A meta post(https://meta.stackexchange.com/q/257614/714660) says

Past experience had led us to believe that “small” and “unhealthy” would mean the same thing: we took it as a given that quiet sites would develop spam and obvious broken windows, while high quality sites would always grow big and graduate. But you proved us wrong! Five years later, we have lots of tiny sites which have been in public beta for months or years, each consistently producing excellent Q&A which helps people with real problems. Small, consistently active sites are great!

I googled "broken windows" and the first result is "The broken windows theory", which is obviously not the same meaning in that meta post.

I guess it is some kind of metaphor.

So, what does "broken windows" mean when talking about the quality of a site in stack exchange?

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    I believe they do indeed refer to broken windows theory, albeit in terms of website grief (spammers, trolls, dead links, etc) rather than traditional criminality. Commented Mar 2, 2020 at 4:13

1 Answer 1


"Broken windows" is a metaphor that means there are visible signs of crime or antisocial behaviour. If you saw a house with broken windows, you might assume that was evidence of a crime or that the house was being misused, not cared-for in some way.

The meta question you link is talking about when a SE site might need closing down. "Broken windows" refers to evidence that the site is not being cared for or might be being abused.

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