This question on stackoverflow was closed today by moderators:

Hidden Features of Xcode

The question is a goldmine of useful information for Xcode and serves a useful purpose. Why the heck is it closed and locked?


What's the problem with it being closed and locked? This just means no new answers can be added. And since it has 88 very good answers already, is there really a need for more answers?

It's had two full years to get answers -- surely that is sufficient?

Questions with lists of 'answers' that grow infinitely and without bound have to be capped at some point.

(We find that users aren't exactly diligent about checking all 12+ pages of a question before adding another "answer" of their own to the heap.)

edit: I changed the title so it's clear this is a "Hidden Features of X" question which is allowed per previous meta discussions. I also removed the close, since locking prevents answers and that's all we need here. If you want to add to this question I suggest you edit the existing 88 answers to make them better. Remember that even low-rep and anonymous users can submit suggested edits now.

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    The problem is it's making people ill when they can't add to the nth page of answers any more. Heartless moderators. – random Apr 5 '11 at 3:44
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    Fair enough; ultimately, it seems that the "community wiki" isn't quite wiki-enough to handle this kind of question. No criticism meant; the focus of SO is clearly a huge asset. I suspect that what some of us would like would be more of true wiki for such questions -- a site where the answers can be collected and reformulated a bit into a cohesive whole (as that would be required to make sense of so much data) that reads more smoothly than pages of forum-esque answers. – bbum Apr 5 '11 at 3:48
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    Well, what if the wrong mod had "gotten to" the question earlier. Most of those useful answers would never have made it in. Seems that leaving these open ended but valuable questions open for a long time adds value to the question. Sure it may be untidy, with some duplicated answers but what's the harm in that? – schwa Apr 5 '11 at 3:48
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    @schwa if you want to add to that question, edit the existing answers to make them better. Even anonymous and low-rep users can suggest edits now.. blog.stackoverflow.com/2011/02/suggested-edits-and-edit-review – Jeff Atwood Apr 5 '11 at 3:59
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    @bbum that's ... ironic advice considering the link I posted above ^^^ -- why not edit the existing 88 answers to make them better? Does this just never occur to anyone, or what? – Jeff Atwood Apr 5 '11 at 4:05
  • @Jeff Atwood: What if the answer somebody wants to add is unrelated to any existing answer (e.g., a feature nobody has mentioned yet)? The person who wants to provide it should edit an existing unrelated answer and shoehorn it in? – Peter Hosey Apr 5 '11 at 4:18
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    @peter I find it hard to believe that at 88 answers there is some brilliant new undiscovered hidden thing waiting to be added. So, pretend I'm from Missouri, the show me state -- show me your new answer. (and possibly, yes -- if it is strongly related to another answer, editing it in could be fine) – Jeff Atwood Apr 5 '11 at 4:21
  • This kind of (useful) open ended questions are recurrent on SO; there’s an ongoing demand for them. Whilst I understand and accept that they’re not the current focus of SO, it’d be nice to have some sort of site or wiki for these open questions, one that would leverage SO’s user base. It’s not happening now, understood, but I hope it will in the future. – user156620 Apr 5 '11 at 4:26
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    @bava THESE SPECIFIC "HIDDEN FEATURES OF X" QUESTIONS ARE ALLOWED ON STACK OVERFLOW PER PREVIOUS DISCUSSIONS ON THE MATTER. They are not, however, allowed to grow without bound. At some point you have enough answers and users need to switch to editing the existing ones to improve them, not piling new ones on top forever and ever like an infinite tower of babel. – Jeff Atwood Apr 5 '11 at 4:27
  • @Jeff Atwood: Xcode lets you access the URLs for the documentation feeds, with which you can download the multi-GB documentation sets outside of Xcode (e.g., with downloading software that supports resuming). Not covered in any existing answer. If anyone has something to suggest that is not part of nor similar to any existing answer, then why should they be turned away? – Peter Hosey Apr 5 '11 at 4:37
  • The more information there is to sort through, the less likely it is that the desired information will be found. It's just noise. Also, how many hidden features can something really have? – jmort253 Apr 5 '11 at 4:39
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    @Jeff Atwood: What is the exact number of answers that is “enough” and grounds for closure? There must be a better solution than to forbid all new answers on the question entirely; perhaps encouraging users to downvote or even flag duplicate answers (at least on questions with many answers) to keep the signal ratio high. – Peter Hosey Apr 5 '11 at 4:40
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    @jmort253: In a question like the one under discussion, it's unlikely that there is a single piece of “desired information”. All of the answers are desired information—all of them are “Hidden features of Xcode”. A reader interested in the question will probably be interested in all of the answers, however many they are, as long as there are not too many duplicates. As far as I can see, duplicated information is the problem worth pruning. – Peter Hosey Apr 5 '11 at 4:42
  • I guess the definition of hidden is a bit open ended as well... – davidsleeps Apr 5 '11 at 13:32
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    @davidsleeps: The question in question is only titled “Hidden features of Xcode” because Jeff changed it to that. As schwa wrote it, it did not mention “hidden” features at all. – Peter Hosey Apr 5 '11 at 20:25

Its locked, not deleted - users can still see the question (and even edit answers).

