There are a lot of questions (especially if you look in the "unanswered" catetgory) that were asked by someone who logged in only once, and then never came back. Usually, there are a few comments on the question asking for more details, but it's clear after a month or so that the OP isn't coming back to provide the information necessary for a meaningful answer.

What's the best way to clean these up? Is it sufficient to vote for closing as "not a real question", or should they be flagged for outright deletion by a moderator?

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It would be good to cull out these dead questions. However, the mechanism unfortunately doens't work. Other than getting a mod envolved, it takes 5 votes to close. But, these old questions are not where most people see them, and close votes time out after a while if the 5 votes weren't gathered in time (2 days?). Even worse, once you vote to close you can't vote again later even after the timeout has reset the close count to 0. As a result, it's pretty much impossible to get old dead questions closed by ordinary users. –  Olin Lathrop Nov 2 '12 at 16:44
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2 Answers

Don't be too reluctant to close questions. Closing is an important mechanism that is very different from deletion - it means that the question has significant issues that must be addressed before someone writes an answer for it. Think of it more like a "stop sign" than killing the question.

Voting to close is much preferred to flagging for deletion (junk and spam posts aside) because that gives all other users an opportunity to participate in the moderation. It also gives the OP a chance to fix their question so that it is acceptable for the community. Your 1/5 close vote lets you express your opinion on whether the question belongs or should go without allowing you to abuse power.

Ideally, the diamond moderators shouldn't be doing the majority of closing, since once a mod decides to close a question, it is closed immediately (no 5 votes to close). However, a lot of questions that in our opinion need to be closed don't get the 5 close votes.

The basic lifetime of a bad question can be sorta summed up with this flowchart. We go through and delete closed questions every so often so they don't build up.

Bad Question
      |
 Spam/Junk? ----- Yes -----> Delete
      |
     No
      |
  Close Question
      |
Has question been
   improved?       ---- Yes --> Re-open
      |
     No
      |
   Delete
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That's all fine in theory, but a single user voting to close a old dead question does nothing because 4 other users aren't likely to stumble onto the same buried question within the short lifetime of a close vote. –  Olin Lathrop Nov 2 '12 at 17:38
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@Olin, the close-vote aging is a bit better than it used to be - close votes on low view questions don't expire, and if someone votes to close again, the counter is reset. See meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/56614/… –  W5VO Nov 2 '12 at 19:08
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@OlinLathrop but I do agree that closing old/dead questions is often a difficult task right now. The "close" review pane ( electronics.stackexchange.com/review/close ) can be used to go through questions that already have one close vote and easily cast another close vote. –  W5VO Nov 2 '12 at 19:11
    
@w5v0: I didn't even know that page existed. How does one normally get there? –  Olin Lathrop Nov 2 '12 at 22:17
    
@OlinLathrop It is under the "review" menu at the very top of the page, right next to your name and badges. There are a lot of review tools that users can use to help identify issues. –  W5VO Nov 3 '12 at 1:57
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When I see these, if there's no answers, and not enough information in the question that there's likely to ever be an answer, I've been voting to close them as "not a real question".

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