Roomba is a StackExchange-wide process that automatically deletes (among others) questions that fit these criteria:

  • more than 365 days old
  • has a score of 0, or a score of 1 in case of deleted owner
  • has no answers
  • is not locked
  • has view count <= the age of the question in days times 1.5
  • has 1 or 0 comments

QUESTION: Is Roomba good for us?
If not, should we ask the StackExchange staff to disable it on Software Recommendations?

Note: This question is about whether Roomba is good or not for us, not about whether disabling it is technically/bureaucratically feasible or not.

Related: Make sure your questions don't get deleted silently: beware of Roomba!

3 Answers 3


No, for a simple reason. There's another problem here:

has a score of 0

The Roomba (or this task, specifically) only deletes questions with score = 0. That means there's a very simple solution, and one that helps the site as a whole: people need to vote. If people aren't voting, the site won't work. That affects more than the effectiveness of the automated deletion scripts; it affects the number of people who have privileges.

Let's fix the problem, not the symptom. We need people to vote more; specifically on questions.

Pulling some data on this, 1145 (66%) out of all 1715 deleted questions, regardless of score, are closed. Those are questions we don't really want anyway, so we're only really looking at 570 questions here. of those, only 216 are zero-score. That's a little over two percent of our total 9939 questions.

I'm not sure there's a real problem here, even with our voting. 7636 (including deleted) of our questions have a score >= 1. Another 814 have a score <= -1 (the vast majority deleted). We're voting on most questions.

  • 2
    I intend no offense at all, but I find your answer to be hypocritical. You wrote "Let's fix the problem, not the symptom. We need people to vote more; specifically on questions." And yet you did not even vote on this very question. How can you tell others to fix the problem, when you are not willing to be part of the solution? If we can't get one of our own moderators to vote on a good question (worthy of his answer), then how can we expect others to cast votes? Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 5:16
  • Or perhaps I'm not understanding something, and it's not possible for moderators to cast votes? Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 5:17
  • 6
    @RockPaperLizard You've got a point, but voting on meta is different. In this case, I don't want to upvote the question - as that would signal my support for removing the Roomba. I also don't want to downvote it, as it's a discussion we should have. That said, I don't naturally vote on things, even on main. It's something I make a conscious effort to fix.
    – user46
    Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 5:18
  • 2
    I read it a little differently. The question asks "Is Roomba good for us?". My understanding of meta is that upvoting a question means you think it's a good question, and upvoting an answer means you agree with the answer. But you have a little more experience than myself on SE, so I value your opinion. Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 5:21
  • 1
    (Regarding the data, they are a bit biased as I cast a lot of upvotes on questions that weren't bad but were at risk of being deleted by Roomba. I stopped since Robert Cartaino said "would likely result in a lengthy suspension for all involved and may even get their account removed"... I sometimes feel that on SE downvoting is more encouraged than upvoting) Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 5:27
  • 5
    @RockPaperLizard Re-reading everything here, you're right; I was wrong. Thanks for speaking up!
    – user46
    Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 5:28
  • 1
    @Undo Thank you. That's very big of you (which is one of the traits I admire about you). You are welcome, and thanks for being honest. Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 6:36
  • 1
    @FranckDernoncourt I remember when Robert Cartaino threatened you like that. His comment was draconian and not friendly, in my opinion. He could have handled that much better. Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 6:38

The Roomba needs to go away for this site. (It also needs to be changed for the other SE sites, but that's another story.)

First, let me say that this site is different than other StackExchange sites. Questions may not get attention because they are specialized, but that does not mean the questions are so poor that we should be deleting people's content. That's not respectful of the time and energy our contributors spent writing their question, nor is it respectful of their desire to contribute.

Second, sometimes questions don't get answers because there is no current software solution. But a clever developer may write a new application to fill that exact need. New products and applications are always being invented and developed. Why delete the question that may have inspired a developer to create a solution?

Last, but definitely not least, I agree with Undo that the big problem is that not enough people cast votes.

