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First, let me go on record saying I absolutely support the concept that closed questions which are not useful in either content or as a search term variety duplicate, absolutely should be deleted.

That said, it was never the intent of deletion to destroy valid, useful contributions. Questions which contain useful content contributed by your peers should generally be merged, not deleted.

Partially, I blame me. Because we are idiots, delete votes were not rate limited. Also, we now have 17 pages (!) of users who are eligible to cast delete votes. It looks like this was an explosive combination; a few users have gone a bit.. over the top .. with closed question deletions:

Example: multiple answers by Eric Lippert got deleted. Eric Lippert, a senior developer on the C# compiler team at Microsoft! That's when I knew we had a serious problem.

(we have since rate limited deletion votes.)

I put together a query which shows the top ~200 deleted (but not migrated) questions that were not self-deleted, nor deleted by moderators -- and have a total score (question + all answers) of more than 15 votes.

Please help me audit this list and determine which of these posts deserves to be completely deleted. Some do, some don't. Flag ones that should be merged with another question for moderator attention, and we will merge them.

132983    2301      7314      Who is your programming hero?
72406     1080      13931     What development book made the most impact on you as a developer?
3947      734       8983      Music to listen to while coding
315470    598       4458      Why do people ask for computer (IT) help if you tell them you're a programmer?
195285    553       3210      What stupid policies affecting developers has your company introduced?
54607     549       5491      What are the best movies about Geeks/Programmers/Hackers. (for inspiration)
27347     466       2173      What annoys you as a programmer?
92159     427       7581      How do you vent stress as a programmer?
53264     347       3312      What Is the most beautiful code you have ever seen or written?
205003    305       3353      Is it wrong to go to interviews while employed?
139097    249       1236      How do you waste work time ie procrastinate?
3830      245       3001      Have you become addicted to Crack Overflow?
53423     151       1612      What virus protection/internet security do you use at home as a programmer
120324    144       1945      Who are some well-known female programmers?
1946925   139       1446      Forbidden to use for loop!
110113    136       952       Which software expert do you have as a role model?
139621    136       1357      Merit of screencasts vs text-based documentation?
115256    136       4265      Skills in demand during 2009
42962     122       918       Do system administration questions belong in stackoverflow?
92257     119       2243      Programmer's food
193551    115       1316      Can you code while drunk?
155743    115       2046      Define a bad programmer
38461     113       1179      What can software developers do to be more "green"?
2821983   106       854       What's the Java equivalent of the term "pythonic"?
187370    94        1542      UNIX man page jokes?
6396      94        1923      Which Programming Language Should I Learn?
171431    93        1538      Most amusing job self-description?
60509     91        1681      How do you get in the zone? (esp. on Saturday...)
2090568   82        444       <br /> or <br/>?
20965     81        2111      What programming books do you recommend?
2647857   80        959       How do I politely tell a colleague to RTFM?
13750     79        601       Why do you like programming?
2782445   78        521       Should I bother with C++ or go straight to C#?
2428816   78        740       How long is a CS degree good for?
2764876   77        1274      What would your three most-telling interview questions be for a new hire?
150816    74        504       What has stackoverflow taught you?
1915      73        2007      How do I know if have RSI or carpal tunnel?
124542    71        743       So in 'good' Python do you have to type every space individually?
406885    66        1306      Knowing or not knowing the salary of your co-worker?
877149    65        489       What activity should be on every programmer's daily list?
163663    62        1512      Remove Experts Exchange from google programming searches
2809660   61        448       Is it better to adopt the same technologies used at work to be effective on your home projects ?
12860     59        867       Why do people on SOFlow seem to think finding programming jobs is trivial?
2804252   59        890       VS2010 has been released, so what do you hate or love about it?
2296799   58        1446      Real iPhone Devs Don't Use Objective-C Anyway!?
48349     57        872       Which power drink or food do you recommend most to boost mental performance?
2782964   55        425       What does this line of code do?  "variable = condition ? true : false"
2793543   55        778       Do people still use Unions in C and C++
535089    55        920       Do ternary operators increase complexity in programs?
2714980   54        401       Brackets or no brackets for one-line statements ?
1910182   54        738       Is it fair to ask about by-reference arguments as a C interview question?
2818428   53        536       Good policy to force all developers in a company to use the same IDE?
130575    52        1134      What's a good free bug tracker for a small shop
2818928   51        483       What does "===" mean?
156121    50        647       What programming languages will be around in 100 years?
466058    48        777       Examples of some of the worst code you've had to manage?
161286    48        861       Most amazing piece of code you've ever seen
1207687   47        417       Should PDF files generated from LaTeX source files be under version control?
97721     46        507       What does it mean when an explanation includes the word "basically?"
2537760   44        586       Premature optimization is the root of all evil, but can it ever be too late?
2772820   43        220       Programmers joy: the process or the result?
2848368   43        663       Why do some languages not use semicolons and braces?
84564     42        1449      Which java web framework you use in your day job ?
76630     41        1518      What is the single most effective way to keep from getting Slashdotted
2798667   40        215       write a c++ programe that displays the following out put.
171527    40        1088      Best console-based (no GUI) code editor?
2741548   39        367       Stopping pirates
833946    39        2750      In C# will the Finally block be executed in a try, catch, finally if an unhandled exception is thrown ?
2732589   38        524       How to emulate OOP with C?
854113    38        720       Why would you choose OO language over functional language?
2762287   36        325       Why does PHP have a bad rep?
2812337   34        318       How to deal with a coworker who keeps asking instead of searching herself?
2754698   34        532       Ruby, Python, or PHP?
2851648   34        566       Will a Ph. D. in Computer Science help?
122632    34        582       First programming language
934727    34        647       Why use "foo" in coding examples?
2838054   33        291       How would I create a random number?
2367939   33        367       Why is ++x preferred to x++?
2861667   33        428       What makes great software?
