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I was directed just now to a post with the following abbreviated time-line:

  • Question was posted 21 hours ago
  • Question was closed as "unclear what you are asking" 19 hours ago
  • Question was deleted by the votes of three 10K users 4 hours ago.

Yes, I get it: the original question is very vague and it was not at all clear what the OP is asking. But there were some users commenting and trying to help the OP formulate it into a mathematical question. The whole purpose of having posts put "On-Hold" versus "Closed" is that we are supposed to give new users a chance to edit their questions to a form that fits the community norm. This rapid-fire deletion runs entirely contrary to that.

Request: Can we please be a little bit more generous about deleting bad posts?

It is one thing to delete a low-quality orphan which the OP abandoned, but I feel that over-zealous deletions of recent posts (which are not obviously spam or offensive) is unfair to the new users and creates an unwelcoming atmosphere.

Worse, the OP is now essentially deprived of a chance of learning from his mistakes: if he cannot see the comments he cannot know why his earlier question is closed and deleted1! And sure enough my attention was brought to this question because the OP simply posted his question again2, identically to the original version that was closed and deleted. So the net effect is that the deletion of the original post is counterproductive to our goal of having clear, well-formed question on this site.


1 A user can see his own recently deleted question, though it may not be immediately obvious to new users how to do that. A user can also see his own deleted question at any time provided that the user saved the URL.

2 I should also add that footnote 1 notwithstanding, in the case that caught my attention the original poster used an unregistered account for the first post. This made it additionally difficult to see the comments on the deleted post.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 Thanks for posting that. I was about to make a similar post. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Sep 2 '14 at 14:58
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    $\begingroup$ Can't a user still see their own question if it's deleted? $\endgroup$ – user14972 Sep 2 '14 at 15:11
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    $\begingroup$ @Hurkyl I might be mistaken, by I think that deleted questions posted in the last 60 days are shown to the OP in the section deleted recent questions. $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Sep 2 '14 at 15:32
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    $\begingroup$ Since you mentioned 10K users: at 10K level, one cannot vote to deletion until two days pass after closure. Those had to be 20K users. $\endgroup$ – user147263 Sep 2 '14 at 16:25
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    $\begingroup$ After the question is closed, what is the time that the OP has to improve it, before it can get deleted? $\endgroup$ – Tomás Sep 2 '14 at 16:47
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    $\begingroup$ From recent observation, closure of potentially interesting but definitely imperfect questions has been occurring recently in less than the two hours mentioned in the post. This causes problems for people who want to use mathematics and are not merely quoting a "book" problem. $\endgroup$ – André Nicolas Sep 2 '14 at 16:49
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    $\begingroup$ (Cont.) It also causes problems for students trying to solve an exercise, who follow instructions and attempt (not so well!) to explain what they have tried. I would like new users of the site to find a more welcoming atmosphere, and to be introduced less ungently to the site's expectations. $\endgroup$ – André Nicolas Sep 2 '14 at 16:51
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    $\begingroup$ @AndréNicolas: while it is related, I would prefer to focus this discussion on the deletion of the problems rather than closure (to which several meta threads have already been dedicated in the past). $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong Sep 3 '14 at 8:40
  • $\begingroup$ @Tomás: assuming no one has answered or voted re-open, the OP has 9 days before automatic deletion if the question has a non-positive score. The question has to be closed for more than 2 days for deleting by 10K users. The question has to be closed and have very low score to be eligible for immediate deletion by 20K users. $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong Sep 3 '14 at 14:19
  • $\begingroup$ The previous link should be to 20K privilege rather than 10K. Also, very low is $\le -3$. $\endgroup$ – user147263 Sep 3 '14 at 14:53
  • $\begingroup$ @Thursday: the previous link contains the description for both 10K and 20K behaviour. I linked to it because there's an outgoing link to the trusted-user page but not a reverse on the 20K privilege page. $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong Sep 3 '14 at 15:53
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    $\begingroup$ @WillieWong: I was being imprecise. Often deletion follows hold in short order. And in addition, people can pretend to not understand questions, and delete immediately. Probably I should not say pretend not to understand. Maybe they are truly inexperienced and really do not understand. $\endgroup$ – André Nicolas Sep 4 '14 at 5:29
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    $\begingroup$ Some days back a first time user posted a question with a diagram, his diagram, question title and question itself were very poor, the question was put "on hold", I rectified the title, posted clear diagram and question, then I wrote in the comments requesting the moderator to remove the "on hold" status, but nothing happened, another user commented that he knows the answer to the question but can't post it because of the "on hold" status, finally I wrote the answer in the comments, I can't even find that question now. $\endgroup$ – Vikram Sep 4 '14 at 13:24
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    $\begingroup$ @Vikram: by editing you should've bumped the question into the review queue for re-opening; the community in your case declined to re-open it (3 votes to 1). The post was then automatically deleted (after nine days) due to it being closed with a low score. So it certainly does not fall under the situation described in this post. As a general policy, only in exceptional cases will moderators open/close questions unilaterally. $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong Sep 4 '14 at 15:33
  • $\begingroup$ +infinite Ive wanted to ask this, very happy to see this post. $\endgroup$ – M.S.E Sep 14 '14 at 12:14
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Concrete suggestion: let's avoid voting to delete questions that display [on hold] unless they are of the spam/offensive/trolling/joke kinds.

