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  Deletion of closed questions

+ 2 like - 0 dislike

I've just discovered that a question of mine that had been closed, was in fact deleted as well. It was called "Gell-Mann's 1983 theory of everything" and if you google that title, you can still see the evidence that it existed, though the text itself is no longer in the Google cache.

Mostly I'm just shocked that it's gone. I didn't even know the record could be erased in this fashion, though I now see that the FAQ mentions the possibility of deletion. I think I am also justifiably surprised that this question was seen to be bad enough to warrant deletion.

In that post, I pointed out no less than three features of Gell-Mann's 1983 construct which resembled subsequent experimental or theoretical developments, and asked for comment. In the first version of the question, I may have described those resemblances inadequately, but a subsequent explanatory edit did remove quite a few of the downvotes that the question originally obtained. Without going into the details again, I think I at least have the right to express my amazement that a question of such technical intricacy would be removed from the site. I would have thought that the intrinsic interest of the question's ingredients would have more than made up for any other negative features.

And of course, if some or all of it turns out to have been correct, it's also a bad outcome. Perhaps it's obvious that one should not rely on a Stack Exchange site to establish priority. But to see such a question, not just closed but deleted, certainly inclines me to curtail the nature of my participation here. I am geographically remote from the centers of theoretical physics research, and I might have hoped for more from this site than just answers to questions that could be resolved by a literature search anyway. But evidently it is not safe to express ideas here.

My meta questions are:

First, did anyone happen to save a copy of the deleted question?

Second, is there some way to warn new users, far more prominently than now, that what they write may just disappear one day?

edit: A day later I'm a lot calmer about this... Moshe mentions online "physics forums" as a place where open-ended discussion can occur. That may be so, but they aren't safe either. At one such forum, I recently had eight months of discussion wiped out by a moderator. My advice to anyone with "new ideas" who may read this, is that you should only post them on forums where you really do know they won't be deleted; or, you can start your own blog; or, if you can, you should write a paper about it.

This post has been migrated from (A51.SE)
asked Dec 21, 2011 in SE.TP.discussion by Mitchell Porter (1,950 points) [ no revision ]
Or you can archive the webpages. I can understand outrage (however misplaced) about a question being deleted, but **you are responsible for your own data**. If you don't want to lose something, then the onus is on *you* to make a backup.

This post has been migrated from (A51.SE)
I've just checked out the question. It seems it was closed as off-topic by Moshe, but no one is credited with deletion which occurred at 0:01, which makes me think it occurred as the result of some SE automated process. I'll email you the full text of the question.

This post has been migrated from (A51.SE)
@Joe, thanks for doing that (emailing), should have thought about that myself.

This post has been migrated from (A51.SE)

2 Answers

+ 6 like - 0 dislike

Questions that are closed as "off topic" or "not constructive" stay on the site for a while to give a chance for the OP to rephrase and improve the question. If the question stays closed and unmodified for a while, it is usually deleted. I think this is routine on stack exchange sites (as described by the FAQ you link to). This is not to be taken as a judgement of their quality, only questions that are very low quality (e.g. spam) are deleted for that reason, and that usually happens much faster.

The question you are referring to was closed on October 27th as "not constructive". That was my decision (after receiving ample community feedback on the question) - as I recall there was no question there, just a long opening statement followed by a single sentence soliciting opinions. In addition, the topic in question was not related to current mainstream research. As we discussed at the time, chatty and open ended questions are not a good fit for stack exchange sites, and personal "theories of everything" are not a good fit for this specific site. This is nothing personal, there are very specific goals for this site and we are trying to concentrate on those. There are other sites (e.g. physics forums) which are much more welcoming to open ended discussions such as the one you initiated.

The question was subsequently deleted on December 3rd, I am not sure by whom. This is roughly five weeks later, plenty of opportunity to discover a way to improve on the question and make it a better fit for our stated goals.

Feedback is appreciated, positive or negative, on the habit of deleting dead questions after some time has passed. This is not our (the moderators) site, and I am acting in the manner I understand to be the wish of the community.

This post has been migrated from (A51.SE)
answered Dec 21, 2011 by Moshe (2,405 points) [ no revision ]
Most voted comments show all comments
My opinion is that you should keep them on the site unless there are good reasons to delete them. (Certainly migrated questions should be deleted, and I can think of a bunch of other good reasons to delete them as well.) I don't know what the StackExchange guidelines on this are.

This post has been migrated from (A51.SE)
Thanks, I'll keep this in mind for future questions. I have to say, our volume of questions is very low, and decreasing. So, it is not clear to me at the moment how long this endeavour will survive and if we will have a chance to fine tune how we deal with various classes of questions. But that's for another thread...

This post has been migrated from (A51.SE)
@PeterShor: It appears to have been a script that deleted the question. The action is not associated with a user account and occured at 0:01, which I'm taking as evidence it was some automated process. I'm not sure why there would be a discrepancy with cstheory, but MO runs an older version of the software, and so isn't subject to the same maintenance scripts.

This post has been migrated from (A51.SE)
@Joe: Going by the StackExchange FAQ, the script may do different things depending on the reasons the questions were closed, or it may look at the amount of activity the questions get.

This post has been migrated from (A51.SE)
@PeterShor: Yes, perhaps that's it. In any case, this deletion doesn't appear to have been mod intervention.

This post has been migrated from (A51.SE)
Most recent comments show all comments
Thanks Peter, I'd like to hear from more users about the general question, and perhaps SE administrators as well, since I understood that to be SE policy. Just a couple quick comments in response to your comment: old but on-topic questions are not an issue, and I also feel that physics has specific challenges that don't exist in other sites (e.g. theories of everything). That said, your point is well-taken, thanks for your input.

This post has been migrated from (A51.SE)
I certainly would not object to deleting certain questions about theories of everything. On the other hand, there only seem to be six closed but undeleted questions on TP.SE, which is much fewer than either TCS.SE or MathOverflow. Of course, those websites had a lot more questions to begin with.

This post has been migrated from (A51.SE)
+ 2 like - 0 dislike

Maybe some very annoying or even trolling closed questions which are heavily downvoted by the community could be deleted a bit more efficiently (I mean the last series of four "not a real question" questions that appeared on the main page for example)...? Letting them float around encourages people with similar destructive intentions to upvote such posts again and to further spam this site ...

This post has been migrated from (A51.SE)
answered Jan 1, 2012 by Dilaton (6,240 points) [ no revision ]
I agree, moreover the main page simply doesn't look good with a sequence of such questions. This affects new visitors

This post has been migrated from (A51.SE)
Yes @Squark Your questions for example look much better, I always like them a lot :-)

This post has been migrated from (A51.SE)

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