Recently we had a user putting great effort in generating a question & answer summarizing adjectives used to describe a person's character:

To make it more useful, the user even put effort in splitting the question into several parts, and they generated a TOC for better usage linking to more specific sub-questions to avoid being "too broad".

Now all of these questions got deleted without any explanation why we had to vote for deletion in this case.

There is no doubt that such list-questions are not a good fit for our site, hence they had to be closed as "off topic"/"too broad". In addition I made them all Community Wiki to ease maintenance and to make editing from all users possible.

We should not allow very broad list questions to be on topic but we should still better define the rationale behind deleting them as none of the answers contained erroneous or misleading content, and taken alone each of the now deleted sub-questions would make a disputably rather broad but valid question not much different from other questions we already have.

As deleting content is a very strong moderation action which may cause tremendous confusion and may lead to an alienation to the site from affected users we should better define our site-specific guides on post-deletion.

  • What are our guides for post-deletion?

  • What "harm" could be done to our site if we had not deleted them?

  • I have done the same thing in SO (many many brilling/stellar questions with gold badges) and it worked totally fine -- only things needed are patience and curiosity. The rationale is to offer easier to find information: categories make information more accessible and easier to co-operate. This kind of questions are and can be used in SE domain. They can be extremely helpful to future users, they are analytical questions per se without synthesis/conclusion -- they are excellent references for next specific questions. +1 discussion always good.
    – hhh
    Commented Nov 5, 2014 at 11:46
  • 1
    @hhh Could you provide some links to these stellar SO questions? I still have doubts that this kind of questions is a good fit for our site (though I do not approve of deleting your questions).
    – Matthias
    Commented Nov 5, 2014 at 22:12
  • meta.stackexchange.com/questions/58842/…
    – user6191
    Commented Nov 9, 2014 at 15:11
  • @Grantwalzer: this Q&A amongst others is linked to in my answer. I believe we should define a site specific guide for German Language (if we were happy with the unspecific guides for all SE then this should be said too).
    – Takkat
    Commented Nov 9, 2014 at 15:52

3 Answers 3


What are our guides for post-deletion?

I don't see a reason why we should not follow the general SE guidelines in this point.

What "harm" could be done to our site if we had not deleted them?

I don't see any possible harm. In particular, I do not think that these questions match the criterion "For questions, a post that no longer adds anything to the site should be deleted." These questions do add useful information about aspects of the German language, and they might just be that single post that that makes a new user aware of the existence of German Language SE. Additionally, I think it would show some respect against the effort and enthusiasm of the OP if we kept these questions.

Therefore, I think we should undelete these questions. However, although the OP tried to explain (in a comment to this meta question) why he considered this form to be appropriate for this site, I am not yet convinced (but still curious) and thus I think the questions should remain closed.

  • 3
    Another so far not mentioned "use" for closed but not deleted questions/answers is that they may show other users what we don't want. If deleted they will no longer be visible to them.
    – Takkat
    Commented Nov 10, 2014 at 10:54

These are general Stack Exchange guides on how to use the Delete Privilege.

  • Closed questions that are of no lasting value whatsoever should be flagged and deleted.
  • Also, be cautious when deleting questions closed as duplicates; they can serve as a signpost, directing users to useful answers on another question.

Related posts on Meta Stackexchange (How does deleting work? What can cause a post to be deleted, and what does that actually mean? What are the criteria for deletion? When should I delete an answer? and When should I vote to delete a question?) say:

  • For questions, a post that no longer adds anything to the site should be deleted. Basically, this includes most closed questions that cannot be improved and reopened. However, it may be beneficial to keep duplicates to aid future users in finding the canonical question.
  • For answers, any post that is not an answer (should be a comment, doesn't answer the question, etc.) should be deleted. Answers that are wrong or that dispense poor advice should be downvoted, not deleted.
  • An answer that is not an answer should be deleted (should be a comment, doesn't answer the question etc...).
  • Answers that are answers but are factually wrong or are actively bad (say promote SQL Injection) should get downvoted, but not deleted.
  • Too broad: Delete it if it says "this is nothing but a 'broken window' and we should get rid of it." This includes list of question where the only information is about 2 lines of text per answer or wikipedia/internet dumps.

