The original boat programming question very well known on Stack Overflow, and is now used as an expression to refer to any question that has nothing to do with programming, but is written as "as a programmer..."

However, the original boat programming question was deleted, and therefor is only viewable to users with over 10k rep.

My question is, why was the Original boat programming question deleted instead of being historically locked? That seems like it would be the appropriate thing for the question.

A historical lock preserves older content that was very popular when it was originally posted, but is now off-topic or otherwise out of scope for the site it is posted on. Historically locking a post ends the debate over whether a question should be kept on the site or deleted, and is often the final state of a question that has been deleted and undeleted more than once.

Can it be un-deleted and historically locked? I think it would be nice to be able to see the actual question that everybody is referencing.

  • 13
    The question was hard deleted, so it is not viewable to users with over 10k rep. No one can view the actual question, although there are screenshots of it linked in some meta posts.
    – ughoavgfhw
    Commented May 7, 2012 at 22:14
  • 2
    I agree that it should be un-deleted and historically locked, hard deletion be damned! With some effort I'm sure a mostly-accurate copy of the question could be reconstructed and inserted back into the database, albeit with votes missing. It must be done, for the integrity of the site!
    – Jeremy
    Commented May 7, 2012 at 22:29
  • I'm not sure why people are downvoting. I know on meta you can downvote because you disagree with a post, but it would be nice for people to at least comment as to why they disagree. Is it that they think it can't be done, or because they think it shouldn't be done?
    – Ephraim
    Commented May 7, 2012 at 23:07
  • 3
    I just arrived here for the first time, but I'd guess the downvotes are because you brought back a topic that has already been discussed exhaustively.
    – Pops
    Commented May 8, 2012 at 0:28
  • Actually, I downvoted because I strongly disagree that this question is worth having around. I don't think the "historical lock" feature should be cheapened by using it to keep around pure joke questions. Commented May 8, 2012 at 3:23
  • 1
    @TheEstablishment - "I don't think the "historical lock" feature should be cheapened by using it to keep around pure joke questions." - What exactly would you call this?
    – Ephraim
    Commented May 8, 2012 at 3:36
  • 2
    Wow, you found one example of a question that probably shouldn't have received historical lock treatment in the first place! What exactly does that provide? Nothing. Yes, to be clear, I'm against that one, too. Post a question advocating it's deletion, and I'll upvote it. Commented May 8, 2012 at 3:37
  • 3
    I can't subtract enough votes from this request...this is StackOverflow not Reddit (re: /r/IAmA/Boat-Programming-Aficionado).
    – user7116
    Commented May 8, 2012 at 14:42
  • 1
    @Ephraim RE: What's your favorite “programmer” cartoon?... Please don't. Part of the reason that the Historical Lock exists is to end the debate. The Programmer Cartoon question was debated ad nauseum, and it differs from the "Boat Programming" post in that it is actually a legitimate (if off-topic) question, not a prank. See also Stack Overflow is not a perfect model of its guidelines
    – user102937
    Commented May 8, 2012 at 21:11
  • @ughoavgfhw - I found one!!
    – Ephraim
    Commented May 8, 2012 at 23:59
  • 1
    That question was referenced in the Stack Overflow podcast, episode 50, from 1 h 02 min 43 secs. It can be seen at can be seen at web.archive.org/web/20100426125115/http://www.mattmcdole.com/… and kaeding.name/articles/2009/05/01/programming-at-sea. Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 20:18
  • Episode 50 is on SoundCloud. Commented Jun 29, 2022 at 9:14

3 Answers 3


The boat programming question was not just deleted - it was actually removed from the database.

There's a long and sad story behind it, but most of it is has been covered in the question you linked. Suffice it to say that there's nothing even I can do about it now, even if I wanted to.

However, as mentioned in the linked question, you can still find an archived version of dubious quality if you wish.

