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Topics deleted from StackOverflow (stackprinter.com)
23 points by ranit8 on Apr 21, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 34 comments

I started contributing to the Literature Stack Exchange when it launched last year - which quickly became not fun. Most of the decent questions were closed as off topic, answer quality declined because the remaining questions were too narrow, new users were put off by the attitude of mods.

It was explained to me, in detail, that this was to preserve the focus and quality of the site.

So I left. It says a lot that 6 months later I am still the #6 user by all-time karma.

The few trickle of questions they have left deal mostly with trivia.

I think SO/SE's moderation policy has gone a step too far. Once it lightly highlighted quality. Now it stamps on most questions.

I think there may be a space for a friendlier version of Stack Exchange.

The mods on the StackOverflow sites seem to be trigger-happy deleting and locking posts. Most of my major upvoted answers are on threads now closed as off-topic - so this tells me that the StackOverflows have changed to be a place that I'm not welcome at anymore.

The rise of the "opinions are not wanted here" attitude on SO is disappointing - I understand the motive but they may be kicking out the baby with the bath water.

Stack Overflow has a vigorous moderating policy. That's usually a good thing. It helps form a community, and keeps stuff out.

The problem comes with a huge site like SO, because there are so many "not welcome here" topics which get closed, with no suggestions about where to put those questions, and without great explanations about why those topics aren't welcome.

It's not as thoroughly toxic as some[1] aspects of wikipedia are, but it's not pleasant for some people.

[1] for various values of some, including "all" for a few users.

Wow, some of these questions actually seem pretty reasonable - like this one: http://stackoverflow.com/questions/9033/hidden-features-of-c

Any ideas why they were closed so early?

I think issues like this are somewhat problematic. Note the similarities with the wikipedia deletions for lack of notability: many articles on somewhat obscure but historic computer science topics were deleted, some of them the best single info resource out there.

The guidelines that lead to this are quite reasonable, but as with anything as complex as deciding fitness for inclusion there will be corner cases. A moderator not intimately familiar with the topic, or a moderator who is in "cleanup mode" may end up deleting/closing something that actually would serve the community but technically violates the guidelines.

Far too often on S.O. I'd see a question and excitedly click on it, only to find it had been closed on some technicality. I understand (and appreciate!) the desire for S.O. to keep a tight focus on objective information, but sometimes I think the mods are too strict.

This is a human/community problem, and has no trivial solution. We should also remember that these issues do not mean that a large number of closed/deleted items are erroneous. In fact, both wikipedia and S.O. people do a pretty good job overall. We can and should point out the failures and try to make the system better, but it doesn't mean the system is hugely broken.

Disclaimer: Stack Exchange moderator(mind you, on one of the other sites, not SO).

The main reason this was closed is because determining what or what does not constitute a hidden feature is highly subjective. Depending on the audience, some features that are considered common knowledge could be considered hidden features. We generally want to focus on the domain of questions that have solid, objective answers, or rather, that solve a clear problem that people have, whereas this question is more focused on trivia.

Furthermore, "List of <X>" questions, as we dub them, generally aren't well-suited for the Stack Exchange format, especially when the question is as popular as this one. Note that navigating the list without OP's quick-link breakdown is a pain because of the way that each individual's answer is separated.

I can accept that questions of this type are a little messy, but there's absolutely no need to apply real-world metaphors of messiness to the web. We don't need to clean these things up. They're fine just sitting there. We're not running out of bits.

I'm sure there's some personally type that experiences a deep need to organize and delete (and it's probably over-represented in the SO community), but that's all this is. I find it highly unlikely that deleting these posts is having any effect on the quality of new questions asked.

This isn't about running out of bits. The primary reason for creating Stack Overflow was to increase the signal/noise ratio for programming information on the Web. If we don't reduce the noise, then search engines have a harder time trying to find the signal. So in this sense, the metaphor of messiness does apply to the Web.

Also, this particular post is locked, not deleted. Google will still find it.

> If we don't reduce the noise, then search engines have a harder time trying to find the signal.

Let the search engines figure that out! It's their job!

Is there any evidence whatsoever that deleting/closing questions like these make SO a better place and improves the rate with which people can find answers through search engines?

I suspect there's none.

> Let the search engines figure that out! It's their job!

Ummm... right. You go ahead and keep posting noise to your site and let the search engines figure it out. Let us know how that works.

Search engines tend to place Wikipedia high for almost every relevant query. This happens despite the amount of useless crap on Wikipedia. Hell, how often is Yahoo Answers on the first page of results. "Noise" won't stop you from getting listed if you've got enough page rank.

> If we don't reduce the noise, then search engines have a harder time trying to find the signal.

That's very nice, except much of the discussion here indicates clearly that deleted posts are not noise but are useful, valuable resources to the participants. So the "must reduce noise" explanation doesn't work here.

