The question Do we know if the human brain follows Moore's Law? was volunteered for deletion by its author, and I guess one or two other members also think it's worth deleting. But I'm hesitant to actually delete it, for two reasons:

  1. It's off topic, sure, but other than that there's nothing special about it, as far as I can tell. It's not particularly different from many other off topic questions we have that aren't deleted.
  2. More importantly, I don't like unilaterally deleting things unless they're actively damaging to the site (spam, severe trolling, sensitive personal information, and so on). By way of justification, we want to have limits on acceptable moderator actions that don't lead reasonable people to worry about censorship, and that's where I think the line falls for deletion.

Don't get me wrong, I'm fine with questions being deleted by the community (3 votes from 20k+ members), and I'm fine with deletions done by the automatic scripts that SE runs. My hesitation only applies to unilateral deletion by moderators. (See also this meta question. This paragraph echoes my answer there.)

Questions which have been closed for 9 days, have zero score, no upvoted answers, and meeting several other criteria are already deleted automatically. But what about other closed questions, which don't meet the criteria for automatic deletion? For example, those that

  • have upvoted answers (like the one that prompted this post)
  • have upvotes themselves
  • are recently posted
  • are recently closed
  • have reopen votes

As a rule, should we (moderators) be deleting these questions, even when they wouldn't automatically be deleted? Or some subset of them? (e.g. delete all closed questions more than 9 days old regardless of other factors) If so, how can we proactively keep the community's trust that we're not deleting stuff prematurely or inappropriately?

Something to think about: deleting a question that has upvotes and/or upvoted answers, simply because it's closed, is especially tricky because several people expressed a belief that the post is useful - either on its own merits, or because it inspired a useful answer. Now, it is a common occurrence that "upvotes lie" - in other words, we know that people will upvote some things that are bad fits for the site. But I don't think it should be part of the moderators' regular job to make the distinction between "popular and useful" and "popular but bad for the site".

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    $\begingroup$ What would you do with those answers that got +14, +3 from the community? Would you delete them? $\endgroup$
    – user36790
    Sep 14, 2015 at 5:37
  • $\begingroup$ @user36790 If the question is deleted the answers go with it. If this happens within 60 days of the posting date the rep is lost. $\endgroup$ Sep 14, 2015 at 20:20

3 Answers 3


In terms of keeping the site clean, I think the current situation does just fine.

In terms of solicited deletions, then I think the example you give is pretty much the only contentious issue - questions with upvoted answers which the OP would like to delete. In particular, in this situation the accepted answer represents 20% of its poster's rep, so you are balancing the OP's embarrassment with their post versus the reward to the answerers' efforts.

I think that in such cases you should err on the side of keeping the question. The OP's asked something embarrassing but in receiving answers they lost a measure of control over the thread. Specifically, they have solicited input from the community and those community members have put in work to give that input. The OP owes it to them to keep those answers up.

Some posts do cause embarrassment, to be sure. However, a notice saying 'sorry, I didn't think this through' is surely enough - particularly for someone posting pseudonymously. I don't think it reflects negatively on the site, either.

In this particular example, you might say 'well, the answers simply point out the obvious', but answering the question as posed is taking a risk that the OP will turn intransigent and argumentative (which, to their credit, they didn't). It reminds me of this question (which if I recall correctly generated many more comments than currently displayed) - I'm slightly embarrassed at earning so much rep from stating the obvious, but it did end up becoming a bit of a grind.

  • $\begingroup$ Good answer. Personally I would never turn intransigent and argumentative against what I would call "the good guys" on this site, I have seen too many people give their time and make the effort to help, (frequently for no thanks or response) and I personally would drop it and get on with some physics. Deep breathes help:) I knew my question was rubbish but time went against me to get it right. Keep the question, purely as a reminder of how not to rush things. regards $\endgroup$
    – user81619
    Sep 15, 2015 at 14:02
  • $\begingroup$ @count_to_10 this is the nice thing about this issue, there was never any concern about you (or anyone else) being argumentative. When we don't have to worry about people picking personal fights, we can actually figure out a proper way to handle things. $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    Sep 15, 2015 at 14:27
  • $\begingroup$ "In particular, in this situation the accepted answer represents 20% of its poster's rep" -- what if the only answers had been from high-rep users who wouldn't notice the loss of reputation anyway? Would this weight things differently? If no, then that point is superfluous. If yes, then this seems to be saying whether or not a question can be self-deleted depends on which users choose to answer it, which seems a bit off. Policies shouldn't apply differently to users based on reputation. $\endgroup$
    – user10851
    Sep 16, 2015 at 5:27

I have been in the position of asking a question on an SE site (not this one) that I subsequently realised was inappropriate for that site. In that case I asked the mods to delete it and they did, for which I was grateful as I was a bit embarrassed to have posted the question.

