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I've seen a lot of questions about how to handle out of date answers, but I came across a post that presents a slightly different problem.

The question was closed for being non-constructive which is perhaps a bit debatable, but let's ignore that for now. The problem is, even though it's closed, it's still there and the answers are still available. They appear to be valid information.

However, these answers were all supplied over three years ago! There's no question that they are inaccurate and misleading at this point. But what is the solution? We can't add new answers to replace them. Should the question itself be deleted? Should a duplicate be posted rephrasing the question to be more appropriate?


This one is over on StackExchange, but is another good example of this problem. The question comes up high in Google searches, and contains woefully out of date information.

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

First off let's be very clear that the "age" of a question is only a problem for those questions that have been closed as either off topic or not a good fit for Stack Overflow. For other "old" questions, the appropriate solution is simply to edit the existing answers and/or post a new answer with updated information. Stack Overflow is not a forum, and as such, there's no concept of linearity to posts.

The current solution is to delete the question. As you mention:

  1. It's "not constructive": poll-style questions where every answer is equally valid do not fit well within our model of Q&A.
  2. It's been closed (and should stay that way), and thus no new answers can be added to the question.
  3. It's unlikely that anyone who posted those answers is going to come back to update them.

Of course, if you pull the delete trigger, you'll get a flood of users claiming that the delete-happy moderators are back to their old tricks of destroying useful content. In fact, the above-presented logic is exactly the logic used by the moderators and 10k+ users who have voted to delete other old questions, and that hasn't exactly made everyone happy. So you've really just re-raised the central question here that we've been trying to solve in the best interest of all parties for some time now.

In light of these difficulties, it appears that on the particular question you cited, everyone has simply chosen to do nothing. They don't want it to be open, as that might suggest that it's an acceptable question, but they also haven't wanted to delete it outright, perhaps seeing the merit in many of the answers that have been posted. Bringing it to public attention here on Meta will probably bring a flood of delete votes. Whether you think that solves the problem or is a good solution, I can't say.

Posting a new question to Stack Overflow on a similar subject would not be a good choice, either, since project management is clearly off-topic. It is not something done exclusively by programmers, and there are other sites in the network that are much more conducive to such questions. If you did want to write a constructive, non-poll question, you should post it on one of those sites.

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Sounds fair enough. The one issue I see with deletion is that it will probably result in more people posting the same invalid question over and over, since they have no immediate evidence that it is inappropriate. I know you see the problem at hand though. Has there been any discussion of hiding answers to certain types of closed questions? – DougW Mar 23 '12 at 20:04
@Doug: Well, that flips the debate entirely upon its head! Everyone in favor of categorically deleting the now-off-topic questions has argued that by allowing them to be there, you're sending the message to other people that those types of questions are acceptable. To argue that deleting them actually hides the evidence is rather novel. Anyway, I don't know why you'd hide particular answers. If individual answers are unsalvageable, they should just be deleted, just like any other bad answer. And making the answers disappear doesn't fix the problem of the question—why not just delete it, too? – Cody Gray Mar 23 '12 at 20:07
Well in this case, individual answers aren't necessarily wrong. But by preventing the addition of new answers suggesting newer tools, the entire family of answers becomes a snapshot in time at which they were valid. I definitely think that deleting the question itself will result in more cruft. I would have asked the same question myself if I hadn't seen a similar one closed. – DougW Mar 23 '12 at 20:14
@Conrad: Agreed, but do note that comments didn't exist back in 08 when those answers were posted. Those people we're just idiots. :-) – Cody Gray Mar 23 '12 at 20:51
@CodyGray Matt Shepard's comment looks like I comment to me. And I don't think his comment was a converted from an answer because I'm used to seeing those as deleted posts – Some Helpful Commenter Mar 23 '12 at 20:56

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