An "unlisted" question is deleted for all practical purposes, except it's visible to people who have a link to it. This would allow us to have a graceful way to "retire" questions about topics that are no longer relevant to the world here and now but have been in the past.

  • They don't have to be deleted from the internet; they don't have broken windows, people whining at each other or questions that just don't belong on the site.
  • They also aren't questions that you want indexed or otherwise readily accessible: I'm thinking questions that have become outdated and thus irrelevant as time evolved and new versions became available. Think "What is the difference between old style and new style Python classes" in five years or so (when the then-obvious assumption it's Python 2.5 the question is talking about has dissolved), or "How do I make a minecraft booster reset itself?" (which has stopped being relevant 1.5 years ago).

There's no reason to remove the latter kind of questions from the internet; there's no need to break links to such questions and there's also no reason to expose outdated (a.k.a. wrong) information to the internet.

As for how to handle the process of unlisting, the idea is also simple:

  • When a question is open, a successful "delete" vote makes the question go "unlisted."
  • When a question is closed, a successful "delete" vote actually causes the post to 404.

Additionally, this should go with a unlisted:1 search option available to 10kers to go with the deleted:1 search option available to moderators.

  • This is rather close to a historical significance lock, isn't it? I guess the exception might be that those questions are still available via searching.
    – Tim Stone
    Commented Jan 4, 2013 at 22:09
  • 2
    @TimStone Historical significance lock applies to questions that should be closed but aren't because they're special (see the note about how the existance of those historically-locked books questions doesn't mean more books questions are welcomed). Here I'm talking about questions that are acceptable except they are hopelessly outdated and irrelevant to how things are here and now. Think a question about the client side of a client-server application where the server has changed in a major way and now no longer offers the service you were asking about.
    – badp
    Commented Jan 4, 2013 at 22:12
  • I was mostly just considering the difference from the technical perspective, I agree on the semantic difference as things currently stand.
    – Tim Stone
    Commented Jan 4, 2013 at 22:14
  • @TimStone I don't see the need to lock such questions from editing, personally. I'm rather going for "deleted except it doesn't 404".
    – badp
    Commented Jan 4, 2013 at 22:18
  • Yeah, that's a fair point.
    – Tim Stone
    Commented Jan 4, 2013 at 22:21
  • 3
    I'm not sure how I feel about using the deletion mechanism for this, and have reservations regarding education and misuse for things that don't belong but people want to keep, but I am in tune with the spirit of why you're suggesting this.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Jan 4, 2013 at 22:28
  • I'm largely with @GraceNote on this. One drawback of your proposed implementation is the epic confusion that would arise around self-deleted questions. "What do you mean clicking 'delete' didn't delete it?"
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Commented Jan 4, 2013 at 22:30
  • 2
    @AnnaLear well, the current system isn't super obvious either. When one person self-deletes a post, the page goes pink but they can still see it and click undelete. Then they refresh it and it's gone forever. Except when they have 10k reputation. Under this suggestion the post would simply remain pink (unless the post is also closed).
    – badp
    Commented Jan 4, 2013 at 22:32
  • 1
    I think closed questions shouldn't be listed in search engines anyway, except for duplicates. If that were the case, the "too localized" close reason could be used for obsolete questions and it would hide them from view. Commented Jan 4, 2013 at 22:35
  • @badp I'm not saying the current delete system is all that great either, just that implementing unlisting this way could add extra confusion to an already somewhat unintuitive setup.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Commented Jan 4, 2013 at 22:37
  • 1
    This is honestly the best solution to the old, fun, "junky" questions I've ever seen. Brilliant. Un-delete, and un-list them. Simple. Commented Jan 4, 2013 at 23:31
  • @Anna - there are far simpler implementations of this than exactly what OP describes. I would just make this a moderator-only feature to replace, or work in conjunction with the historic lock. So deleted questions could be brought back, locked, and made unlisted. Would be useful for a lot of items on here Commented Jan 4, 2013 at 23:33
  • @badp The reason for locking these posts would be that because they aren't visibly bumped, nobody will notice if they're vandalized. A popular, widely-linked post that becomes unlisted would be a nice target for spammers. (Nevertheless, I obviously support this. When I made a somewhat similar suggestion I was imaging that it would be used mostly like what you're describing, but we ended up with the rarely-used historical lock. Leaving it at mods' discretion isn't cutting it.)
    – Jeremy
    Commented Jan 5, 2013 at 3:39
  • Related/similar: Show embattled deleted questions to the public as if they were 10k+ users
    – Pekka
    Commented Jan 5, 2013 at 21:54
  • 2
    I obviously love this, but I fear it will be rejected based on this answer. Still, this is addressing a very broken state of affairs on Stack Exchange. SE talks about making the Internet a better place and building a canonical archive of content (that everyone should link against, right?), but allows content to arbitrarily vanish and dead links to pop up.
    – Pekka
    Commented Jan 5, 2013 at 21:56

2 Answers 2


I can't see how this helps.

If something should really be deleted then surely it actually should be deleted.