  • If the issue was with Atwood's answer, why not just delete Atwood's answer.
    – Cole Tobin
    Commented Oct 9, 2013 at 22:43
  • 5
    @ColeJohnson: Are you still bothered about it? It was hard-deleted years ago by someone who no longer works at SE. It was unprecedented, it has not happened since, and it is not likely to ever happen again. The question is no more. It has ceased to be. It's expired and gone to meet its maker. It's a stiff. Bereft of life, it rests in peace. Its metabolic processes are a matter of interest only to historians. It's off the twig. It's kicked the bucket, it's shuffled off this mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the choir invisible. It is an ex-question!
    – mmyers
    Commented Oct 9, 2013 at 23:06
  • 1
    No I'm not bothered by it. I was just wondering. -_-
    – Cole Tobin
    Commented Oct 9, 2013 at 23:12
  • @mmyers just put it back, digital means stuff can be copied, like when you delete stuff, it's not permanent as long as there is a copy (and there is) - get it?
    – Den
    Commented Mar 10, 2015 at 14:17

Because this part wasn't fulfilled:

The post is contentious; i.e. it has been closed and reopened at least once, or deleted and undeleted at least once

Basically, people have to actively fight for a question, the community has to be shown to be divided over it. Historical locking is thus a way to placate the two sides; if there aren't two sides, then it doesn't get used.

Also, possibly because it doesn't fill this criteria:

Does this question teach me anything that could make me better at my job? Can I learn something from it?

  • 5
    That requirement almost certainly would have been fulfilled, but for the deletion that mmyers notes...
    – Shog9
    Commented May 7, 2012 at 22:43
  • @Shog9 - Is there anyway it can be re-created from a (really really old) backup?
    – Ephraim
    Commented May 7, 2012 at 22:57
  • 1
    @Ephraim: if a backup that old even exists (and that's hardly a given), it's a pretty good bet no one knows where it is. Stack Overflow was a very different beast back in the spring of '09...
    – Shog9
    Commented May 7, 2012 at 23:31
  • This makes me sad..... :(
    – Ephraim
    Commented May 7, 2012 at 23:54
  • 4
    – phwd
    Commented May 8, 2012 at 1:19
  • 1
    @Ephraim: Don't look now, but I'm almost positive that Mr. Forum was trolling you. That question adds zero value to the site, and arguably decreases and cheapens the value of our existing content. There's a reason it was hard deleted and removed from the database. Even if it could be rescued by the team, I'm willing to be that none of them would be interested. Commented May 8, 2012 at 3:25
  • @TheEstablishment - I'm confused, am I missing something? Who's "Mr. Forum"? and what does it mean "he's trolling me"?
    – Ephraim
    Commented May 8, 2012 at 4:10
  • @Ephraim The guy who left this comment. And "trolling you" means he's being ironic. He's saying the opposite of what he really means/thinks. It's intentionally hyperbolic, which is the dead giveaway. Commented May 8, 2012 at 4:10
  • 4
    @shog it would no more have met that criteria than "How would I program on the moon?" or any other {insert absurd location here}. Wasn't asked in good faith. blog.stackoverflow.com/2009/04/joke-questions-please-refrain Also, the "picture" of the boat was sourced to a local Richmond, CA marina (oddly enough) and the IP of the asker didn't remotely match that, either. Commented May 8, 2012 at 8:06
  • 1
    @Jeff: I was referring more to the "contentious" requirement (which it seems is at least part of what got it featured in the podcast to begin with).
    – Shog9
    Commented May 8, 2012 at 14:07
  • 9
    @shog NOT THAT IM BITTER OR ANYTHING Commented May 8, 2012 at 17:21
  • 1
    @TheEstablishment Half ironic. Ideally, I would like to see it restored -- at least put back into the database for 10kers. However, I know that from the staff's perspective it's a ridiculous suggestion, so...
    – Jeremy
    Commented May 8, 2012 at 20:14
  • 3
    @Jeff: Wait a minute.... How would I program on the moon? Commented May 8, 2012 at 23:58

Maybe I'm dense, or just too literalistic, but I believe the answer to your question is that it wasn't historically locked because at the time of deletion historical locks didn't exist.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .