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One may view some arguably delete-worthy questions by sorting questions by votes, then going to the last page. As of this moment, that page is 16440,

https://math.stackexchange.com/questions?page=16440&sort=votes

Examples of such questions:

please prove this identity

How is the set of natural numbers countably infinite.

The dilemma of $\pi$

Is it possible to calculate $\int x!\ dx$?

Many of these questions have net -10 or less, and it is probably agreeable that they are very bad posts. IMHO, many stench of trolls.

Should we delete them? As of recently, this issue was brought up in C.R.U.D.E., beginning around the time of this message, and we've deleted a few.

Personally, I think we should delete any posts with less than net 10 downvotes unless it contains exceptional content in the comments/answers.


Also, what prevents these questions from meeting auto-deletion? Presumably, it is the voting on answers?

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  • $\begingroup$ So no posts should be deleted until all those with $\leq -10$ votes, no matter when they occurred, are deleted first? I don't think there's much objection to removing them, but then you are allowing current horrible questions unchallenged unless they, too, reach -10. $\endgroup$ – Namaste Aug 25 '17 at 23:01
  • $\begingroup$ Auto-deletion occurs when there is no accepted answer, and no upvoted answer. $\endgroup$ – Namaste Aug 25 '17 at 23:01
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    $\begingroup$ I do not object to the spirit of the post. But those who vote to close poor questions , or vote to delete questions/answers as the need arises, and do so regularly, are in the minority, at MSE. Every one of us is rationed daily allotments of various sorts of votes. So your question is clearly answered easily "of course." What you have not addressed is priority with respect to cleaning up the "attic" vs keeping the living, occupied rooms clean. Do, "do both"? Again, the votes are rationed to each of us. What ratio do you suggest? $\endgroup$ – Namaste Aug 25 '17 at 23:10
  • $\begingroup$ Oops, I meant to say that auto-deletion of closed votes occurs wrt those questions for which there is no accepted answer, and no upvoted answers. $\endgroup$ – Namaste Aug 25 '17 at 23:15
  • $\begingroup$ I do not object to the deletion of other posts, however, I think almost anything with -10 votes on main should be deleted. $\endgroup$ – Simply Beautiful Art Aug 25 '17 at 23:43
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    $\begingroup$ Ah, thanks for the clarification on the auto deletion. $\endgroup$ – Simply Beautiful Art Aug 25 '17 at 23:43
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    $\begingroup$ I do not suggest any rationing of votes. I simply wanted to know if the community was in agreeance with the deletion of these questions, given that it is somewhat targeting and may involve a larger amount of deletions than the norm calls. $\endgroup$ – Simply Beautiful Art Aug 25 '17 at 23:45
  • $\begingroup$ What is a "net downvote"? Simply a negated score? $\endgroup$ – user349106 Sep 14 '17 at 21:56
  • $\begingroup$ @LeonMeier Take the amount of upvotes and subtract from the amount of downvotes. $\endgroup$ – Simply Beautiful Art Sep 14 '17 at 21:57
  • $\begingroup$ @SimplyBeautifulArt Since score = upvotes-downvotes, what you are describing is the same as the negated score. In this case, "less than net 10 downvotes" means negated score less than 10, i.e., score > -10. That's strange: OP suggests that any posts with score > -10 are deleted. $\endgroup$ – user349106 Sep 14 '17 at 22:00
  • $\begingroup$ Lol, sorry for the flippy doosies @LeonMeier $\endgroup$ – Simply Beautiful Art Sep 14 '17 at 22:02
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A difficult question. Since it was me who pulled the trigger, let me give a “confession”.

I have seen mainly three different kinds of "bad" questions in MSE so far:

  • Spams;
  • please-do-my-homework-I-don't-know-anything-about-it type questions;
  • the question is mathematically ill-defined but might incidentally trigger some interesting/meaningful discussions or answers, sometimes even deep further questions;

For the first kind of questions, there is no doubt that it would/should be deleted immediately by the moderators. (Yes, I do have a very narrow definition for "spams".)

The second kind are (usually) mathematically well-defined homework problems or standard textbook exercises. Such questions are discouraged by ([Edited:] some members of ?) the MSE community for not only that one would learn nothing from merely copying a problem here (OK, you might learn some LaTeX) but also that if such behavior was encouraged, MSE would soon become a plain homework problem site. On the other hand, closing such question as soon as possible to put the question [on hold] could force the asker to try to at least put some efforts into the problem. If such question has never been improved and have been [closed], it would be useful for the readers who can see a complete/sketch answer under the post. For this category of questions, I think closing them would be enough.

The third kind questions are a little bit complicated. The asker for such question usually does not know what s/he is talking about. The question is mathematically ill-defined or certain terms in the question need further explanation. Ironically, the people who notices such issue would usually not ask such a question in the first place while the reason for the asker to ask such a question is that s/he doesn't know the necessity of a well-defined mathematical question at all. In such situation, one of the most beneficial things to the asker (and the interested readers) might be pointing out that the question is ill-defined and how it is ill-defined. Learning why a dumb question is dumb is meaningful. For instance, in this question:

The dilemma of $\pi$

besides that the last sentence is nonsense and the asker obviously didn't notice that, he didn't know that in order to answer his question one should know the following things:

  • what is the definition of $\pi$;
  • what are irrational numbers and rational numbers;
  • what "represented" means.

Anyone who knows elementary real analysis would know that these are all non-trivial questions, but the asker didn't know that. In this case, MSE is useful for letting people (like the asker) know that such knowledge is indispensable in order to understand/answer the question.

I should have noticed that "bad" questions are different from "bad" answers. With such reflection, I would have been hesitant to vote to delete all the high-negative-score questions.

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    $\begingroup$ I don't think there is a project here that I'd want to "crowd source", unlike (say) cleaning up some well-defined category of broken URLs. My main concern is that some Questions may draw a huge burden of downvotes, but then receive appropriate editing (either by OP or sympathetic Readers) and good Answers (suitable for Math.SE). So it comes back to making editorial judgements on individual posts, the automated mechanism outlined earlier having left them intact. Sure you might browse the most heavily downvoted Questions, but your time might be better spent curating recent posts. $\endgroup$ – hardmath Aug 26 '17 at 21:39
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    $\begingroup$ I agree on the "please-do-my-homework-I-don't-know-anything-about-it" idea. My feeling amounts to: if you don't know what the words mean, why are you bugging me about it? First learn what the words mean. $\endgroup$ – Will Jagy Aug 28 '17 at 20:35
  • $\begingroup$ Re: For the first kind of questions, there is no doubt that it would/should be deleted immediately by the moderators. (Yes, I do have a very narrow definition for "spams".) Actually, if several people flag a post as spam, it is deleted. (And this way the spam post does not give additional workload to mods.) So the right thing to do is to flag such posts as spam. (This is only tangential to your post, but the phrasing in your posts almost makes me think that you are unaware of how spam flag work - however, this is highly unlikely for an experienced user who spent a long time on the site.) $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Dec 11 '17 at 15:09

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