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I'd like to know why the thread Most common one-line bugs in C? got deleted. enter image description here

First it was closed as off topic and got migrated to programmers.stackexchange.com.
Now it's deleted in both sites.

Personally I don't think it's off topic and certainly it didn't deserve deletion.

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@Kate That's a different question for C++, the one referred to here is for C. –  marcog Mar 27 '11 at 17:20
@Kate: that is C++, not C. The C++ post refers to the (vanished) C post. –  Konerak Mar 27 '11 at 17:21
I'll have to take your word for it, because it's gone now anyway :-) –  Kate Gregory Mar 27 '11 at 17:39
OK @Kate, I posted an image. –  Nick Dandoulakis Mar 27 '11 at 17:50
Both questions have been deleted. They're "list of X" type questions and are therefore off topic for Programmers. –  ChrisF Mar 27 '11 at 17:53
Why is it on topic? Just because it talks about a programming language and not because it's a problem that needs a solution? –  random Mar 27 '11 at 17:54
Well, the question is off-topic for both StackOverflow and Programmers.SE. The FAQ is pretty clear about this: stackoverflow.com/faq –  Robert Harvey Mar 27 '11 at 17:55
if it's off topic then fine, close it. But why delete it? –  Nick Dandoulakis Mar 27 '11 at 17:59
Its not just deleted, but also locked, so we can't undelete it. Shame, beacuse I liked it. And yes it is offtopic, but this kind of question can have a high educational value for programmers. –  Toon Krijthe Mar 27 '11 at 18:15
@nick if it wasn't deleted, people would get the impression that such questions are ok to ask. We still get unhappy posts on meta asking why their question was closed when some other subjective question is still hanging around. –  Adam Davis Mar 27 '11 at 18:34

2 Answers 2

up vote 2 down vote accepted

tl;dr: fix it... or forget it

Review the guidelines for subjective questions:

  1. inspire answers that explain “why” and “how”.
  2. tend to have long, not short, answers.
  3. have a constructive, fair, and impartial tone.
  4. invite sharing experiences over opinions.
  5. insist that opinion be backed up with facts and references.
  6. are more than just mindless social fun.

The first two are explicitly about the type of answers that a question is expected to attract; the last three imply that the question itself will restrict answers to those that are constructive... and even #3 is geared towards avoiding flame-wars.

This should tell you something: no matter how much you might like the question itself, ultimately it will be judged by how it is answered. Unfair? Maybe. But like it or not, some topics, no matter how carefully-worded, will always attract answers that not only fail to contribute anything of real value but also increase the amount of noise to the point where they interfere with finding and ranking good and useful content!

Noise hurts

This question certainly accomplished that. The top-voted answer, with 106 up-votes, makes no attempt to explain "why", is short, and cites no experience (either personal or a publicly-verifiable instance as requested in the question). The first answer to even come close is on page 2, with only 2 votes... And even this doesn't directly cite anything more than someone else's list of personal favorites. This is a pretty clear sign that despite its author's best intentions, this question is simply attracting "bikeshed" participation - answers are being posted and ranked based on familiarity, with little effort being made to write or judge them based on the criteria set forth.

The question was migrated to Programmers', perhaps in the hope that, since the site has struggled so mightily with these sorts of topics in the past, its users would be better equipped to manage such a beast. But it continued to collect poor answers... and duplicate answers, a clear sign that respondents were no longer even bothering to read what had already been written.

If it can't be answered well, it serves no purpose

How is this supposed to help the asker or anyone else in his situation? If his goal was to find a huge dump of mistakes that he could sift through, there were plenty of them already available. He wanted a well-reasoned, well-referenced set of errors, and utterly failed to obtain it.

What then is the point? The question simultaneously obtained an unwieldy quantity of answers, and wasn't answered at all! We have the worst of both worlds, a time-wasting quantity of noise with precious little signal to be had at the end.

There is absolutely no reason for such a tragedy to be preserved on any of these sites. And so it was deleted.

Desperate times call for desperate measures

It's not the role of the site moderators to carefully review and curate each question and answer. Stack Exchange depends on users working together to produce high-quality content. When this falls apart, the best a moderator can do is stop the bleeding.

If you want high-quality answers, it's up to you to make it happen.

And here's your chance, should you choose to take it. I've undeleted the question, but left it locked to prevent further answers. If you honestly feel there's value to be had, then make it manifest - every answer to that question is Community Wiki, so edit in the "why", add references, personal experience, authoritative content of value to the teachers it is intended to serve. Combine answers. Down-vote poor answers. Flag duplicate answers. Take out the trash...

...Or don't. In 12 hours, if the question is still in the same sorry state that it was when I found it, it'll be deleted again. It took less than a day for it to reach that point - if it can't be salvaged in that time, then there's no point to seeing it live on.

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OK, Adam explained the reasons for the deletion pretty well, and I understand now why the moderators have to delete such threads. And sure in this case the OP requested for one-line bugs and that's exactly what he got. (a 12 hour limit to clean up the thread? Come on, Shog9. I'm not going to do this any time soon. Why did you toss the ball to me man, I'm chaotic good) –  Nick Dandoulakis Mar 29 '11 at 22:24
@Nick: I'm not actually suggestion you do it. Or even that you do it. More that... It's a big job, and no one wants to do it. It's easy and quick to collect a bunch of responses to a question like that, but it takes dedication and... tedious, thankless effort... to make something like that actually worth keeping around. If there were someone - anyone - ideally multiple anyones - willing to put in that effort, then it could in theory find a home on SE, but... –  Shogging through the snow Mar 29 '11 at 23:14
oh, ok. I misread the last part :) –  Nick Dandoulakis Mar 29 '11 at 23:30

There are an infinite number of answers for that question.

There is no way to objectively select one answer as the correct answer.

It's a me-too question which encourages people to add their own answer.

In other words, it's an open ended question that suitable for a discussion site, not the question and answer site that stack overflow has become.

The reason such questions are discouraged is primarily to avoid lowering the signal to noise ratio. Such questions are easy to create, and easy to answer, so if the site allows them, there'd will always be several on the front page. This lack of focus on questions that can be answered will push away many of the experts that have grown disenchanted with other forums where the topics are not narrow and well defined.

There are many discussion sites where such questions are tolerated and even encouraged, and where the site is set up well to support discussions(as opposed to the question and answer format). If one really enjoys such topics there are many places for that.

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A lot of people originally thought when the site first came out that we could make it work. We added community wiki in an attempt to quell disputes about rep shoring on such questions. Unfortunately we found that it really did reduce the signal to noise ratio on the site, community wiki actually encouraged people to post such questions, and we've had to backpedal on that stance. If you carefully craft your question, you can get the same information without it encouraging a million answers. –  Adam Davis Mar 27 '11 at 18:30
really good answer. Thanks. –  Nick Dandoulakis Mar 27 '11 at 18:41
I thought that the whole point of P.SE was that it is for "expert programmers interested in professional discussions on software development". And this question seems to fit squarely within that tag line, without obviously falling afoul of the Programmers FAQ. –  Gabe Mar 28 '11 at 1:59
@Gabe There are constraints on what kind of questions Programmers welcomes. Shog9's answer covers that in more detail. –  Anna Lear Mar 29 '11 at 17:43

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