Following Shog's trough here and the last post asking not to focus efforts on closing old questions here, I would like to apply the most logical solution: delete that crap already (this can be done if people downvotes the questions, but then there are users that just don't downvote :/).

Since the only way to delete a question is closing it, and we are discouraged to do so, maybe we need the ROOMBA to do it for us, more aggressively. I propose the following formula instead, since our needs seems to be different:

If a question is more than 90 days old, and...

  • has a score of 0 or less
  • has no answers with a score > 0
  • is not locked

...it will be automatically deleted.

A test of what it would select in this query. Checked some of them, and were close-worthy.

Anyone with another formula? Or some other approach?

This query match 35987 questions that follow the above criteria, plus doesn't have accepted answer. This match those that have accepted answers.

  • 3
    I think if the question has answers, it should be saved. It might be a 1-rep user that just died after getting his answer. If there are negative votes on the answer, it can be scrapped.
    – Kaz Wolfe
    Commented Aug 30, 2014 at 6:21
  • 3
    Seconded: score >= zero => don't delete.
    – muru
    Commented Aug 30, 2014 at 8:39
  • 1
    I like this idea but, is it viable? It also seems a bit cruel. But I like it...
    – Alvar
    Commented Aug 30, 2014 at 12:20
  • 4
    The query had one answer that had 0 votes, but was marked as answered, so we should account for that. Commented Aug 30, 2014 at 19:04
  • 3
    +1 to this idea, it's about time we got aggressive about it. It would be nice though if we could see how many questions this would affect right off the bat. Commented Aug 30, 2014 at 19:18
  • 1
    Putting aside the fact that you (again) misrepresent the arguments in the linked post, this seems like it would be a good idea, but (like Jorge points out) we need to account for accepted answers with a score of 0. The only thing I don't really like is we might be deleting really good questions with really good answers, just no votes. I've seen it happen. I suppose that's a risk we have to take though.
    – Seth
    Commented Aug 30, 2014 at 19:26
  • @JorgeCastro check the last two queries.
    – Braiam
    Commented Aug 30, 2014 at 22:40
  • 1
    @Seth "Putting aside the fact that you (again) misrepresent the arguments in the linked post," Honestly, these arguments are not sufficiently clear if perfectly lucid people fail to understand them. If closing voting EOL version after they have become EOL is the concern of that post, it is formulated in too generic a way.
    – don.joey
    Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 5:29
  • maybe us meta users can already do the test to see how much of our own questions are going to be deleted: for me askubuntu.com/questions/413555/… and askubuntu.com/questions/368366/… . Honestly, I would not mind that much. Granola is old and my drive got fixed a long while ago.
    – don.joey
    Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 5:34
  • @don.joey I'm sure there are several of my answers that would fit the criteria. I'm not worried about losing them. If someone else shows with the same problem, I'm sure I would apply the same solution.
    – Braiam
    Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 12:07
  • 1
    @don.joey Read the linked post again, slowly if you have to. I cannot think of any way to make it more clear. It has nothing to do with "not closing old [unanswered] questions". It is all about using your close votes wisely. Every single answer on that post has missed the point, and this has been clarified in the comments. I don't mean to be rude, but did you read everything? Carefully?
    – Seth
    Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 21:41
  • @Seth I just took the time to read everything (which is still available) carefully. It is simply stating the obvious: think about what you send into the review system. When we then start thinking about what we send into it [like my "reviewers should get the questions to review that are in the tags they follow!" or Braiam's not 'focusing efforts on closing old questions'] all the sudden we are misinterpreting the post. Common! You take it out on the people that are trying to think along with you!
    – don.joey
    Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 15:55
  • @Seth In that post, the take home message may have been "be more thoughtful" but the details of what that implied (and which has been repeated before elsewhere) is that using the review system to curate older questions is a waste of everyone's time, because there are more pressing issues - like new unanswered questions. That was clarified several times in the comments ("nobody should ever review the close queue", "let nature run its course on the old stuff", etc.)
    – bain
    Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 16:15
  • I think we are going off topic on this comments. Maybe we need a more clear message instead. IMO, the review system is ok as it is, just that there isn't enough reviewers, which can be tackled with my proposal.
    – Braiam
    Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 23:13
  • @bain Do you have direct quotes? No one said "don't use review" although I (I think it was me, might have been Oli) did say a better idea would be to handle the new stuff and let nature handle the old, no one said you "should not" or "cannot" close old unanswered posts that need it. Also, I agree with Braiam, the review system is fine as it is. If we can handle the new stuff, the old will go away and we will have a clean site (and again, I'm not saying you shouldn't vtc an old, abandoned (or whatever) question you find.
    – Seth
    Commented Sep 4, 2014 at 1:57

