I have recently acquired moderator privileges. Academia is the first SE site where I do so, so I was curious to see what they are like.

One thing that struck me is how quickly some questions get deleted. For example, this question (only visible with moderator privileges) was asked Nov 27 at 22:50 and deleted Nov 28 at 13:36, e.g. less than 15 hours later. This question was even deleted within an hour. The instructions in Access to moderator tools state that You must wait for a question to be closed for 2 days before you can vote for deletion.

From previous experience elsewhere on the SE network, a user asking a question gets no notification if the question is deleted, and is unable to view the question or the comments. They will simply get error 404. With such a quick deletion, it's quite possible that the OP never got the chance to read the feedback and learn how to ask better questions.

Would it be wise to wait a little longer before deleting questions? Personally, I think even 2 days is a bit quick. Closing is clear enough to signal "this is off-topic". Does it really hurt to leave the question for at least a week to give the OP opportunity to read and consider the feedback?

4 Answers 4


In those two particular cases, they were so bad as to beyond rescue-by-edit. So I'm glad to see the back of them, sooner rather than later.

For those of us who aren't diamond-mods, but have access to Delete Votes, we can't cast a delete vote for a proposal until the two days have passed. So the two-day minimum is enforced for us, by the software.

And you can only cast five delete votes per day.

In general, closed questions should either be edited and reopened; or, if an edit can't save them, they should (ISTM) be deleted. The exception is duplicate questions, where the closed duplicate is allowed to hang around as bait for search engines.

Anyway, here's a bunch of closed questions awaiting your attention for delete votes, now you've got them.

  • 1
    If you have enough reputation, and the question was not upvoted, you can vote to delete it without the two-days delay…
    – F'x
    Dec 3, 2012 at 14:59

This topic has received a good deal of attention here. I suggest reading the linked post for context. In short, it seems that the (active contingent of) the community has taken the stance that deletion should happen sooner rather than later, to prevent off-topic closed questions from piling up over the long term. (As a point of reference, the main SO site has over 50,000 questions with close votes just sitting around.)

Personally, I hear both sides. It definitely doesn't hurt to leave it around. That being said, it doesn't help anything, either.

If you (the OP) (or anyone else, really) have a particular opinion on how these should be handled, feel free to post as an answer here and let the community vote on it.

  • My point is not really on whether or not to delete the question, but on how quickly, particularly in the light that the OP gets no feedback if a question gets deleted. There might be something between leaving closed questions around and deleting them within an day.
    – gerrit
    Dec 3, 2012 at 14:31

I agree that deleting a question too fast might be a bit harsh, in particular if the OP does not know about (I wasn't aware of the fact that you can't your own content, even if it has been deleted). One of the reason why I tried to launch this thread was to keep track of the deletion we can do, especially when they are not obvious (we've had some cases of spam/offensive content).

That being said, if the question is not salvageable, then there is little interest in leaving it around, since it's more likely to be forgotten, and to lie around until someone flags it for deletion. The first question you linked was, I believe, in this category, and the fact that the OP visited the site after the closing of his question, but without commenting on it, added to the fact that his profile contains potentially offensive content (even though it's probably a joke), doesn't really provide any incentive in leaving it around any longer.

The second case is a bit different, since you can observe that in the comments of the question, the OP himself said that he tried to delete the question, without being able to do so. In that case, the OP was perfectly aware of the deletion.

I don't really think that the speed of deletion is a problem, but rather the fact that the OP doesn't know about it, and cannot access his original content at all, which is weird, since the content still exists anyway. Maybe it's a feature we would need.


Closed questions are broken windows: they give a bad first impression of the site to new users, and can (if in sufficiently large numbers) clutter the main page.

The alternative is to downvote these questions as well as close them, because a question of score –3 or lower will disappear from the questions list. I think that alternative is harsher for the user (people tend to react badly to downvotes).

  • 1
    I don't agree that it's harsher. I've had a question deleted elsewhere on SE before, and got confused and annoyed because it had simply vanished without a trace. I would agree with you if the user were informed about the deletion, but as this currently doesn't happen, I think it's still better more user-friendly to have a few downvotes (and wait a week with deletion) than for questions to vanish without a trace. Again, I'm not proposing not to delete, but just to wait a little longer so the OP has a chance to realise what's going on.
    – gerrit
    Dec 3, 2012 at 14:50

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