Also, given that the system automatically deletes nonpositively scored closed posts that got no positively scored answer, I see no reason to spend expensive delete votes on such questions. I suggest focusing on the backlog instead, in particular on the downvoted closed non-duplicate posts where automatic deletion is prevented only by an answer worthy of Wolfram Alpha Pro.

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    $\begingroup$ I forgot to add that an accepted answer also prevents deletion at present. So those still require explicit delete votes. Basically, anything that stays past 9 days in the closed state is something to consider for deletion. $\endgroup$ – user147263 Sep 3 '14 at 15:29
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    $\begingroup$ I endorse this. Now, who will tell those over-eager 20K's to lay off? $\endgroup$ – GEdgar Sep 6 '14 at 14:21
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    $\begingroup$ @GEdgar Users can vote as they see fit. As far as votes are concerned, even moderators have only the power of pursuasion (apart from serial voting abuse). But meta discussions do influence behavior sometimes, perhaps gradually. $\endgroup$ – user147263 Sep 6 '14 at 15:28
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    $\begingroup$ @GEdgar: I think this thread already told the over-eager 20Ks exactly that. Dicussion threads like this are the perfect way to educate each other about aspects/points-of-view we may have overlooked. Of course, the people who never come to Meta won't see these. But their voice won't then be heard either when policies are formed. Their pick. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Sep 6 '14 at 17:56
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Suggestion: Can we have a time limit(say 48-72 hours) and an edit limit (say 5 edits) on the question that is on hold such that if any of those limits are crossed then the question can be deleted. If none are crossed then the question cannot be deleted unless marked as spam/offensive/trolling/jokes (Thursdays suggestion).

I think this will allow new users to edit and improve their questions.

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  • $\begingroup$ I don't see how this would improve on Thursday's suggestion, and it seems more complicated. $\endgroup$ – Jonas Meyer Sep 5 '14 at 14:05
  • $\begingroup$ @JonasMeyer I am trying to say that instead of avoiding the deletion of questions, why not set some rules that disallow it so that the new user gets some time to review and edit the question? And yes I agree that this is a more complicated solution $\endgroup$ – stackErr Sep 5 '14 at 15:11
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    $\begingroup$ Why not disallow it? Because community agreement is better than a rule from above. $\endgroup$ – apnorton Sep 7 '14 at 20:07
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    $\begingroup$ What does "set some rules" mean? Is a "rule" a software check of some kind? How is it to be enforced? Software does not know if a post is offensive or an instance of trolling. Apart from software checks, there is nobody looking over a user's shoulder watching how they vote. $\endgroup$ – user147263 Sep 7 '14 at 20:28

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