101548    33        482       Why is the ^ called a caret?
2766100   32        324       I'm a PHP programmer. Should I learn Java to improve my skills?
1098420   32        852       Preparing for my first C# interview...
56147     32        2584      What is your favorite regex editor?
2758800   31        257       Can someone suggest a way to learn regex?
2757210   31        316       Why do people keep parsing HTML using regex?
48851     31        518       What workplace exercises do you do?
2811917   30        439       Are game engines developed in the USA?
160975    30        619       Diet advice for programmers
91526     29        2069      Best Programming Jokes
2803093   28        195       Is Java really fit for mobile phone programes?
2859266   28        214       Programming ideas for an intermediate PHP programmer
2874224   28        289       What are the practical/concrete application of .NET 4.0 enhancements?
2385745   28        298       what is the use of private constructor in C++?
2837502   27        196       C++ file naming convention - uppercase or lowercase the "first letter"?
2758925   27        273       Career advice for a frustrated newbie programmer.
2838822   27        318       What stereotypes about developers are there?
156872    27        1153      How does one create an API?
1652193   26        260       Howto avoid people from having multiple accounts in a free to play multiplayer game?
2828965   26        376       What program should I write to use up the 3,472 minutes on my iPhone 3GS?
2754537   26        389       How can I demonstrate the benefits of abstractions to an old-time C programmer?
2755830   25        251       Is the web still 100% Stateless?
415420    25        581       What skills would you expect from a good programmer who has 5 yrs of experience?
3166      25        585       Supporting stackoverflow
98222     24        699       What's the greatest "WTF" moment you've witnessed from someone who has done the impossible?
78354     24        705       Worst thing you've seen on code.
2821778   23        239       efficient algorithm to test whether a given number is part of the fibonnaci sequence
2810801   23        307       Circular linked list
173996    23        366       What's the next piece of open source software that Microsoft should embrace?
2358391   22        173       What's the reason to use  this way?
2003757   22        244       What is typically the most difficult phase on a development project
1665136   22        367       What is the most effective question to test a C developer during an interview?
87696     22        555       Are unused Using directives expensive?
685375    22        789       Why has Delphi declined?
2659833   21        143       What makes good software good?
2765831   21        150       Which Technology Is More Secure, Perl or PHP?
2796839   21        183       How would I reverse an array of characters?
2758217   21        190       [C] Memory Address Comparisons
2606763   21        259       Greatest of Two Numbers Without Using A Relational Operator
1767048   21        272       If C# is type safe why is this possible without casting?
1085644   21        290       The difference between using == and is.
2885271   21        313       Why Do Programmers Get So Invested in their Favorite Technologies?
2844512   21        318       How does functional programming work?
2852701   21        357       Small utilities useful while programming
1774676   21        403       Execute code in if-else statement 
2759742   21        426       My next programming Language
2714133   21        473       I would like to learn C++, what is the first step ?
166540    21        845       Which is the most useful UML diagram?
153184    21        907       The best c++ book
165358    21        1071      What project task manager / bug tracker do you think is best?
134288    21        1546      Interview Question/Puzzle
2744430   20        306       Does march have 32 days?
94558     20        467       What's your favorite programming blog?
180108    20        1304      Best practices for using the 'this' keyword in C#
2758888   19        187       what is this weird icon in my C code ?
2832303   19        202       Is it ethical to work as freelancer even if you are working in a software company as a full time developer?
2863335   19        209       Again, what version control system to choose?
125326    19        421       What do you think the next big thing will be in software development?
1234467   19        500       Parsing logfiles and applying logic - any suggestions?
650362    19        566       Probability of choosing marbles
173318    19        972       What field of software engineering do you work in?
2763272   18        140       Web application performance: PHP or Python?
2815559   18        147       What are the differences between the ASP.NET tags?
1778815   18        174       How should tertiary institutions teach programming ?
2876653   18        180       How does Java pick which method to call?
2849261   18        185       How/when to hire new programmers, and how to integrate them?
2778478   18        196       How can a new hire/intern make a good impression?
1678157   18        196       Why is Visual C++ complaining about a variable I think I've defined?
1842580   18        244       When should I call the Java garbage collector?
2740462   18        255       In C#, why should I use the 'var' data type?
2812560   18        256       this == null; surely not, but yes
1056233   18        363       What best describes clean code?
2789231   18        368       What is the 51702     18        939       Suggestions for free diff tools for Windows
206888    18        4636      What to choose on Windows: Strawberry Perl or ActiveState Perl?
2811995   17        144       Can someone elegantly explain a js closure so it sticks in my head.
2847382   17        147       What is the difference between === and == in PHP?
2787846   17        264       Why do I have to pay for something that I'm not using?
1779694   17        455       What is the shortest source code you have seen to do a complex task?
100905    17        752       Programming vs scripting -- what's your definition?
629032    17        879       Split a string into characters
165554    17        940       How can you make a fair decision with an unfair coin?  (interview question)
317499    17        1047      What is the best software for code-merge that you seen?
65378     17        1092      Is .net really a good choice for mission critical code?
205901    17        1914      C# Equivalent to Java's BigInteger
2793826   16        112       Python: combine two neighbor list components
2685752   16        386       Does software testing have a future?
124122    16        1337      Single return or multiple return statements?
2833188   15        83        Why is there a gap between Business and IT?
2798741   15        118       What is the purpose of CS0161 when switching over an enum and how to work around it?
2785612   15        178       C++ - what does the colon after a constructor mean?
2832367   15        193       what is clean code ?
2768798   15        236       dimension ||  pointer pointer
1225208   15        303       Are Developers bound to their city they live in ?
205691    15        361       New automatic properties in c# 3.0, what's the benefit?
53455     15        486       Why should I use ++i?
573352    15        748       I am considering implementing the RPXNow OpenID selector - can I avoid vendor lock in?