If something should be allowed to stay on the site because it was relevant in the past then this is what historical lock is for, isn't it? By "unlisting" questions in the way you've described then we would deny users who might be helped by that old content the chance to find it and be helped by it. This is key for me; either it's useful in which case everyone should have the chance to make use of it, or it isn't useful in which case it should be deleted. I can't see room for a 'third way' between those two options.

  • 2
    Historical lock protects extraordinary questions from policy change and not factual change, as the description explains. It's not relevant to the discussion at hand.
    – badp
    Commented Jan 5, 2013 at 21:17
  • 1
    @badp then maybe there's an argument for adding a "factual change" lock. In any case, it doesn't alter the central point of my reply - if content is worth keeping at all then it should be accessible to everyone.
    – Rob Moir
    Commented Jan 5, 2013 at 21:26

All due respect but I really think that you have over-thought this one.

What you are proposing is already implemented as deleted questions. The only difference I can see is:

  • a different deletion/unlisting mechanism
  • the background color of the question won't be grey/pink/whatever.

So my question back to you is: why invent a whole new process and question category for this?

Why not just modify the system so that everyone (or just 10Kers) can search for deleted content (which is an oft requested feature that already exists for mods)? Why not encourage the community to go back through historic questions and ensure they are correctly version tagged and/or the versioning is obvious within the text of the question/answer?

I also have reservations about exactly what type of questions would qualify for this unlisted category. The information may no longer be relevant due to the progress of time, but why make it disappear to all except those who know how to use the right ninja options in their search? Why can't it be kept as it is, but annotated as outdated? The information isn't wrong as such, it is simply wrong when used in the wrong way.

In short, I think the system already has (nearly) everything required to deal with those old out of date questions. If a question isn't a candidate for an historical lock then we simply need the ability to search for deleted questions.


Information contained within questions/answers is only useless and out of date when:

  1. nobody is using it anymore, anywhere at all
  2. the question/answer is not correctly marked/tagged for the version of technology/whatever it pertains to

Point #1 is impossible to ascertain - how can you show that nobody uses it anymore? You can maybe do this with closed systems (like your Minecraft booter example), but how do you know when a particular version of a language is no longer used and the relevant questions should be unlisted?

The answer to point #2 is the same as it always was - the question/answer needs to be updated to disambiguate it from other versions.

This leaves just the fun and/or not constructive posts, for which we already have a process for the ones worth keeping.

So..... what problem are we really solving with an unlist feature? Keeping the above points in mind, how many questions would be candidates for unlisting?

  • 2
    Isn't the biggest difference that non-10k users can't see deleted content, but would be able to see unlisted content?
    – Kirk Woll
    Commented Jan 5, 2013 at 2:25
  • @KirkWoll That is exactly my point - one little tweak to allow 10Kers to search for deleted content would achieve what badp is proposing.
    – slugster
    Commented Jan 5, 2013 at 3:18
  • 1
    No, but I mean that completely backwards. I don't care (that much) about 10k users being able to search. I care about non-10k users not being able to view certain questions/answers. The problem, such as it is, is that there are questions that produce 404s, and only 10k users can see them. My understanding of this question is that the solution to this problem is to eliminate that divide for certain questions -- to allow all users to view certain questions, even if we downplay (or even want to "delete" or "unlist") their significance.
    – Kirk Woll
    Commented Jan 5, 2013 at 4:58
  • 4
    The point is not enabling people to search for deleted posts. The point is to enable people to delete a post without breaking all external sites linking to the page. There is no official 1-click way to annotate a post as outdated, and the other, editing, has several drawbacks: 1. it bumps the question and the incorrect outdated information within 2. it is a manual process, much longer than just voting to delete a post 3. outdated information pollutes web search results for no obvious upside 4. you retain reputation from deleted posts, so long as they are good enough.
    – badp
    Commented Jan 5, 2013 at 7:50
  • @badp I understand your motivation to clean up, but I think your suggestion is fraught with edge cases. How do you know the question should be unlisted? Information is only out of date when no-one anywhere is using it anymore - how do you know this is the case?
    – slugster
    Commented Jan 5, 2013 at 12:28
  • @slugster That's not true. For a real life example, consider a question about what happened in Star Wars: The Old Republic once you hit the level cap for a trial account. Star Wars: The Old Republic is now free to play. There's no longer such a thing as a "trial account" or a "level cap." The question is unsalvageably out of date and irrelevant, period. Similar arguments can be made for client-only games such as Minecraft, where 99.9% of the people just play the latest version (and the dev snapshots after it).
    – badp
    Commented Jan 5, 2013 at 21:20
  • Then surely the thing to do is to simply delete the outdated SWTOR question. What possible use could be served by the 'limbo' state? Where's the case where something like that is useful enough to be available to everyone who bookmarked it, but not anyone else?
    – Rob Moir
    Commented Jan 5, 2013 at 21:30
  • @RobM quoting Badp, The point is to enable people to delete a post without breaking all external sites linking to the page.
    – Pekka
    Commented Jan 5, 2013 at 21:52
  • @pekka I would suggest that breaking external links is not entirely a bad thing to do if the links are to a page that is "unsalvageably out of date and irrelevant, period" - if something is truly that useless then it should be disposed of.
    – Rob Moir
    Commented Jan 5, 2013 at 22:38

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