With 88 answers its highly unlikely that someone else is going to add another meaningful answer.

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    +1. Very large list topics should all eventually be closed (not deleted or locked), just because nobody is going through pages upon pages of answers – TheLQ Apr 5 '11 at 3:11
  • Question clearly stated it was locked and closed, never said “deleted.” – Alan H. Apr 5 '11 at 3:14
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    In general, I do agree with this policy. Even in this case, the signal to noise is likely waning. At the same time, I can think of a half dozen additional details I could add to that question that would be helpful/useful/relevant. Of course, this begs the question of where the line is drawn between focused q/a and general helpfulness. – bbum Apr 5 '11 at 3:24
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    @bbum perhaps you can edit the relevant answers to make them better rather than throwing another on the heap? – Jeff Atwood Apr 5 '11 at 3:57
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    "At the same time, I can think of a half dozen additional detail" emphasis on the additional. – schwa Apr 5 '11 at 4:37

The real question is why does a question with that many views need so many answers? They only detract from its overall usefulness...

A single page of useful answers is going to be fair easier to read and extract useful information from

  • If there are many answers to the question, why should they not all be posted? Voting will (well, should) tend to sort them from best to worst, whether it's a single-best-answer question or a question like the one under discussion. As long as information is not duplicated, what is the harm in having many diverse answers? If information is being duplicated, I'd say that that is the real problem. – Peter Hosey Apr 5 '11 at 4:49
  • @Peter hosey I guess in this case, time is the problem. It will be much harder for any new answers to possibly gain as many votes as it would have had it been posted at the start...this means that you HAVE to scroll to the end to see all possible great answers...but as others have said, not many do that at all...even before posting a new answer. I think there are just too many answers to be useful now...it's a burden to travel that many pages... – davidsleeps Apr 5 '11 at 5:01
  • @davidsleeps: As I said in another comment, on a question like the one we're discussing, all answers are useful to someone interested in the question, so they are likely to want to read all of them. If the pagination truly is a barrier, then the pagination should be improved, perhaps with “endless scrolling” (further pagefuls loaded and spliced in automatically when you reach the last item). I don't see how “burden”some pagination is a reason to close the question. – Peter Hosey Apr 5 '11 at 5:20
  • @Peter Hosey Endless scrolling I feel is just a bandaid to the problem...There is a lot of "excess" space wasted by user avatars, comments, scrolling etc etc when presumably a lot of the answers could be consolidated...the answers for the question should appear more like a Wikipedia article (the point of a CW) instead of a Question and lots of individual answers...As an example, instead of individual random answers, perhaps an answer is set up for a particular area and then useful tips are put in each answer...that way you can browse the answers with far more meaning...or focus on an area – davidsleeps Apr 5 '11 at 5:30
  • @davidsleeps: I disagree that that space is “wasted”. White space aids readability. And, again, I'm not defending duplicate answers—I am talking about different answers. SO is based on a Q&A format; it is only natural to expect all questions, including CW questions, to be phrased as such (and to phrase them as such). Jamming all “hidden features” topics together into a single question with a single book-length answer per topic would not make the answers easier to read/browse; it would make them a thousand times harder. – Peter Hosey Apr 5 '11 at 5:41
  • @Peter Hosey, then I think you can see that the Q&A format is not very helpful for this question...Likely why the FAQs for SO are simply over many Questions...A similar question that interests me is the Hidden features of ASP.Net, I think it's really annoying that it has so many pages...I'd rather a different format or a single page to view the tips instead of page after page of potentially useful ideas/tips link: stackoverflow.com/questions/54929/hidden-features-of-asp-net. An even better option in this case is likely the official asp.net wiki... – davidsleeps Apr 5 '11 at 5:49
  • @Peter Hosey, I Should add that I completely agree with white space to aid readability...I was saying that there is a lot of extra "stuff" that is just not needed that would reduce the overall "information" without reducing what is useful – davidsleeps Apr 5 '11 at 5:53
  • No, I don't see how “the Q&A format is not very helpful for this question” follows from what I said about your proposal. The Q&A format as it is currently implemented works, just not the expectation that there must be One True Answer. Making the question a CW works, and should remove the expectation that there should be One True Answer. (I think, for example, that the “accept” button should disappear for a CW question and the question should not count against the asker's accept rate.) The “stuff” is in fact needed to identify who wrote (and edited, if applicable) each answer. – Peter Hosey Apr 5 '11 at 6:29
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    @peter I can see what you are saying, and it does work...I think our discussion is unrelated to the particular question and more about the cw format...of which I see as a side effect of early SO life...most of the information in CWs I could see as being far more useful as either stored somewhere else closer to a manual or perhaps asked as a whole series of questions...because its far easier for searchers to find a question and see some answers than to find answers to questions that have no answer. SE was designed to hold findable questions with answers, all there effort goes into that process – davidsleeps Apr 5 '11 at 13:23