So please, as you have time and inclination, review this list and see if any of the content should be merged with another question before we throw it away.

share|improve this question
33  
Note that just because a senior Microsoft developer answered a question it doesn't mean that the question was on topic, useful or interesting or that deleting that question would be a problem. –  sth May 25 '10 at 11:44
25  
@sth nor did I say that; the fact that deleting a crappy question can cause the collateral damage of also deleting a potentially excellent answer should be a grave concern to any responsible deleter. Hence: flag for merge. –  Jeff Atwood May 25 '10 at 12:09
7  
Jeff, There are some on that list that re-affirm why questions should be deleted. Others should have been merged after being closed. If we're not careful with the undelete stick, this will turn into Programming Reddit with code. Or worse... Hacker News. –  George Stocker May 25 '10 at 12:46
4  
@Jeff: Quite a lot of these weren't closed as duplicate, so there's nothing to merge them with. @Everyone: Please don't flag to merge unless there's an original question to merge with. –  Bill the Lizard May 25 '10 at 13:18
    
@George: What do you have against Hacker News? –  Dan McClain May 25 '10 at 13:23
6  
@Jeff: I'm trying to say that it doesn't really matter who answered, it matters what was answered and what the topic of the question was. For example, that somebody is a senior Microsoft developer doesn't imply that everything he says is on topic on Stack Overflow and could not possibly be deleted rightfully. –  sth May 25 '10 at 13:34
7  
@phsr Apples: Stack Overflow, Q & A site. Oranges: Hacker News, Programming Reddit. There are already sites for programmer discussion, Stack Overflow shouldn't be one of them. –  George Stocker May 25 '10 at 13:36
    
@George: I think he was wondering why you said Hacker News is worse than Reddit. Which, I must admit, puzzles me a little too. –  mmyers May 25 '10 at 14:47
    
Worse in that Hacker News had a chance to fix the problems Reddit has, but they went down the very same path. They could have been better, learned from Reddit, but they really copied its mechanisms. have you seen the threaded discussion? I have to use Ctrl+F to find anything on that site. –  George Stocker May 25 '10 at 14:53
    
Uhg...this is going to be a lot of work, man. –  dmckee May 25 '10 at 17:09
1  
It looks like several have been merged already...so what's the point of asking for input if you're not going to wait for some? –  dmckee May 25 '10 at 18:12
    
@Jeff: What about spam flags? Can users circumvent the new limits by bludgeoning a question with spam flags? –  Robert Harvey May 25 '10 at 18:24
3  
@Jeff Can you please make some official statement as to which of these is true: "Closed questions have valid content until proven otherwise" or "Closed questions should be deleted until shown that they shouldn't be"? There seems to be confusion/debate about that –  Bob May 25 '10 at 20:48
    
@bob the statement is in the above post. Closed questions with <= 10 summed votes (across question and answers) probably can be deleted without too much worry. Once the sum of the votes is >= 15 I start to worry that deletion destroys useful content. –  Jeff Atwood May 25 '10 at 23:05
1  
Something seems to be wrong with the query that generated the list, or at least I cannot figure out why this question isn't on it. –  sth May 26 '10 at 1:53

13 Answers 13

I'm glad that this discussion was started; I think we desperately need to rally around a community standard for question deletions, otherwise the debates and [un]delete wars will rage on forever. Whatever the end result may be, if the "management" supports it then I will as well.

Before I just start diving into questions and rationalizing away decisions, I want to lay out some consistent criteria so people can decide if I'm evaluating questions objectively or just being a "deletionist." I'm including the ones from Jeff's post on the subject, as well as some new ones that have come up.

Reasons for deletion

  1. Does not follow the posting guidelines in the FAQ. (In other words, fits into any of the closing reasons other than Exact Duplicate.)

  2. Dilutes content of the site. Takes attention away from "practical" programming questions/problems.

  3. Encourages copycat questions (the "Hidden Features of X" are great examples of this).

  4. Encourages other types of discussion/bikeshed questions by precedent.

  5. Games the rep/badge system, diluting the pool of 3k and 10k "moderators", which can intensify the behaviour in cycles. Partially mitigated by wiki mode, but only if the question is started as Community Wiki and the majority of votes (including answer votes) were issued as wiki votes.

