I recently found this post on meta explaining that

the Community user will automatically delete old abandoned / dead questions in the following circumstances:

If the question is more than 30 days old, and ...

  • has −1 or lower score
  • has no answers
  • is not locked

Our own site has a number of questions which nearly meet this criteria. If you take a look at unanswered questions you can see that there are currently:

  • 9 unanswered questions with a score of 1
  • 6 unanswered questions with a score of 0
  • 4 unanswered questions with a score of -1

Presumably, all those in the last category (score -1) will be automatically deleted within the next 30 days.

I've just gone through and downvoted a number of these questions in an effort to get them booted.

If one or two others head over and downvote those other low-score unanswered questions, they will also be cleared out of the site. There are two reasons I believe we should do this:

  1. As the linked meta post explains:

    Abandoned, unanswered questions can be a nuisance for readers when they appear in search results. While every question deserves a chance to be answered, at some point the annoyance to those searching for a solution outweighs the increasingly small chance that an answer will be provided.

  2. Sustainability.se seems to be a low-voting site: So far this year, only 17 users (out of over 6,000 registered on the site) have cast a vote. This means while lots of those users might think those questions worthy of a downvote (as indicated by the lack of interaction) they are not inclined to vote, for unclear reasons. I believe the lack of interaction is sufficient reason to cast the decisive vote.
  • Regarding your last point; please be aware that the list of people who cast a vote this year is incomplete. People who vote 10 times or less are not included in any of the available 'voters' lists. You can see this more clearly if you go to the last page of the 'all time' voters list (currently here)
    – THelper
    Aug 9, 2019 at 11:08

1 Answer 1


Your proposal has parts I like and parts I don't like. I think it's a good idea to stimulate cleaning the site and remove abandoned, unanswered questions, but I'm not convinced that downvoting is always the best way to do that. A down vote basically says "this question is not good enough" and while this may be true for some of the questions with 0 or 1 score, I do not think it's true for all questions. For example this question with 1 upvote and 1 downvote isn't one of the best, but is not bad either. If we downvote it, we are signaling an active StackExchange user that his/her question is bad and he/she may decide Sustainability SE community is too critical and not bother coming back.

Now if a question is really bad, then by all means downvote it. Or better yet, see if you can talk to the OP and improve it (which I noticed you regularly do, thank you for that!). Also if a question has been abandoned for a long time (the user created an account just to ask this question and never logged again) downvoting does no harm as the OP will be unaware of it. However for most old, unanswered questions I feel that casting a close or delete vote is better.

I realize that we may not have enough users who cast close or delete votes to clean up unanswered questions. I'm often reluctant cast votes myself because as a mod my vote will close or delete the question immediately, even if it hasn't got the threshold of 5 close or delete votes. However I do check the review queues and if a question has already attracted 2 or more close or delete votes I usually join in and make it final.

So in summary, I think we should look at this on a case-by-case basis.

  • How good or bad is the question? If it's bad see if it can be improved. If not downvote.
  • If you have 500+ reputation, check if the 0 or 1 score question is older than say 3 months (how long exactly is debatable) and if so cast a close or delete vote.
  • If you don't have 500+ reputation, check if the user has abandoned StackExchange. If so you can downvote so it goes up for automatic cleaning.
  • If none of the above applies and you still feel we should remove the question, flag it so a mod can have a look.
  • Thanks for the thoughtful response. Generally speaking, I agree with your summary, and wouldn't downvote an old, low-score question where the user seems to be engaged. I was just hoping we could clean things up a bit. Since posting, a number of those older questions have been automatically deleted.
    – LShaver Mod
    Jun 22, 2019 at 16:38

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