Chaff from the Wheat : Characterization and Modeling of Deleted Questions on Stack Overflow

Denzil Correa, Ashish Sureka

Stack Overflow is the most popular CQA for programmers on the web with 2.05M users, 5.1M questions and 9.4M answers. Stack Overflow has explicit, detailed guidelines on how to post questions and an ebullient moderation community. Despite these precise communications and safeguards, questions posted on Stack Overflow can be extremely off topic or very poor in quality. Such questions can be deleted from Stack Overflow at the discretion of experienced community members and moderators. We present the first study of deleted questions on Stack Overflow. We divide our study into two parts (i) Characterization of deleted questions over approx. 5 years (2008-2013) of data, (ii) Prediction of deletion at the time of question creation. Our characterization study reveals multiple insights on question deletion phenomena. We observe a significant increase in the number of deleted questions over time. We find that it takes substantial time to vote a question to be deleted but once voted, the community takes swift action. We also see that question authors delete their questions to salvage reputation points. We notice some instances of accidental deletion of good quality questions but such questions are voted back to be undeleted quickly. We discover a pyramidal structure of question quality on Stack Overflow and find that deleted questions lie at the bottom (lowest quality) of the pyramid. We also build a predictive model to detect the deletion of question at the creation time. We experiment with 47 features based on User Profile, Community Generated, Question Content and Syntactic style and report an accuracy of 66%. Our feature analysis reveals that all four categories of features are important for the prediction task. Our findings reveal important suggestions for content quality maintenance on community based question answering websites.

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