I've expounded on locked questions before and mentioned that these often age poorly. If something is to be locked, especially today, it should have some amount of moderation and curation done. These are things that we should be putting in museums as questions that can produce good quality and we should aspire to ("see, look, we can have good material on very soft questions if people act to moderate and keep the quality up") rather than things we want to lock away and forget.

To this, I really have to ask about why Why should developers have private offices? was locked.

The question had 4 delete votes on it (6 needed total for it based on votes and popularity). It was locked. And... well... if it is something that we should be keeping around (I don't believe so - that's why one of those delete votes is mine), before it is locked it should be evaluated for:

  • Poor quality and negatively scored posts should be deleted.
  • Too chatty / not constructive comments should be deleted.
  • Tags that are part of a burnination process should be removed

What really gets me here is that this question really is just a poll with one answer that is reasonable (but doesn't answer the poll question) and 23 answers that are "I've got an office" or "I have an open plan."

I feel that this type of question - old polls - really doesn't age well and isn't indicative of what good quality on the site should be. It is exactly the watercooler conversation type thing and getting to know you that the six subjective guidelines were put in place to prevent. That it hasn't been seen much and there are no in bound links from other questions on Programmers.SE suggests that it really isn't that valuable of a post.

This type of question is the type of thing that a Slashdot poll (for example do you need to wear headphones while working) does better than a Q&A format site.

As I cannot flag the post (its locked), and this question wouldn't fit into a flag text, please either:

  • Unlock the post so that it may continue with the normal lifecycle of a post


  • Delete all poor quality material (I believe this would be 'all posts other than the accepted answer' - or first and third if you stretch it a bit), remove the burnination tags ( and are both in the current round), and rework the body of the question so that it isn't a poll and is answered exactly by the accepted answer.
  • 1
    ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​"isn't indicative of what good quality on the site should be" Historically locked posts aren't supposed to be indicative of what good quality on the site should be. If they were, why lock them in the first place?
    – yannis
    Commented Jun 16, 2015 at 20:27
  • 2
    They also shouldn't be used to preserve polls that haven't aged well and should be deleted. I once again point to What is a historical lock, and what is it used for? from the MSE faq: "2.The post is stellar, in spite of its off-topic nature, and" - there is one post out of 24 that may meet that threshold. There are other ways to preserve the content for that one than locking 23 pieces of crap from being deleted.
    – user40980
    Commented Jun 16, 2015 at 20:28
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    ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Yes, I don't see what we gain by keeping this one around.
    – yannis
    Commented Jun 16, 2015 at 20:48
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    I voted to delete that question and I continue to stand by my vote.
    – user22815
    Commented Jun 16, 2015 at 20:58
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    I think moderator who locked did that because top answer looks good (and it is, isn't it). I usually don't feel bad about locks like that (even though these preserve some garbage along the way) but in this case there seem to be just too many crappy answers over there. Way too many, including even blatant NAA: "Is there any software company in the US besides Microsoft and FogCreek Software which provides private offices for software engineers?" Against my typical stance, I think some basic cleanup would be helpful over there
