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Why were historically significant questions deleted?

Why did this—moderately successful (close to 50 upvotes, 30 favourites, accepted answer with 100+ votes)—community wiki question get deleted?

During the training and consultancy part of my work, I bump into people asking this question all the time.

Maybe https://softwareengineering.stackexchange.com/ is a better place, but why was the question deleted?


Reading back the deleted question, my main objections are:

  • you lose good answers (that try to undo the work of not so good questions)
  • you delete heritage (I know, you cannot really 'delete' on the internet). In the teaching part of my job, annotated bad things can be even more informative than only good things.
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    Old questions that are off-topic or unanswerable (ie. not a good fit the the Q&A format) end up being pointed to as "why is this open but my similar question got closed" - not a good thing. – Oded Feb 21 '12 at 17:22
  • I understand that, but that is a very good reason to edit the question into a good format. – Jeroen Wiert Pluimers Feb 21 '12 at 17:41
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    That question can't possibly be edited to make it good, and it has dozens of horrible answers already. If you could conceive of a "good" version of it (that asks about some specific aspect of version control) it should be a different question. It's also probably already been asked. – Andrew Barber Feb 21 '12 at 17:43
  • Odd that Mark Trapp hasn't been by with his Vader pic after the suggestion of moving this to PSE :-D – Adam Rackis Feb 21 '12 at 18:13

Because some time ago the standards of what's acceptable for Stack Overflow and what's not changed—for the better. Open ended questions like this are no longer acceptable.

Unfortunately, people decided that this meant that old, extremely popular questions with good information needed to be purged and deleted. Supposedly these questions create "broken windows" that lead other people to believe that similar questions can be asked today. Apparently this has caused numerous meta threads where an OP will come here to meta to complain and ask why their open-ended list question was just closed when this one over here still exists.

Granted, I've never seen any of these meta threads, but I'm sure they exist.

I apologize if this post has come off as snide, but this trend of purging Stack Overflow's history is one of the dumbest things I've seen—more so even than the title filter.

There's been a lot of talk about moving all these old questions to an archive, and Jeff has hinted that this may be in the cards, so let's hope.

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    @Robert - did you read the accepted answer thereto? It's golden. – Adam Rackis Feb 21 '12 at 17:56
  • @RobertHarvey please let's keep this discussion constructive. – Jeroen Wiert Pluimers Feb 21 '12 at 17:56
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    @Jeroen - Robert's comment was fair - the original question was crap. But the top answer (at least, haven't read the rest) is extremely useful. This is the problem with purging old stuff like this - you toss the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. – Adam Rackis Feb 21 '12 at 17:58
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    @Adam: I copied the answer to the linked question, made it CW, and attributed the original author. stackoverflow.com/a/9382632/102937 – user102937 Feb 21 '12 at 17:59
  • @AdamRackis I disagree, but maybe my standards of 'constructive' differ. Fair enough. Most important is the 'baby bathwater' thing. +1 for your answer. – Jeroen Wiert Pluimers Feb 21 '12 at 18:00
  • @RobertHarvey thanks, now how does BillKarwin get his answer karma back? stackoverflow.com/a/251121/29290 – Jeroen Wiert Pluimers Feb 21 '12 at 18:04
  • @Jeroen: He can't. However, I left him a comment asking if he wants to reclaim ownership over the one I posted. – user102937 Feb 21 '12 at 18:08
  • @AdamRackis I wish I could +1 twice; this whole 'heritage' thing is so important, but I guess many people in the USA need to learn to value it. It doesn't help with their short history. Oh well, time will tell :) – Jeroen Wiert Pluimers Feb 21 '12 at 18:34
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    We're actively trying to change that heritage. Keeping it around kind of shoots us in the foot. It's like keeping slavery around in the south just because it's our "heritage". (Oh wait, that's been suggested. Never mind.) – Cody Gray Feb 21 '12 at 18:42
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    @Cody - fortunately the 13th amendment outlaws slavery, but just imagine how counterproductive it would be if Alabama, Virginia, etc, decided to start destroying historical records of the peculiar institution because of how embarrassed they were of their heritage? (Fortunately those people are (somehow) proud of their history, so we don't have to worry...) – Adam Rackis Feb 21 '12 at 18:46
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    @AdamRackis Indeed. I object against this change. I know what happens when you try to rewrite history. At the risk of starting a political or religious flame war: on many levels they try to have 'fear' reign in Europe as well as in the USA. In this SO case I sense 'fear' (quotes are intentional) of not-so-good answers. It is important to know that fear is a bad adviser. Any kind of fear. I know the Dutch have done really bad things in the past, but we won't erase that history, as it helps is to teach what not to do. – Jeroen Wiert Pluimers Feb 21 '12 at 18:58
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    @RobertHarvey: Thanks for reposting my content. How do I reclaim it, just by editing the answer so my name appears as its author? It's a shame I lost the upvotes (score is not the point, it was my top answer and I was proud of that). – Bill Karwin Feb 21 '12 at 19:01
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    @Jeroen: Sheesh. This isn't just a straw man, it's a pencil drawing of a straw man. History and heritage are such because the events they preserve are notable. Even Wikipedia abides by this convention; every article placed there has to pass through the crucible of notability. If it's not notable, it's not kept; not even an edit history is preserved. Worthless is as worthless does. – user102937 Feb 21 '12 at 19:03
  • @Bill: Copy-paste it into a new answer, and I will delete the one I posted. – user102937 Feb 21 '12 at 19:04
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    @RobertHarvey, on second thought, I don't see the point in restoring my answer in the question you posted to. It's identical to the question that got deleted, so it seems like it'll get deleted too, if the moderators apply the policies consistently. – Bill Karwin Feb 22 '12 at 5:02