3 Answers 3


I at first thought this was a good idea (FWIW I still think it is a good idea, just with a little more tweaking), however, after taking a brief look at your improved query (removing accepted answers) I am a little worried about one thing.

I checked the first 6 out, and of those 6 I found 3 that had good answers that just needed upvoting (and they were good questions too). That is a %50 percent chance of pulling a good question out.

If this trend continues, even anywhere near this high, we would be deleting an awful lot of good content and I don't think clearing out more old cruft is worth what we would be deleting.

Therefor I suggest we also remove questions that have an answer. I know that will still still some junk lying around, but I think the amount of good questions it will save us is worth a little more cleanup on our part. I had Braiam modify the query once more to filter out questions that have an answer. It still finds some 18k questions and after going through the top 7 I wouldn't mind losing any of them.

  • 2
    "I checked the first 6 out, and of those 6 I found 3 that had good answers" that is part of a bigger problem related to the total amount of people voting is quite lacking. I haven't actually done any round on ages in AU and I'm still on the 1st page of this months voters ranking
    – Braiam
    Commented Aug 31, 2014 at 23:26
  • 3
    @Braiam While we could always do better at voting, I compared our quarterly stats against 5 other big sites, and we aren't doing too badly compared to them. So yes, more voting is good, but "bad voting" doesn't make my point less valid (not sure if that is what you were trying to say or not).
    – Seth
    Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 2:13
  • You basically agree with Braiam?
    – Kaz Wolfe
    Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 7:29
  • @Whaaaaaat Agree with him on what? I would definitely like it if the "roomba" cleaned a bit more. Like I mentioned in my answer, there are currently around 18,000 questions it could easily take out.
    – Seth
    Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 21:37
  • I took some time to check the questions that will not be removed if we apply this, and I agree, we could lose some good answers, but the great (over 95%) majority of them are very bad. Those are already deleted by all cleanup scripts currently in use (unless they have 1 upvote), why should this be different?
    – Braiam
    Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 21:55
  • @Braiam It gives us more time to get them upvotes, thus keeping them around. Dropping from (1 year?) to 3 months is a big drop. I don't see any harm in letting a little cruft sit around for a few more months vs killing good content without giving us much of a chance to claim it. Remember: Once it is deleted, getting it back is really hard!
    – Seth
    Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 22:05
  • 1
    "You basically agree with Braiam? – Whaaaaaat" LOL here is where your username is perfect!
    – don.joey
    Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 8:14
  • 2
    I think some good questions on very narrow topics can be deleted because most users lack interest in them (or even, don't understand them) so they don't upvote them. More of it, some of them have good replies in the comments only (I know, it shouldn't be). Now, is the main goal to reply quickly when possible or to create a valuable knowledge base ? IMO, it's very difficult to achieve both.
    – Pyrophorus
    Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 8:56
  • 2
    Confused... does "remove questions that have an answer" mean removing them from the query, and as a result actually not removing them? Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 15:34
  • 1
    @VolkerSiegel Yes. I'm saying we should not remove questions that have an answer (or, perhaps better, not remove questions that have an answer with a score >= 0).
    – Seth
    Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 16:32
  • @Pyrophorus The problem is, how do we autonomously define "very narrow topics that can be deleted"? I agree they exist, but how would we script detection of that? I'm not sure that is even possible. So the way I look at it is this: We either purge questions with answers every 90 days, or every 365 (which is what the script is set at currently). I think, if it has an answer, we should give ourselves as much time as possible to vet those answers for good content.
    – Seth
    Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 16:36
  • "how do we autonomously define "very narrow topics that can be deleted"?" not having upvotes on the question/answer seems like the way to go.
    – Braiam
    Commented Sep 4, 2014 at 1:44
  • @Braiam But, as I pointed out in my answer, that isn't necessarily the case.
    – Seth
    Commented Sep 4, 2014 at 1:54
  • Hmm, apparently questions with an answer are never automatically deleted, unless the post is closed. That makes this more tricky.
    – Seth
    Commented Sep 4, 2014 at 2:01

The existing question sweeps do enough and your alterations won't fix the review problem.

