I'm learning about perl, and came across this answer: https://stackoverflow.com/a/3589995/191463 the first sentence makes it sound like the first link would be very useful for someone trying to learn perl. However the question that post links to has been deleted after being closed.

Thankfully I asked a simple question about Objective-C a while ago, and got over 400 upvotes, so I have the required reputation to view deleted questions, so this is no major problem for me. However other people aren't so lucky. (In fact generally speaking the idea of reputation is that people who know more have higher reputation, compare Jon Skeet to a kid who's just starting out programming, so the people who are able to see these questions will typically need them less than those that can't see them)

The question was closed, it's not going to have any further activity and it's not going to clutter up the site. And closing is enough to discourage future questions like it (even though often they are useful)

Everyone hates finding dead links to other sites, sometimes with a bit of Googling and luck you'll find the content elsewhere, that's not the case here. Dead links are evil, Stackoverflow should not be making the internet worse.

The consideration for deleting a question should be: Is it spam? If it is delete it. If it's not does the question help make people better programmers? If it would don't delete it. If it wouldn't are you sure it's not spam...

TL;DR; Dead links are worse than a slight increase in similar questions.

  • 1
    Mostly tangential; I disagree that closing is enough to discourage future questions, but I also don't think that's the main purpose of closing. Next, deletion serves other purposes; it stops the dilution of the desired content (ie reduces noise). Feb 12, 2014 at 20:56
  • 1
    The "dead links" problem is a valid one, though. I still think SE "solved" that in the worst possible way.
    – Pekka
    Feb 12, 2014 at 20:58
  • 1
    I do agree with @Pëkka that it feels like the dead links could be handled better. Feb 12, 2014 at 21:00

2 Answers 2


Not deleting questions won't have any effect.

Not true. It will have the effect of encouraging people to ask similar questions, even if it has a historical lock explaining why it's not the sort of question that should be asked now.

Book lists aren't allowed as questions. Some are in tag wikis. You could change the link to point there if the one for perl seems useful to you.

  • Book lists as questions are more useful as questions because the voting gives an indication of how many people found it useful, and people comment on the books in the comments section. A simple list on a wiki is just that, a simple list.
    – Jonathan.
    Feb 12, 2014 at 21:00
  • 2
    @Jonathan. If your intent is to discuss the validity of 'list' questions in general, I think you've taken the wrong tack with this question. Feb 12, 2014 at 21:01
  • 2
    @Jonathan. It has been discussed to death the types of problems that these book lists have, but this recent discussion should at least give you a starting place.
    – Servy
    Feb 12, 2014 at 21:01
  • It was not my intent, my intent was to focus on dead links to deleted questions. however this answer focused on book lists.
    – Jonathan.
    Feb 12, 2014 at 21:02
  • @Jonathan. this is by no means a new thing, it's not my rule, and this answer isn't the place to settle it. But read meta.stackexchange.com/questions/113759/… and meta.stackexchange.com/questions/144359/… first Feb 12, 2014 at 21:02
  • @Servy, I said gives an indication, not definitive. What's more of an indication, tens/hundreds of people voting vs one or two people deciding on the order on the wiki?
    – Jonathan.
    Feb 12, 2014 at 21:03
  • @Jonathan So your question essentially is "Should we be deleting questions if that breaks internal links to them?"
    – Bart
    Feb 12, 2014 at 21:03
  • @Bart, not just internal links. any link to them from anywhere on the internet. Also you have to consider future links to them. so checking if it is linked to before deleting them would be a step in the right direction but not ideal
    – Jonathan.
    Feb 12, 2014 at 21:05
  • 2
    Well, we can't be held accountable for external links going dead because they lead to deleted content. If the content is not good enough to be on the site, it has to go. And if you think there's something of value in them, just host the content somewhere yourself. That's what happened to several such "valuable content" questions.
    – Bart
    Feb 12, 2014 at 21:07
  • @Bart, Yeah if it's spam it goes, questions like the one I'm talking about are not allowed strictly by the definition of the site. But they provide useful information relevant to programming. If I ask a question about cooking here on SO, it's more off topic than this book list question, yet it gets migrated to the Cooking SE and the link is not broken. Why should a completely off topic question get better treatment than one that is on topic, just not technically in the scope of the site?
    – Jonathan.
    Feb 12, 2014 at 21:18
  • @Bart, also me (or anyone) hosting deleted questions to save them for future users is not that helpful. The link will still be dead, and barely any users will end up finding the content, as these backups are no well known. If there was an official one, where questions could get migrated to (e.g. deleted.stackoverflow.com) rather than deleted directly then it would be ok.
    – Jonathan.
    Feb 12, 2014 at 21:20
  • 7
    @Jonathan. you didn't happen to find the deleted book list and now are wondering who might have linked to it. You found an answer that linked to it. Fix that answer. Don't try to solve the general problem, because the general solution is that the world should not point to offtopic questions as definitive and useful resources. We can't edit the world, but you can edit that answer and any others you meet that were using the deleted resource. Feb 12, 2014 at 21:25
  • Maybe he linked to the question before it was deleted/marked as off topic? Which is easier, finding all the dead links to that question on the internet and fixing them, or just not creating the killing the links in the first place?
    – Jonathan.
    Feb 12, 2014 at 22:02
  • 1
    @Jonathan. I am sure the link happened before it was marked as offtopic but that's not the point. If you're going to link to something, you take the chance it might go away. In the case of an SO question, you should be able to evaluate that. This particular question is a bit of an edge case because in the past it was if not on topic at least tolerated. Anyway, there is a handy Linked section on the right of the deleted question that can help you find links pointing to it, which you can fix to point elsewhere, and those brought from outside will have to search SO for "perl books" Feb 12, 2014 at 22:16
  • 1
    @Jonathan: So if I understand you correctly, I should be able to post a question that has very marginal (if any) value, link to it from any other question (on SO or externally, such as from a page on my own web site), and prevent it from being deleted eternally because those links exist? Hmmm... I see lots of potential for abuse from that idea, but absolutely no benefit.
    – Ken White
    Feb 13, 2014 at 0:41

I have to wonder if the premise of your question is wrong:

Deleting questions that would make people better programmers

The goal of StackOverflow is not specifically to "make people better programmers" but rather to serve as a question/answer site for programmers who wish to find answers to common and not so common specific programming problems. One side effect of the site is that regular use of it can help make folks better programmers, but again, that's not its primary purpose, and so this can't be the metric that is used to decide what questions get deleted or not. Don't get me wrong -- I'm not against helping programmers become better, but I do think it's important for SO to stay focused to its mission, to not dilute it.

  • 1
    It would make me a better programmer if I had the right tires on my car ;) Feb 12, 2014 at 21:21
  • @AndrewBarber: LOL. I'd be a better programmer if I could redeem SO rep for brews. And in fact, I'm going to suggest that on meta. Feb 12, 2014 at 21:23
  • Hmmm... That might make me a happier programmer. But probably not better. Feb 12, 2014 at 21:25
  • @AndrewBarber, I can back my recommendation with data: Ballmer Peak. Feb 12, 2014 at 21:26
  • 2
    Well I'm brand new to SO, so I'm glad rep isn't the only way to get brews. Cheers. Feb 12, 2014 at 22:57
  • @RichardNixon I suspect if it was the only way, us ♦'s would be doing a lot more work tracking down sock puppet voters! ;) Feb 13, 2014 at 15:02

You must log in to answer this question.

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