Inspired by a post on M.SU by studiohack, I'd like your thoughts on going through and cleaning up some of our old, unloved questions. I've taken a first pass at coming up with an SQL query (shamelessly stolen and adapted from the M.SU post) that shows some of these.


This query returns questions that have less than 50 views, no accepted answer, zero or one answers, and were last touched 180 days ago or more. For questions posted 12 months ago, having under 50 views is a good sign that they're not being picked up by the search-engines.

This is a fairly restrictive search. It can be expanded if we want, but I'm thinking these should be just expunged.

Good idea, or should we just leave things as they are?

Update: As I've gone through the query, I've noticed that a better metric is views-per-month. The stuff in the 6-7 month old range with 40-50 views still has some meat left on those bones. Roughly speaking, 5 vpm is about the breaking point of relevancy in the above list. I'll see if I can cobble together a query that'll do that.

Also Jeff Atwood has taken a well-aimed stab at making a query like this. His version:

Enable automatic deletion of old, unanswered zero-score questions after a year?

  • The link to SH's post results in 404 Commented Feb 6, 2011 at 11:47
  • The link has been fixed.
    – sysadmin1138 Mod
    Commented Feb 6, 2011 at 17:12

4 Answers 4


Please note we now automatically delete all questions meeting the following criteria network wide:

Enable automatic deletion of old, unanswered zero-score questions after a year?

  • less than (question age in days * 1.5) views
  • 0 score or lower
  • no answers
  • 1 comment or less
  • asked more than 365 days ago

This is in addition to deleting unanswered, negatively voted questions with zero answers after 30 days, which has been in place for a while.


Leave the questions alone. It isn't like the database runneth over, the hamster is tired, and/or would burst into flames, but as my question to the linked post, which keeps getting deleted, will we lose our tumbleweed badge on recalcs? I'd rather have an answer, but you know, I can keep hoping someone will come along and know the answer.

  • That's a fair point. I guess the question is what's more important to the site as a whole - to remain "vibrant" (for want of a better word) or to remain a respository for every question people have ever had about their network
    – Rob Moir
    Commented Feb 7, 2011 at 8:37
  • For details: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/17853/how-do-badges-work/…. In short, you'll keep the badge, but the next time you'd earn it, you won't get an additional one.
    – sysadmin1138 Mod
    Commented Feb 7, 2011 at 15:28
  • Why does the whole site have to remain vibrant? As long as there is new relevant content the old stuff doesn't matter. Some obscure questions will have the least activity but can be really helpful if there is no other resources answering them.
    – JamesRyan
    Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 10:03

I think weeding the garden is important. If one of the goals of SF is to attract people here as a definitive place to ask and answer questions then those visitors aren't going to be impressed or by old badly written questions.

This then leads us on to whether or not there are other types of 'gardening' we should be doing, but that's a whole other debate.

  • That's the thing about these questions, they're not getting views even with Community♦ poking them every so often. They're pretty much dead weight by now. Some of those questions are decent, just past their expiration-date.
    – sysadmin1138 Mod
    Commented Feb 5, 2011 at 16:38
  • So what do we do with the decent questions? Are any worth saving? Can those of us willing to put in the work to do that able to write answers - because surely if we could we would have already?. Will the asker return? I'm sure they solved the problem that caused them to ask a question a year ago one way or another by now, even if it was by throwing the problem system away and buying a new one! So who does it help to leave the questions/answer them now, and would they be helped better by just asking their own, fresh question?
    – Rob Moir
    Commented Feb 5, 2011 at 17:00
  • 1
    While going through the above I found two I could answer, and did so. One even got an upvote! Which was downvoted 5 minutes later. So, still some life.
    – sysadmin1138 Mod
    Commented Feb 5, 2011 at 17:55
  • That's interesting to know. If there's still some interest then it might be worth saving the good questions
    – Rob Moir
    Commented Feb 5, 2011 at 19:39
  • I like the gardening analogy and there are definitely a few weeds that nee pulling out. Commented Feb 9, 2011 at 1:57
  • +1 - In addition I doubt there's very many of us scouring the web for sites with unanswered questions from years gone by that we want to answer, even if we can. Especially when we realize that the OP is probably never coming back to see the answer.
    – TheCleaner
    Commented May 14, 2013 at 16:12

Sweep up the crumbs.

Even if one day somebody may have an answer to the question, chances are the problem has been solved, worked-around, or just forgotten.

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