How has that been made clear at all? I've only seen one link to an actual question here, and that one wasn't deleted, but locked (by me) to prevent it from being deleted. Raise your standard of proof.

Yes, locked by you. You're not exactly an impartial observer in all this. You have comments throughout this thread attacking everyone who disagrees with you, and obstinately refusing to see anyone else's point of view. I don't know you, but based on your behavior, you've confirmed that the moderators are the problem.

I locked the question because it was deleted by community vote. If I hadn't undeleted and locked, it wouldn't be visible at all. Just proves you don't know what you're talking about. I haven't attacked anyone here.

What about a "Stack Exhume" site where all of the deleted stuff gets moved to? In terms of finding good answers to specific questions, they are noise, but it is actually interesting information in another context. It could be used to gauge the general interests of site users.

The moderators on SO will say it "isn't a good fit for the software". They have no data to back this claim, but will go to great lengths to rationalize it as fundamental to the software rather than a strong shared opinion of the moderators. It is a religious thing like tabs vs spaces. There was an initial kick in one direction and the moderators came down with a strong prejudicial meme against these kinds of questions.

> They have no data to back this claim...

Neither do you. I'm the moderator who undeleted and locked that question so it can't be deleted again (after ten community members voted to delete it). I've argued in the past in their favor, but the community (not moderators alone) decided that this type of question isn't a good fit and we don't want to encourage more of them by keeping the old ones open.

Here's the old discussion about these questions where I defended them: http://meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/56669/should-hidden-...

As for them not being a good fit for the software, frankly they're not. Just look at the "Hidden Features of C#" question. There are over 300 answers. Many duplicates had to be deleted because no one is going to take the time to read them all to see if their answer was already posted. This isn't really the kind of thing we (again, the community, not just moderators) want on Stack Overflow. We want to focus more on questions that have one objectively best answer.

You are right, my claim that this is moderator specific is misleading. It is a meme of the current active SO community.

My general claim is merely that the closing of these questions is not implacably imposed by the software, but is instead a community choice.

I don't think we disagree on this being a 'religious' issue. I am clearly an SO apostate.

Even if it's not a religious issue, or subject to one mod's whims, it can still be a cultural one. Maybe this just means there's room for a Metafilter-type programming community where subjectivity is a larger component.

That question is open ended. Good SO questions have a narrow focus. The question doesn't have "an answer".

So, SO say it doesn't fit on their website (fair enough, their server, their rules) but it's a great question for someone, and there doesn't appear to be anywhere to ask it. (Maybe HN??).

I posted this idea elsewhere, but I think it is worth considering, so I'll repost it here.

What about a series of "Stack Exhume" sites where the "deleted" information gets moved to? (Trash can?) Even though they are "noise" when trying to find specific answers to concrete questions, they are still interesting information in their own right, in much the same way queries are interesting.

Strange suggestion: Mods should be required to view and consider search engine traffic when locking or deleting topics.

I've noticed lately that a Google search brings me to SO as the top result, but then the post itself is locked and marked off-topic or (the one I find more puzzling sometimes) "not a real question." If it's not a real question, why does it have a real answer which seems to answer my own question? Can't we just edit the question to make more sense, if it wasn't clear to the mod?

I'm not saying that locking or deleting posts isn't appropriate. But crippling or removing SO questions that appear high for particular search queries seems like a silly way to run a website, unless the question and answers really wouldn't be helpful to the incoming search traffic. (In which case, better to not show up at all than to appear but be unhelpful or incorrect.)

We do look at number of views and links to a post before deleting it. That's why a lot of questions that aren't really on-topic for Stack Overflow are simply locked instead of deleted. We're trying to clean up the site without breaking the rest of the Internet in the process.

> Can't we just edit the question to make more sense, if it wasn't clear to the mod?

Yes, of course. Anyone can suggest an edit to a question, whether it's open or closed. If you find a question and its answers helpful, go ahead and edit it. Flag it for a moderator to consider reopening when you're done.

Also, if you found a Stack Overflow question through a Google search, then it's not deleted. Deleted content isn't visible to search engines.

Here is another deleted question archive that's not over its quota: http://meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/124850/unofficial-st...

Nice, it's much better looking than the one I posted.

I wonder if I should have posted a Google cache link instead of the original, to prevent exceeding their quota.

I was excited to see this and find some damn good content (tm) I contributed to stackoverflow that was deleted by the over-exuberant moderators there. Please stackoverflow moderators, you're killing a great site. Stop. Just stop.

Nice. Thanks for sharing. Looks like hacker news crashed your site.

'Over Quota

This application is temporarily over its serving quota. Please try again later.'


Site could use search, especially if it expands

It has search.

It also searches for similar questions when you enter the title to a question.

You can also use google (e.g. google.com/search?q=site:stackoverflow.com variables) which is what the founders had in mind.

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