    – gnat
    Commented Jun 16, 2015 at 21:47
  • @gnat the top answer has good material. It also completely avoids answering the question being asked (which is the only way that it is able to provide good content). It is the type of thing that one would expect to see in a forum of completely redirecting the discussion. It could have been a good edit to the question - to really change the question to one that encourages good content rather than a polling, but it didn't do it. In order to clean up the question, all the other answers would need to be deleted and the question completely transformed. ...
    – user40980
    Commented Jun 16, 2015 at 21:50
  • ... and then, the question would be primarily opinion rather than a poll. However, given the nature of 20k delete votes on answers, we are unable to preform such surgical operations on the posts with a positive score. It is going to require moderator involvement to do such.
    – user40980
    Commented Jun 16, 2015 at 21:52
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    Add another Vote-to-delete to the pile; sorry I didn't get my actual vote in before the lock.
    – user53019
    Commented Jun 16, 2015 at 22:00
  • agree that question is bad and answer is good only because it essentially avoids answering directly (direct answers are useless poll items, total garbage). I voted delete and I stand by that. It's just... this seems to be sort of special case. I usually feel OK when my VtD "converts" into lock, "preserve good content in museum, why not". But this time, I look at the question and still want it deleted (despite lock and despite liking that top answer). Way too much garbage preserved...
    – gnat
    Commented Jun 16, 2015 at 22:56
  • 1
    ...if it had, like, 10 (better 15) lowest score "answers" deleted, I would feel differently. But as of now... not. Main message it sends to readers is like "look folks how bad it was 4 years ago" - but that's... not what museums are for
    – gnat
    Commented Jun 16, 2015 at 23:01
  • If we ultimately go with an "unlock but not delete" approach, which I would prefer, ping me in chat and I'll happily downvote all the answers except the top one.
    – psr
    Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 16:02
  • It seems strange if we have to delete the whole question because mods won't delete answers for us though.
    – psr
    Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 16:03
  • @psr the tools that we have are rather blunt. We can delete negatively scored answers without too much difficulty - the problem is getting to that point with answers in a historically popular watercooler/gtky type question that should have been closed promptly (even then). That it wasn't closed promptly means that the can was kicked down the road and we've got even more work to clean it up now. This leaves us with the alternatives of having the mods delete popular old answers, us deleting the entire set, or preserving answers that are 90% crap to keep the one good one.
    – user40980
    Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 16:09
  • @MichaelT - I know. But I'll be annoyed if we delete the whole thing because our tools are too blunt to fix it. I do like the one answer and would prefer to use it as the focus of a clean-up. I was specifically addressing Yannis 's position - he isn't comfortable deleting a bunch of popular answers, but the consequence may be that they still get deleted, along with better content.
    – psr
    Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 16:13
  • @psr my understanding is, mods hesitate to delete only if this is served as a preparation to historical lock. Other than that, no problem
    – gnat
    Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 18:53

