Earlier today I asked a question. It was very quickly downvoted and deleted, so I think only users with >= 10k and moderators will be able to view it. I just wanted some official discussion for future referece. (I cast one of the delete votes, so I'm not necessarily looking to have it reopened.)

The question concerned comparisons between C# and VB.NET, a very hot and contentious topic to be sure. These kinds of questions pop up every now and then, so I thought I'd post a Q/A which covered most of the bases, provided some links and provided a very neutral, balanced response to such questions. In the body, I tried to use some common phrases in the hope that the it would appear as a suggestion for users asking a similar question (using any of those phrases), perhaps guiding them away from asking it over again.

The community either did not understand that intent or disagreed with it. I know the FAQ pretty well and I can honestly say that the question was in violation of those guidelines in several respects. But there are examples of questions and answers which violate our FAQ and yet live on because they've been determined to have some benefit or value to the community. (Example: The Definitive C++ Book Guide and List where the justification for keeping it is: "despite this question not fully adhering to current moderation guidelines, it does more good than harm")

What is the consensus then? Is there any value in heading off a flurry (or even an annoying drip-drip) of future questions by going ahead and providing a Q/A for others to reference? I've seen this done before by high-rep users and moderators, though I've not been able to find any examples (so I can't say for sure what the circumstances were). What should the guidelines be? I would think a Q/A on a typically "not constructive" topic should provide an answer which effectively closes the door on any additional answers, but perhaps that would be too hard to do?

  • @AnthonyPegram - Thanks. Updated question to include the link. (Not even I can view it, which is too bad 'cause I'd like to retrieve the text so that I can put it in a blog article or something.) Mar 28 '13 at 17:01
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    You should definitely be able to view your own content, deleted or not, 10K or not. Tragic flaw in the system. Mar 28 '13 at 17:02
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    How exactly does the regex question violate the FAQ?
    – Mysticial
    Mar 28 '13 at 17:03
  • @Mysticial I wonder the same thing. The question has a "what do you think?" at the end, which is really rather subjective (unless on code review rather than SO) but that phrase can be removed entirely leaving an appropriate question, so I don't consider it a problem.
    – Servy
    Mar 28 '13 at 17:04
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    Here's the plain text version of your question and answer so you can have it for your blog. pastebin.com/JG4CnT0r Mar 28 '13 at 17:04
  • @Mysticial - I linked to the answer, which is extremely vitrolic and doesn't actually provide any meaningful answer. If you need another example, try this one: stackoverflow.com/q/388242/211627 Mar 28 '13 at 17:09
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    @Cyborgx37 The answer basically says, "no you can't do it." Which is a valid answer according to the FAQ. I won't go in the debate about whether or not it's a good answer. But according to the FAQ, it's a valid answer.
    – Mysticial
    Mar 28 '13 at 17:11
  • @BilltheLizard - Thanks. Got it. Mar 28 '13 at 17:13
  • @Mysticial - Updated the post with hopefully a less contentious example. Mar 28 '13 at 17:17
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    The FAQ is inviolable, unless you're the C++ Book List or a popular Question about Socks...
    – user7116
    Mar 28 '13 at 17:22

There are a lot of people that want to have debates over whether C# or VB is better. These debates very frequently end up being very heated, and only infrequently end up being helpful or constructive (in the more general sense of the word, as well as the SE-specific definition of the word).

It seems that you're saying that rather than letting lots of questions crop up, we should create one canonical question and let all of the people fight it out there, where it won't bother the rest of us who can just avoid the question.

Instead, we've chosen the strategy of just not allowing it at all, and shutting down any such discussions as soon as they crop up (even if they seem like a helpful, detailed, and otherwise non-trolling attempt at discussing the issue).

As for why, there are a number of reasons:

  1. If people see questions like this around, they'll post new ones. Both on the same topic and other topics. By having an example case in which it's allowed, people will think that such questions are appropriate in general, no matter how many times you tell them otherwise.

  2. The site just isn't designed for debates/discussions. Questions just can't support a detailed back and forth between two or more people in a question/answer format. Comments can't support enough space/formatting for detailed replies, and answers can only be a single response to a single post.

  3. It's a moderation nightmare. Such questions, as I've said before, very frequently end up quite heated, no matter how well-meaning they might start out. This means mods would need to keep a close eye on the content to remove/edit inappropriate content, which means that they're not spending time on other (more beneficial) posts.

  • I was kind of expecting to vote for it to be closed with 0 votes (to answer 1, 2 and 3), but the heavy downvotes sank my will to keep it at all. Mar 28 '13 at 17:04
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    @Cyborgx37 You shouldn't be posting a question expecting it to be closed right away. That's just asking for trouble. If you know that it will be closed, and that it doesn't belong on the site, then don't post it in the first place.
    – Servy
    Mar 28 '13 at 17:07
  • Appreciate the advice, although the lesson's already been learned. Just wanted some clarification since it is occasionally done and seems sanctioned by mods. Mar 28 '13 at 17:12
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    @Cyborgx37 1) The question wasn't in violation of the sites rules when it was first posted. It was appropriate at the time it was created and has simply been allowed to stay despite the fact that the rules have changed. 2) Such exceptions are very, very rare, for a reason. Everyone likes to think that their post is worthy of an exception. In pretty much every single case, it's not. 3) Those exceptions that are made are almost always a result of a discussion on meta first, in which it's determined that the post in violation of the guidelines really is needed, and to ensure it has good content.
    – Servy
    Mar 28 '13 at 17:15
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    @Cyborgx37: Indeed, that question even includes the text This question has historical significance, but is not a good example of an appropriate question. Read and learn from this post, but please do not use it as evidence that you can ask similar questions.. (Incidentally, perhaps a tag wiki would be a better place for some of the content in your deleted question) Mar 28 '13 at 17:18
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    C# vs VB is boring, I want Gorilla vs. Shark
    – gnat
    Mar 28 '13 at 17:58

This is extremely simple. You posted content you knew to be in violation of the rules, citing other existing posts which violate the same rules. These posts are closed, locked and sometimes marked as preserved content. You should not emulate them, since they are not considered suitable posts by today's standards.

Just because you provided an answer doesn't mean an otherwise unsuitable question is suddenly allowable.

  • Thanks - I was looking for some clarification. But in my defense, the "rules" are not nearly so clear cut as your answer suggests. Taken as a pair, I think my Q/A fit within the guidelines for a subjective question. I'm not arguing that it should not have been deleted (Servy's answer makes sense), but cut me a little slack - it was an honest attempt to plug a hole and add some value to the site. Mar 28 '13 at 18:03
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    @Cyborgx37: They're also a standard Gorilla/Shark question. Mar 29 '13 at 0:22

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