Now the the community silently decided to also delete the remaining question (answered with links to now deleted answers). We did not hear anything on the community opinion what the delete reasons were in this case, and how to generally treat such question/answers here on German Language.

This resolved the issue in this special case here but it is my strong believe that all moderation including community moderation should follow - not precede - discussions on site-specific guidelines on how to do that.

This is what Meta is all about.


To be a little bit more concrete than the existing answers and to also suggest some specific ideas, I propose the following guidelines:

  • Generally, everything that is spam, offensive, gibberish, an exact duplicate of another post or otherwise totally out of bounds should be deleted as soon as possible.
  • For questions, we have the advantage of being able to close them and let the roomba bot take care of clearly useless ones. Thus, I suggest that we only need to delete by community moderation:
    • Questions that are far from being an honest attempt at asking an on-topic question, e.g., blatantly off-topic questions (e.g., questions about programming) or clear rants. Those clearly have no lasting value whatsoever.
    • Questions asking for translations or proofreading of large amounts of text that have managed to attract answers (maybe in form of comments). We should avoid all suggestions to visitors that posting such a question here could yield a success.
    • We may delete questions closed as unclear, too broad or off-topic while clearly being no migration candidate, if the asker has clearly indicated to have no intentions of improving and if they have no answers. But this is a rather rare case.
    • As another general guideline: If you have any doubts about deletion or seriously consider waiting with deletion, you likely should not vote to delete at all.
  • For answers, I have little to add to the existing guidelines:

See also this question on when posts should be deleted.

  • There is quite some dispute as what to do with "link-only" answers (e.g. see meta.stackexchange.com/questions/183603/…) - we should not go ahead and delete all those just because they are not more than a link. There's quite a bit more to do in these cases.
    – Takkat
    Commented Nov 30, 2014 at 8:32
  • Here's another post with some thoughts on deleting worth reading: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/141851/…
    – Takkat
    Commented Nov 30, 2014 at 8:35
  • I updated something on link-only answers, but apart from that I see no big conflict to what you linked.
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Commented Nov 30, 2014 at 10:33
  • The main point why link-only answers are in the low-quality review queue is that we should improve them, deleting is only an option if the link was crap. If the link given answers the question we should edit, comment to the OP to improve the answer, or write an own answer from informations given by the link. Flagging (i.e. for deletion) should be reserved to LINKROT (after we couldn't edit it for a valid URL), SPAM of course, or links that are unrelated to the question.
    – Takkat
    Commented Nov 30, 2014 at 11:16
  • That’s a direct contradiction of SE guidelines, implemented canned responses, etc. If an answer really is link-only, it should be deleted, no matter whether the link is still working. I agree that we might wait with flagging such an answer for the author to amend it himself, but if such an answer already in the low-quality queue (and we cannot ammend it ourselves), the only valid option is Delete.
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Commented Nov 30, 2014 at 13:10
  • Huh??? I only quoted from the SE guidelines in the Meta posts I linked to above. For good reason there is no such a clear delete policy you try to suggest. There is no dispute that link-only answers are not welcome but deleting them is another story. We may convert them to a comment if nobody edited them but we should definitely not delete helpful links.
    – Takkat
    Commented Nov 30, 2014 at 14:33
  • @Takkat: Takkat, the link I gave is the most current one and even despite this I fail to see somebody saying that only rotted links should be deleted. Either way, delete here means: should not be an answer. That we cannot opt for converting answers to comment in the low-quality queue or with flags, is a problem, however.
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Commented Nov 30, 2014 at 14:38
  • Still, you should make clear, that while in the review queue voting to delete will inevitably delete a possibly useful link. In case content from a link answers the question we should not vote to delete but comment, edit, or flag instead. If we see a link-only answer in the queue we should only vote to delete if the link leads to unrelated stuff. If it is SPAM flag for spam instead.
    – Takkat
    Commented Nov 30, 2014 at 14:42

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