2 Answers 2


EDIT: I received 5 downvotes so I unlocked and deleted

I was the one who historical locked it responding to a flag requesting the same.

Here is my opinion on historical locks:

  • It is at least 3 years old
  • It has at the very least (n years X 1000 views) in total views
  • It has at least one good attempt to answer either a question with a number of problems as perceived by the current scope and rules of the site.

Another note, a steaming pile of crap answers constitute history to me. History may be entertaining, we may admire it, it may have some unfortunate stains that some would rather forget. An historian looks for the truth, no matter how painful. We learn from the mistakes of our past, so I feel to clean it up then lock it is basically being a revisionist. I am not for revising history, whether it be content locked into the history archive, hell I don't even like revising history in my Git repositories.

I felt it met all of that. My criteria might not be exactly what other moderators have, but again, you guys elected me to take some discretion from time to time otherwise Atwood would write a script to replace me.

If you feel that I was wrong in my decision then downvote this answer please. If I get 5 downvotes from the community (not a net score of -5 but 5 individual downvotes then I will accept it should have been deleted.

A moderator may also reverse my decision if they feel necessary.

  • 1
    I believe part of what sets P.SE apart from SO is that we provide findable good material and we are able to significantly keep the current stream of poor material that hits the front page from remaining in the site for significant periods of time. Key to that vision, we need to make sure that old good material is able to be found - and that may mean deleting 23 answers and completely changing the question to save one. However, without doing that, that one good answer becomes impossible to find amongst the fingernail clippings of our past. Locking the question preserves those clippings.
    – user40980
    Commented Jun 17, 2015 at 1:43
  • If you unlock it and delete the 23 answers, it then becomes possible to change the answer (that didn't answer the question in any way shape or form) and question (that was a poll) into something that preserves the value of the answer and is accessible and findable. I just really have trouble saying that we need to keep "cube farm, only developer, internal corporate use software" as an answer for posterity to find value in.
    – user40980
    Commented Jun 17, 2015 at 1:46
  • approach you describe makes very good sense to me, including keeping low quality answers - exactly for the reasons you described. However, in this particular case, it somehow failed to work. It doesn't seem to offer learning experience (not even a historical one) but rather looks like dirty laundry exhibition. At the very very least, I would expect blatant not-an-answer to be deleted: historical lock hardly justifies its presence
    – gnat
    Commented Jun 17, 2015 at 1:59
  • ..."I look at the question and still want it deleted (despite lock and despite liking that top answer)" -- that's not how I usually feel about historically locked questions. Even some dose of garbage in these doesn't tend to make me feel like that. But this time, I still feel like it would better go away, that rings a bell
    – gnat
    Commented Jun 17, 2015 at 2:10
  • 3
    How about we just unlock it and let the community do whatever they want with it? If people are actually interested in preserving the top answer, then they can edit the question to fit the answer, and downvote/vtd the other answers. If not, they can vtd the question.
    – yannis
    Commented Jun 17, 2015 at 12:18
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    upon re-checking your criteria, the issue here seems to be that two usually not-conflicting goals clashed: 1) preserve worthy content ("good attempt to answer") and 2) show historical context ("learn from the mistakes of our past"). Most hist-locked questions I've seen present a reasonable mix of #1 and #2 but in this case it just turned out that #2 obscured everything else
    – gnat
    Commented Jun 17, 2015 at 15:06
  • maple_shaft, would you find this approach feasible? "unlock, edit, cleanup, reopen". Three of those who previously voted delete (including me:) appear to be OK with it; Yannis didn't raise objections either
    – gnat
    Commented Jun 20, 2015 at 15:58
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    I received 5 downvotes in relatively short order, so I unlocked it, and deleted the question.
    – maple_shaft Mod
    Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 12:44
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    I switched my downvote to an upvote upon deletion of the question.
    – durron597
    Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 13:54
  • maple_shaft, isn't this status-completed?
    – gnat
    Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 16:34

TL;DR Suggest to undelete the question since it was edited to a better shape and made match the top answer. After that, remove "poll item" answers invalidated by the question edit and reopen.

I think that in its current shape the question staying visible is not okay, even as historically locked. Low quality "historical context" seems to totally obscure worthy content in there.

As of now, it looks like a blatant poll, followed by multiple useless poll item "answers" (including even a different question posted as an answer) so that most readers could only wonder what was the reason to keep it at all.

Worth noting that it looks like an exceptional case for question to be so much overwhelmed with bad content. All other historical questions I recall do have bad stuff (otherwise there'd be no lock), but good parts in these are prominent enough and readers don't have to guess why these were decided to keep.

With above in mind, our options seem to be as follows:

1. Delete. Easy way out, the one I wanted before I stumbled over this meta question, but now, upon closer studying of the top answer I am not quite comfortable about it anymore.

2. Unlock the question, retag to (to clear all issues related to ongoing tag cleanups), then pick one of the following:

2.1. Add a moderator comment referring to this meta discussion, so that readers interested in historical context could discover it without having to stare at all 20+ low quality answers over there. After that, remove all answers except the top one, then lock it back.

2.2. Aggressively edit the question to bring it to better shape, worrying only about keeping consistency with top answer, about like as follows:

So I know everyone here is all about private offices, how many developers actually have them. I am sort of half skeptical. I can believe that lead developers have them, but that's normally just one person in your average office.

That makes me wonder, how many developers have private offices. Which leads to the actual question: why should they have them?

Question edit summary would better refer this meta discussion to help readers of edit history find out what led to the radical change.

After the edit, remove all answers that fail to match the revised question (as far as I can tell, these would be all except for the top answer), then reopen. Side note an edit drafted above would also "trigger" removal of the opening sentence from the top answer ("I think the question should be...") but that's rather minor.

Advantage of #2.1 is that it guarantees that worthy content is preserved. In comparison, 2.2 carries a (rather minor) risk that edited question will be eventually closed again and deleted.