There seem to be two reasons involved:

  1. StackExchange seems to largely attracts readers, but not contributors. Given that there are many SE questions with tens of thousands of views, but only a handful of votes, it's probable that many of those viewers are not interested in contributing. This SE is new, and therefore is a nice exception. I think we probably have one of the highest rates of contribution on SE. This leads me to item 2...
  2. Most people on SE tend to be very selectively generous. Despite a fair amount of expertise in the field, I don't understand the psychology behind it, but I've seen it so frequently on SE that I can clearly identify it. Often people will provide an answer without even upvoting the question. That's just bizarre. If it's worth the time and energy to provide an answer, why not also give it an upvote (assuming they have the minimum rep)?

    I do understand the sociology behind it: with so few people casting votes, others are less likely to do so.

    Me, personally, when I read a question, and I think it is a good and useful question, I give it an upvote. When I read an answer, and it is accurate and helpful, I give it an upvote. I know it makes people feel good, so I do it. Why most others don't choose to perform generous and kind acts, I just don't understand.

That said, this site can certainly be part of a the solution: VOTE MORE!

But given that this problem has plagued the StackExchange culture for years, it will likely take time for positive change to take hold. Hopefully, we will learn, and StackExchange culture will change so that people are willing to compliment each other more via upvotes for good questions and answers.

  • 5
    Also this 40 votes/day cap is annoying. Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 7:00
  • @FranckDernoncourt I agree. BTW, you are quite a fast reader! Impressive! :-) Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 7:02
  • A lot of meta training :) Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 7:02
  • Indeed :-) So many programs one needs! Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 7:10
  • The voting patterns may be subconscious awareness of flaws in the rep system - I'm still earning points for doing 30 secs of RTFM years ago on some questions, and that feels wrong.
    – Phil Lello
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 18:12

Roomba should be disabled:

  • if a question is not good, it gets downvoted. If off-topic, it gets closed.
  • 1 year is short, I have had dozens of (good) questions at risk, simply because few people noticed the question or were interested (specialized questions)
  • it conflicts with the Necromancer badge -> make up your mind.
  • downvoters use it to delete questions on purpose
  • users are not notified when a question is deleted
  • it's a basic ethic, at least for me, to respect content from users unless it is obvious garbage.
  • it happened to me many times that a question removed by Roomba got upvoted after I reposted it.
  • questions older that 60 days that get deleted cannot even be retrieved by the user (sometimes saved by Wayback Machine, but still, really not cool).
  • There is no way I recommend to anyone a website where good content can be deleted. I mostly warn against.
  • Some programs are developed after the question is asked.
  • Stack Exchange does not offer any way for a user to back up their content (the large SE dump is nice but inconvenient for that purpose, and I'm not even sure it contains images).
  • etc.

Yes most reasons are not specific to this Stack Exchange website.

  • 2
    "Some programs are developed after the question is asked" is the most important reason I think. That's why Software Recommendations, unless other sites, is expected to have a large proportion of unanswered questions.
    – Nicolas Raoul Mod
    Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 5:56
  • @Franck I knew you were going to provide an answer. I tried to beat you to the punch, but I had to go AFK for a while. :-) While offline, I wrote an answer on a napkin... I'll type it in shortly. Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 6:40
  • 1
    Too early to tell, but softwarerecs.stackexchange.com/questions/30429/… could be an example of "Some programs are developed after the question is asked" - I'm disappointed to learn it may get deleted if the current answer is "none"
    – Phil Lello
    Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 14:37
  • @PhilLello If I hadn't thrown over 3k of upvotes, dozens of good questions would have been deleted. Since I see that the majority of people still want to have Roomba, I'm done voting. I'll just back up my questions on other QA websites, e.g. Quora. Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 18:46
  • @PhilLello "Some programs are developed after the question is asked" On the flip side, if the question has zero upvotes, that means not many people seem to have been searching for the software, or they don't tend to search using terms which get them to that question, so it's unlikely the software will be written. In other words, if I'm the only one who wants a piece of software that mafipulates my widgets, then it's likely the software for widget mafipulation will never be written, anyway. Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 16:45
  • 1
    @parthianshot I can see some merit in that, but chances are if they've come here, they're after a niche solution.
    – Phil Lello
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 16:49
  • @ParthianShot if you ask a few questions or look around, you'll see that questions with zero upvotes are not necessarily arcane. And even arcane ones shouldn't be deleted anyway. Also, easy requests are not always the most interesting… Commented Apr 7, 2016 at 5:14

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