If you click through to the list of unanswered questions, sort them by votes, and go to the bottom of the list, you will see many questions that are of poor-quality and probably abandoned by the original poster. Just to give some examples:

https://math.stackexchange.com/questions/6722/greek-geometry-algebra is a very localised question (in terms of why it was asked) and the question itself is very open-ended. The original asker has not visited the site for about 6 months now.

Given the number of downvotes to https://math.stackexchange.com/questions/21715/invertible-linear-operator, it probably will not resurface on the front page, and given the user's previous interaction with other community members, it is unlikely to be fixed up to an acceptable level.

And you also find examples like https://math.stackexchange.com/questions/23852/3d-magnetic-fractal-approximating-morphs where the question is off-topic for this site, and the asker has not appeared for over a month now.

Q Should the moderators clean-up these low-quality questions by closure and/or deletion when appropriate?

I take "abandoned" to mean that the OP either has not appeared on Math.SE for a long period (2 months? 3 months?) or that he/she made no attempt to address clarification requests left in the comments.

  • $\begingroup$ I believe everybody here agrees on the definition of "poor"; the definition of "long", however... $\endgroup$ – J. M. ain't a mathematician Apr 20 '11 at 13:34
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    $\begingroup$ I believe that a month of abandonment is enough to close the question, with a comment asking the OP to express some interest, perhaps edit. Three months is enough for deletion, in my very humble opinion. I am very much in favour of this initiative! $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Apr 20 '11 at 13:54
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    $\begingroup$ One thing to keep in mind in this context is that there is some automatic deletion of old unanswered questions without upvotes. $\endgroup$ – Hendrik Vogt Apr 20 '11 at 14:34
  • $\begingroup$ @Hendrik: I was wondering about that. The statistics of 0 answer questions and 1 answer questions near the end of list of "unanswered questions" is different from the middle, at a first glance. And it probably explains why I actually wasn't able to find any good example candidates for deletion. Thanks for the link. $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong Apr 20 '11 at 17:04
  • $\begingroup$ @J.M. part of the reason of this question is to hammer out what is a reasonable concensus of 'long'. $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong Apr 20 '11 at 17:05
  • $\begingroup$ I'll be slightly more generous than Asaf and propose closure after two months from creation or edits by the OP (so Community bumps and edits by other users don't count), and deletion after three months, then. $\endgroup$ – J. M. ain't a mathematician Apr 20 '11 at 17:09
  • $\begingroup$ Why? (Not that I have an opinion one way or the other; I just don't see any reason to do anything with them.) $\endgroup$ – Isaac Apr 20 '11 at 17:48
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    $\begingroup$ @Isaac: because sometimes they pop back to the front page and they clutter search results (yes, this is partly motivated by our effort to maintain the list of common generalisations). (Also, they lower our "question answered" percentage, which, by the way, is pretty good right now, close to 90%.) $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong Apr 20 '11 at 18:04
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    $\begingroup$ @Willie: If you look at the question-answered percentage for all SE sites, you'll find that the most successful sites have percentages much closer to 80%—I strongly suspect that having 90+% of the questions answered is actually bad, as there are fewer unanswered questions floating around (and unanswered questions give experts something to do). As to the questions popping up, if they are genuinely unanswerable, they should be closed as "not a real question" (which would keep them from popping up) and if they are answerable, they should keep popping up. $\endgroup$ – Isaac Apr 20 '11 at 23:38

I would only take action if the presence of this question is causing harm on the site -- that is, it is a "broken window" of some kind with no redeeming qualities.

There are a number of automated process already in place which remove "inactive" questions that didn't get answered and have very low activity on the question and/or got downvoted.

  • $\begingroup$ Is it possible to give an outline of when a question is bumped by the Community user? I recall you once explained this process, but I can't find the link off hand and am kinda swamped. This might be useful as if we know how it works, when we come across a question that has no business being bumped we can take necessary steps to assure that (if it will eventually pass the criteria of the bump process). $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Apr 27 '11 at 17:25
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    $\begingroup$ @asaf non-negatively scored questions with no upvoted answers have a certain chance of getting bumped to the homepage. $\endgroup$ – Jeff Atwood Apr 28 '11 at 2:05

As long as these are not bumped to the front page periodically, they do no harm. Just leave them.

  • $\begingroup$ but they can be, if they are non-negative score with no upvoted answers. $\endgroup$ – Jeff Atwood Apr 28 '11 at 6:35

I was thinking about raising similar question in stats.SE. The problem is that although the quality of the linked questions is low, the answers to these questions seem useful. The goal of SE sites is that 90% traffic should come from search sites, so when deleting the answer the most important criteria in my opinion is whether the question and given answers give valuable information. The first two linked question in my opinion does.

If however the question has no answers, no activity and low quality then it might be considered for deletion. On the other hand it presents valuable example of low quality question and might be kept solely for such purpose.

  • $\begingroup$ Let me note again that the proposal has both a "closure" part and a "deletion" part. Because of the mechanism cited by Hendrik, I couldn't find any good candidate for actual "deletion". The candidate questions listed are more candidates for closure (the first as "not a real question", the third as "off topic", while I have no idea what to do with the second one.) $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong Apr 20 '11 at 17:12

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