Advantage of #2.2 is that it doesn't introduce deviation of our usual practice to avoid cleanup prior to locking - since it doesn't involve locking at all. (that practice is in turn based on common sense - if you do cleanup anyway, it's only reasonable to improve content up to the point when it doesn't need locking at all)

As for #1 (delete), it looks really inferior in comparison. It only doesn't deviate from our locking practices, but so does #2.2, which additionally offers a solid chance of preserving worthy content.

Assuming that risk involved in #2.2 is minor, it looks like most appealing option.

  • 1
    FWIW my personal preference is for #2.1, at least with the edit drafted here. Suggested revision still feels somewhat broad and there seems to be a risk that we won't be able to properly handle that
    – gnat
    Commented Jun 18, 2015 at 10:02
  • I'm either a 1 or 2.2. I have serious doubts about the value of the historical context of a poll. If someone wants to preserve the polling data it would be something to write a blog post about and condense the information. Preserving low quality polling data that is frozen in time doesn't help the site or make the good material that we want to show more accessible.
    – user40980
    Commented Jun 18, 2015 at 13:19
  • @MichaelT historical context of the poll is already preserved - in this very meta discussion (that's why I suggested mod comment with the reference to it:). As for garbage answers themselves, #2.1 doesn't suppose keeping these: "remove all answers except the top one" - assuming that comment with the link to your description of what was there would be enough for readers interested in historical details :)
    – gnat
    Commented Jun 18, 2015 at 14:17
  • ...just to make it 100% clear, all three options I consider involve removal of all the answers except for the top one (which is supposed to stay in options #2.1 and #2.2)
    – gnat
    Commented Jun 18, 2015 at 14:21
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    I favor option 2.2. Option 2.1 would be acceptable but less preferable to me.
    – user22815
    Commented Jun 18, 2015 at 15:01
  • 1
    ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​#2.1 is unacceptable, imho. Any moderator involvement should be limited to either locking or unlocking the question. Anything more than that should be taken care of by the community.
    – yannis
    Commented Jun 18, 2015 at 17:37
  • @Yannis tell that to Jeff Atwood (not that I particularly stick to 2.1, especially after two delete voters said that 2.2 looks okay... merely amused by your reasoning)
    – gnat
    Commented Jun 18, 2015 at 17:43
  • ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​@gnat No idea what you mean, how is that MSE discussion relevant here? Where does Jeff say that it's a good idea for moderators to get involved in things that the community can take care for itself?
    – yannis
    Commented Jun 18, 2015 at 17:48
  • @Yannis click the link or hover over "Jeff Atwood" to see some examples of moderator involvement that go beyond limits of locking / unlocking
    – gnat
    Commented Jun 18, 2015 at 17:51
  • @gnat I have already done that. I don't see anything there that's even remotely relevant to the discussion here.
    – yannis
    Commented Jun 18, 2015 at 17:54
  • @Yannis it's rather the other way 'round, I wonder what in current discussion could explain that unusual limitation. Speaking of which... did you by chance forgot to "unaccept" 2.2, as it also goes beyond un/locking (deletion of answers to be invalidated by suggested edit)
    – gnat
    Commented Jun 18, 2015 at 19:03
  • ...I got it I got it! "no cleanup before lock", it's our standard approach, ever since Mark Trapp times, how could I forget. Yeah I do not want this to change, it makes too much sense to drop. Granted, this case is somewhat... exceptional, and unlikely to set a "rule change" but still, cleanup prior to lock makes a fairly strong argument against #2.1
    – gnat
    Commented Jun 18, 2015 at 19:47
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    I read the accepted answer after reading this post, and it was very interesting. I'd help clean up the post if it gets undeleted (I can't vote to undelete because a moderator deleted it). Question title should definitely be updated too.
    – Rachel
    Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 14:38
  • @Rachel good point about title, I edited it - can you please take a look? With over 10K, you can both see and edit this question even while it's deleted. As for voting undelete, I plan to test this tomorrow (out of votes today) - if it's indeed unavailable, I will flag for mod attention referring this meta topic
    – gnat
    Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 15:53
  • @Rachel it was undeleted and cleaned, you may take a look
    – gnat
    Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 14:15

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