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Down voting, closing, and deleting content on this site are important tools to help ensure the quality of this site. My impression is that there is a distinction between these tools, though.

My approach has generally been to down vote poor content but to save deletion for profane, ridiculous, or off-topic content (as in "How do I prepare an over-medium egg?"). Some others view mathematical content without context as off-topic and, therefore, vote to delete it. Perhaps, this is reasonable - I'm honestly not quite certain.

As I understand it, though, the purpose of these steps are to help organize the site. Thus I wonder:

To what extent is deletion of poor content that is already down voted necessary?

In particular, is it not the case already that such content will not appear highly on searches? In the case of unanswered questions with negative score, does not that content get auto-deleted anyway?

Note: This is meant to be a technical question. I'm not asking for opinions on what kind of material should be tolerated. I'm curious what the effect on the network would be if poor content stayed on the site. Would searches slow down? Would we no longer be able to find good content?

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    $\begingroup$ "Over time, closed questions that are not useful as signpoints to other questions may also be removed, as well as questions which have no significant activity over a very long period after being asked." $\endgroup$ – quid May 1 '18 at 18:07
  • $\begingroup$ I see you mentioning voting down, and voting to delete (two bulleted posts statements), but I don't see where vote to close or vote to put on hold fits in with them, as that is indeed another mode of action one can pursue. Also note that the number of negatively scored posts one has asked, as well as the number of posts put on hold, and post of one's that have been deleted with low vote counts figure heavily in the trajectory of a user's future on MSE: too much down/delete/close votes may lead to a posting ban. $\endgroup$ – amWhy May 3 '18 at 23:43
  • $\begingroup$ @amWhy Correct. My main question really concerns deletion - specifically, I was wondering how necessary it is for the technology to keep the site well organized. $\endgroup$ – Mark McClure May 4 '18 at 3:03
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is it not the case already that such content will not appear highly on searches?

It's not obvious to me that Google or Bing would penalize search results based on question score. For example, this post is at -3 and has over 50,000 views. (By the way, I voted to reopen; I think the concerns about insufficient context, raised 5 years after the post creation, take a back seat to the post's role as a reference on basic manipulation of complex numbers.)

But some downvoted posts are both asked and answered poorly, or are so localized as to be useless as a reference. Such questions end up being a dead end in search: promising but not delivering. Deleting them is a good idea.

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  • $\begingroup$ Well, that is definitely a basic PSQ with a negative vote and a whole tone of views - thanks! If you search for "Complex Numbers Standard Form" on Google, it appears at the top of the second page of hits (for me) and it appears first at the top of a stack search when sorted by relevance. The search result when sorted by votes doesn't return very many things that seem interesting. Very interesting - thanks again! $\endgroup$ – Mark McClure May 1 '18 at 19:35
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Deleted questions are only about a fifth of all questions (about the same is true for posts, and also when restricted to, say, and last year).

Thus, performance and resources are presumably not a major concern (even more so as deleted content is not really deleted).

Arguably there is even not all that much impact regarding discovering good content.

Thus, what is the point in deleting?

It sends a message that the content is not welcome on the site. This can also be conveyed by other means, but this form is one more method and a relatively strong and effective one. Even purely abstractly it seems like a good thing to me to have and to use different means of expressing ones evaluation of content. It gives a more nuanced view than is conveyed by voting.

People are taken aback and complain that their posts get deleted, and are maybe unhappy about it. That's on the one hand unfortunate as we want the site to be a happy place, but on the other hand it shows that deletion does work quite effectively to send a message. Over time it can and does dissuade users from contributing certain forms of content. That's a main point. Moreover, deletions are one more signal for automatic bans and alike.

For this effect it is also not necessary that all poor content is deleted or that deletions are completely consistent (of course some consistency is desirable). It suffices that it is known that there is a certain risk that, say, that answer to this poor question could be gone next week.

It is maybe a bit like ticket controls in public transport. It is often not done consistently and it does not work perfectly, but both psychologically as well as materially it does have some effect on users behavior that it happens.

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