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How about something along the lines of this:

  • When you think a question becomes stale (the top answers are no longer relevant, new information was created on this topic "out there" but isn't reflected in the answers), you can vote to mark the question as stale.
  • When enough people voted a question as stale, it goes into "stale mode".
  • "Stale" questions keep all their answers, but not directly visible - you have to click a button that says "show old answers". Those answers aren't counted when checking if a question is answered or not.
  • Only new answers to the question are displayed by default.
  • A question will remain in stale mode forever (or until reverted by mods/votes). Once a question gets enough fresh answers and enough time passed since it went into stale mode, it becomes possible to "restale" the question, moving all the "generation 2" answers into the stale mode hidden box.

Edit - alternatively we could mark specific answers as stale. Upside - This is a more surgical approach, no need to eliminate all the answers. Downside - if a question has a whole lot of stale answers, each one would have to be voted stale. Still, perhaps the upside > the downside.

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"Only new answers to the question are displayed by default." ... how you define *old and new answers? Just by using the timestamp of the last "stale" event? –  Tomas Sep 9 '11 at 8:05
    
@Tomas - that is correct. –  ripper234 Sep 9 '11 at 8:10
    
+1 But IMHO it should require some nominal amount of upvotes in at least one of the questions tags so the voters actually know it's stale. –  John Sep 9 '11 at 14:05
    
possible duplicate of Adding "obsolete" and "outdated" voting options on questions –  Gilles Sep 10 '11 at 14:41

5 Answers 5

I would think that you might want the ability to mark answers as stale, since they're the ones that will be out-of-date. You'll have many questions where some answers are stale, and some are current, so by 'staling' the old ones you can create topend room for the new ones.

Of course, this still doesn't create a way to bring people to that old question, so you'd have to have a mechanism to rotate into the new question queue.

While it sounds intriguing, it also sounds like a very complicated system.

I do think we need to come up with some way to stimulate those old questions that need to see the light of day, especially on the smaller sites, where some of the questions were put out at a very low level of population, and now that they're grown it'd be good for people to look at them again.

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Define "stale". From Software development point of view, not all of us developers are always working with the current, hot, up-to-date technologies. I know some has to maintain the old stuff like .NET1.0 (or even older)

So answers using "old" technologies are still important for a group of people, so we should definitely not hide old answers!

An idea here is to have version tags for answers.

To stick to the .NET example:

  1. A question has the .net tag
  2. An answer has been added, perfectly valid at its time
  3. Then a new .net version is available with a new feature to solve the question in a better way.
  4. A new answer is added using the new feature, then the new answer should get a version tag and the old answer needs then to be tagged also.
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COBOL springs to mind. –  GUI Junkie Sep 9 '11 at 10:48
    
I totally agree I finally completely stopped supporting a .net1.1/sql 2000 app 1 month ago. There is one exception. I could see questions that relate to products in beta could become stale but that's a corner case –  Some Helpful Commenter Sep 10 '11 at 5:29
2  
This is the key point. We have the same issue on Serverfault. A question and its answers might be 'stale' in the sense that it doesn't reflect this week's new tech or new 'best practice' du jour but remain very valuable out in the real world where people don't switch/upgrade working code or infrastructure for years on end because it actually works fine as it is. –  RobM Sep 10 '11 at 10:34

Here is an example of a stale question and answers:

Entity Framework CTP 4. “Cannot insert the value NULL into column” - Even though there is no NULL value

This question regards a CTP for release 4 of the Entity Framework. The syntax of the code in question has totally changed since release. There is no earthly reason why anyone would be using it (Not even sure where to download it). They would be using stable release 4, or stable release 3 if they were having problems with 4. Hitting this question from a search engine simply wastes visitors' time, and makes SO a less valuable resource. (At least this question says up front that it's about a CTP - many don't)

A month or two ago I was looking for info on accessing a CD drive from Windows, and I hit a question about MCI commands. I didn't know it until after doing another half hour of research, but MCI hasn't even been relevant for 5 years or more. As time goes on, I'm hitting more and more of these question/answers, meaning SO is becoming less and less relevant for me.

I do agree that the bar for making a question stale should be a high one.
There should be a time out before a question is even eligible - perhaps 2 years or more. Perhaps just segregating the stale questions into their own section would improve the situation.

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I've voted to close that question as Too Localized. –  user7116 Feb 8 '12 at 19:32

There should be a stale button vertical of the "favorite" button or some type of mechanic; either button or automated. This would also lock-in your votes. There is a tendency for people to down vote stale answers even though they were really good answers at the time. For instance, the answer uses software version 1, but software version 2 is out and so people downvote what use to be a really good answer.

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I agree that it is a bad idea to close "stale" questions but, something needs to be done because this site is starting to get full of them.

I think that if you have a certain ranking on the site and notice that a question is stale, you should have the opportunity to begin a conversation in comments, above the question body.

This additional comments area would provide a way for yourself and anyone else to alert readers of the changes that have taken place, or point them to new resources, prior to the reader continuing on. Sometimes people will comment on the question or answer, to notify readers of new game-changing technologies or updates to the one(s) being discussed, but many readers will not notice the comment because it gets lost among the rest of the reading (or worse yet, the reader has to expand the hidden comments of one of the many responses to a question to find something helpful).

The additional comments area could be collapsible so that it does not get in the way.. people would still be able to comment on the "stale" question and response(s). If a user with a high enough ranking sees a comment down below that could be placed above the question, in a new or existing comments area, then perhaps they can "copy" it up above.

So with this proposed solution, if the reader is using older technologies then it is easy to ignore the collapsed comments above the question body and they may read on.

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