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For example:

This question: What are some funny loading statements to keep users amused?
used to have this notice on top:funny

But since then it has been deleted on November 9th.

I have seen this with a few of the historically significant questions like What is the best comment in source code you have ever encountered? and a few others.

Why were they deleted?

Why weren't they kept for the reasons they were there before?

And yes, that screenshot is old :-) I have been saving it for a moment like this ^_^


Now I notice that Strangest language feature which was mentioned in a blog post was not deleted! Is it some sort of favorite for all of time and space?

Why do some of these questions seem to get special treatment?

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8  
That's too bad. What is the best comment in source code you have ever encountered? literally made me laugh tears. –  Dennis Dec 5 '11 at 21:09
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The problem with these questions is that people take them as examples of what is allowed (even though it is clear from the notice that they are not). –  Oded Dec 5 '11 at 21:21
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@Oded so make the notice BIGGER or move the questions somewhere where we can still enjoy them :-) like a stack holding cell of sorts :-) –  amanaP lanaC A nalP A naM A Dec 5 '11 at 21:22
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Wait, we can delete these now? Awesome. Time to clean house. –  casperOne Dec 5 '11 at 21:23
    
@casperOne oy... –  amanaP lanaC A nalP A naM A Dec 5 '11 at 21:23
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Those who miss the notice, will miss BIGGER as well. –  Oded Dec 5 '11 at 21:24
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Related: Do not lock old questions –  user149432 Dec 5 '11 at 21:28
    
@casperOne I love you! ;-) –  Andrew's a Unitato Dec 5 '11 at 21:29
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Only 10k users can be trusted with humor. –  Won't Dec 5 '11 at 21:32
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@AndrewBarber: And I love you too! –  casperOne Dec 5 '11 at 21:33
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Get a room! Sheesh. –  Chris Dec 5 '11 at 23:03
    
2  
Damn! I want to read those discussions :( –  Violet Giraffe Dec 6 '11 at 8:21
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web.archive.org/web/20101114071150/http://stackoverflow.com/…? For those with under 10K who still want to view them. –  ROFLwTIME May 22 '12 at 13:07
    
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6 Answers 6

We are handling flags on these historical, popular, but off-topic questions on a case-by-case basis.

The flag that was raised on your example question reads thusly:

This question is not historically significant. It does not educate; merely amuses. A lot of fun was had at some point, and people still upvote and comment on the answers regularly (see timeline) but it's time has come to retire quietly into the sunset. And by that I don't mean locked (it already is)... it ought to be nuked.

Shog9 agreed with the flag, and deleted the question shortly thereafter.

Don't get any grandiose ideas; if you start going on a flagging rampage, you better make a really good case in your flag descriptions.

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11  
So historically significant === educational? So non-education things are a priori not historically significant? –  Adam Rackis Dec 5 '11 at 21:58
    
That's the current gestalt, yes. The only redeeming feature of some of these questions is their educational value, and the "Funniest comment in source code" doesn't meet that metric. Compare to stackoverflow.com/questions/1995113/strangest-language-feature –  Robert Harvey Dec 5 '11 at 22:01
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** sigh ** - I just hate legislating to the dumbest people. I thought the historical significance banner + lock was a good compromise. Did we really have to nuke them because some new users were too ____ to understand what the words written in that banner meant? –  Adam Rackis Dec 5 '11 at 22:04
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@AdamRackis: That's not what he said. The question doesn't have historical significance. It is simply funny. And "funny" isn't what this site is about. –  Nicol Bolas Dec 5 '11 at 22:13
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@Nicol - you're right, that is what Robert said. But part of the reason why they were deleted was because new users were ignoring the banner and using their existence as justification to ask junk questions. –  Adam Rackis Dec 5 '11 at 22:15
    
@AdamRackis I see what you did there, with the ===. Clever. –  casperOne Dec 6 '11 at 1:32
    
@casper - thanks for teaching me that meme :) –  Adam Rackis Dec 6 '11 at 1:34
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This question could have been moved to programmer.se to get it out of the way, as there are lot of quesions like this being asked on programmer.se and not closed. –  Ian Ringrose Dec 6 '11 at 11:07
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@IanRingrose - It has been fairly well established for a long time now that PSE is not Stack Overflow's toilet bowl. We don't move stuff like that over there just to get it out of the way. –  Kev Dec 6 '11 at 14:35
    
I would argue that this is a potentially helpful question (I wouldn't know, I can't see it's answers) because such loading messages often improve a user's experience. This is very important, even if it's not a programming implementation problem. –  Ben Brocka Dec 27 '11 at 15:33
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Lame. This feels like such a subjective and negative decision. –  Danny Jun 11 '12 at 11:06
    
This answer doesn't explain why other historical questions which were informative and educational are being deleted. Ie. "What is the worst real-world macros/pre-processor abuse you've ever come across?" at stackoverflow.com/questions/652788/… - which oddly enough, features on a blog from the site creators as one of their favourite questions. –  Frederik Aug 30 '12 at 15:17
    
@Frederik: That question was deleted by eleven community members. If you want it frozen in carbonite, post a meta question and make your case. –  Robert Harvey Aug 30 '12 at 15:21
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"Has historical significance" is the polite way of saying "some people get angsty about the scope changing".

