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There has been quite some confusion recently as to what to do with old inactive ID-questions and what the difference is between close-voting for "not enough detail" and deleting for inactivity, resulting in a multitude of close-votes whose validity I am not entirely sure of.

So what actually are the current rules and guidelines as to close-voting and deleting identification questions and where is the difference between those two actions?

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Based on a related discussion with a moderator and other users, I came to the following conclusions based on the respective help center page and the particular close reason, which already give some insights into the existing guidelines for those questions:

  • On the one hand, identification questions that are lacking in details are eligible for close-voting for this exact reason, as the respective close-reason in the close menu says:

    Identification questions must contain sufficient detail to be answerable.

    But as with many close-reasons and guidelines, this doesn't present any real hard rules to judge what a lack of details actually is, which is to a large degree up to well-reasoned personal judgement based on the guidelines from the help center and possible further communication with the asker. If anything, asking for any missing details in comments is encouraged. It is also upto one's own judgement how long to wait before close-voting a detail-lacking ID-question. While a grace period before doing so is encouraged, retracting the close-vote or reopening a closed question is always possible, too.

  • On the other hand, identification questions without any upvoted or accepted answers and inactive for 30 days become eligible for deletion, based on the reasoning presented in this related meta discussion:

    Should we close older Identify questions?

    (note that they speak of closing there but this has since found its way into the actual rules as deletion) and further refined in this meta discussion:

    Extend the policy for deleting inactive identification questions

    This means they can get deleted by a moderator in an explicit site maintenance action.

But a major thing to keep in mind is, that those things are two entirely different and orthogonal actions based on entirely different rules and guidelines. While there might sometimes be an indirect connection between questions close-voted for lacking in detail and deleted for inactivity, this does not have to be the case and the individual actions are to be used according to their respective usage guidelines. This means,

  • There is no rule/guideline/need to wait 30 days before close-voting a detail-lacking identification question. The grace period given to such questions is entirely upto any user's own discretion, even if proper communication with the asker and responsible management of this close-vote (i.e. retracting/reopening if the doubts have been cleared) is highly encouraged.

  • Unanswered and inactive ID-questions that are thus eligible for deletion are not to be close-voted for this reason alone (as it happened recently). If users feel the incentive to support the moderators in this site maintenance task, they are encouraged to flag the respective questions for moderator attention with a proper message.

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