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The following was highly-voted question originally asked in '08. It had over 400,000 views and 270 upvotes, with one of the answers nearly approaching 1000 upvotes. Obviously this was a popular (and well-liked) question which many programmers are curious about.

http://stackoverflow.com/questions/209170/how-much-does-it-cost-to-develop-an-iphone-application/

The web cache can still be viewed here for users with less than 10k reputation.

I would argue that this deletion is just wrong. I understand it might be open ended, but the number of views and votes tell a different story. I hope the moderators can reconsider their actions.

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OK, now that was unexpected. (I'm not just saying this as the only mod who does iOS dev...) –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Feb 22 '12 at 23:03
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Popular != on topic. Also before you ask - it wouldn't be on topic for Programmers either. –  ChrisF Feb 22 '12 at 23:04
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We're going to just keep getting these complaints until we figure out something to do differently. I'm not a fan of keeping these old now off-topic questions around either, but what happened to the various solutions that had been proposed: tacking a big ugly banner on them, locking them, creating a separate archive of them, etc.? –  Cody Gray Feb 22 '12 at 23:06
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A blog post? Quora? The iOS tag wiki? I really don't know, but I'm with @CodyGray on this, it would be nice to have somewhere to put them - if only to stop them being asked again and again. –  ChrisF Feb 22 '12 at 23:11
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@CodyGray: Every one of those suggestions is dismissed by the inclusionists because they feel the questions shouldn't have been deleted in the first place. They care enough to complain about the deletions, but not enough to preserve the content. Oh, and you forgot Tag Wikis. –  Robert Harvey Feb 22 '12 at 23:14
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@CodyGray, the latest attempt to create a separate archive is being spearheaded by Pekka. –  Pops Feb 22 '12 at 23:17
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@ChrisF graveyard.stackexchange.com? :-) –  LarsTech Feb 22 '12 at 23:35
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Actions like this make me loose confidence in StackOverflow as a whole. I suppose this is like the whole mess of Wikipedia started. (that is, less and less contributors because so much content just get deleted). And i'm not the only one thinking so. twitter.com/schwa/status/172471477038354434. You'd think that with all those subforums, there's a place to store questions like this (while also preserving the permalink!), but apparently SO people don't care. –  steipete Feb 23 '12 at 0:06
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@steipete: Typical tweet; pithy, with zero useful content. –  Robert Harvey Feb 23 '12 at 0:11
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Also, i thought I'd never say this, but THANK GOD there is eFreedom and the other crap copycat sites preserving content from SO. Just give them the question id. tinyurl.com/8y6hv7m (needed to use tinyurl because SO is censoring efreedom urls) –  steipete Feb 23 '12 at 0:15
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@steipete: How do I do that? Do I really need an account? No thanks. –  Robert Harvey Feb 23 '12 at 0:21
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Typical stack overflow moderator, pithy with zero useful content. –  schwa Feb 23 '12 at 0:26
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@schwa: Moderation doesn't require a Twitter account. You don't really want my IQ to go any lower than it already is, do you? And before you go all ad-homineum on the SO mods, you should know that it has been tried before. </yawn> –  Robert Harvey Feb 23 '12 at 0:28
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Meh. I think the actions of the moderator speak for themselves. From an outsiders perspective we're watching SO become hostile to contribution. It seems to be going the same way as wikipedia. Deletion of useful content sends firm messages to folks who aren't moderators. –  schwa Feb 23 '12 at 0:40
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@schwa that is one way to see things. Another would be that we're watching SO grow into a big city that needs rules in order not to drown in chaos. Also I notice that Wikipedia, to this day, doesn't have a competitor of comparable size and success that is less "hostile to contribution". I wonder why that is? I don't want to see funny, useful, good stuff completely deleted (hence I'm in favour of an archive), but to me the willingness of this site (both the community and the management) to choose quality over traffic opportunities is something to be praised, not a flaw –  Pëkka Feb 23 '12 at 1:07

7 Answers 7

up vote 26 down vote accepted

I undeleted the post and locked it. I also deleted most of the worthless answers.

We need a better solution to questions that contain good content but are technically off-topic for Stack Overflow. We're supposed to be here to do one thing, Make the Internet Better. If the act of deleting a question doesn't do that one simple thing then it's okay to do nothing instead.

Is Stack Overflow the right place for that content? No. It would be better placed on a blog or a wiki. I don't really care, as long as it isn't summarily removed from the Internet. If someone wants to move it to a better place, that's great. But until it's accessible in some other form, let's just leave it alone.