Reasons against deletion

  1. The question and answers genuinely, tangibly help to advance the relevant skills of specific developers and developers in general.

  2. Question has a high number of views/upvotes (the "will of the people"). IMO, not a particularly good indicator of the actual quality; almost all wide-open questions will gather extreme numbers of votes and answers if allowed to stay open.

  3. Question has an extremely high number of views coming from outside sources (blogs, digg, Google, etc.) and is likely to attract new membership.

  4. One or more answers appear to be particularly interesting/valuable. (The Eric Lippert trump card)

  5. The grandfather clause - i.e. the question is from the Dark Ages (or is that Renaissance?) of Stack Overflow and has important historical value.

With that in mind, I'd like to propose five possible options for dealing with deleted questions or deletion candidates in general:

Possible Actions

  1. Delete or leave deleted. This should be done if the fundamental premise of the question is flawed or its content is beyond hope of repair.

  2. Undelete (and possibly reopen). The question may not quite fit the mandate of the site, but has so many other things going for it that deletion seems like a crime.

  3. Undelete and lock. This is a very valuable option that I think most people are overlooking. This allows the question to be viewed, but prevents it from being bumped, which nullifies many of the reasons for deletion, especially if a disclaimer appears explaining the reason it was allowed to live and warning against potential copycats.

  4. Edit and undelete. I suspect that many questions with especially good answers could have been good questions, if only they were asked with the appropriate tone and format. If it is possible to reword/reformat the question in such a way, then this is the best alternative, by a wide margin.

  5. Merge. This is specifically for duplicates. If some of the answers are novel or significantly better than the answers to the original, it should be merged. This one's easy.


With that out of the way, here's a random selection of questions to start with:

  • What has stackoverflow taught you?: Delete. Actually, this question should have been migrated to Meta, but it was closed before Meta existed. The question itself has low votes and none of the higher-voted answers are particularly enlightening.

  • Remove Experts Exchange from google programming searches: Delete. I hate the evil hyphen site as much as the next guy, but the swarm of upvotes was unwarranted, it's simply not a programming question. I'm tempted to say that it should have been migrated to Super User (if SU were around back then), but it may even be against SU's new-ish policy of not asking about web sites/applications.

  • Programming ideas for an intermediate PHP programmer: Reopen and reclose as a duplicate, then delete. Maybe merge the top answer into one of the dupes, but that's all. The question should not have been closed as "off-topic", but it is heavily duplicated and doesn't have any of the mitigating factors above. It also encourages copycat questions in other languages/frameworks. I think what's truly needed is a canonical, well-written and well-maintained list of "learning projects" - I've looked through all of the duplicates I could find and they are all hit or miss, with a few well-thought-out answers and a lot of trite rubbish. Conceptually this fits well within the site guidelines and lends itself well to the Community Wiki style, but it's never actually been done properly (at least I couldn't find it).

  • Why has Delphi declined?: Undelete and lock. Cletus posted a damn good answer, but the question itself is borderline flamebait. Some conscientious editing might convince me that the question should be unlocked as well; otherwise, it carries a copycat risk and should have a disclaimer.

  • Does software testing have a future?: Delete. It's argumentative and off-topic, and it wasn't wiki. There are some okay answers but nothing dazzling.

  • C# Equivalent to Java’s BigInteger: Delete. I'm convinced by The Cat/Gnome's comment that this doesn't really add anything new other than keywords. A better solution to undeleting would be to simply add some more tags/keywords to the original question.

  • Is the web still 100% Stateless?: Delete. This user has a history of poor questions and this one is no exception. The tone is awful, the answers are decent but not too valuable to lose, and if you look at the big picture, it's basically just arguing over the definition of a word.

  • Does march have 32 days?: Delete. I'm sympathetic toward Charlie, but the question is completely pointless and may even be a joke. I cannot see anybody searching for this question or finding value in any of the answers, ever.

  • Parsing logfiles and applying logic - any suggestions?: Delete. Obvious joke question, which Jeff has specifically asked people not to post.

  • Best Programming Jokes: Delete. I've checked, and all of the answers are duplicates as well.

  • Why would you choose OO language over functional language?: Delete. The question could have been OK, if it were worded differently ("What are the advantages of an Object Oriented style over a Functional programming style?"), but if it were to be "fixed" then it would basically become a dupe of this question anyway, which has already come under the radar due to Eric Lippert's answer. There's maybe a very subtle difference, but the answers aren't thorough enough to make it important.

  • UNIX man page jokes?: Sounds like this might be appropriate for Super User, but I don't know how they are with "fun" questions. If it fits the bill, undelete and migrate - otherwise, leave it deleted.

  • Why do I have to pay for something that I’m not using?: Delete and horse-whip the author. I think the -9 question score says it all. It's not much more than a thinly-veiled rant against Java, and the more comments I read, the more it starts to look like he's trolling outright. The sad thing is, this could have been an OK question if the author had asked for facts and benchmarks regarding the performance impact of said feature; unfortunately, it's too far-gone to fix now.

