In the interest of making the internet a better place, some time ago a feature was added whereby old, off-topic questions that had stellar information in them could be un-deleted, and locked, with a message that read in part

This question exists because it has historical significance, but it is not considered a good, on-topic question for this site, so please do not use it as evidence that you can ask similar questions here.

A good example of this in action is with the strangest language features question

I think we should allow a broader range of locking behavior for other valuable, yet off-topic questions that aren't necessarily of historical value. In particular, when looking through my favorites list, I was sad to see that this question on Backbone.js vs. KnockoutJS (Stack Overflow 10K only) was deleted. Trying to figure how Backbone and KnockoutJS compare/complement each other is an extremely common search for web developers, and the top answer to this question is simply the best of anything I can find from Google—which is why I favorited it.

Ideally, I'd love to see this question undeleted, locked, but with a message that says something to the effect of:

This question, while off-topic for Stack Overflow, was asked in bygone times of looser standards, and happened to acquire great answers before being deleted. In the interest of making the internet a better place, it is being left open, and locked. Do not use the existence of this question as evidence that you can ask shopping questions on Stack Overflow; you can't.

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    Side question - can anyone tell me why the KO versus Backbone question claims to need 2 more undelete votes, but when I try to vote, it tells me a mod has deleted it, and can't be undeleted? – Adam Rackis May 1 '13 at 17:23
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    Gordon probably became mod after the 8 votes were cast. – Mysticial May 1 '13 at 17:24
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    @Mysticial - ouch - what a sneaky bug that is. – Adam Rackis May 1 '13 at 17:24
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    Also, the old adage of "if it's that important to you, host it somewhere else" still applies. Nothing is stopping you from taking it and hosting it somewhere else. – casperOne May 1 '13 at 17:31
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    @casperOne: I've heard that adage for the longest time now - has anybody brought up the fact that hosting off-site isn't going to change the hundreds of existing links still pointing to SO that are now broken? Maybe we need a feature that lets us create custom redirects from question IDs to off-site locations. – BoltClock's a Unicorn May 1 '13 at 17:33
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    Considering common misspellings, I wonder how many people would honestly think "looser standards" means "loser standards". – Daniel Fischer May 1 '13 at 17:43
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    @AdamRackis SO has said, from day one, that not all content, and not even all programming content, is appropriate on the Q/A model. Some questions, even very good questions, just can't be effectively addressed on this site. Saying that it doesn't hurt anything to leave it undeleted simply isn't true. When people see questions like this they try to emulate them, especially when they have hundreds of upvotes. People also try to add content, usually not of particularly high value to such questions, if they can't they get upset and come here asking for it to be reopened... – Servy May 1 '13 at 17:44
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    @Servy - I don't think I said that leaving it undeleted wouldn't hurt anything. I'm saying we need to have more nuanced, subtle, intelligent ways of not deleting good information, while also not giving the impression that these questions are on topic. I think this proposal strikes a reasonable balance. – Adam Rackis May 1 '13 at 17:47
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    @casper - agreed. Locks should only be for exceptional content. My point is that not all exceptional content happens to be of historical significance. I'm just saying that content can be exceptional for other reasons, and the current locking protocols don't reflect that. – Adam Rackis May 1 '13 at 17:48
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    @casper - honestly, if stellar content like this is going to be hosted on AdamRackis.wordpress.com then it might as well be deleted; more 10K users would probably see it on SO than would ever browse to my blog :) – Adam Rackis May 1 '13 at 17:51
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    @Matt You're assuming this is the only repository in the world that compares backbone to knockout. It just means that since this resource doesn't exist they'll go to another one instead. If someone hosts this information externally they could even be finding the same information, just not on Stack Overflow. – Servy May 1 '13 at 17:53
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    @Servy: Yet the reason everyone goes to Stack Overflow is because the other sites on the Internet do it worse, have wrong information, or are unreadable. Yes, there will be somewhere else which might have the same content, but we should be preserving good information. – Matt May 1 '13 at 17:55
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    @Matt The reason that SO has such great content, and can therefore be the place that programmers go to to find good information, is because it is restrictive in the types of questions that allows on the site. If we didn't restrict the scope of the site then rather than having even more good content, we'd just have a whole lot more crap to sort through to try to find the gems, thus making it harder for people to find good information. – Servy May 1 '13 at 17:57
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    but we should be preserving good information. - exactly, that's my whole point. Everything else is just noise. STOP REMOVING GOOD CONTENT – Adam Rackis May 1 '13 at 17:57
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    @Servy - that's a straw man. Nobody is saying that we should loosen our standards. The point is that old, existing, good content should be dealt with in a more intelligent manner than deleting it – Adam Rackis May 1 '13 at 17:58

Trying to figure how Backbone and KnockoutJS compare/complement each other is an extremely common search for web developers

Sure. And how much longer do you think that two-year-old answer is going to remain relevant to them if it's locked? Assuming it's still accurate now, of course.

