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It seems that there are many questions that I'll term 'dynamic' as I'm not sure what a better word would be. This came out of finding this question here. The answers were fine, but they were for dated software which I'm not sure would have been answered the same day if re-asked today. So I did re-ask the question despite it already being asked 1.5 years ago since the landscape is now far different.

It would be great to more easily 'wikify' these long standing questions where people ask which the best/easiest/ranked software program for x problem is. I think having an accepted answer on these doesn't really make sense, and there should be weighting on the answers that takes time decay into account. This way, the best answers for the current time period can always bubble to the top.

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3 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Rather than re-asking the question, update the previous questions with new answers and comments if you can't edit, or add a bounty to them to encourage others to update them. Fragmenting things like this will only lead to a worse problem than simply leaving comments.

Even if the answers and question aren't updated, future searchers will read the comments and get the necessary information.

Unfortunately this whole class of "Please recommend X" are intrinsically time-bound, and thus don't fit really well into the framework stack overflow is trying to establish.

Note that the necromancer badge is one of the incentives stack overflow provides to encourage users to update old questions with new answers.

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I agree with this, but the problem becomes when something was really popular 2 years ago and gets tons of up votes. Then cut to today and product x comes out and is shiny and does all sorts of magic never possible before. There should be some way to discount the up votes on these types of questions over time. A way would be to give them some decay. –  Scott Mar 5 '11 at 0:27
    
@Scott that's why it's important to edit, add new answers, and comment on it. It's the most visible source of information now. –  Adam Davis Mar 5 '11 at 1:23
    
@Pollyanna: So which old question have you personally answered, where the new answer moved to the top of the answer list? –  Andomar Mar 5 '11 at 7:40
    
@Andomar I've received the necromancer badge 8 times. This badge is meant specifically to reward this type of behavior, so you can go take a look at how often it's awarded to see how often people get a significant number of up votes to new answers on older questions. As far as a specific example, heres one answer I gave a few months after it was originally asked where my answer floated to the top: stackoverflow.com/questions/222716/… but you can certainly find other examples using the data explorer. –  Adam Davis Mar 5 '11 at 14:08
    
@Pollyanna: Your example appears to be a bounty. A bounty effectively reposts the question to another inbox (the featured tab.) It's unlikely that the question will be bountied again when its answers become out of date. –  Andomar Mar 5 '11 at 15:28
    
@Andomar That's true, and as mentioned in my answer the bounty system is one way to encourage others to take another look at old questions. I'm not sure why you're fixated on examples, but here are a few others: stackoverflow.com/questions/23886/sql-pronunciation/… stackoverflow.com/questions/354254/… stackoverflow.com/questions/62188/stack-overflow-code-golf/… If you need more proof then I suggest you refer to the data explorer, and search for answers to old questions with more than 5 votes. –  Adam Davis Mar 6 '11 at 0:33
    
@Pollyanna: The examples look like questions that got inboxed somewhere (blogs maybe?) On SO, 88% percent of answers are less than a week after the question. A wikipedia style site would have the opposite result. –  Andomar Mar 6 '11 at 8:16
    
@Andomar You asked me for examples, I gave some, and you appear to be dismissing them out of hand without good reason. Whatever your standards are, I'm not going to be able to meet them. My answer is based on my experience, I assume you answer is based on your experience. I've provided examples. You have not. I'm very interested to see statistics backing your assertions up. –  Adam Davis Mar 6 '11 at 19:14
    
@Pollyana: There's a link to ODATA in my previous comment to back the statistic up. It's 88% only counting "newness" as inboxing; if I could count bounties and reddit/hackernews references, it would be even higher. –  Andomar Mar 7 '11 at 6:23
    
@Andomar I understand your statistic. However, it doesn't demonstrate that old questions are dead, that old dynamic questions are not being updated, or that answers to old question don't get upvotes. Of course 90% of the answers are going to be given to new questions. The vast majority of the old questions don't need updates as they are timeless in nature. Your statistic is an interesting data point, but it has little bearing on the discussion at hand. –  Adam Davis Mar 7 '11 at 15:35
    