So I believe you should accede to the OP's request and delete the question. This is what I would want were I in the OP's position.

If the question were a valuable one then there might be an argument for refusing i.e. that it would harm the site to do so. I don't think this question (or any of the answers) falls into that category. It's true that Siraj R Khan and Ernie will lose reputation as a result of the deletion, but while this would be annoying if it happened to me it's one of the things you have to live with on the SE sites.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ I should add that my answer specifically concerns the case of an OP requesting that their question be deleted. As for the wider issue of unsolicited deletions I'm happy with the status quo. $\endgroup$ Sep 14, 2015 at 11:43
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I disagree. The people providing answers have given their time and (in this case) have gained a significant fraction of their rep there. As a counter-argument, having an embarrassing question up is also 'one of the things you have to live with on the SE sites'. $\endgroup$ Sep 15, 2015 at 15:24

David, thanks for posting this on meta. Like many other users I am anonymous, so although I completely cringe when I see my question, personally it's not going to affect me in a week's time. But the reputation of the site would suffer if many more superficially coherent, (I say this because it had 3 up votes at the start and was answered) but actually badly worded / unchecked / nonsense questions like mine were left up.

I mean no offence of any kind to the people that answered, they did realise the mess I had made of it and tried to help me in a diplomatic and friendly way.

It's actually easier to find duplicates and questions posted on this site using Google than the internal site search engine itself, which affects the reputation of the site for potential new users finding the site through Google, then reading posts such as mine and understandably moving on quickly when they realise they are reading rubbish.

I got stuck on rules that worked against both of us in sorting this out.

Firstly the rollback process eliminated my apology and plea to ignore the post that I had edited in when I realised the mess I had made of it and attempted to clean it up .Then the word vandalism just increased my panic, TBH, as that was the opposite of what I thought I was doing.

Then the edit lock prevented me from trying to apologise again on the post.

So I was left with no option but to try to reply to each individual comment pointing out the error, which is not as effective as writing directly on the post, as you can see from the number of up flags on the comments.

In hindsight, rather than panic, I should have asked the initial answerer, (if that's a word) to remove his answer then attempted to delete the post.

As you can see from the comments on the post, I accept the rules of the site and that it put you in a difficult position, but overall if the reputation of the site will suffer, then that should be the criterion to delete, at least temporarily, a post such as mine.

What's the harm in having the power to temporarily suspend posts?

However, on a personal note, I changed my user name to count to ten, as a reminder to do exactly that before future posts.

  • $\begingroup$ You know, once you reach 10k and can see deleted material, you'll realize everyone occasionally deletes questions and answers after they look back and realize what they said isn't at all what they thought they said. And then we all forget about those posts. $\endgroup$
    – user10851
    Sep 15, 2015 at 2:05
  • $\begingroup$ There was never an edit lock on the post, FWIW. (Though editing an apology into the post itself wouldn't have been appropriate, so it's good that you didn't do it.) The issue is that, even though you feel like your post was "rubbish" and hurts the reputation of the site, other people evidently thought the opposite, given how your post inspired a popular answer. Our dilemma is, how do we balance your belief that the post is bad against other people's belief that it's good? $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    Sep 15, 2015 at 11:14
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidZ ok, granted you have far more experience than I, but I give you my word, when I tried to edit the rollback, to apologise and explain at the top of the post, I got a message saying in effect "no edit possible...for grace period (something along those lines, I can't remember exact wording). You will see my reference to it in my comment to someone, I could not edit my own post, not to delete or alter it's content, as I take your point about that, just to try and sort it slightly to head off the comments I knew were coming. Scouts honour etc, I could not edit for a few hours. $\endgroup$
    – user81619
    Sep 15, 2015 at 12:21
  • $\begingroup$ Our dilemma is, how do we balance your belief that the post is bad against other people's belief that it's good? I would say this is rare, (and not a big concern), if you take the site seriously you will try to write a decent post, if you just want homework or rep points, it will be pretty obvious and downvoted. $\endgroup$
    – user81619
    Sep 15, 2015 at 12:25
  • $\begingroup$ @count_to_10 (2 comments up) that's weird, I can't figure out any reason that should have happened. If you're curious, post on Meta Stack Exchange with as much information as you can remember to try to figure out what happened. (I'm also curious, but I don't know enough to write a proper question.) (1 comment up) not as rare as you think. It's not frequenty, but we do get a fair number of flags asking for self-deletions. $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    Sep 15, 2015 at 13:33

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