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Thanks, I appreciate it. Perhaps we can move it to a better place once that "place" becomes available. –  sudo rm -rf Feb 23 '12 at 1:50
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Why not delete arguably the worst and most damaging of the lot: the accepted answer? The major value of the question—and the one that actually directly answers it—is the response from the Twitterific developer: it should be first, not some poor guesstimate. –  user149432 Feb 23 '12 at 6:17
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@MarkTrapp My original thinking was that the -24 score was doing its job. But I agree, there's nothing to see there so people should just move along to the better answers. Deleted. –  Bill the Lizard Feb 23 '12 at 11:35
    
@sudorm-rf, apparently the idea for a an official SE "place" to put off-topic but valuable posts has already been proposed and rejected. (I personally still advocated for it though) –  Ben Lee Feb 23 '12 at 18:58

I'm by most accounts a deletionist, but even I can recognize the massive hit to the Internet by summarily purging all that market research.

One thing we're trying with the Programmers.SE blog is to encapsulate information stored in our massively-upvoted-but-really-off-topic questions so that they get off the main site but are still preserved on the internet.

I think, given how the other options available are unpalatable in various ways, the top answers could make a great post on Programmers.SE's blog. It wouldn't get the same visibility as being a question on Stack Overflow, but at least the information would be preserved.

If anyone's willing to get involved and write it, take a gander at our blog contribution post and submit a draft. Heck, I might even do it myself.

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Did you flag requesting undeletion? :) –  Robert Harvey Feb 22 '12 at 23:27
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@RobertHarvey Well I think it should be deleted: it's just unfortunate that such good information was posted in the wrong place. Doesn't mean we can't move it off-site. –  user149432 Feb 22 '12 at 23:30

Not disputing the deletion -- I support Mark's answer -- however, for context:

this question had 40 "answers", of which TWENTY FREAKING TWO had a score of -1 or lower.

There is some good info there, to be sure, but it was also attracting a lot of noise.

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I note that those downvoted answers came in before the question was protected, then closed as being off topic. Many if not most of the downvoted answers weren't really answers, or were spam, and had already been deleted. It wasn't going to attract any additional answers in its closed state, and nobody was going to reopen it. –  Brad Larson Feb 22 '12 at 23:37
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still, it's a strong sign that the information is in the wrong place. –  Jeff Atwood Feb 22 '12 at 23:38
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What does that mean, exactly? The information is where it is – if the issue is poor answers, isn't there a better way for SO to deal with getting rid of bad answers rather than getting rid of the question completely? –  refulgentis Feb 23 '12 at 0:04
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I thought we had mechanisms to deal with poor quality answers: Downvoting and deletion of the offending answers. Why delete a good question with an exceptionally good answer just because twenty people were being idiots? –  fzwo Feb 23 '12 at 0:26
    
We really need that archive... with a 301 to redirect all that sweet traffic. Although @Mark's suggestion is probably even better for this case –  Pëkka Feb 23 '12 at 1:14
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Jeff, have you noticed many of the comments on your blog are poor? Let's delete the blog. –  MarkJ Feb 23 '12 at 5:14
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@mark answers are the fundamental unit of work in a Q&A system; it's an utterly false comparison to comments on a blog. The fundamental unit of work on a blog is the blog entry. –  Jeff Atwood Feb 23 '12 at 19:08

I strongly disagree with the deletion of this question, and would vote to undelete it if the last delete vote hadn't been cast by a moderator. Ignoring the arguments about votes and popularity, which do not necessarily indicate a quality or useful question, there was real value here. Deletion of this content makes the Internet a worse place.

In this case, there was a question that, while off-topic under current standards, asked something clear: How much does it cost to develop an iPhone application like Twitterrific? The developer of Twitterrific themselves provided the top-voted answer, describing the hours it took to develop and what that would amount to in terms of a consulting salary. While there was other speculation in the answers there before this developer wrote their response, you had a focused answer to the question asked.

The question was closed as being off topic, which is as it should be. The extra step of placing a warning at the top of "This is being preserved for historical purposes", etc. that we've seen on other questions here could have been applied if we felt that leaving this around would encourage other questions of this type. However, I feel that deletion is taking this too far.

I know that we're going through and identifying popular questions of yesteryear to delete, but as others have stated, without a way of preserving this content we are losing valuable information here. I've stated on multiple occasions that I only believe questions should be deleted if there's no redeeming value in them or the answers provided to them. Closing questions gets the message across about what's appropriate and not, and all subsequent questions that people have asked about iOS development costs have been shut down quickly without anyone complaining about this question still existing.

This question was not a broken window, and didn't need to be removed.

