I would like to know, should questions that are put "on hold" be deleted by their prospective authors or does it depend on a number of factors eg

  • It may have already gained a quality answer or answers and therefore;
  • It may have many upvotes and be a favourite to many

Even for the reasons above, it may for whatever reason still be put on hold, after a prolonged period (which can happen).

As opposed to a question which is put "on hold" relatively rapidly, as it is unfit for SE (therefore won't have any answers).


I'm partly opposing Dan's answer for the reasons I gave in my comment to it: I doubt there are many "new users" doing any research before they post their question. So keeping questions "as examples how you should not ask" is a waste, IMHO.

I however see a reason to not delete questions which might act as pointers to others. That's best explained using an example:
One of our most frequently asked questions is the "I forgot my pattern/password and now I'm locked out" type, which are usually closed as duplicates to Can not unlock my Android device as have no internet connection?. Formerly, that question was phrased "Can not unlock my tablet...". When I find such a (new) question and want to VTC it: how to find this "master question"? Looking for "Can not unlock my tablet" makes it hard to find. It however turns out on top of the search when I type in the exact phrasing.
My point? Given a user really does a search before asking, he's unlikely to know the exact phrasing. But with more and more duplicates kept as pointers, chances to have one of them turning up on top of the search results are increasing. Opening that one then leads to the "final point of interest".

In short words:

  • don't delete duplicates, as they can serve as pointers to questions having the real answers
  • delete "spammy" questions as they are of no use at all (usually done by an automated process: those just need enough downvotes, and maybe a mod)
  • questions not fitting the scope of our site IMHO are of no real (practical) use, so I would tend to have them deleted as well (but no absolute here, this is a per-case decision)
  • questions already having useful comments or even answers should not be deleted in general (though exceptions might exist for those cases as well)
  • I agree with what you are saying in that new users for sure think this is simply another forum, which it is not. Its actually something very unique (which I haven't come across elsewhere, and maybe doesn't exist elsewhere). – Simon Jan 24 '14 at 14:06
  • Why would a question which lets says has many upvotes and favourites together with lets say 3 possible answers be put on hold eventually ? – Simon Jan 24 '14 at 14:08
  • @Simon because the upvoters/answerers possibly tapped into the same trap as the OP? If e.g. a question is completely off-topic, that does not prevent any other user from answering/upvoting it nonetheless. – Izzy Jan 24 '14 at 14:39
  • So it was a case of they got there before the Moderators...so to speak ? – Simon Jan 24 '14 at 15:27
  • One could say so, yes. And before enough other users have been there and VTC'd it, so it got "put on hold" (remember: that takes either 1 mod, or 5 non-mods). – Izzy Jan 24 '14 at 16:08
  • Ah I see...good to know. – Simon Jan 25 '14 at 9:37

On-hold or closed questions still have a useful purpose for the site: to serve as an example to others. Every on-hold question (for whatever reason) is an example of what kinds of question we don't want on the site. If a new visitor arrives at the site, looks at existing questions, and notices that (for example) a question about programming has been put on hold, and reads the reason, he'll learn two things: first, that we aren't Yahoo! Answers, and what happens if a question isn't appropriate for the site; second, that if he asks a programming question, it'll be put on hold too.

It's an important part of the feedback process, cultivating the community of people interested in the same topic. This is why closed questions aren't hidden from the front page (unless they have a very negative score) or deleted right away. (This is only part of the reason. Deleting them right away would stop the author improving or refining the question so it can be reopened.)

There's another side of this: often, when a voter leaves a "this is off-topic" comment, the questioner will delete their question right away, without even waiting for it to be put on hold. They're probably trying to be polite and a good netizen: deleting the question after being told it's inappropriate.

This is a shame, for two reasons. It defeats the mechanism described above, so we'll end up with more people asking questions that don't fit the site. In addition, sometimes this happens with questions that are borderline, or where the commenter has misunderstood, so the question would not be put on hold. It might even have been an asset to the site had the author not deleted it. For these reasons, I'd like to encourage close-voters to only leave an "off-topic" comment in unambiguous cases, to reduce that risk; and I'd also ask those who can't vote-to-close yet to refrain from leaving such comments, and flag the question for a more experienced user to discuss.

  • If a new visitor arrives at the site, looks at existing questions, and notices that [...] You really think there's anybody doing so? My bet would be a maximum of 1 out of 1.000. 99% of new users posting here don't even initiate a search to see if that question has already been asked, and might even have the answer they need. So keeping it would defeat that purpose – though I understand your reasoning. – Izzy Jan 24 '14 at 12:32
  • I know that what really happens isn't always what's meant to happen, but that's the stated reason: Mr. Spolsky explained it in a talk I went to. – Dan Hulme Jan 24 '14 at 12:46
  • @DanHulme Who is Mr Spolsky ? – Simon Jan 24 '14 at 14:11
  • 1
    This guy – Dan Hulme Jan 24 '14 at 14:34
  • @DanHulme Thanks for clarification. – Simon Jan 24 '14 at 15:26

No, the system is designed to take care of that itself. And user shouldn't have to deal with that. Once a question changes from "On Hold" to "Closed" it may get auto deleted.

So it's either the community that takes care of deleting questions or some sort of automatic mechanism.

  • I thought "On Hold" replaced "Closed" many months ago ? – Simon Jan 24 '14 at 14:09
  • No, "On Hold" is just a temporary state. Questions but on hold will become closed eventually. – Flow Jan 24 '14 at 14:50
  • Ah ok fine, makes sense. – Simon Jan 24 '14 at 15:29

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