@Pollyanna: Stack Overflow provides timeless answers to 88% of software question within 7 days? That sounds unlikely. In any case, most of the questions in tags I'm active in are duplicates. Everyone answers them; high rep people answer then f-a-s-t. The community has long ago decided that even searching for duplicates isn't worth the time. –  Andomar Mar 7 '11 at 20:58
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Instead of "dynamic" I think the word you're looking for is "subjective." Questions asking for best/easiest/ranked software for x problem are now discouraged. You've hit squarely upon the reason why. Most of them really only apply to that specific moment in time.

(Note that I'm being careful not to say that all of them should be discouraged. They just really need to be weighed carefully. If you're asking for a list of X, then that list needs to be able to stand the test of time.)

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This opens up a bigger question of what the community wants questions to reflect. Just because a concept becomes less relevant shouldn't mean that the question should be discouraged. I think these 'best way right now' questions are extremely important to every day tasks of programmers. There has to be a better way than simply discouraging what I find to be extremely helpful posts when they are full of recent data. –  Scott Mar 5 '11 at 0:25
    
@Scott: The community doesn't want people searching for "Best PHP framework" and finding an out of date Stack Overflow post from 2008. People who find that will just think SO sucks. We'd rather just not have that kind of question here. If the question is only helpful shortly after it's asked, then this just isn't the best place for it. –  Bill the Lizard Mar 5 '11 at 2:41
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The simple fact is that old questions are dead. They reflect the thoughts of the community at the time the question was asked. Attempts to create "wikipedia long-tail dynamic canonical" questions have failed.

Stack Overflow should welcome duplicates as the way to update itself.

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Duplicates, in and of themselves, don't fix anything. Now you have two answer-clogged search results to wade through... You can delete the old one, close it as a duplicate of the new one, or just update the old one. (Or avoid the problem entirely by skipping perpetually out of date questions) –  Shog9 Mar 4 '11 at 21:32
    
@Andomar The Wiki nature of stack overflow encourages keeping all relevant information in ONE location. For those that can't edit, they are encouraged to leave new answers and comments. If the old question is truly beyond use, then it should be closed and deleted. Keep in mind, though, that in some cases old questions should remain around. There are people still designing for IE6, and keeping those ancient questions around which are of no use to modern web development helps those who have to deal with old software. –  Adam Davis Mar 6 '11 at 0:36
    
@Pollyanna: The mistaken idea that SO is a Wiki results in closing well-meant questions as duplicate. This alienates new members by redirecting them to a silent forum. On a wiki, most activity is on a fixed set of pages. But the heart of Stack Overflow is the set of new, or newly featured, questions. –  Andomar Mar 6 '11 at 14:58
    
@Andomar I don't understand. Are you saying that pointing users to places where the question they asked is already answered is a bad thing? It gives them an answer by pointing them to where it's already been answered. –  Adam Davis Mar 6 '11 at 19:05
    
"The simple fact is that old questions are dead." I'd appreciate additional information on this "fact" as it is not clearly factual. –  Adam Davis Mar 6 '11 at 19:16
    
@Pollyanna: AFAIK questioners come looking for an answer from someone they can interact with. Answerers come to learn alternative solutions, and to become better by competing. Questioners should have the choice to accept a duplicate suggestion, but it should not be forced on them. –  Andomar Mar 6 '11 at 20:12
    
@Pollyanna: 88% of answers are for questions from the same week. The remaining 12% is spread out over 3 years. If odata could count bounties as "new", the stats would be even more skewed. –  Andomar Mar 6 '11 at 20:13
    
@Andomar You have a very unique view of what stack overflow is and what it should be. –  Adam Davis Mar 6 '11 at 23:45
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