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The “historical purposes” stuff was supposed to be temporary. It's been here for more than 6 to 8 weeks, it's high time to unframe the garbage and clean it up. Sure, there's some good information in there, but it's completely off-topic: it doesn't belong on Stack Overflow. Hopefully there will be a more official archive of deleted questions soon. –  Gilles Feb 23 '12 at 1:16
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All the subjective statements aside, by your own definition it's not suitable for Stack Overflow. That said, there is the mutually exclusive situation of maintaining the quality of the site (if its closed then it's already failed to meet the qualtiy bar) vs. making the Internet a better place. As we've seen by most actions, the site will come before the Internet as the site's very existence and commitment to quality is the very thing that makes the Internet a better place. That said, there's a place for it somewhere, there just aren't mechanisms here for it, which we obviously need. –  casperOne Feb 23 '12 at 1:50
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I'm tired of these arguments. Yes, it's off-topic. But it's not hurting anything by being there. It's not trash, it's just like baby pictures hanging on the wall. You don't look like that anymore, and they're not really very useful for identifying you, but there's not much point in ripping them down and throwing them all away. Yes, you could box them all up and put them in storage, and I wouldn't be at all opposed to this since it preserves the few gems of useful content that are there. But until that happens, why can't we just leave them alone? No one's provided a persuasive argument there. –  Cody Gray Feb 23 '12 at 2:59
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@casperOne - I don't disagree about needing to keep a sharp focus in order to maintain a high signal to noise ratio in the face of growing traffic. I just don't like seeing useful information be removed from the Internet. I like the distinction between closing a question and deleting one, because that gives us the ability to distinguish between something that doesn't belong here, but still has some redeeming value, and something that's just noise. The presence of this as a closed question did not seem to be promoting bad behavior, so I don't think it was reducing the quality of the site. –  Brad Larson Feb 23 '12 at 3:03

This question was also linked to from various news sites (which probably helped generate the large page view count). For example http://osxdaily.com/2010/09/07/iphone-development-costs/

The answers to this question were useful to folks outside stack overflow and probably remain useful now (iOS dev costs haven't changed dramatically since then).

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Trying to understand the logic here.

The question was closed since November 2011.

Based on how Stack Overflow is set up and from answers I got at Average time remaining until deletion after closure for a popular question, if a question is closed, it's on its way to the deletion until contested. So why are we contesting the deletion of the question?

I strongly disagree that a closed question tells a normal user that questions like that are not encouraged because a normal user (the one in majority) never listens and never reads the FAQ. Anyone actively watching meta.stackoverflow.com is by no means a normal user.

So, why was the question deleted? Members of the community including a moderator decided that it should be removed as a sign post to other question as an off-topic example.

It is also flawed logic to say because a question is popular and highly up-voted that it is useful (in this case it is useful) and on-topic, so again you are battling the wrong action.

Disadvantages to deletion are currently

  • Many Apple developers who have not seen this question yet lose out
  • Links are broken across the internet

For the first point, this is something that is unfortunate yet at the same time completely avoidable

user contributions licensed under cc-wiki with attribution required

I have grabbed the content (currently the highest voted answer by Craig Hockenberry) and placed it at

http://blog.philippeharewood.com/wolfrevokcats/how-much-does-it-cost-to-develop-an-iphone-application.html

It's actually a github repo: https://github.com/phwd/wolfrevokcats/tree/gh-pages so anyone can send a request if they so please.

So lost value has been now restored (even though many other sites out there do the same time, just not in a nicely readable format)

I have slowly been grabbing other popular off-topic questions that have been deleted and placing it there. Like pekka I am hoping to redirect the repo to http://wolfrevokcats.com. The point I am getting at here is the internet in this age is quick to recover lost archives and it doesn't need to be in one location only.

With regards to the second point, I would refer back to the internet being like a starfish, able to regenerate lost parts on the spot. The owners of sites with broken links can easily fix it to somewhere else or even use the cc-wiki license to keep it on their site.

tldr; The question was deleted because no one maintained it, nor flagged all the horrible answers (before a mod stepped in today) nor curated it. It is only when it gets deleted do people do something. Also, there is a way to preserve content but a lot of people are too lazy to take initiative to do that.

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Failing to see how a source code repository is a more natural place to store (a fragment of) that question. Oh well. Question restored. It'll live for another few months until some other mod decides to delete it again. –  schwa Feb 23 '12 at 3:26

I'm relatively new to iOS development (18 months) and even more of a newbie on Stack Overflow. I would like to state, for the record, how much this question has helped me since i first read it about 9 months ago. It helped me as a developer understand just how much effort goes into shipping a polished app, and it saved me countless hours by dismissing from consideration unrealistic demands from prospective 'clients or potential business partners.'

For that, I am very grateful. Thank you.

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