  • Programmer’s food: Delete. Two words: Boat Programming.

share|improve this answer
    
Shouldn't the question about PHP projects better be merged into one of the duplicates? –  sth May 26 '10 at 2:09
    
@sth: Maybe; it was closed as off-topic and so I didn't really look for dupes (although it sounds like the kind of question that's often duped). I'll have another look at it. –  Aarobot May 26 '10 at 2:11
    
+1 great post. You surely managed to define the deletion criteria better than I did. I also agree with your recommendations for the 6 questions you reviewed. –  Daniel Vassallo May 26 '10 at 3:01
    
Re C# Equivalent to Java’s BigInteger: "BigInt", "BigInteger", and even the phrase "Big Integer in C#" all appear on the duplicate listed in the question. Of the six answers, half aren't answers and just point to duplicates. Of the other three answers, one is irrelevant (due to misreading), another is merely a link (duplicated on the other question), and the last (Skeet's) is superseded by other answers. Looks to be better left deleted. –  Gnome May 26 '10 at 3:34
    
@Aarobot: There is a comment on the PHP question linking to a few duplicates –  sth May 26 '10 at 11:59
    
@The Cat: The duplicate has those keywords, but in the answers; are answers actually searched? If I start a new question and type the words "BigInteger for .NET", I don't see the original question in the potential dupe list. You're right about the answers, though, they kind of suck; perhaps better to add a biginteger tag to the original question which I think would help for searching. –  Aarobot May 26 '10 at 13:19

Not even going to try to review them all.

  • I'm rejecting a bunch as fluff based on the titles alone. Leave 'em dead, please.
  • I'm not going to review technical question in areas where I'm clueless. Those are someone else's problem (SEP fields will run practically forever on a single flashlight battery...)

Here's what I've got so far:

Questions I want to rant about:

I may get around to reading some more later, but for the moment I've found none that I think definitely should be merged.

share|improve this answer
2  
+1 - I've been reviewing the ones that get multiple flags, but more detailed feedback like this would be welcome. –  Bill the Lizard May 25 '10 at 18:24

I love that you are doing this! However, this is a HUGE list. Most of us are likely to start at the top (or bottom, for us contrarians). We'll run out of steam and leave a large amount of unreviewed material in the middle.

You might consider a feature for 10K users on SO to "assign" review of a random sample of posts that need a personal touch. If you gave us a list of 10-25ish posts to review, many of us would take the time on a regular basis to go through them. These would be "unassigned" if we ignored them for too long, allowing someone else to look at them instead.

share|improve this answer
    
Once a post has several flags we'll merge it. The questions near the top (and bottom) of the list that should be merged will be disappearing soon. –  Bill the Lizard May 25 '10 at 13:25
    
@Bill - will Jeff be updating the list in his post? –  user27414 May 25 '10 at 13:48
    
Probably not. :) The posts that get merged will disappear and take you to the "Page Not Found" page, so you won't be wasting flags on the ones we've already taken care of. I'll go through and unlink some of those later. –  Bill the Lizard May 25 '10 at 13:59
3  
It would be better to have a 'vote to merge' to begin with, that asked for the target question number. Similar to how we vote to close. –  Tim Post May 25 '10 at 16:09
3  
Or have all posts closed as duplicates go into a merge queue for the mods to look at. –  Lance Roberts May 25 '10 at 17:02

Ok, I'll help:

"VS2010 has been released, so what do you hate or love about it?"

Just pure discussion. Get rid of it.

Real iPhone Devs Don't Use Objective-C Anyway!?

I see no value in a set of opinions about Objective-C and game programming on iPhone. Delete

Which power drink or food do you recommend most to boost mental performance?

Reviews of power drinks? Sorry

What does this line of code do? "variable = condition ? true : false"

I voted to delete this one because it's a duplicate, but I don't think the answers should be merged with the original. Rather, I think the question needs radical editing to be about the fact that the use of the conditional operator is redundant in this case. I don't know how we would do that, or if we should. However, I would say that a question on "Why is the following bad: (condition) ? true : false" would be a good question.

Do people still use Unions in C and C++

Yet another survey question. Could have been saved by changing to "What are the valid modern uses for unions in C and C++". If a moderator wanted to keep this question, and edit out the answers that are basically survey answers, leaving those that actually say something, then I wouldn't object. Otherwise, trash it.

Do ternary operators increase complexity in programs

This one should be merged with the original, and undeleted.

share|improve this answer

I rolled the dice, picked a random scroll position, and reviewed the following six questions:

2818428   53        536       Good policy to force all developers in a company to use the same IDE?
130575    52        1134      What's a good free bug tracker for a small shop
2818928   51        483       What does "===" mean?
156121    50        647       What programming languages will be around in 100 years?
466058    48        777       Examples of some of the worst code you've had to manage?
161286    48        861       Most amazing piece of code you've ever seen

Keeping in mind the official deletion policy, this is the result of my audit:


Good policy to force all developers in a company to use the same IDE?

  • Literally nonsense: No.
  • Incredibly off topic: No.
  • Mental cost of processing: I don't think this gets in the way.
  • A broken windows problem: Maybe.
  • Clutter that reduces the overall signal to noise ratio: I don't think this one clutters the signal.

