On the question I am looking for the author of a trilogy the OP user13147 seems to be deleted.

So there is no hope to identify this "Sci-Fi trilogy" as the user cannot respond.

How should we handle such questions? Should they be deleted?

3 Answers 3


The main benefit of a good story identification question is to provide information to other users who may also be looking for that story.

Therefore, it doesn't matter if the OP deletes or not (in fact, its not really any different from a Story ID question where the OP leaves soon after asking, and doesn't come back. Or even asks and doesn't bother checking to see if they got an answer.

I don't think anything special should be done if the OP deletes.

  • 2
    This is a personal opinion, but I definitely got a problem with those orphan questions. It leave the site messy and are like a broken window. (Note than 2 of the link you provided have accepted answer, but that doesn't matter. I'm sure there is a truck load of those orphans, laying in the unanswered queue and starving there for the eternity.)
    – DavRob60
    Mar 16, 2013 at 23:12
  • 5
    Users that haven't come back and accepted an answer might do so in the future. A question that belongs to a now-deleted user will never ever have an accept on one of its answers. A story-id answer greatly depends on whether or not it manages to identify the story the OP actually had in mind. So, its biased to the OP's opinion even more strongly than regular questions are.
    – bitmask
    Mar 17, 2013 at 1:33
  • @bitmask Accepted doesn't mean much of anything useful. It doesn't even mean that the answer is the right one. With story-ID questions, it isn't uncommon for the asker to conflate multiple stories, in which case multiple answers, each listing a different story, may all be correct, yet only one can be marked useful. The whole point of this platform is to present information that is useful to future visitors, so the utility to the OP is of limited importance, even for Story ID questions.
    – Beofett
    Mar 17, 2013 at 13:40
  • @Beofett: That's a different issue. In such a case the question should be closed as not-constructive. The point of story-id is to identify the story the OP is actually looking for. The service to future users is that if they are looking for the same thing (!) they will be pointed to one correct answer. If they happen to be searching for something similar, they might also find an answer, yes. But that is not the original purpose of story-id questions (otherwise they would be open-ended list questions and should be banned).
    – bitmask
    Mar 17, 2013 at 14:03
  • 3
    @bitmask "The point of story-id is to identify the story the OP is actually looking for." I disagree. I feel the point of story ID is to identify the story the OP is actually describing, and that's the only way they stay valid and on-topic for our site. Voting is always a better indication of quality than accepted status. If the OP does a poor job describing what they are looking for, a thorough answer that matches what they described is more valuable than an answer that only matches a small portion of the description, but happens to miraculously match what the OP intended.
    – Beofett
    Mar 17, 2013 at 18:40
  • 1
    @Beofett: Hmmm, I see your point now. It's a good one, but it is subjective how well an answer fits the OP's description; and questions that ask for subjective answers are and should be off-topic. Not to say story-id Qs should be off-topic, but it'd be the logical conclusion of your argument.
    – bitmask
    Mar 17, 2013 at 19:00
  • 1
    -1. Story-ID questions are already too localized and a general guessing game (see Jeff Atwood's postings on the topic for a more coherent explanation). The ones that can't even possibly be "correctly" answered due to lack of OP to arbitrate between guesses are just a waste of bits, as @DavRob passionately pointed out. Free the bits!!!! Mar 18, 2013 at 1:24
  • I'd just like to point out, @bitmask is 100% correct in that, if the user still exists, they may yet return and accept the answer. This happened a few months ago on a story-identification question that had been untouched for over a year by the question-asker - I remember talking about it in chat.
    – Izkata
    Mar 18, 2013 at 23:45



Those question are hopeless and wont get an answer, if someone is searching for same story, It would be better if he ask a brand new question, otherwise, he will just find this question and pass on. They are dangerous dead-end on the information highway and a roadblock must be put on the path before someone hurt.

Anyone who think he may have fond the solution is destined to eternal doubts, no one will be able to confirm the exactitude of this finding. Those are desert island where someone surfing on the internet could only be washed up without any hope of being saved.

They are dangerous for the health of the website, they are like a rotten corpse and need to be buried before the plague destroy the village. They need to be DESTROYED!


  • 3
    I would like to add an exception; If the question has an open or awarded bounty it should be exempted from being deleted. In that case, another user has effectively taken over responsibility and invested (at least) 50 rep.
    – bitmask
    Mar 17, 2013 at 12:32
  • By the same logic that a person who hasn't come back to the site since they posted the question might do so in the future, even if no bounty is currently awarded, someone might choose to do so in the future, thus taking over responsibility.
    – Beofett
    Mar 17, 2013 at 18:43
  • This look like a theoretical situation. The adoption of orphans, even if desirable, is improbable. Keeping our garbage in the hope someone salvage them is not good for the community's health. My point is that it's preferable to start over.
    – DavRob60
    Mar 17, 2013 at 19:16
  • @DavRob60 The other downside is that you're punishing those who put in the time and effort to answer these. Why should the person who posted a good answer, and got a nice chunk of reputation, lose it simply because the OP's account is deleted? Doesn't that risk discouraging people from answering?
    – Beofett
    Mar 17, 2013 at 23:13
  • @Beofett Yeah, but I what to see them BURN! An unanswered story identification question that lost it's OP is just a soulless zombie and any rep gained from it is ill-gotten rep. It still move, but there is no life in it. And who know? They may be contagious! We need to shoot them with a Too-Localized-Shotgun and eradicate them with the deletion torch. The reputation lost is just a purification ritual that will free the poor soul of the unfortunate user that has been bitten by it.
    – DavRob60
    Mar 18, 2013 at 1:04
  • -1 for throwing baby out with the burning bathwater. Uh... how do I unmix my metaphors? Mar 18, 2013 at 1:22
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    @DavRob60: I think the issue would be better served without the constant reference to witch burning. The matter is relevant and should be discussed objectively, which is not helped by the analogy to the disgusting torture of innocent women. </IMO>
    – bitmask
    Mar 18, 2013 at 1:35
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    @bitmask To be honest, I was not really serious with this position. My position is more nuanced and similar to DVK's. I had inspiration and tried to write it on fantasy themed tone as a self inflicted challenge. I do not support burning of any living creature, in the case you were worried about it. I was just tiring to steal a smile on a otherwise serious matter.
    – DavRob60
    Mar 18, 2013 at 1:55
  • You wrote: "if someone is searching for same story, It would be better if he ask a brand new question, otherwise, he will just find this question and pass on." Yes, and this question might remind them of a detail they couldn't recall, fleshing out the data to go on in his own, brand new question. So if their new question gets a positive response, and it is linked back, it may even assuage the "eternal doubts" of suggesters of the first question. :-)
    – Aster
    Feb 20, 2018 at 17:26

