We can reopen closed questions per reopen votes or moderator decision. But most closed questions just stay closed. They pollute search results and hurt the reputation of the askers. See also: The Stack Overflow Question Lifecycle
While some of these questions may still have useful answers, most have no answers and no upvotes.

I have asked moderators from other SE sites how long we should wait until we delete those questions. They said three days. This seemed too short … so I took three weeks and went for a big clean-up. Now there a re no closed questions without answers and upvotes that were closed before 2. June.

Very, very few questions are reopened at all. I closely monitored this, and judging by what I have seen the three days seem to be indeed the window of action. I haven’t seen one question that was reopened after a longer time period.

But before we narrow down the deadline: I think this is a case where we need to set our own rule. We as in community, not just moderators.

How long should we wait?

And what should we do with closed questions with answers or upvotes?

Update

I am asking for answers by users which are not moderators. We cannot and we should not decide that without the community.

I will go down to two weeks now. Raise your objections in our lovely answer field.

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Similar question on the main meta: How long should I wait before deleting a closed question? –  Gilles Jul 5 '12 at 0:55
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4 Answers 4

I think part of it also depends on the activity of the OP. If their question was closed 3 days ago, but they haven't been back, then we should extend some sort of grace period. Not ever user of the site is on here every day, and some people might legitimately come back to edit their question.

I think giving a week would be sufficient - if we delete a question after this period, the OP can just re-ask.

If a question has answers and upvotes - or even an accepted answer - I think we should just leave it closed. It's obviously gone through the regular path all other questions follow, it was just closed due to some other reason ... but if the question's been answered, I don't think it should be deleted.

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What do you think about 1st time users. They almost never come back. –  Chris_O Jun 25 '12 at 22:38
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Again, it depends on whether or not there are answers to the question. This will probably sound a bit insensitive, but I don't care as much about the users as I do the quality of information people can find on the site. If there are good answers to an abandoned question, I think it should stay. –  EAMann Jun 25 '12 at 22:41
    
Agree on the good answers. –  Chris_O Jun 25 '12 at 23:03
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I think three weeks is fine, two weeks is even better, and we should target, long-term, reaching the 2-3 days used by the mature/critical-mass SE sites.

IMX, closed questions here at WPSE tend to have many similarities:

  1. Duplicate questions
  2. Poorly written questions by "drive-by" OPs, who never return to engage comments or suggested answers
  3. Off-topic questions (usually which elicit the standard, "but it's happening in the context of WordPress; please don't close!" response)

Such questions have little inherent value for WPSE, and all are clearly defined in the FAQ as being not appropriate. WPSE users who should know the FAQ and the WPSE site mechanics should know not to post answers to such questions, but rather to moderate those questions: ask clarifying questions, edit to improve the OP's question, or close-vote/flag for moderator attention. So, any reputation potentially lost from deleting such questions is far less important than improving the overall quality of knowledge/information contained in the questions and answers.

I do think we should use the site moderation mechanics in as friendly and tactful manner as possible; but the reality is that it is difficult to be friendly or tactful to an OP who asks a poor/inappropriate question, and then never returns to engage, or who, when asked to review the site FAQ, refuses to do so (or even responds with animosity).

I believe that the new users who want to contribute to the site will learn the rules/mechanics and will become valued, contributing members to WPSE; those who have no desire or intent to contribute won't, and we shouldn't think twice about making decisions that fail to cater to them.

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Duplicates – if written well enough – can stay as breadcrumbs to the target questions. Not ideal, but they can bring search engine traffic. –  toscho Aug 25 '12 at 15:16
    
I'm not an SEO guy, but: isn't duplicate content the antithesis of search engine optimization? –  Chip Bennett Aug 25 '12 at 15:48
    
Only when the text is exactly the same. Our duplicate questions use different words for the same problem (usually). If a question is really too close to the target question it should be deleted. –  toscho Aug 25 '12 at 16:12
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I've experienced this before, as a new user on Stack Overflow. My question was closed, I was flamed (at least it felt like it) and I never wanted to come back. That's not the way to build a community, by being ruthless about it with new users. Maybe being more helpful to the newb, like re-writing the question for them is a better approach?

Experienced users should know better, so I say deleting the closed unanswered question within three days is reasonable.

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Unfortunately after you mod for a while you start understand that absolutely most users that ask poor questions just don't give a damn. The certain amount of ruthlessness and complexity is intended in the system - it weeds out people that have no intention of understanding that there are certain things expected of them to come play with us. :) –  Rarst Jul 6 '12 at 23:11
    
That makes sense. I wish there was a way to be nicer about it though. –  Dan Gayle Jul 10 '12 at 22:57
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New user here and posted a question which wasn't the best reading it back, I read the FAQs and realised this so deleted it myself. The question didn't get any replies or up votes. I would say delete any questions like this and 3 weeks sounds like a fair time. Would it not be possible to have a flag that alerts the user say after a week that there are no up votes or answers on their question, then advise them this could possibly be due to .... point them to the FAQs. They can either take action themselves by editing and possibly reposting (deleting) the original, or leave it to be deleted if they don't care.

When I have posted questions I have read the questions that are already posted before and sometimes find answers, so don't post but up vote that answer so it raises that Q and A profile. Closed questions with up votes are useful, but not always specific to the New users question, also from what I have found so far (and this could be due to me only having 2 months experience with PHP and 4 months with WordPress) that some code examples and best practice changes with WordPress releases.

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