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I was shocked when it was suggested in the P.SE Migration that many off topic questions that are hang overs from the original SO or others either get moved or deleted. But with over a million questions, do closed questions really detract from the users experience?

Lets take the famous cake question. Is it off topic for SO? Yes. Is it off topic for P.SE? Probably. But does it interfere with a users experience of the site? Not really. It would get buried under so many on topic questions for your search that it would rarely be seen.

Delete spree's like this worry me since so many links will get broken (not just from SO, but from others as well), you loose lots of history, and it doesn't benefit anybody. The question is still in the database for the 10k's, its still going to be requested, and most people can't access it. Who wins here?

So for my question: Do closed semi-ontopic questions really detract from SO? Note that this is only for SO since it has such a large batch of questions

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What are you talking about? This is the real "famous cake question": stackoverflow.com/questions/2420689/… Accept no imitations! –  Pops Dec 12 '10 at 2:08
    
@Popular Opps, wrong cake question. Sorry –  TheLQ Dec 12 '10 at 2:09
    
hey, I was just kidding, yours was perfectly legit too. You didn't have to edit.... –  Pops Dec 12 '10 at 2:14
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3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

The blog post The Stack Overflow Question Lifecycle defines the properties of questions that should be deleted. Quoting:

Why would you delete a question? Isn’t closing it enough?

  1. Some questions are of such poor quality that they cannot be salvaged. They’re literally nonsense. Not every byte of data that is created in the world is infinite and sacred.
  2. Some questions are so incredibly off topic that they add no value to a programming community.
  3. The mental cost of processing these closed questions is not zero, particularly for users who are actively engaged and scanning questions to find things they can help answer.
  4. If users see a lot of closed questions, they’ll note that we don’t enforce the guidelines, so why should they? Without any final resolution, asking questions that get closed becomes something we are implicitly encouraging — a broken windows problem. If this goes on for long enough, we’re no longer a community of programmers who ask and answer programming questions, we’re a community of random people discussing.. whatever. That’s toxic.
  5. If enough of these closed questions are allowed to hang around, they become clutter that reduces the overall signal to noise ratio — which further reduces confidence in the system.
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All of those are based on the assumption that closed questions are a significant part of most searches. My question here though is if we have so many incoming questions that the closed ones get buried. –  TheLQ Dec 12 '10 at 4:55
    
@the see dmckee's answer here –  Jeff Atwood Dec 12 '10 at 5:02
    
Well, fair enough I guess –  TheLQ Dec 12 '10 at 5:04
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The presence of very highly voted off-topic question on the leader board gives some well meaning new comers the wrong idea about what is on-topic here.

While there was no alternative we were just stuck with them: to much effort and emotional attachment and good info. But now there is a legitimate place for them.

Why should we have off-topic question dominating the leader board?!?

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I'm generally fine with leaving old posts alone even if they would get closed today; you can't retroactively try to change the entire site to conform with the current practices.

However, the main problem with letting those questions stay is now every time somebody's nonsense question gets closed as NaRQ they comment with "THAT IS SO UNFAIR YOU GUYS LEFT THE CAKE QUESTION OPEN!!!!!", and there's a whole comment thread about how SO today isn't the same as SO a year ago that culminates in a useless meta post about 3k users abusing their ability to close. Not that that's a reason to get rid of those questions -- as I said I'm fine with them -- it's just a way that those posts cause problems.

All the highest voted questions being "poor" also tends to give new users a wrong impression about the site; I ignored SO for ages because I mostly heard about it through programming.reddit, and 100% of the posts I've ever seen there sucked. I finally ended up on SO through a search engine link for a problem I was having and was downright shocked at the quality of the answers I found

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I have a feeling that your referring to my earlier question about the "How to do X in every Language?" question (both seem of been deleted unfortunately). –  TheLQ Dec 12 '10 at 2:06
    
@TheLQ I don't remember that question, but I would classify it as one that should be closed, yes. There are thousands of similar examples though –  Michael Mrozek Dec 12 '10 at 3:15
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