The question is subjective, but not any more than the following, which remain open, undeleted and unlocked:

The question is not a community wiki unlike the questions above, but the answers can be considered interesting. If this gets undeleted, I suggest forcing it to become community wiki if that is possible.


What’s a good free bug tracker for a small shop

The answers in this question appear to be a subset of:

In addition the question above was posted 5 days before the one in question, seems to be better formed, and includes more and better answers.


What does "===" mean? MERGED

Broken link. Already merged?


What programming languages will be around in 100 years?

  • Literally nonsense: Maybe.
  • Incredibly off topic: Not incredibly.
  • Mental cost of processing: I don't think this gets in the way.
  • A broken windows problem: Maybe.
  • Clutter that reduces the overall signal to noise ratio: I don't think this one clutters the signal.

The question is subjective, and could be argumentative. In addition, it was not marked as a community wiki.

Maybe we should really consider adding a notice to the historical jokes, cartoons, et al questions, in order not to encourage further questions such as this.


Examples of some of the worst code you’ve had to manage? MERGED

I think this one could be merged with:


Most amazing piece of code you've ever seen MERGED

I think this one could be merged with:


6 ready, 194 to go. Who's going to share some questions? :)

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2  
@Daniel, CW is not stick to beat subjective questions with. –  Lance Roberts May 25 '10 at 15:24
1  
@Lance: Am I doing that? ... My intention was simply to note that some questions were not community wiki, when they should have been. –  Daniel Vassallo May 25 '10 at 15:34
4  
@Daniel, It's a now common misconception that CW is for subjective questions. CW was created to allow greater editing for more community input on questions. What has sprung up is what we call the Community Wiki Police (meta.stackexchange.com/questions/19478/the-many-memes-of-meta/…) badgering people to make things CW when they're the slightest bit subjective (not saying you're doing this, just pointing out the problem in general). –  Lance Roberts May 25 '10 at 15:47
1  
@Lance: Didn't CW become some sort of de-facto etiquette for asking subjective questions or posting subjective answers? ... At least it solves the "ill-gotten" rep problem that Rosinante describes. (CW police apart. I don't approve CW bullying.) –  Daniel Vassallo May 25 '10 at 16:02
    
@Daniel: It did, perhaps wrongly. The so-called "ill-gotten rep problem" still depends on the OP checking the box. I generally flag the post so that a moderator can strike it with the Wiki hammer. –  Robert Harvey May 25 '10 at 16:40
9  
I strongly disagree about the 100 years question. We do not want to encourage an endless stream of "Read these tea leaves for me" questions. There are a big enough pain to kill as it is. Hmmm...I see that I was one of the deleter of that post, so I guess this doesn't surprise anyone. –  dmckee May 25 '10 at 17:56
    
@dmckee: I also don't agree with posts like that. The problem is that when users visit the top voted questions, they see plenty of these "endless stream" questions, with hundreds of upvotes. Maybe it would be a good idea to put a notice like this on those locked questions. –  Daniel Vassallo May 25 '10 at 19:14
6  
I think the 100 years question is Literally nonsense. –  Lance Roberts May 25 '10 at 20:18
1  
@Daniel: That there are open/not deleted tea-leaves questions means that those need to be closed/deleted, not that everything else should get reopened/undeleted. –  sth May 25 '10 at 20:28
1  
Daniel, I completely agree about putting a notice on the "grandfathered" locked questions (and locking any that aren't locked yet). I think that since you clearly recognize the special status of those questions, you should reconsider the first item on your list, which you've granted immunity on the basis of being not as bad as other questions. Close/delete votes are somewhat randomized because they depend on when the question is posted and who sees it. If we want to maintain any level of sanity in this process then decisions have to be made based on on the actual merits the questions. –  Aarobot May 25 '10 at 20:46
    
@Lance: Thinking about it, probably you're right. It was some of the answers that weren't. –  Daniel Vassallo May 25 '10 at 20:50
    
@Aarobot, @sth: It wasn't my intention to suggest immunity. I simply picked up a list of questions at random, and I added some comments simply to invoke some thoughts from the community on how these should be handled. –  Daniel Vassallo May 25 '10 at 20:53
2  
@Daniel, maybe "immunity" wasn't the right word. My point was that questions should be judged on their individual merits, not relative to other questions. That is consistent with the proposed grandfather clause, and consistent with the philosophy of Stack Overflow. As sth put it, if a deleted question is better than an open question, perhaps that means that the open question simply slipped through the cracks and should be closed/deleted accordingly. –  Aarobot May 25 '10 at 21:06
    
@Aarobot: That's fair enough. I fully agree with that argument. In fact, it was the same tone I proposed yesterday in this question. Should we open them both, or delete them both? –  Daniel Vassallo May 25 '10 at 21:08
5  
@Lance: Community Wiki is a failure for its original purpose, as far as I can tell. I don't see widespread editing of CW questions or answers. However, at least a certain chunk of the community has adopted it for other purposes, which is the sort of thing you get in a community-driven site. That something like this would happen was actually fairly predictable; whether it's a good thing or not is another question entirely. –  David Thornley May 26 '10 at 14:32

I landed on this thread because I looked for the reason I couldn't delete my faltering answer. I understood from Jarrod that this was a buglet, will be fixed later tonight.

