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There are three answers currently flagged for moderator deletion right now on the parent site. In all cases, the answers have been heavily downvoted (-4, -4, and -10). Since deletion is irreversible, and there are various mechanisms to suppress the display of heavily downvoted questions/answers, my general rule of thumb has been to reserve deletion for either obvious spam, things that are generally declared to be offensive by enough people, or author request, and not delete questions/answers that are merely downvoted a lot.

Is this a reasonable strategy ?

p.s I've deliberately not linked to the answers in question, because I'd like to first determine if there's a general policy that we can apply. If the discussion seems to need more specifics, I'll add links to those posts. For now I'll merely say that the posts have not been flagged for being offensive or spam.

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    $\begingroup$ I think what you say is reasonable. Downvotes should be a good enough indication of what a majority thinks of an answer's quality. There is not need to censor (yes, that word is strong, but still). $\endgroup$ – Raphael Jan 8 '11 at 21:26
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TL;DR version:

Ask yourself: "am I embarrassed to be associated with a site that hosts this particular bit of content?"

Beyond that, some detailed guidance here. I'll edit it to make it agnostic to questions vs. answers:

http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2009/04/the-stack-overflow-question-lifecycle/

Why would you delete a post?

  • Some posts are of such poor quality that they cannot be salvaged. They’re literally nonsense. Not every byte of data that is created in the world is infinite and sacred.
  • Some posts are so incredibly off topic that they add no value to a community about {topic}.
  • The mental cost of processing these posts is not zero, particularly for users who are actively engaged and scanning to find interesting content, and things they can contribute to.
  • If users see a lot of closed questions, they’ll note that we don’t enforce the guidelines, so why should they? Without any final resolution, asking questions that get closed becomes something we are implicitly encouraging — a broken windows problem. If this goes on for long enough, we’re no longer a community of {topic} who ask and answer {topic} questions, we’re a community of random people discussing.. whatever. That’s toxic.
  • If enough of these posts are allowed to hang around, they become clutter that reduces the overall signal to noise ratio — which further reduces confidence in the system.

In summary, I would not delete because of unpopularity -- there are plenty of unpopular but valid posts out there. I only support deletion when the post lacks enough inherent quality.

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  • $\begingroup$ I see. I thought I had read in a different post (or on meta.SO) that deletion should be reserved for egregious things, but your proposal is that all closed question should eventually be deleted. $\endgroup$ – Suresh Venkat Jan 9 '11 at 8:49
  • $\begingroup$ @suresh I do not read it that way, but it should be somewhat rare for closed things to stick around forever. $\endgroup$ – Jeff Atwood Jan 9 '11 at 8:59
  • $\begingroup$ I was referring to the statement in the original post where it's stated that after 48 hours, closed posts are eligible for deletion. $\endgroup$ – Suresh Venkat Jan 9 '11 at 17:52
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I have flagged a few posts for removal using the review page because IMHO it is better to delete them. They were answers which were not answers (I think from new users). We left comments for the OP that answers are not for asking questions but the OP didn't reply.

In summery, I think there are differences between bad answers and answers which are not answers at all.

ps: I thought that a deleted post can be undeleted and therefore deletion is reversible.

pps: Another misuse of answers is for commenting on other answers by low reputation users, which makes the restriction that new users cannot comment void. There have been many cases that an expert who just started using the system has written very good comments using answers (which I think qualify as good answers), but I think in general we should not allow this to become common for typical new users. So if a new user is using an answer to comment on the question or another answer and the quality of answer is not very good we should notify the user and if the user does not remove the answer by themselves we should remove them.

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  • $\begingroup$ I think part of the problem is that we cannot vote to delete answers, so we need to flag them for moderator attention. If SE adds the vote to delete feature for answers then the need for moderator intervention will drop. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Jan 10 '11 at 2:49
  • $\begingroup$ technically it can be done. But none of us have 10k reputation yet, and won't for a LONG time $\endgroup$ – Suresh Venkat Jan 10 '11 at 3:29
  • $\begingroup$ You are right, sorry, I forgot that is part of "access to moderator tools", the page doesn't mention it. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Jan 10 '11 at 3:41

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