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Inclusionism vs. Deletionism has been a philosophical debate at Wikipedia for some time, and has already started to be discussed on this site during Stack Overflow's very short life (see here, here, here, and here).

The main question in the context of Stack Overflow seems to be whether bad content (non-programming related, One True Way questions, etc.) should be moderated by some authority or should naturally sort itself out of view based on user input.

Jeff has tended toward the Deletionist camp in his blog, but so far users aren't even able to delete their own questions on Stack Overflow. A clear direction on this issue will probably be very beneficial to future design decisions and also give the community a better idea of how to address inappropriate questions and answers.

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3 Answers

I personally tend to be an Inclusionist. Bits are virtually free these days, and I think issues of clutter should be dealt with by good design rather than overzealous cleaning (watch what you throw out with the bathwater).

On Wikipedia, I think the guidelines for Verifiability, Neutral point of view, and No original research are sufficient to maintain quality content, and the Notability guideline isn't really necessary.

Although these particular guidelines don't necessarily apply here, I would hope that similarly clear guidelines can be developed for Stack Overflow about what is and isn't appropriate to contribute, but that the community can decide in a democratic fashion whether a particular piece of content meets those guidelines or not.

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I think we can have it both ways.

Why not allow users to filter out certain tags from all their results. Moderators could flag certain posts with a tag like "fun" or "tangent", or "stackoverflow", and then users who don't want to see posts that a deletionist might have deleted can simply filter out those tags.

To those who are interested, they will be visible, and users who posted the questions wont feel (as) bad as they would have if their post is deleted. (Hey, the questions are important to them, right?)

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I would count that as an Inclusionist point of view. A Deletionist would want to remove the off-topic thread from the site altogether, on the grounds that it doesn't fit with the mission of the site. –  Jason Pratt Aug 6 '08 at 1:48
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I personally would prefer it to keep everything and let the ranking system filter out the muck (that is after all, the whole point of such systems), but I refuse to label myself an anythingist or subscribe to any isms.

The point is rendered moot by the fact that you can't currently delete questions/answered even if you wanted to :-P

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