The post you mention, "asking not to focus efforts on closing old questions", was (and remains) a frustration that old answered things end up on the review queue, that people should be more vigilant about how they review and also that the review system itself should be prioritising today's junk over yesterday's so that everything new gets eyes-on and it never turns into yesterday's junk.

While shenanigans like this keeps happening, I'm going to be grumpy about this. I know your post isn't directly about this so I'll be quick:

  • One user finds it (I can't imagine why, there are no recent events I can see) and votes to close
  • That generated a review task that sucks in 7 more people resulting in a 4/3 split to close (meaning the original stood).
  • This left it on the close queue and 4 more people closed it
  • Then one user and a mod re-opened.

14 separate people involved just to preside over a 3-year old, extremely answered question.

Getting back on topic, your solution is not remedy to the problem described above, you're just lowering the amount of fuel. We could keep adjusting the gearing on this until we just have a bot that deletes everything 2 hours after it's posted unless it has a +10 answer. There'll be a lot less crap in the review queue, that's for sure.

So ignore the review issues. They're a problem but they aren't this problem.
Our princess is in another castle.

Unlike Shog's suggestion, you're suggesting we delete a number of questions that have had no votes whatsoever. I think you summarised the ethos quite well in this —trimmed by me— comment:

Any answer not upvoted is potentially bad at the same time is potentially good, but that doesn't mean we should preserve all of them, since most are based on bad questions

I'm just not sure automatically drawing lines around what is potentially good or not is the right solution to any of our various competing problems. You might as well start every question at -1 instead of zero.

And as has already been mentioned late answering isn't common but we have over a thousand questions that got their sole ≥0-scoring answer after 90 days. You'd be condemning the next thousand to just being deleted or needing to re-ask their question. This aspect is actually bigger (questions with more than one answer but the latest >90day one is the best) but my SQL-fu isn't strong enough today.

I'd much rather we fix some of the ultra-wasteful time sinks with a view to reinvesting that back into making sure zero-vote posts get more eyes.

  • "your alterations won't fix the review problem." is that my objective? My objective, is nothing like that. Your skills to misunderstand my objective shall be legendary, here's my objective: delete that crap. So, your premises that I'm trying to solve the "reviews problems" is totally amiss. I did my best to prevent "shenanigans like this" from happening, and I have my reserves about the ability of the reviewers to do the right thing but this question isn't about reviewers.
    – Braiam
    Commented Sep 5, 2014 at 12:29
  • BTW, you are taking my quote out of context: Any answer not upvoted is potentially bad at the same time is potentially good (and most of the best answers are 0 voted, even mines). You see me worried over losing my "precious answers"? No, I don't give a second trough about losing them if they didn't result that interesting.
    – Braiam
    Commented Sep 5, 2014 at 12:32
  • So, to finalize, people need a change, Ask Ubuntu need a change, if you are not going to give it to them, maybe is time that you re-evaluate your position.
    – Braiam
    Commented Sep 5, 2014 at 12:33
  • 2
    @Braiam Please mind how you speak to people. Your comments to me over the last few days are starting to stray into the wrong side of the Code of Conduct.
    – Oli Mod
    Commented Sep 5, 2014 at 13:37
  • 1
    "The crap" you want to delete is actually "the crap and things people haven't voted on"; that's my problem with your suggestion. At no point did I blame you for "the shenanigans", I was just explaining my concern that you referenced in your opening post. That you don't care if your posts are deleted is fairly irrelevant to anything I said and it doesn't alter what you said.
    – Oli Mod
    Commented Sep 5, 2014 at 13:42
  • I yield, you sir, will never understand my position.
    – Braiam
    Commented Sep 5, 2014 at 13:53
  • 1
    What are you arguing about? @Oli, There is crap that needs deletion. If you think an algorithm for doing that is bad, back up your claim with proof. Propose a better algorithm. Don't just say that because of edge cases nothing can be done.
    – bjb568
    Commented Sep 5, 2014 at 14:34
  • 2
    Also, why is reviewing old stuff the Next Big Problem? Old questions are just as important as new ones, reviewing them shouldn't be discouraged. It's not a "waste of reviewer time".
    – bjb568
    Commented Sep 5, 2014 at 14:38
  • @bjb568 No, when you're looking at the volumes we are, getting new questions "dealt with" (triaged, if you will) is waaaay more important than scuffing around with older posts... It leaves the answerers with a better concentration of answerable posts and means we're not just adding to the historical pile of crap that nobody has seen.
    – Oli Mod
    Commented Sep 5, 2014 at 14:58
  • In the time taken bickering about people using their moderation privileges properly you could have been reviewing.
    – bjb568
    Commented Sep 5, 2014 at 18:46

