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Here are two related questions:

  1. When should moderators delete (not close) questions not posted by themselves?
  2. When should users with rep points ≥2000 vote to delete questions not posted by themselves?

I am asking these questions because the moderation tools (available to users with rep points ≥2000) showed that Suresh deleted the question 2246 on parent recently. I would understand it if it were closed, but I do not think that it should have been deleted.

My opinion is that questions should be deleted if they contain offensive/inappropriate/illegal material and so on, but questions should not be deleted just because they are poorly asked or off-topic. Closing is enough for poorly-asked or off-topic questions and, moreover, closed questions serve as bad examples. A secondary usage is that if many questions asked by one user are closed, that might tell something about that user to other users.

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I'll make this answer CW (so please feel free to edit it). I think it shouldn't be too hard to make a list of valid reasons to delete a post. Let me start with a few that I can think of:

Spam

I think spam is easy to recognize when you see it. Spam posts are usually meaningless ("ljhasdfsd 765hg as 5ghfdh654fg 9sa78d"), advertisements for a product ("This software is the best, click here to try it") or advertisements in general ("Click here to win a free iPod"). There are probably more examples of spam that I haven't listed.

Offensive

Also quite clear. Examples include name calling, abusive words, defamation (or more technically libel), etc. Most often these are off-topic, and sometimes about sensitive issues, like religion, 9/11, beliefs, racism, etc. These should be deleted for the double reason of being off-topic AND offensive.

Off topic

If something is clearly off topic, it should be deleted. For example a meaningful question which should be deleted is "Where can I buy a good quality, second hand Eric Clapton Stratocaster® by Fender in Canada?" I'm sure this question has a good answer, but this is just the wrong forum for it.

Illegal

This is also quite clear. When someone posts a link to an illegal website, book, etc. In the context of TCS, "illegal" will usually mean copyrighted stuff being made available in an unauthorized manner for free. However, there are other illegal things that should also be deleted on sight, but these would mostly also be off topic, so there's more than one good reason to delete it.

OP wants it deleted

This should probably be discussed in a separate question. We should have a policy on this.

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I don't recall exactly what happened, but I strongly suspect I deleted it at the request of the author (which might not entirely make sense since an author can delete their own post). I don't usually delete any post unless requested to do so: closing works fine for most cases.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for the explanation. May I ask you a favor? The deleted question 2246 had one vote to undelete. Is it possible for you to check who voted to undelete by invoking Awesome Moderator Powers? If so, can you tell us whether it was the author of the question who voted to undelete it? If the author voted to undelete the question, then something weird is going on. $\endgroup$ – Tsuyoshi Ito Oct 24 '10 at 10:51
  • $\begingroup$ By the way, if users ask moderators to delete their own posts in the future, it might be better to tell them users that they can delete their own posts rather than deleting the posts by using the moderator powers. I would guess that deleting by using the powers is easier than to explain things but, as is often said, it is better in long term to teach them to fish rather than to give them a fish. $\endgroup$ – Tsuyoshi Ito Oct 24 '10 at 10:58
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    $\begingroup$ Can users always delete their own questions/answers? I think there are several restrictions on this, which are outlined here. So perhaps a separate question is whether we should allow users to delete their own questions (via a moderator) even when the system disallows it. $\endgroup$ – Robin Kothari Oct 24 '10 at 17:06
  • $\begingroup$ so all I can tell is that the OP deleted and undeleted the post almost immediately, and a few hours later I deleted it again. $\endgroup$ – Suresh Venkat Oct 24 '10 at 17:30
  • $\begingroup$ Hmm, weird…. -- $\endgroup$ – Tsuyoshi Ito Oct 24 '10 at 21:36

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