Because it is not a question that can be answered with anything but a "yes" or "no" opinion.

The close reason was this:

This question is not a good fit to our Q&A format. We expect answers to generally involve facts, references, or specific expertise; this question will likely solicit opinion, debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion

Bad questions attract poor answers

A sampling of some of the 31 answers posted:

It's like asking, do I really need a condom? How safe do you need to be?


Yes! Do it. It won't hurt you.. I use blah blah blah

Good for you.

Convincing opinion here: linky

Links to a deleted answer in another (arguably duplicate) question, which reads:

There are no good reasons not to use version control. Not one.

Well, I'm glad we cleared that up.

Seriously, there was very little value in that question or any of its answers; it was mostly noise. This question, and its answers, are of far higher quality.

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    If the answers are so bad, then why not moderate the answers, then lock the question? – Jeroen Wiert Pluimers Feb 21 '12 at 17:40
  • I think the fact that a question has multiple pages of answers is often a strong indicator of "not constructive". The quality of the answers in this case put the nail in this particular coffin. – Andrew Barber Feb 21 '12 at 17:40
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    @jeroen: You can't polish a turd. – user102937 Feb 21 '12 at 17:40
  • @Jeroen The question begs for answers like those. The only "serious" answers possible: "Yes" and "No". Both opinions. – Andrew Barber Feb 21 '12 at 17:41
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    @RobertHarvey You don't watch Mythbusters, apparently. :p – Andrew Barber Feb 21 '12 at 17:42
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    For this question editing the title into "Why would a front-end developer need version control" would be a great start to improve the question. Don't get me wrong: being able to delete stuff is good, but being able to edit and comment is even better. – Jeroen Wiert Pluimers Feb 21 '12 at 17:43
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    My point is that by these kinds of deletes, you loose great answers too. I think there the current moderation system allows for better ways of handling this than 'just delete and be done with it'. – Jeroen Wiert Pluimers Feb 21 '12 at 17:44
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    @Jeroen: Did you see the question I linked? – user102937 Feb 21 '12 at 17:44
  • @Jeroen I don't think such an edit would be helpful. That is still an open-ended question, and what do you do with dozens of answers that suddenly are not relevant? And... that question has probably already been asked and answered, anyway. – Andrew Barber Feb 21 '12 at 17:45
  • @RobertHarvey I didn't, as I interpreted the underline markup on "this question" was the question I just asked (don't you love totally different markup very similar sites use). – Jeroen Wiert Pluimers Feb 21 '12 at 17:49
  • @AndrewBarber that's why I'm very much in favour of being able to merge questions and their answers. – Jeroen Wiert Pluimers Feb 21 '12 at 17:50
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    I think the accepted answer fits very well with this question: stackoverflow.com/questions/1408450/… Again: by just deleting questions, you also loose some great answers. – Jeroen Wiert Pluimers Feb 21 '12 at 17:51
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    @Robert Harvey: Busted. youtube.com/watch?v=3rax27_ZIVM – BoltClock's a Unicorn Feb 21 '12 at 17:53
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    @RobertHarvey: "Bad questions attract poor answers." But the value of StackOverflow is not the questions, it's the answers. Compare with Yahoo Answers, where the answers are frequently nothing but uninformed guesses, and the site is worthless. A good/great answer should redeem a naive question. – Bill Karwin Feb 21 '12 at 18:59
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    The moderators clearly think they know what they are doing here. As someone who values a lot of information that has been unceremoniously deleted from SO in the last two years, I think it makes the site weaker. SO is a great place to find out how to modulate your twinglies with a zingledorfer, on a tuesday. But it's become a much less good place for helping newbies, because 90% the questions that get Closed are from the Noobs. Which pisseth them off, so that they leave. And we all lose. – Warren in Toronto Feb 28 '12 at 14:19

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