I'll propose a solution mid-way between the two extremes presented by esteemed previous answerers. They both make some good points:

  • Such questions IMHO aren't as A-OK and inoffensive as @Beofett thinks, under the general ideas presented by @DavRob.

    We routinely close questions that can not generate "correct" answer (when any possible answer is just a guess) as NC or NARQ; and an orphaned "story-id" question by definition can not be "correctly" answered, since the correctness is only known to the beerholder OP who's gone, gone, gone.

  • On the other hand, @Beofett presents a compelling argument in the comments to @DavRob's answer, that deleting such questions is problematic because some of them contain good (even if not provably correct) answers, which contain useful information for future readers AND cost people answering them a lot of time and effort researching (and as a secondary consideration, gave them rep).

Therefore, I would propose a more nuanced policy:

  1. If such an orphaned story-id question has no answers (or all of answers are obvious shoot-from-the-hip meritless guesses with no useful info in them whatsoever - e.g. not showing how such a guess matches the question).

    • ... then delete, under @DavRob's theory of broken windows.
  2. If such an orphaned story-id question has an answer that appear to contain useful information and show effort (and when choosing between #1 and #2, I would recommend heavily erring on side of #2 if answers are present)

    • ... then close, but do not delete such a question.

      I'm agnostic as to what close reason we use (Not Constructive or NARQ can be applicable; I would argue against T.L.).

P.S. If the only concern over adopting this policy is the subjectiveness of "has good answers" vs "has bad answers" criteria, we can easily institute objective criteria for that.

  • An answer to an orphaned story-id is considered "good" if:

    • It has 3 or more up-votes.

    • OR, if (no matter how voted), it presents an explanation how the work in question matches point-by-point description of the work in the question - thus giving the readers a clear way to see if, at the very least, the answer is "possibly correct".

      Please note that "matching point by point" does NOT have to be 100% positive matches - personally, an answers that honestly says "this work matches point #1, #2 and #4 because of xyz plot points; but does NOT match OP's point #3" is a good answer even if it's probably not a "correct" one.

  • An answer to an orphaned story-id is considered "bad" if:

    • It merely presents the name of the work, without showing how that work matches OP's question.

    • Or, it is clearly wrong (e.g. comments show many points in which it does NOT match OP's question, which the answerer didn't even consider).

  • An answer that isn't clearly "bad" under the above rules, should be assumed to be "good" - in other words, the question should NOT be deleted (but still closed).

    Again, to re-iterate, this policy should strongly lean in favor of assuming the answers are "good", i.e. closing as opposed to deleting OP's question.

  • 1
    -1, this sounds waaay too wishy-washy and easy to apply wrong, one of the reasons we decided to do away with General Reference.
    – Izkata
    Mar 20, 2013 at 0:53
  • @Izkata - what's wishy washy about "addresses details in the question - Good, keep. Doesn't address details in the question - crap guessing answer, can be deleted with the question". Mar 20, 2013 at 14:09
  • @DVK In a paragraph description, how many details are there? I may extract 3, you may extract 8 (type of aliens / there are aliens + ship description + species description). I may see all 3 of mine addressed in some way, but you may only see 3 of those 8 addressed...
    – Izkata
    Mar 20, 2013 at 14:41
  • @Izkata - if 50+% are addressed (again, whether positively or not is irrelevant) it shows it to be a good answer (e.g. work went into researching it) not worth being deleted. Mar 22, 2013 at 13:32
  • 1
    @DVK Read my prior comment again. 3/8 < 50%, 3/3 > 50%. I think you just made my point...
    – Izkata
    Mar 22, 2013 at 13:58
  • @Izkata - if the OP made 8 details, and you only covered 3, you didn't do enough work. Mar 22, 2013 at 14:04
  • @DVK No, I'm not talking about myself answering 3. The question asker may have written the details as a paragraph and where I may extract 3 details from it, you may extract 8 - and a third person's answer may address all 3 that I saw (I vote keep open), while it only addresses 3 of your 8 (you vote to close).
    – Izkata
    Mar 22, 2013 at 15:56
  • Seems like if somebody thinks the work was sufficient, they can just upvote. If only 3 are required to keep, there's really no need for a rubric, just three active participants who find the question worth keeping.
    – Aster
    Feb 20, 2018 at 17:24

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