The questions you mention have no value apart from entertainment. While most of us like to have a little fun, the primary purpose of SE is to get problems solved and questions answered. Being funny while you're doing that is great; just being funny isn't. As many have said, SE can't be all things to everyone, and it certainly isn't going to be a joke site in addition to a Q&A site.

The people who care about these questions — the ones for whom they are "significant" — had a chance to say their goodbyes, to grab a screenshot or copy and paste the content for safekeeping, and so on. So now the questions shouldn't have any significance, right? They're just useless, apart from the "use" of attracting similar now-off-topic questions. Broken windows and all that.

Obviously I didn't delete these and I don't know the actual rationale, but this is my take on the issue. I wish for all such questions to die a hasty death. I have an attachment to my old posts and appreciate humour too, but if they didn't fit I would get over their deletion. I don't see a reason to make a fuss.

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3  
Heck, they can get the whole text out of the older data dumps, and take advantage of the CC license to post them elsewhere. –  dmckee Dec 5 '11 at 22:33
    
If only there was a comedians.stackexchange.com - then they could be funny all they wanted... –  corsiKa Dec 5 '11 at 23:14
    
@glowcoder FWIW, there is a Humor proposal on Area 51... –  Chris Frederick Dec 5 '11 at 23:45
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And remember, here at StackOverflow, we hate fun –  casperOne Dec 6 '11 at 1:29
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I'm sure that this has been discussed many times before on Meta SO, but I can't find a good canonical answer at the moment. Hopefully this will help.

Questions like these were originally asked when Stack Overflow's community and focus were different than they are now. At the time, Stack Overflow had all sorts of polling and subjective questions that were very popular because they were fun. (In fact, even Meta questions were originally asked on Stack Overflow!) As the site grew, however, these "soft" questions were no longer considered on topic and in fact any new questions like them were often subject to closure. Leaving the old, "historically-significant" questions around creates broken windows and confuses new users who ask similar questions that are then closed.

Also note that these questions are usually not deleted permanently and should still be accessible by moderators and users with 10k+ rep. The data is still there, but leaving it visible to everyone creates confusion about what the site is really about.

When in doubt, though, consult the FAQ.

What kind of questions should I not ask here?

You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face. Chatty, open-ended questions diminish the usefulness of our site and push other questions off the front page.

[...]

To prevent your question from being flagged and possibly removed, avoid asking subjective questions where …

  • every answer is equally valid: “What’s your favorite ______?”
  • your answer is provided along with the question, and you expect more answers: “I use __ for __, what do you use?”
  • there is no actual problem to be solved: “I’m curious if other people feel like I do.”
  • we are being asked an open-ended, hypothetical question: “What if __ happened?”
  • it is a rant disguised as a question: “__ sucks, am I right?”

(The above section was adapted from MetaFilter’s FAQ. For more detail, see six guidelines for great subjective questions.)

According to the FAQ, the questions you pointed out—"What are some funny loading statements to keep users amused?" and "What is the best comment in source code you have ever encountered?"—would be prime candidates for being flagged and possibly removed. Communities have to be consistent in their rules and enforcement to prevent their own members from tearing them apart.

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I believe the recent deletion of such questions is part of the growing pains of Stack Overflow. They do hold historical significance, but that significance changes for the community over time. Stack Overflow is, after all, a living breathing community which changes from time to time. It's certainly not what it was, nor what it will be.

I've spent the past several minutes trying to find an online archive of Stack Overflow questions, but to no avail. I know there is one and it was recently linked from another Meta question/answer, but I just can't seem to find it right now. I'm pretty sure it's not owned and maintained by Stack Exchange, though, which brings me to my point...

I think Stack Exchange could benefit from an archiving process in this matter. Maybe add a feature to the engine whereby moderators (or the community in general) can vote to preserve a historical copy of a question, but remove it from the general use of the site?

