Years ago I had a question, obviously a sarcastic joke, that would explode. But then it got closed and deleted, when it reached 60 points and 15 favorites. Folks still ask for where they find it after 3 years (that's why it came to my mind).

My question is (apart from not understanding why occasional humor devaluates a site, and apart from some of the most famous "historical" stackoverflow questions and answers are humorous) if a question or answer is clearly loved by the community why can moderators close/delete them?

Is this site for the moderators or for the community?

I mean if a question has no place, like "I need write app in Ionic. It have screen on front. How do I that?" the community downvotes it.

An other example is the famous "Suggest a cool regex trick" question, that was clearly violating rules of stackoverflow, but still a source of good value for many-many people.

Even if you want to keep a site 100% clean, you should consider an "outcast" site, for those who broke the rules in a community-liked way, like dropouts.stackexchange.com where you can move these questions to.

So I'd like to have a debate about these:

Either we

  1. Close but not delete questions with significant upvotes (or >0?)
  2. or delete only questions with significant downvotes
  3. or move popular questions to an "outcast" site
  • 3
    I'll just leave this here: The Trouble With Popularity
    – yannis
    Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 10:49
  • 4
    "Is this site for the moderators or the community" is a loaded question. It's like asking "Why did you steal that car?" As for the outcast site, we already tried that. Sadly, it didn't work out. Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 14:38
  • It seems people downvote this question just to manifest their opposition, but it would be more useful to have an answer, even if it boils down to the quote of Jeff'posts “what we try to do at Stack Exchange is make sure that questions and answers are popular for the right reasons -- because they are amazing resources for learning from your peers.” IMHO the question raised by @atoh is legit and deserves an answer. (I wonder BTW how it is not a duplicate! ;) ) Commented Jul 14, 2016 at 13:47
  • @MichaelGrünewald, agreed, and upvoted for that reason alone. It's well-written, and it led me to the links in the two comments above. (Which, together, rather thoroughly answer this whole subject.)
    – Wildcard
    Commented Jul 23, 2016 at 2:24

1 Answer 1


Folks still ask for where they find it after 3 years

I think above is generally a valid concern. However some system limitations make it rather slippery to use popularity and historical interest as an ultimate criteria on deciding whether to keep such questions.

Thing is, visual difference between "normal" and historically locked questions is not really as prominent as it may seem to experienced users. I recall seeing at meta references to examples when inexperienced users didn't notice the differences and thought that these are normal, legitimate questions, "Why can't I ask X when Y exists?"

We are essentially forced to decide whether "harm to the Internet" - link rot caused by deletion of particular question - outweighs the harm of it hanging in here and making a broken window for inexperienced users (who sometimes simply can't see / understand what historical lock means).

That's why historical interest alone doesn't determine whether question gets a historical lock.

It's worth noting that so far suggestions to create and maintain some kind of an "outcast" / "museum" site for questions of historical interest were declined by Stack Exchange team.

More generally, all suggestions to help community maintain historical questions known to me were either declined or ignored by SE team. Even when such suggestions require almost no effort and are apparently no risk / no harm, these are ignored (for example setting pink background when rendering historically locked posts proposed here).

See also:

(sort of a follow up) Your comments indicate a belief that inappropriate questions are harmless:

need proof that suppressing these questions actually make the site rot, i.e. humorous questions starting to make a trend, because those questions exist in the first place. Without that maybe it's the case of suppressing a harmless thing because of valuing "fear" instead of "evidence"

If you take a closer look at this site history described here you may find out that it is most likely not so.

Thing is, first few years such questions were allowed at Stack Overflow where they coexisted with "boring" programming questions. Fun questions were popular, entertaining, brought a lot of views and site visits. Now ask yourself a question, if these were indeed harmless, why would they want to "outsource" them to a separate site (NPR)?

Nobody in their sane mind would get rid of content that brings views and visits if it is harmless.

I bet Stack Overflow creators would be happy to keep these questions on-site if (if) these weren't causing harm. The very fact that they moved it to a separate site (NPR) makes a very strong indication that these were indeed considered harmful.

In case if you wonder about what specifically could make SO creators believe that there is harm consider taking a look at the canonical article explaining these matters - The Trouble With Popularity:

we discovered that these posts become so popular over time that they truly start to drown out everything else on the site...

  1. Broken windows. Every 'fun' post users see is an open invitation for them to participate in the fun by adding their own fun question or answer. The stuff spreads like kudzu! Pretty soon the entire site is overrun with nothing but that kind of fun. And even if you grandfather a few in, you'll enjoy neverending requests asking why their fun question or answer has to be removed, while this one over here is allowed to remain.

  2. Opportunity cost. Every minute spent participating in an entertaining 'fun' post is time that someone could have spent asking or answering a substantive question, something practical that solves an actual problem for hundreds or thousands of people. Entertainment, within reason, is by no means a bad thing -- but I experience almost physical pain when I think about a brilliant topic expert spending 10 minutes on one of our sites deciding which hilarious cartoon is their favorite.

There is quite a solid evidence that Stack Exchange Q&A model turned out poor in supporting "pure fun" kind of questions. They tried to keep these along with serious questions, they also tried to keep them at separate site... "Sadly, it didn't work out."

  • ...a pair of recent posts (deleted, visible only to 10K users) that were done in attempt to follow examples set by historically popular inappropriate questions: Graduating with CompSci but feel like an absolute beginner and Diving into a big code repository for a Junior Programmer. The latter even redirects under-10K users to the "model" question since it was closed as a duplicate prior to deletion
    – gnat
    Commented Jul 14, 2016 at 0:33
  • But it also shows a feature not met in a system. If something is popular = need exists. Therefore you can be creative with the rules instead of trying to suppress user "enjoyment". So to accept this answer I need proof that suppressing these questions actually make the site rot, i.e. humorous questions starting to make a trend, because those questions exist in the first place. Without that maybe it's the case of suppressing a harmless thing because of valuing "fear" instead of "evidence".
    – atoth
    Commented Jul 14, 2016 at 14:46
  • @atoth please re-read the second comment under your question and especially MSE post it refers. We already tried to be creative with rules. "Sadly, it didn't work out."
    – gnat
    Commented Jul 14, 2016 at 14:50
  • Though I would say the original question has also valid points. So valid that programmers.stackexchange was the answer to the more theoretic, "subjective" questions to rise. If you would stick to the rules it would not have been created. Also things like this drive innovation, and for example, it could manifest in new types like "list-questions" or "subjective-questions".
    – atoth
    Commented Jul 14, 2016 at 14:58
  • 2
    @atoth: Many of the current rules, at Programmers especially but also elsewhere, are precisely a result of the bad experiences in the first try creating Programmers along the lines you think would work well. They did not, in fact, work well in practice, and SE as a whole was rather badly burned by the whole deal. In fact, it's probably one of the most formative traumas in SE history. So trying anything along similar lines is going to require very, very careful arguing and a remarkably thorough and indisputable basis for your new approach. Commented Jul 17, 2016 at 6:14

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