6

It's a theme of my StackOverflow sessions that I always end up speedreading old solutions to problems, which is great - I can learn a lot that way, it's basically how SO is used by everyone ever, cool story bro.

But the thing is, these questions sometimes have answers with out-of-date advice, or solutions that provide a workaround for a feature gap that has since been filled in the language or library in question. It's a great solution, but it's no longer the best solution.

And sometimes there is a more recent (better) answer, but it's almost never pinned to the top of the question because an old (out of date) answer was accepted a long time ago. For instance, when there's a question about Express that is answered for v3.x, and someone adds a new answer for v4.x, the accepted v3.x answer seems likely to remain at the top even if the newer answer obtains more votes.

(I'm pretty sure I've seen people combat this by commenting on the old answer that there's a newer, better answer below, but that's not very effective.)

So here's the question:

What does SO do to try to keep question content good and relevant? Or is that problem not really in the feature domain of SO itself? (Like, keeping in mind that people will re-ask the same questions, is SO purposely designed to not have questions become a "source of truth" because dupes with newer answers will take their place anyway?)

I'm sure this question has been asked before, but I didn't see anything about it elsewhere.

As a corollary I should ask: What does it mean when a question becomes a community forum? I don't see that very often, but perhaps one of the intended goals of that distinction is to keep the answer relevant. (I haven't seen it used that way, though.)

  • If you want an answer focusing solely on Stack Overflow, you should probably ask for this to be migrated to Stack Overflow Meta. – HDE 226868 Aug 26 '15 at 23:16
9

You’re asking the million dollar question(s)… it’s also something that we are struggling with as the network grows and it’s something that we are actively discussing and working on.

The purpose of the sites is to have a great repository of questions and answers. Some answers as you’ve pointed out tend to go out-of-date as technology changes. That, however, doesn’t mean they are not useful anymore. It’s entirely possible that people are still using older technology and these older answers apply to them. As a result, we don’t want to get rid of them, but we need to find a way to maybe move the old answers out of the way or highlight newer answers to the same question now that technology has changed.

As you pointed out people add comments, they posting new answers with updated solutions but these sometimes fail to get attention.

Recently, I asked How do we encourage edits to obsolete/out of date answers? which touches on a lot of these issues. My focus was on encouraging edits to these answers by bringing them up-to-date somehow. By editing, we would have a repository of answers with older and newer solutions in a single answer to the same problem.

I’m also looking at other possible solutions, including maybe moving negatively scored accepted answers but nothing has officially been decided yet.

Basically, we know these types of answers exist. I'm working on ways to easily identify them, and I'm working on possible ways to improve either the answers and/or how they might be displayed/handled. I'm hoping over the next 6-8 something we will have some sort of solution to it.

  • 2
    Awesome answer. Thanks for the links - that's really cool to see. Wish it was easier to stay on top of discussions about improving SE without trawling Meta. – Jordan Aug 26 '15 at 18:18

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