We've had these before, and I'm sure we'll have them again. Questions that aren't great questions, questions that probably deserve to be closed, that also touch on taboo topics... (most obviously and frequently using the tag)

Normally close worthy questions would just be closed, and we'd wait for the original author to edit the question into shape. Optionally people will leave comments asking for clarification, and offer guidance on editing, etc.

These questions present something of a unique issue because of the obvious optics issues. If not worded carefully they can easily cross into rude/abusive, but I'm not referring to rude questions, nor am I referring to questions that would fall into the pick-up category. These are just not great questions, that have to do with somewhat taboo subjects.

For example the now deleted: https://interpersonal.stackexchange.com/questions/19714/i-want-to-have-sex

By all means this question should have been closed. No question about that. The question is, should these be immediately deleted? If they are to be immediately deleted, what's our reasoning? How are we to explain this reasoning to new users? How will we define "looks bad on the front page", if that's going to be our reason? Who decides what "looks bad"?

Basically it looks like we may need transparent, consistent policy for these cases moving forward. What should that policy be? And how do we want it enforced?

If we end up treating these questions differently than other bad questions, we need to be willing and able to justify that, out in the open.

  • May I ask mods for links to the last ~10 (or more) deleted questions (unless the question was deleted by OP or because of spam)? I know that every time I notice a question was deleted, I agreed with the deletion. But, without an easy way to find all those deleted questions, it will be harder for me to generalize "this kind of questions should be deleted because of X".
    – Ael
    Commented Nov 3, 2018 at 20:56
  • @Noon ... That's casting an awfully wide net. I'm trying to address something a little more specific than general deletions.
    – apaul
    Commented Nov 3, 2018 at 21:00
  • Not sure I see why you think this is a wide net. But, if you want to know what I asked for those links, it's because of how my brain works. I observe someone who happens several times, I (unconsciously) notice a pattern, then I apply the pattern. For the "I want to have sex" question, it matches my pattern for "this should be deleted" but, right now, I'm unable to formulate why. So, I was hoping that if saw more deleted questions, I could "see" the pattern more clearly and put words into it in order to explain (my version of) it to other.
    – Ael
    Commented Nov 3, 2018 at 21:13
  • @Noon Starting at the conclusion and working backwards, gotcha.
    – apaul
    Commented Nov 3, 2018 at 21:17
  • I usually go with "Can I see this ever actually becoming on topic and if so what would it take?" and if my internal thought process concludes "No, this is never going to be on topic or good for the site" I vote to delete after the close.
    – Magisch
    Commented Nov 3, 2018 at 21:20
  • 1
    @Magisch That sounds like the start of an answer. Treating these like any other off-topic and/or unsalvageable post is certainly an option.
    – apaul
    Commented Nov 3, 2018 at 21:23

1 Answer 1


I propose we don't actually treat these questions any differently from others. Personally, as someone who can immediately vote to delete negatively scored questions when they are closed, I usually ask myself:

What would it take for this to become on topic? Is that even possible? Does the "essence" of the question somehow work on this site?

Most of the time (nearly all of the time) with these controversial/bad optics questions, OP just wants to rant or vent or just lacks a constructive approach, which is not in scope for this site to educate them into. So blissfully, mostly I can answer that test with "No, this will be as bad a fit for the site in 2 days then it is now" and thus vote to delete the question right then.

If we start making special rules for problematic questions we'll run into all the problems you mentioned, plus an extra tasty unnecessary bonus optics problem when people viciously disagree over the definition of "problematic".

  • Perhaps worth noting the difference between user deletions and moderator deletions here.
    – apaul
    Commented Nov 3, 2018 at 21:44
  • when people viciously disagree over the definition of "problematic" - and this is bound to happen. Taboo's are often culture specific and its all too likely that a user will insist X taboo topic is fine, because they were brought up in a way where it IS fine; or vice-versa.
    – Jesse
    Commented Nov 6, 2018 at 3:32

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