Makes me wonder though, couldn't this have been handled a different way? Coming up with a complex set of rules is definitely a programmer's delight, and a dbase engine's curse, but I'm having a hard time already understanding why things work the way they do. The bizarro way rep works jumps to mind.

So there are 17 pages worth of contributors that have gained the "delete thread" right. I trust and hope that the trigger-finger delete vote is exercised by but a few of them. Couldn't you just get in touch with them and, in a friendly way, remind them that gained powerz is inevitably tied with gained responsibilities? And that deleting an answer by Eric Lippert is rather uncool?

Sort of a community coordinator job. Is Robert busy?

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The author isn't supposed to matter; the content is supposed to stand on its own. –  Gnome May 26 '10 at 2:26
2  
Insult away, but so far the evidence on this thread does not support the accusation of 'trigger happy'. Some excess, yes. A lack of consciousness of the issue of useful answers in duplicate question, yes. –  Rosinante May 26 '10 at 5:02
1  
Strong words. Well, the advantage of a machine making these decisions is that it doesn't mind them. –  Uphill Luge May 26 '10 at 10:01

I wanted to put in an independent answer to make a more controversial observation. The new delete rules make it harder to delete questions with more votes. Yet, the list in this question is a great source of pretty bad questions with plenty of votes. This, to me, suggests that the arithmetic of the new delete rule is a problem, as it makes it a diamond mod job to delete things like this. I dunno, perhaps the dev team considered the problem and decided that it should be a diamond mod problem to look at a high-vote question and decide whether the votes reflect value or muppetaciousness.

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we're happy to let deletions occur relatively freely at the low (<= 10) and no-vote end of the spectrum. When it comes to posts with a lot of votes, we need a more considered approach so good stuff isn't lost. Understand that I support deletions, but not when they're applied so bluntly. See blog.stackoverflow.com/2009/01/adventures-in-delclusionism –  Jeff Atwood May 26 '10 at 6:42
    
@Jeff it's a very strange day. I'm apparently completely on the wrong site of this whole business, as I've been more focused on 'broken windows' of bad questions and less focused on information destruction. Yet, I'm accumulating a pile of meta-rep in the process. I think I'll spend the next week just answering questions on the main site and backing off of all this debating. –  Rosinante May 26 '10 at 21:13

I object to the suggestion that if there are duplicate questions, the newer question must stay around for search indexes. Can't a separate page(s) be created, accessible by the search engines, to provide this index, without leaving the question alone cluttering up the site and continuing to send the message that it is okay, nay encouraged to post answers to duplicate questions?

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That's why we close dupes, so people won't post answers to them. When they're closed, they're still visible, still accessible by search engine, and nobody can post answers. What different effects would your proposal have? –  David Thornley May 26 '10 at 14:30
1  
@David: Obvious dupes still harvest new answers (and new upvotes) before they manage to get closed, which is encouragement to answer the dupe rather than answer the original question. It's a window that attracts more rocks, rather than deflecting rocks away. It is possible to keep the extra index without being a blight on the landscape. –  Ether May 26 '10 at 16:19
    
I'm still not seeing why dupes should not be deleted. I agree that they should be closed ASAP, and that we should encourage people not to post dupes. However, once they're closed, people are not answering them any more, and I don't see what harm closed and undeleted dupes are doing. –  David Thornley May 26 '10 at 21:37

Poking around from the bottom, focusing on C/C++:

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110113: pure noise and chatter. Sure there are answers, but who cares?

155743: ditto

1915: I don't think that the site wants to go here, but I wouldn't be terribly sad if this hung around.

406885: question about salarys. Just noise, I think.

2804252: 'please answer with your personal likes and dislikes of ...' (paraphrase) Noise and discussion.

101548: typography or noise.

3830: perhaps belonged on meta, but probably noise there.

Am I going about this wrong? I find myself clicking on the questions whose titles would have attracted negative attention from me in the first place. Would it be more useful to look for ones that might actually contain value?

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The more fundamental problem is that I think there is a deletionist bias in this and any other scheme where people earn administrative privileges by their behavior on the site.

Not to say this is intentional -- just that the type of people who are willing to do things to gain administrative privileges are those who are most likely to want to use them.

I think it is also the case that the deletionist argument ("This is trash that does NOT belong on the site!") is more forceful than the inclusionist argument ("Still, wouldn't it be nice to have a place where we can discuss the future of fuctional programming.")

Imagine if decided that anyone who accumulates a certain number of "citizenship points" was issued a badge and gun and made a police officer. My suspicion is we would see a lot more tasings. That's essentially the dynamic in play here.

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1  
If people would just try to get rep to get more power, they should stop after they reach 10k. The vast majority of users seems to continue to (actively) earn more rep after they reach 10k, so for them the power gain doesn't seems to be the driving motivation. –  sth May 26 '10 at 18:53
    
I'm not arguing that all or even most high-rep users are in it for power. But I think some are. Which is kind of how the system is supposed to work. If I do a raffle for a sports car, the contestants are going to be skewed toward sports car enthusiasts. In this case, the "prize" is the ability to delete posts and other deletionist type activities. Which I would suspect would attract deletionists. –  JohnMcG May 26 '10 at 19:00
    
Sorry, you're police analogy seems to be suggesting that giving power to people because the sign up for power is better than giving power to people because they've done good works in the community. Really? –  dmckee May 30 '10 at 21:09
    
Has any community adopted a point-based system alone? If this is such a great idea, you'd think some community would have embraced it. There needs to be some human judgement involved. –  JohnMcG May 31 '10 at 21:05

Trust the community, and just delete them all. If a burning need for the information surfaces again, someone will answer it.

