# Closing old questions

It's a pity we don't have the "no longer relevant" close reason here because I would have used it on this question if we did. It won't be clear to most users what happened to that question, so for the record:

• A spam answer containing inappropriate language was posted, and that bumped the question. The answer was locked and deleted and the offending user suspended for a day.
• A months-old answer to the question consisted of Djaian's comment copy-pasted, and it wasn't CW or accepted. I didn't see a point to it staying there and also locked and deleted it.
• The user who asked the question hasn't logged in since asking it, which was months ago, and since the question didn't have an accepted answer and there was no one around to accept it, I closed it to prevent it from being bumped by the Community user in the future.

(Edit:) In addition, the question was a fairly straightforward clarification and it was, after all, answered in the comments, so I didn't see a strong need to keep it open. It would be good to have a discussion about where to draw the line with such questions in the future, though.

• Isn't it the case that a question will no longer be CW bumped once it gets an upvoted answer? If so, then why delete such old questions? Presumably they'll get answered after being bumped enough. If not, then it may be a difficult question that should remain till some (new) user here can solve it. Answers aren't only for the OP. Others here could also be very interested in seeing the answer. – Bill Dubuque May 21 '11 at 17:43
• @Bill: Have you looked at the question in question? While I agree with what you say in general, there's no doubt in the value of this particular question: $0$. The value of both answers, the spam answer and the older one (with score $-2$) was even less. – t.b. May 21 '11 at 17:53
• @Theo My remark concerns only the general issue, since Q said he was going to do this generally - which greatly worries me. I don't think any single individual should have the power to delete a post (except for posts that are unarguably spam). It's too easy to succumb to (un)conscious bias. Only the community should make such decisions. Many difficult questions will go unanswered for a long time, till an expert joins who can answer it. – Bill Dubuque May 21 '11 at 17:55
• @Bill: Okay, I see your point and as I said, I completely agree with that. I didn't read Qiaochu's proposal as something to be applied systematically but rather such extreme and really clear cases as the one that triggered this thread. If I should have misunderstood this, I'm as worried as you are. – t.b. May 21 '11 at 18:03
• @Theo The way I read what Q wrote is that he would do this for threads where the questioner is no longer active. But I don't agree with that. Many other folks could well be interested in the answer to difficult unanswered questions. And the answer might well spark the user (perhaps an expert) to return to the site, after having left thinking that the site lacked sufficient expertise. And anything that helps to attract new experts should be promoted, not demoted. We are sorely lacking in expertise in many fields. The site requires difficult questions to attract further expertise. – Bill Dubuque May 21 '11 at 18:09
• @Bill: I should have been clearer; of course I don't want to delete interesting questions (why would I want to delete interesting questions?). This question was completely uninteresting. I'll edit. And why are you saying "delete" when you mean "close"? – Qiaochu Yuan May 21 '11 at 18:14
• @Qia But it's not up to you to decide what is "interesting". That is a decision for the community. As I'm sure you are well aware, there can be a great diversity of opinions here on what is interesting. Moreover, there needs to be checks and balances on moderator activity. If such threads are deleted with no notice to the community then there is no way to give feedback to a moderator who starts deviating from community norms (vs. mod binding closed threads which are visible to all on the front page). Please do recall your campaign pledge to let the community make such decisions. – Bill Dubuque May 21 '11 at 18:19
• @Bill: that is why I started this thread. (Please stop saying "delete." I have not deleted the question.) – Qiaochu Yuan May 21 '11 at 18:21
• @Qia I count two "delete"s in your post. In any case the issues are analogous whether it is for closing or deleting. – Bill Dubuque May 21 '11 at 18:24
• @Bill: I did not delete the question. There is a major difference between deleting a question and closing it: the latter decision is viewable by every user, whereas most users cannot see deleted questions. If I deleted a question, most users would not be able to see that I had done that and therefore would not be able to criticize that decision, which is why I don't delete questions lightly. I'm not quite the power-hungry monster you believe me to be. – Qiaochu Yuan May 21 '11 at 18:28
• @Qia Yes, of course I know that. But don't mod's have the power to close or delete questions without the community easily noticing? That's what really worries me. We had many long discussions during the campaign here on related issues. If I remember correctly, I thought most of the candidates agreed that they would let the community make these decisions except for content that is unarguably off-topic such as spam or highly offensive posts. – Bill Dubuque May 21 '11 at 18:37
• @Qia Of course I don't think you (or any mod) is a "power hungry monster". But I have seen past mods of other general math forums do harm by censoring content that did not reflect the very diverse interests of such a general math forum. So I feel compelled to be a devil's advocate to try inasmuch as possible to prevent those mistakes from being repeated here. One cannot really begin to appreciate the richness of math (esp. outside academia) till one is long past being a student. That said, I do appreciate your work as a mod. I know it is all well intentioned. Please do not misunderstand that. – Bill Dubuque May 21 '11 at 18:41
• @Bill I don't think that a sentence like this "One cannot really begin to appreciate the richness of math (esp. outside academia) till one is long past being a student." is really conducive to the discussion. I am quite convinced that you would also question actions by moderators who have their 50-year PhD anniversary because noone can cover all points of view on mathematics, so why bring up scientific age? – Phira May 22 '11 at 8:13
• @Qiaochu: I think that closing the linked question is absolutely appropriate. I suppose that the comment was copied to an answer in the hope that giving it one upvote would have the same effect as closing. I can understand that some people would prefer the closing being done by vote, but personally, I am quite happy with moderators doing this work for me. In this case, I don't see a problem with the deletion of the answer, but it would probably be preferable to not delete it, because it would not have done any harm and it would assuage the fears of arbitrary deletion. – Phira May 22 '11 at 8:18
• @user9325 It is important to emphasize - as much as possible - the diversity of the membership of a general math forum. Most esp. it is important to ensure that no bias is mistakenly introduced by moderators who have yet to experience the diverse ways that mathematics interacts with the real world. The latter is almost impossible to experience while one is still in academia. This is not necessarily correlated to age but, rather, to experience in the real world. – Bill Dubuque May 22 '11 at 12:17