Everyone wants that royal road to research results. "I haven't defined my problem yet", they think, "but it would sure save me a lot of time if someone just gave me the solution now anyway". They should totally drop that line of thinking and try jQuery ask specific questions.

That being said, I realize you're not just proposing this change for this specific question. So ask yourself this: if you have an answer worth preserving, an answer that offers on-topic, constructive advice useful to many readers... Why not just write an on-topic, constructive question to go with it? You could edit the original (closed, deleted) question, or even post a new one and then suggest that a moderator merge the two thus preserving the original answer... Without trapping it in amber as an immutable historical artifact.

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    Thank you for the thoughtful answer. I do realize there's an issue with obsolescence: maybe KnockoutJS will change next week. I think there are all sorts of creative solutions we could use for that, but I wanted to keep the question as simple and narrow as possible. On that note, though, maybe we could start to make CW relevant and useful again, and apply it so situations like this? – Adam Rackis May 1 '13 at 18:24
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    Moreover, we shouldn't forget that, yeah, lots of other sites may have content that attempts to answer this question, but the beauty of SO is that we have some incredibly gifted users, as evidenced by the fact that this particular question continues to have the best answers in town. Finding a way to allow it to stick around in an unobtrusive way would have considerable benefit. – Adam Rackis May 1 '13 at 18:26
  • I'm kinda coming around to ---Jeff's--- slhck's idea that we need a properly-integrated blog engine for moving this sort of thing into when it isn't likely to be salvaged. We'll be looking into this a bit further in the coming months. – Shog9 May 1 '13 at 18:28
  • That would be incredible. Are you thinking something like an SE—Wikipedia, that's editable by the community? – Adam Rackis May 1 '13 at 18:29
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    Guys, look. Shog is letting himself be influenced by Jeff's ideas (ideals?). That makes Jeff still sort-of in charge, right? Right?! – BoltClock's a Unicorn May 1 '13 at 18:36
  • @Shog9 If I edited that specific question to be more along the lines of "What's the difference between Backbone.js and Knockout.js, and what should I consider when determining when to use one over the other?", would that be enough to get it undeleted and possibly reopened? (I asked this under the main question, but Adam suggested I comment here instead since that's something a moderator would have to answer). I agree that the top answer there is great. – Rachel May 1 '13 at 18:57
  • That still sounds like a very broad question, @Rachel. If you want to take a crack at editing, I'll undelete - but expect it to be re-deleted at some point if it doesn't get re-opened. – Shog9 May 1 '13 at 18:59
  • Thanks @Rachel (and Shog) - I think I can polish that question a bit, so I'll take a crack at it. – Adam Rackis May 1 '13 at 19:01
  • Thanks Shog. @AdamRackis I made a quick edit to it, but feel free to edit it further if you think it needs it. The edit I did was mostly with the top voted answer in mind, and I tried to keep much of the OP's wording. I mainly moved the focus to Backbone vs Knockout, and removed the broad request for any other frameworks. – Rachel May 1 '13 at 19:16
  • @Rachel - there wasn't much to add. Honestly I really don't think the Grollia vs Shark analogy applies to this question. Thoughts, Shog? – Adam Rackis May 1 '13 at 19:25

I think that the historical lock should be really be a temporary state. The idea of keeping those pages around is that doing that is a disservice to the internet at large because it's a repository of good information. Okay, but then it's a disservice to the internet at large to have that information:

  • in a Q&A format that's just not suitable to the kind of information at hand
  • in a locked state that people haven't been able to contribute to for years and won't be for the foreseeable future.

Ideally, the information in those pages should find new houses. Either in a community Stack Overflow blog (why is that still not a thing that exists?), or in some sort of off-site community-run wiki site, or in other already existing places such as Wikipedia. It depends by the kind of question, really. Once this has happened and the information has been refreshed, the old boring stale copy on Stack Overflow should finally rest in peace.

Historical lock should be a temporary state that questions should linger around in for as little time as possible. It's, at best, a kludge; "this question is here but pretend it isn't! We don't do this stuff anymore! Please take a gander and leave as soon as possible. Gremlins are here."

In other words, what we need is less historic locks, not more.

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    YES! I've mentioned this before. Historical locks are nothing more than delaying the inevitable heat death of these questions. – casperOne May 1 '13 at 18:43
  • @casperOne: Not sure if intentional pun (since historical locks are said to "freeze" questions and answers). – BoltClock's a Unicorn May 1 '13 at 18:46
  • I love everyone who posted/commented on this answer! (Especially me!) – Andrew Barber May 1 '13 at 20:04
  • dawwwwwwwwwwwww – badp May 1 '13 at 20:12

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