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I looked over the titles alone and these are my votes for useful questions.

72406     1080      13931     What development book made the most impact on you as a developer?
53264     347       3312      What Is the most beautiful code you have ever seen or written?
1946925   139       1446      Forbidden to use for loop!
139621    136       1357      Merit of screencasts vs text-based documentation?
2821983   106       854       What's the Java equivalent of the term "pythonic"?
6396      94        1923      Which Programming Language Should I Learn?
2090568   82        444       <br /> or <br/>?
20965     81        2111      What programming books do you recommend?
2782445   78        521       Should I bother with C++ or go straight to C#?
2428816   78        740       How long is a CS degree good for?
124542    71        743       So in 'good' Python do you have to type every space individually?
877149    65        489       What activity should be on every programmer's daily list?
2782964   55        425       What does this line of code do?  "variable = condition ? true : false"
2793543   55        778       Do people still use Unions in C and C++
535089    55        920       Do ternary operators increase complexity in programs?
2714980   54        401       Brackets or no brackets for one-line statements ?
130575    52        1134      What's a good free bug tracker for a small shop
2818928   51        483       What does "===" mean?
161286    48        861       Most amazing piece of code you've ever seen
1207687   47        417       Should PDF files generated from LaTeX source files be under version control?
2537760   44        586       Premature optimization is the root of all evil, but can it ever be too late?
2848368   43        663       Why do some languages not use semicolons and braces?
84564     42        1449      Which java web framework you use in your day job ?
76630     41        1518      What is the single most effective way to keep from getting Slashdotted
171527    40        1088      Best console-based (no GUI) code editor?
833946    39        2750      In C# will the Finally block be executed in a try, catch, finally if an unhandled exception is thrown ?
2732589   38        524       How to emulate OOP with C?
2762287   36        325       Why does PHP have a bad rep?
2838054   33        291       How would I create a random number?
2367939   33        367       Why is ++x preferred to x++?
56147     32        2584      What is your favorite regex editor?
2385745   28        298       what is the use of private constructor in C++?
2754537   26        389       How can I demonstrate the benefits of abstractions to an old-time C programmer?
2755830   25        251       Is the web still 100% Stateless?
2821778   23        239       efficient algorithm to test whether a given number is part of the fibonnaci sequence
2810801   23        307       Circular linked list
87696     22        555       Are unused Using directives expensive?
2659833   21        143       What makes good software good?
2796839   21        183       How would I reverse an array of characters?
2758217   21        190       [C] Memory Address Comparisons
2606763   21        259       Greatest of Two Numbers Without Using A Relational Operator
1767048   21        272       If C# is type safe why is this possible without casting?
1085644   21        290       The difference between using == and is.
2852701   21        357       Small utilities useful while programming
1774676   21        403       Execute code in if-else statement 
2759742   21        426       My next programming Language
2714133   21        473       I would like to learn C++, what is the first step ?
166540    21        845       Which is the most useful UML diagram?
165358    21        1071      What project task manager / bug tracker do you think is best?
94558     20        467       What's your favorite programming blog?
180108    20        1304      Best practices for using the 'this' keyword in C#
2758888   19        187       what is this weird icon in my C code ?
1234467   19        500       Parsing logfiles and applying logic - any suggestions?
650362    19        566       Probability of choosing marbles
2763272   18        140       Web application performance: PHP or Python?
2815559   18        147       What are the differences between the ASP.NET tags?
1778815   18        174       How should tertiary institutions teach programming ?
2876653   18        180       How does Java pick which method to call?
1678157   18        196       Why is Visual C++ complaining about a variable I think I've defined?
1842580   18        244       When should I call the Java garbage collector?
2740462   18        255       In C#, why should I use the 'var' data type?
2812560   18        256       this == null; surely not, but yes
1056233   18        363       What best describes clean code?
51702     18        939       Suggestions for free diff tools for Windows
206888    18        4636      What to choose on Windows: Strawberry Perl or ActiveState Perl?
2811995   17        144       Can someone elegantly explain a js closure so it sticks in my head.
2847382   17        147       What is the difference between === and == in PHP?
629032    17        879       Split a string into characters
165554    17        940       How can you make a fair decision with an unfair coin?  (interview question)
317499    17        1047      What is the best software for code-merge that you seen?
65378     17        1092      Is .net really a good choice for mission critical code?
205901    17        1914      C# Equivalent to Java's BigInteger
2793826   16        112       Python: combine two neighbor list components
124122    16        1337      Single return or multiple return statements?
2785612   15        178       C++ - what does the colon after a constructor mean?
2768798   15        236       dimension ||  pointer pointer
205691    15        361       New automatic properties in c# 3.0, what's the benefit?
53455     15        486       Why should I use ++i?
573352    15        748       I am considering implementing the RPXNow OpenID selector - can I avoid vendor lock in?
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