist Mar 20 '13 at 10:04
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidZaslavsky Why? John Rennie stated this explicitely in this question, so I dont see why I should not obtain an answer to this here? $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Mar 20 '13 at 10:05
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    $\begingroup$ @Dilaton because that's not what the question is about, and if you pick on that it's going to distract from the point of the question. I'm not saying you're not allowed to talk about it, just do it somewhere else. (I'm not going to post further comments on this here.) $\endgroup$ – David Z Mar 20 '13 at 10:07
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    $\begingroup$ I appreciate the intention behind this question, but I am a bit worried that such a new feature (with the rep barrier say reduced to 3000 for example) could be misused by people who have obtained the rep needed somehow but are nevertheless not knowledgable or responsible enough to apply the power to delete wisely. I mean rep is positively correlated with knowledge and wisdom but the correlation coefficient is significant but not exactly 1... $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Mar 20 '13 at 10:13
  • $\begingroup$ @Dilaton: meta.physics.stackexchange.com/questions/4096/… $\endgroup$ – John Rennie Mar 20 '13 at 10:49
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    $\begingroup$ Just to keep the rules on voting to delete clear. Starting at 10000 rep users can vote to (un)delete questions that have been closed for at least 48 hours. Three such votes are required. At 20000 rep the 48 hour requirement is relaxed for posts with negative score, but you are expected to use that power only on posts that can not be improved and really reflect badly on the site (profanity laden rants and the like). $\endgroup$ – dmckee Mar 20 '13 at 12:51
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    $\begingroup$ @dmckee: what about physics.stackexchange.com/questions/57378/… ? This seems to me a blatant "quantum mechanics is wrong and here's my theory" post. It's not even pretending to be a question. $\endgroup$ – John Rennie Mar 20 '13 at 14:26
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    $\begingroup$ @JohnRennie Gugg was berating (but politely) me in chat for closing it so I don't want to delete it until we have a consensus, but my take is "Kill it with fire!". (In general I don't like deleting things unilaterally.) $\endgroup$ – dmckee Mar 20 '13 at 14:32
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    $\begingroup$ @dmckee: well I've voted to delete so we just need, err, the only other two non-mods with a score > 20k to vote as well. Now I see the problem :-) $\endgroup$ – John Rennie Mar 20 '13 at 14:59
  • $\begingroup$ A similar question was asked here: meta.physics.stackexchange.com/questions/802/… $\endgroup$ – Larry Harson Mar 20 '13 at 18:52
  • $\begingroup$ If everyone reading this upvoted every one of my answers, then... I probably still wouldn't get to 20k... $\endgroup$ – user10851 Mar 21 '13 at 18:03
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I'd also like to see more frequent deletion of closed questions which are not going to be improved. Unfortunately, as the comments have mentioned, the system imposes very stringent rep requirements for this. It means that in practice, deletions can only really be done by moderators (until we get more high-rep users), and I for one am trying to be more hands-off. I don't like to make questions disappear unilaterally.

I guess for now, the two things I would recommend are:

  1. If you see a closed question where it seems very unlikely that the OP will come back and fix it up for reopening, either because it's old or because it's just a bad question that can't be fixed up, just flag it for a moderator to delete. That way we know at least one other person agrees on the deletion.
  2. Upvote lots! (when warranted, of course) That way, eventually more people will have the 10k rep required to cast delete votes.
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  • $\begingroup$ Instead of an increased deletion of old maybe even upvoted higher level questions that are interesting but just do not quite fit the format of the site, I would much more appreciate a concentrated effort to feature them in order to improve and reopen them. What is suggested in this answer scares me ... I fear that by doing as David suggests will lead to too many interesting salvagable questions getting deleted and that explains my disagreeing -1. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Mar 20 '13 at 10:21
  • $\begingroup$ I qualify to delete questions, but I'd be very reluctant to delete unilaterally. That's why I'd like a vote to delete with some sensible qualification level (5,000?). But I'm guessing the SE system simply doesn't offer this. $\endgroup$ – John Rennie Mar 20 '13 at 10:23
  • $\begingroup$ @JohnRennie Actually that's how it works. Using the requirements Mad Scientist said, voting to delete works like voting to close but it requires less votes (3 votes from 20K users) if I'm not mistaken. The requirement is very high (you must really commit to a site to reach that level of reputation) and so it ensures that who's voting to delete knows what they're doing. $\endgroup$ – Alenanno Mar 20 '13 at 10:24
  • $\begingroup$ Concerning point 1. of this answer: It does not necessarily have to be the OP who fixes the question, other people can do it too ... So the fact that the OP is unlikely to come back and fix the question on its own should not make a question deletion worthy ... $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Mar 20 '13 at 10:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Dilaton Yes, everybody can fix it, but the point is that if the OP is not going to come back there are some problems: no-one can confirm if the edit doesn't change the meaning of a vague question (only the OP can) and no-one is there to accept the answer (it lows the Answered Questions percentage). I think that's why David put that point. $\endgroup$ – Alenanno Mar 20 '13 at 10:36
  • $\begingroup$ @Alenanno I dont see a large problem in this. Old questions can be fixed by people who are knowledgable enough to understand what the OP was talking about from a physics point of view. And if it succeeds, the formarly closed question can start to get answers for the first time, which is in my opinion a much better way to deal with older closed questions than just deleting them. That no answer can be accepted is a minor drawback in my opinion, there is still the method to count by vote which answer ist the best one. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Mar 20 '13 at 11:10
  • $\begingroup$ @Dilaton Sometimes they can be fixed but if the question is vague and obscure, they cannot. The knowledge of physics, or any other subject for that matter, has nothing to do with this. If something is not clear, it's not. Nothing denies you from trying if there is a consensus about its "hidden meaning" but sometimes you just have to let it go. About the second point you're right. :) $\endgroup$ – Alenanno Mar 20 '13 at 13:16
  • $\begingroup$ @Alenanno I disagree that the knowledge of physics of the reader of a question has nothing to do with it. For a reader who is not knowledgable about the topic, a given question may look unclear and he may feel tempted to close the questions, whereas for people who have some knowledge about the topic it is clear what the OP is asking and talking about. For the knowledgable about the topic people it is then easy to come to a concensus about how to rephrase the question, such that it can be reopend. I successfully did it sometimes :-). $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Mar 20 '13 at 13:32
  • $\begingroup$ This issue is exactly why I think people with power to close / delete etc should have a not negligible knowledge about the topic of the site and they should be very careful when deleting/closing posts about topics they know not much themselfs. Of course, there are obvious unclear / not so good questions that can be recognized by everybody without having to be knowledgable about the topic too unfortunately. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Mar 20 '13 at 13:36
  • $\begingroup$ @Dilaton We are talking about deleting questions. The requirement is either 10K or 20K. At this point, the knowledge of physics has even less than nothing to do with it. We are talking about questions that cannot be understood even if you're Einstein/Newton because the hard part is not advanced physics but its incomprehensible wording. $\endgroup$ – Alenanno Mar 20 '13 at 13:50
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Yes, we should, for some types of questions. See the Broken Windows Theory. Questions which are unsalvageable (no way to fix) can easily be deleted. Leave a delete vote on them and we'll get rid of them (flag as well if you want1). Normal users: If you see a closed question with no way to be salvaged, flag it with a custom message asking for deletion.

For salvageable questions, wait a while. Encourage the OP to fix the question in a comment, and tell them how to fix it. If an old, salvageable question is closed, see if you can fix it yourself (this is for when it's obvious that the OP isn't coming back). If you can't, vote to delete/flag.


However, I've heard that making per site changes to the privilege system is a very non trivial thing for SE, and we can safely assume that it won't happen. Flagging works well enough.

1 I check out the posts with delete votes now and then in /tools, but this is rare

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  • $\begingroup$ One could not only encourage the OP to improve the question. Alternatively, other people could be drawn in too by making a starting improving edit which brings the question to the front page and, if needed, ask for further help to finally fix the post in a corresponding comment (something like "I think this question can be salvaged, somebody out there to help with this") :-) $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Mar 20 '13 at 14:31

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