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In the SO Close Vote Reviewers chatroom, there was recently a discussion with @Shog9, @JonClements and a few others about this Stack Overflow question:

This question is very simply a request for an off site resource... with a score of 75.

In the ensuing conversation, there was quite a lot of discussion about the "off site resource" close reason for questions like that one and this Super User question and this Stack Overflow question.

These questions are clearly off topic and violate the letter of the site guidelines, but they have a lot of views and aren't really causing harm... well, except for all unnecessary answers they tend to attract. For instance, the first bulleted question has 8 deleted answers.

At one point, @Shog9 said:

The rules, the guidelines, the close reasons... All exist to make life easier for folks here. If we treat them as sacrosanct and immutable, unable to be interpreted or applied differently in different situations... then they stop serving and start being worshiped.
@Deduplicator says it should be protected (which it was based on the answer deletions); perhaps more
I could see a wiki-lock being useful at this point in time
I don't see the need to delete it though.
And when you close a question, that's what you're saying.

The thing is, though, questions like this one don't cleanly fall into the historical lock guidelines:

When is it appropriate to lock a question for historical reasons?

Questions can be historically locked when:

  1. The post is Off-Topic or Not Constructive, and
  2. The post is stellar, in spite of its off-topic nature, and
  3. There are a large number of views, upvotes and inbound links on the post, and
  4. The post is contentious; i.e. it has been closed and reopened at least once, or deleted and undeleted at least once

There are questions that are:

  1. Yes off topic but aren't harming anyone
  2. Not particularly stellar, but many have found useful
  3. Have a large number of views, but perhaps just high SEO and not really inbound links
  4. Only contentious among white-hats that want to follow the rules in a sacrosanct and immutable way

Moderators (on Stack Overflow, anyway) also don't seem very willing to apply historical locks in their current form. These flags also take much, much longer for moderators to handle, often days (whereas other flag types take mere hours at most). Here are three examples from my flagging history:

And so, I propose:

We should have a way that non moderators can do something similar to locking that isn't deletion.

It would be:

  1. Similar to protection, except it would prevent everyone from adding new answers, not just 1 rep users.
  2. Have a big banner saying that this is not a particularly good question, just like historical locks
  3. Would attempt to settle the debate on whether these questions should be "locked" or left closed
  4. This question's tags would prevent the tag cleanup script from running, so we could keep "off-topic" tags for posterity but users without tag creation privileges couldn't create them. Further reading: Tags that only exist on locked questions, should we treat these the same as tags that don't exist at all?

Open questions I hope to resolve in comments / answers:

  1. Would this "protected" status be one-way or two-way?
    • My vote: two way, as the idea is this a compromise state between deletion and not-deletion that could prevent open/close and delete/undelete wars.
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    One of the reasons a moderator-imposed historical lock is placed on a post is to stop back-and-forth close/reopen or delete/undelete cycles on a question. Would this be a one-way lock, in that people could vote to lock something, but the community could not vote to unlock? If it's two-way, this won't solve one of the fundamental problems historical locks were introduced to handle. – Brad Larson Jul 31 '15 at 18:50
  • @BradLarson It might still solve the problem even if it's two-way; this could be a compromise state for the people that want to see the site cleaned up and the people who want to see useful questions stick around. Plus, unlike deletion, people would not lose rep if this were to happen to their question / answer. – durron597 Jul 31 '15 at 18:53
  • @durron597 if the question was significant then people would be unlikely to lose rep anyway. You don't lose rep from posts older than 60 days scoring 3+ at the time of deletion. – ChrisF Jul 31 '15 at 19:15
  • @ChrisF Oh yeah. Deleted that line – durron597 Jul 31 '15 at 19:16
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    The problem with close-voting is that it often leads to deletion of good content. Have you though about how that could look like? (1) What you're proposing seems like closing questions without the option to delete them. Which are basically renamed close votes with specific reasons. (2) Lock votes could be introduced which could be issued after a question was closed. These votes would compete with delete votes and would prevent deletion after the lock is applied. – Artjom B. Jul 31 '15 at 20:01
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    @ArtjomB. Closing would be a prerequisite to this particular vote type. – durron597 Jul 31 '15 at 20:02
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I think that particular question is a rather lousy example to use for this discussion; as I said in chat, I'm not really convinced it's off-topic at all: the author isn't asking for links to free icons or favorite lightbox plugins; he's asking a question which should have a very short, very finite number of possible answers. This isn't hard to figure out, although it does require more than a couple seconds of reading; still, asking for changes to the system in order to save close voters the trouble of reading the questions they're closing seems excessive to me.

