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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
    Commented Feb 21, 2012 at 17:22
  • I understand that, but that is a very good reason to edit the question into a good format. Commented Feb 21, 2012 at 17:41
  • 4
    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. Commented Feb 21, 2012 at 17:43
  • Odd that Mark Trapp hasn't been by with his Vader pic after the suggestion of moving this to PSE :-D Commented Feb 21, 2012 at 18:13

2 Answers 2


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.

  • 1
    @Robert - did you read the accepted answer thereto? It's golden. Commented Feb 21, 2012 at 17:56
  • @RobertHarvey please let's keep this discussion constructive. Commented Feb 21, 2012 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. Commented Feb 21, 2012 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
    Commented Feb 21, 2012 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. Commented Feb 21, 2012 at 18:00
  • @RobertHarvey thanks, now how does BillKarwin get his answer karma back? stackoverflow.com/a/251121/29290 Commented Feb 21, 2012 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
    Commented Feb 21, 2012 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 :) Commented Feb 21, 2012 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.) Commented Feb 21, 2012 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...) Commented Feb 21, 2012 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. Commented Feb 21, 2012 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). Commented Feb 21, 2012 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
    Commented Feb 21, 2012 at 19:03
  • @Bill: Copy-paste it into a new answer, and I will delete the one I posted.
    – user102937
    Commented Feb 21, 2012 at 19:04
  • 2
    @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. Commented Feb 22, 2012 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.

  • 1
    If the answers are so bad, then why not moderate the answers, then lock the question? Commented Feb 21, 2012 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. Commented Feb 21, 2012 at 17:40
  • 2
    @jeroen: You can't polish a turd.
    – user102937
    Commented Feb 21, 2012 at 17:40
  • @Jeroen The question begs for answers like those. The only "serious" answers possible: "Yes" and "No". Both opinions. Commented Feb 21, 2012 at 17:41
  • 3
    @RobertHarvey You don't watch Mythbusters, apparently. :p Commented Feb 21, 2012 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. Commented Feb 21, 2012 at 17:43
  • 1
    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'. Commented Feb 21, 2012 at 17:44
  • 3
    @Jeroen: Did you see the question I linked?
    – user102937
    Commented Feb 21, 2012 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. Commented Feb 21, 2012 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). Commented Feb 21, 2012 at 17:49
  • @AndrewBarber that's why I'm very much in favour of being able to merge questions and their answers. Commented Feb 21, 2012 at 17:50
  • 2
    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. Commented Feb 21, 2012 at 17:51
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    @Robert Harvey: Busted. youtube.com/watch?v=3rax27_ZIVM Commented Feb 21, 2012 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. Commented Feb 21, 2012 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. Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 14:19

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