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Please consider the following question: Good GUI for R suitable for a beginner wanting to learn programming in R?. I just voted to close it as off-topic. Besides being off-topic it is also outdated since much has have changed since most of the questions were answered and/or updated. Do we really need such questions and answers? I'd say the questions like this have no value at all and should rather be closed and deleted than kept for "historical" reasons.

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    $\begingroup$ Just flag them for moderator attention. They can be "locked" for "historical significance." $\endgroup$
    – whuber Mod
    May 5, 2017 at 23:04
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    $\begingroup$ We have several related questions on this kind of topic here already (including the 7th under Related in the sidebar), but yes, as whuber suggests, you can flag them. They can then be locked so that they can't be answered any more and a notice appears that explains the situation. It does have one disadvantage in that old questions whose answers change can no longer be updated (such as "hey there's a new GUI just out that does exactly what you want"), but since these questions are explicitly not on topic any more it's perhaps not such a problem. $\endgroup$
    – Glen_b
    May 6, 2017 at 0:30
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    $\begingroup$ This issue (having posts that were borderline okay long ago but are no longer seen as on-topic) occurs across the SE network as communities more clearly define their boundaries and adjust them to the existence of other sites (whose boundaries also refine themselves over time). It's a fairly natural progression as sites grow and develop. Many sites - especially ones that have been around a long while - have a number of locked older posts as a result. $\endgroup$
    – Glen_b
    May 6, 2017 at 0:33
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    $\begingroup$ This post (which I mentioned earlier) has some people advocating to keep some particular old threads open rather than locked even though they're no longer on topic. $\endgroup$
    – Glen_b
    May 6, 2017 at 0:37
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    $\begingroup$ @Glen_b After the question is "locked" (as I see it is now), it's impossible to edit answers. Isn't it a big disadvantage, compared to closing as off-topic? I don't quite understand why our policy is to prefer to lock in such cases. Also, so far nobody responded to Tim's suggestion of deleting such posts (instead of locking -- see OP's last sentence). $\endgroup$
    – amoeba
    May 6, 2017 at 8:05
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    $\begingroup$ @Amoeba Those are good points. Locking has helped us respond to users who complain (sometimes very aggressively) that their off-topic questions should be left open because they are just like such-and-such a question from years ago. This shows that people do do their research when posting. Having a prominent statement attached to old off-topic posts (which is one thing locking does) will help such people understand what is currently on topic. $\endgroup$
    – whuber Mod
    May 6, 2017 at 14:47
  • $\begingroup$ @whuber This came up again elsewhere, so I'd like to get back to this conversation. I don't think I fully understand the reasoning in your last comment: I do understand that we want to clearly mark old off-topic questions as off-topic, but why would locking work better for this purpose than closing as off-topic? Closing as off-topic does attach "a prominent statement", as you wrote. $\endgroup$
    – amoeba
    May 18, 2017 at 17:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Amoeba That's a good question. Locking is a little more severe than closing: it prevents editing the question and voting on it, too. I believe it would take a moderator to unlock a locked question, too, whereas a vote of high-rep community members will reopen a closed question. None of those necessarily imply that locking is the better solution. $\endgroup$
    – whuber Mod
    May 18, 2017 at 18:03
  • $\begingroup$ @whuber Hmm. I posted this a separate Meta question: stats.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/4827. $\endgroup$
    – amoeba
    May 18, 2017 at 21:38

2 Answers 2

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I would not delete such questions, as I don't enjoy broken links. I would not lock them either, as I don't enjoy incorrect content (locking prevents from editing). I would simply add some warnings that such questions are off-topic nowadays.

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    $\begingroup$ Clarification: do you mean standard closing as off-topic or do you mean something else? If something else, then what exactly? If such functionality does not exist, then it's not a viable approach. $\endgroup$
    – amoeba
    May 7, 2017 at 14:13
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    $\begingroup$ @amoeba What's the upside of closing the question? (one could add a warning without closing the question) $\endgroup$ May 7, 2017 at 16:17
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    $\begingroup$ Well, what's the upside of closing any off-topic questions? We close off-topic questions, that's how SE works. Why should we make an exception for a question just because it's old? $\endgroup$
    – amoeba
    May 8, 2017 at 7:33
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    $\begingroup$ Hi Frank, I came across this thread again; would you mind clarifying your position (last sentence in this answer) in light of the comments above? $\endgroup$
    – amoeba
    Aug 1, 2017 at 12:06
  • $\begingroup$ @amoeba I don't have a strong opinion. If the question is closed but of interest to me, I'll post it somewhere else and link to it. Closing is much better than locking or deleting. $\endgroup$ Aug 1, 2017 at 12:50
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I've been wondering the same question lately for old, off-topic questions, after reading this other thread and stumbling upon a couple of old, probably off-topic questions. (NB: I think it's a bad idea to close old questions just because they're old – they may be still relevant to other people than the person who originally asked the question).

A problem I see is that starting a "vote to close" (VTC) process on an old question gives additional work to people who review the VTC queue. An answer to the other thread mentions that there are few people reviewing the queue. So, in my opinion, it raises the question as to whether it's a good use of reviewers' time to attract their attention on inactive questions. Is an old and inactive question really a problem, even if it's off-topic? Shouldn't the effort concentrate on active, more visible questions?

On the other hand, one advantage of closing an old question is preventing new answers from appearing. If the question is unanswered, closing also prevents the community bot from bumping it up. In short, closing an off-topic question prevents it from becoming active again and appearing on the home page. So closing has an eventual benefit, as the question will become a problem soon or later.

A compromise I've been thinking of is checking if the review queue is "congested" with a lot of questions to review, before starting a VTC process on an old question. Probably not a very satisfying solution; but in any case, I'd like to hear other opinions about it, as I may be misjudging the situation.

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    $\begingroup$ Another possibility is to flag the post. Good questions should not be closed just because they are old, but bad or borderline questions I think should (and I close many such ...), especially if the poster have disappeared. There are too many old bad questions here that in reality never will be answered! Closing some of the worst ones will also make the automatic bumping more useful. $\endgroup$ Feb 14 at 13:45
  • $\begingroup$ @kjetilbhalvorsen Re-reading my answer, I probably overestimated the "review queue congestion" problem. Now, I don't look actively for old off-topic questions, but I occasionally launch a VTC if they appear in my feed in a way or another (I do the same with old questions lacking enough details to be answered). I don't mind if other people are more active than me in this regard, these questions are meant to be closed at some point anyway. $\endgroup$
    – J-J-J
    Feb 14 at 14:21

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