To answer your larger request... We already do have this:

This question's answers are a collaborative effort

When that lock is applied, the question can no longer be closed, reopened, deleted, or have new answers or comments added to it... However, any answers may still be edited in order to keep the information contained therein "fresh".

See also: We could use better management of popular, but "bad" questions

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    We do have that, but it requires a mod involvement. I'm specifically asking for something that 10k+ (or higher?) can do that doesn't need a diamond. – durron597 Jul 31 '15 at 20:16
  • There's no particular reason we couldn't allow trusted users to lock things, @durron597. The real question is, when would such a thing be appropriate? As you may have gathered, my opinion on this may differ somewhat from yours. – Shog9 Jul 31 '15 at 20:23
  • I've added some examples of things that I felt should be locked under the old system to the question and I think would be perfect for this sort of lock in the proposed system. I think Wisdom of the Crowd would prevail here, if we had the privilege. – durron597 Jul 31 '15 at 20:26
  • "... asking for changes to the system in order to save close voters the trouble of reading the questions they're closing seems excessive to me." That's assuming that close voters would make the effort fully read the question before voting to close, let alone consider consider editing the question, or asking the OP or even others for clarification. (NOT a condemnation of ALL close voters). – Kevin Fegan May 5 at 15:47
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We should have a way that non moderators can do something similar to locking that isn't deletion.

It's an interesting idea, but my first thought is how much of a problem is it for moderators to perform this task?
Is it a frequent or high volume thing, whereby reviewers could take some burden?
If not (and I don't believe it is) then I'm not really in favour at all. Some things can be user reviewed, some things need a higher authority.

You stated:

These questions are clearly off topic and violate the letter of the site guidelines, but they have a lot of views and aren't really causing harm

I'm not convinced that on average reviewers have enough forethought and consideration for all the potential parameters to be able to determine if a thread, which is "off topic" by definition, should remain "locked" instead of "off topic and on-hold/closed".

Such a scenario has too much potential for opinion, and difference of opinion in this case is bad.

I believe such decisions most certainly require a keen eye and good decision. And for me, that means moderators.
Moderators generally have more of an understanding of what the site/tag needs, and certainly has more of a drive to ensure highest quality outcome, more than the average user does.

Most people, whether you agree or like it or not, most certainly do make decisions with some personal interested in mind.
It's the nature of people.

Users reviewing might think "this post helped me, it's interesting, has many upvotes" etc "so I'll vote to lock instead of close as off topic".
These reasons are not valid in this instance.


This could be argued to easily be achieved with a review queue needing a higher rep and a good number of votes in favour.
But as we know, rep is not necessarily an indication of good decision making or knowing what is actually in the interest of the site.

Bad decisions made with the current things we review can be handled, as they have high volumes and frequency and so to-and-fro is not necessarily the end of the world.

But with a low frequency issue such as a thread needing to be "locked" instead of "on-hold", and the consideration required to determine between "locked" and "off-topic/on-hold", I think it should remain a moderator managed thing.

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    Perhaps, but Stack Overflow moderators at the very least seem very unwilling to lock things that I think should be locked. I have edited my question with three examples. – durron597 Jul 31 '15 at 20:24
  • @durron597 So, you disagree with the moderator? See what I mean by my answer? I'm not saying you are right or wrong, it's the disagreement which is the issue, and with a mod doing the locking, other mods/staff can say "bad choice" and it;s rolled back, once, job done. With reviews, things like this being back and forth and debated endlessly because of so many opinions is not ideal. – James Jul 31 '15 at 21:19
  • I'm on the fence about the moderator's decision in the current system, but I feel strongly that they would be appropriate for this sort of lock in my proposed system – durron597 Jul 31 '15 at 21:20
  • @durron597 Having re-read your question (there is a lot of info there, some of it background I know, but detracts from your actual idea maybe) I see your idea is not a lot like locking at all. You title "similar to locking" is misleading. Locking stops everything, edits, comments, voting, flagging to close, answers, the lot. It's essentially read only. Whereas your idea seems to be just to stop answers for questions which are off-topic. I'm not sure of the benefits of this, over the current "locking", and users being able to do it (as per my answer). – James Jul 31 '15 at 21:26
  • Well, it would be more restrictive than protection, that's for sure. – durron597 Jul 31 '15 at 21:27
  • @durron597 Protected is for a different reason. That's to stop spam and users unfamiliar with the site (new/low rep) from posting low quality answers on a high quality question. What you want is to take an "off topic" question and preserve it without being able to answer. I can see why, but I don't think community is solid enough to decide when this would be beneficial or good for the site. But as I always say, I'm but one opinion :) I'll be watching the question to read others' ideas :) – James Jul 31 '15 at 21:32

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