I must say that, to me, the most logical solution seems to be ignore that crap already! One of the good things about the SE system is that old, ignored questions are forgotten as long as they're left alone. Yes, some posts should be deleted because they may (and this has never been proven, but let's just say it's true for the sake of argument) serve as doorways for more crap. I might point to crappy question X and take it as evidence that my crappy question Y belongs here. Perhaps.

However, old crap is not really harmful. In most cases, it will never be seen. So, sure, deleting old questions with no answers or no upvotes or whatever might clean some bad stuff out. But is that worth losing even a single good question? As long as the automated systems can delete the good along with the bad, I see no point in it. Why not simply ignore them and move on? Why should we bother so much about deleting old stuff when we can be doing more useful things like answering new Qs?

I realize you are not advocating focusing on the old and ignoring the new. What I'm saying is that I don't see any great benefit from deleting old ignored Qs. Closing them, perhaps. But deleting? Why?

Anyway, if the community really feels strongly enough about this, at the very least the time limit should be way more than 90 days. You never know when a question might get a great new answer, what makes you think that it will only be relevant for 90 days. What if I have the same problem 5 years later, solve it and then post an answer. The next person to come along will now have a solution and that would have been impossible if the question had been deleted.

So, personally, I would not even try to delete more than the system already does. If, however, you all feel that we must, then delete questions that have <=0 score and 0 upvoted answers and are at least a year (or maybe two or three) old.

  • "But is that worth losing even a single good question?" let put this question backwards, is is worth keeping all this crap (which is significant) just for one good question? Think about it, if the price of getting rid of all the crap is a single question that can be re-asked any time, I would wage it.
    – Braiam
    Commented Sep 6, 2014 at 15:47
  • Oh, BTW, be it my proposal or not, all of that (and maybe more) will be deleted when this come forward meta.stackoverflow.com/q/262077/792066
    – Braiam
    Commented Sep 6, 2014 at 15:50
  • @Braiam yes. For me, absolutely. I see nothing wrong with keeping old crap. It would be nice to remove it but it really doesn't bother me. I hate the idea of losing good stuff so I much prefer keeping all that crap if it saves even one good post, yes.
    – terdon
    Commented Sep 6, 2014 at 15:52
  • "I hate the idea of losing good stuff", despite the fact that nobody will see that good stuff anyways? If we follow your analogy, "old crap ... it will never be seen", then good question also will never be seen either. That's why I put a example query in my post. GO AN UPVOTE OR BOUNTY GOOD STUFF SO IT DOESN'T FULFILL THE CRITERIA!
    – Braiam
    Commented Sep 6, 2014 at 16:03
  • 2
    @Braiam come on man, you know my position on this, I just restated it. I would appreciate it if you didn't yell at me.
    – terdon
    Commented Sep 6, 2014 at 16:11
  • my point still stand. You found something worthy of an upvote, upvote it! Otherwise, just delete it already.
    – Braiam
    Commented Sep 6, 2014 at 18:05
  • @Braiam that's where we disagree. I don't believe that anything not worth my upvote deserves to be deleted. I have two other, more useful choices: leave it alone or downvote it. As I've said many times before, IMO, there are very few cases where something should be deleted.
    – terdon
    Commented Sep 8, 2014 at 11:10

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