I can see the desire to remove it from the general use of the site because, in the current evolving form of the community, it doesn't fit. There's certainly no shortage of such questions which have high votes, high views, and other markers causing them to stand out but have fallen out of the topic for the community. (Questions which now belong on Super User, Server Fault, Programmers, etc., or which are just old community-wiki survey-style questions, or something else entirely.)

A problem with these questions now is that they serve to confuse new members of the community. After all, how can the most popular and highest-voted content in the site be off-topic? Doesn't the presence of so many votes indicate community approval? That is, after all, what we tell people about votes. Let the community decide. So the problem we're running into now is one of historical changes to the community. I suppose it's a good problem to have that the site has been around long enough, seen enough content, and grown enough as a community that we now face this issue.

If these questions were asked today, they'd likely be quickly closed. They're just not on-topic... today. But they were at one point. And they contain useful information. So I definitely see a need to preserve them somewhere for the Stack Overflow community to enjoy, but simply sweep out of the way.

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1  
Deleted questions are preserved -- you just can't see them without 10k rep. Only the most egregious offenses get cleansed permanently, not joke posts :) –  Matthew Read Dec 5 '11 at 21:28
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@MatthewRead: True, but 10k rep shouldn't be a requisite for viewing them. Any casual user should be able to see archived content. I'm all for deleting spam, offensive posts, etc. But if it's simply fallen out of the site's context (such as old survey posts) then deleting seems a bit harsh, even if it is a soft delete that high-rep users can circumvent. We don't want it on the main site, but at the same time I'd hate to see it lost to the general community. –  David Dec 5 '11 at 21:32
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I don't agree. Part of the reason you need 10K rep to see these is so that new people don't see these posts and get the idea that they can do the same. –  Robert Harvey Dec 5 '11 at 21:33
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@RobertHarvey: This is why such an archive would have to be an out-of-the-way part of the overall engine. A place where it can be made clear that the content was retained for posterity, but is not a reflection of the current state of Stack Overflow. Could make for an interesting little SO museum of sorts where new users could learn more about the history of the community, if they were so inclined. –  David Dec 5 '11 at 21:36
    
That's kind've what we've done with the Historical Question banner. –  Robert Harvey Dec 5 '11 at 21:39
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@RobertHarvey but those questions were deleted! so the banner means nothing unless you are > 10k! (and even in those the banner was removed) –  amanaP lanaC A nalP A naM A Dec 5 '11 at 21:42
    
True, as Oded pointed out in comments on the question above, people who don't notice a sign won't notice a more obvious sign either. (In real life I've seen people go to great effort to move signs out of their way, only to completely miss what the sign said.) I still think this would be an interesting undertaking, though. The more historical content the site has as it continues to grow, the more historical significance it retains. –  David Dec 5 '11 at 21:43
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It is a conspiracy, perpetrated by an unholy alliance of internet bureaucrats and jQuery fanboys. They want to change the way we remember things. "Do more, remember less", they chant. I find this latest development terrifying.

$('What was I saying?')

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1  
+1 for being a historically significant answer –  rlemon Dec 5 '11 at 21:23
    
If you find this terrifying, I can't imagine what your reaction would be to find out deletions—thousands of them—have been happening on all 75+ sites since launch. Perhaps I shouldn't mention it, in case you have a heart condition. –  user149432 Dec 5 '11 at 21:46
    
$('No, I find it perfectly acceptable') –  Chris Dec 5 '11 at 21:49
    
(seriously speaking, I do. The questions are off-topic. Maybe we need an off-topic tag or better a separate off-topic forum, whatever, but off-topic questions like those referenced in the OP are clutter on SO proper, IMO) –  Chris Dec 5 '11 at 21:51
    
anti-jQuery people crack me up. $("myTime:has(value)"); +1 btw :-D –  Adam Rackis Dec 5 '11 at 22:54
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This is being done in anticipation for http://trolling.stackexchange.com/

Once the site takes off the question will be migrated to them.

Disclaimer: This answer offers no actual facts

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You joke, but that more or less has been attempted in the past. –  Anna Lear Dec 5 '11 at 21:27
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I really, almost like that idea. +1 anyway! ;) (not just as a sympathy vote to counter the -1) –  Andrew's a Unitato Dec 5 '11 at 21:31
    
I once had an Area51 proposal to create a humorous version of Stack Overflow, where useful and correct content gives way to absurd and hilarious content. (Sort of like Uncyclopedia to Wikipedia.) But the community didn't seem to want it :) –  David Dec 5 '11 at 21:34
1  
I proposed TrollingOverflow on area51 months ago-- Jeff shut it down within hours. –  Incognito Dec 5 '11 at 21:39
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