High view count itself does not make a question immune from turning into people swapping war stories and tales from the coding trenches.

This question was asked a long time ago, in a land where things were much different. Things can always be current and bettered. This is going that way.

It's important to clean up the site and take a stand on the very old off topic and subjective & argumentative questions -- otherwise newcomers may cite them as a reason to continue asking them.

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    So high view count, lots of stars and upvotes isn't enough? Really what's the criteria for a good question then? – schwa Apr 5 '11 at 3:09
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    I disagree. This is a great question. Even as one of the people who has worked with Xcode 4 for months during development, I've gone through the piles of answers and have found a number of gems that I wasn't aware of and ideas for improvements (of which bugs have been filed). Furthermore, "shine a turd [on] an off topic question" (and much of the rest of the above "answer") is condescending and unbecoming of any answer on any SO site. Or so I thought.... – bbum Apr 5 '11 at 3:15
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    Was the example a discussion and not a Q&A? Yes, then it's not fit for a site built on Q&A. Take it to a forum. A good question is one that isn't a discussion. @sch – random Apr 5 '11 at 3:16
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    So basically "we don't actually want useful information on our site". Noted. – schwa Apr 5 '11 at 3:22
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    It was Q&A; a question was asked for which there were many answers, all different and all useful. I fail to see any discussion about it. And I also fail to see what justifies the condescending and rude tone of this answer. – bbum Apr 5 '11 at 3:22
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    If there are (pages of) many answers and none of them are wrong, you've got yourself a forum or a top X blog post happening. That's not Q&A, that's discussion fodder @bbu – random Apr 5 '11 at 3:28
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    OK -- your claim is that StackOverflow and friends are only for very pointed questions with single (or few) answers. Seems kinda counter to the very definition of "wiki", really. Actually, seems counter to SO's own definition of "Community Wiki Post" (see meta.stackexchange.com/questions/11740/…) which implies that questions with a great number of answers and lots of activity are ideal candidates for community wiki. Where, exactly, is that line? – bbum Apr 5 '11 at 3:35
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    "What are some tips and tricks for this tool?" is a reasonable question with an open-ended set of reasonable answers. That doesn't make it a discussion. Most of the answers were explicitly in the Q&A spirit - not lists of tips, but single tips. – Chris Hanson Apr 5 '11 at 3:38
  • If it's open-ended, then yes, it is a discussion. Again, if there can be many, many, many, many answers and none wrong, you are partaking in a discussion. If it's broad and asking for a list of tips (however you want to frame it) then it's NARQ. @chr – random Apr 5 '11 at 3:41
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    I don't think it's fair to characterize that question as a discussion. In need of eventual closing to prevent infinite answers, probably, but "hidden features of X" questions are allowed on SO. @schwa see meta.stackexchange.com/questions/56669/… – Jeff Atwood Apr 5 '11 at 3:54
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    @Jeff Atwood, et al.: If this is a criterion on which Stack Overflow moderators are expected to close questions in the future, it should be a separate, clearly-defined closure reason. Most of the reasons given for “not a real question” do not apply at all to the question in question: It is neither ambiguous nor vague nor incomplete (the set of answers may be incomplete, but the question is not) nor rhetorical. As for “overly broad”, if you're concerned about newer versions obsoleting it, why not edit the question to restrict to a major version (in this case, Xcode 3)? – Peter Hosey Apr 5 '11 at 4:08
  • My meager karma may not count for much, here, but random's remarks have made me deeply embarrassed on behalf of SO. I mean, Ricky Gervais-level vicarious discomfort. It reflects negatively on your community to have people with power behave this way. – Danilo Campos Apr 5 '11 at 4:19
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    @danilo I agree random went a bit too far here, but moderation has a habit of making people hard and mean ... myself included. I've had my bad moderator days too, so I'm inclined to just edit it and move on. – Jeff Atwood Apr 5 '11 at 4:23

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