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I've noticed a number of old questions that have resurfaced as active due to edits either to the questions or to answers. Many of them don't meet the contemporary criteria for on-topic questions as they fail to present a notable claim. I don't know when the current notability criterion was introduced, but it seems clear to me that it wasn't enforced in 2011. Here are a few examples that became active over the last ten days for illustration:

"Does one shake hands with 6 men/11 women per year who have recently masturbated and not washed their hands?" – based on a single post on an online forum (posted Dec 10, 2011; last edit to question Apr 23, 2022)

"Does gender affect driving skill?" – no source for the claim (posted Mar 31, 2011; last edit to question Apr 20, 2022)

"Meditation - Is it just spiritual practice or something more?" – no falsifiable claim; no source given (posted Mar 16, 2011; last edit to answer Apr 20, 2022)

"Is pain tolerance lower in the morning?" – based on anecdotal evidence; no source given (posted Jun 3, 2011; new answer Apr 17, 2022)

"Does telepathy exist?" – no source for the claim (posted Mar 5, 2011; last edit to answer Apr 14, 2022)

I was tempted to Vote to Close for several of them until I realized that they were basically historical artifacts, so I decided to ignore them. But as it is, they remain on the list of active questions unchallenged, often with very high views and votes. As such, they may serve as bad examples to users unfamiliar with skeptics.SE's rather strict posting rules. Or more explicitly, as @JoeW emphasized in a comment to this question:

A problem with leaving them open is newer users can find them and use them as examples of good questions.

@Oddthinking commented in as an answer to a related meta question that

Sometimes an old answer will come to my attention - someone has flagged it, or someone has posted a newer answer which brings the old answer in front of our eyes, and it might get judged by the modern rules. (This arguably introduces a bias - that only offensive old answers get deleted or marked as requiring a reference, whereas inoffensive answers get by without. This is an argument for systematic clean up, rather than ad hoc.)

So, what is the right procedure? Should old questions like the examples above be flagged so that moderators can add a note that this is a historic question that doesn't meet today's standards? Should I cast a "Vote to Close" in the hope that enough users do the same? Should old questions just be ignored?

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    A problem with leaving them open is newer users can find them and use them as examples of good questions.
    – Joe W
    Apr 26, 2022 at 12:45
  • @JoeW: Exactly. I've already hinted at that, but your comment emphasizes the main point more explicitly, which is why I've added your comment to the question.
    – Schmuddi
    Apr 26, 2022 at 16:13
  • Something else to note is that closing these questions isn't likely to have any major impact on them if they have not had any real activity in close to 10 years or longer.
    – Joe W
    Apr 26, 2022 at 17:50
  • Speaking as one who has recently edited a couple of old entries of mine, I was not aware that would bring them back up to the top of the list, and stopped editing as soon as I realized.
    – DevSolar
    Apr 26, 2022 at 22:18
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    @DevSolar "I was not aware that [editing questions] would bring them back up to the top of the list" - to hear that from someone who's been on Stack Exchange for 13 years is.... concerning.
    – F1Krazy
    Apr 27, 2022 at 10:22
  • @F1Krazy: On StackOverflow the front page is so volatile that the issue never came up, and the other Stacks I frequent, I frequent... less frequently. ;-) I just never realized.
    – DevSolar
    Apr 27, 2022 at 10:54
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    Just ran into this Q skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/9604/… May 4, 2022 at 21:57
  • @DevSolar: Bumping old threads with edits and late-responses may be regarded as rude on some discussion-forums, but StackExchange tends to more Wikipedia-like in its goals. A lot of folks seem to think it's entirely acceptable while some get annoyed; seems to average out to "it's okay to do edits in reasonable moderation".
    – Nat
    Sep 17, 2022 at 19:55
  • There used to be a concern about closing old-questions when other questions were closed as duplicates of the old-questions.
    – Nat
    Sep 17, 2022 at 20:01

2 Answers 2

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There is a method of dealing with some of these types of question used by other SE sites such as English Language & Usage.

Such questions—if of any interest—are locked with the following message

  • "Locked. This question and its answers are locked because the question is off-topic but has historical significance. It is not currently accepting new answers or interactions."

For an example see here.

This might be useful in the situations in the question here.

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  • Why is this a better solution then a normal close of the question?
    – Joe W
    Aug 14, 2022 at 4:51
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    @JoeW It stops the question being deleted and doesn't annoy the writers who contributed as much as it might otherwise. (So, in truth, not much really)
    – Araucaria
    Aug 14, 2022 at 10:04
  • As long as the question was well received it can't be deleted by anyone but diamond mods and the concern should be keeping the site clean according to standards is the goal. Leaving an off topic question open but locked still can lead to confusion as it is not a clear indicator that something would be closed if it was asked today.
    – Joe W
    Aug 14, 2022 at 15:03
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    This is definitely inferior to regular closure. Locked questions are only editable by moderators and aren’t bumped to the front page when the mods do edit them. Closed questions and their answers can still be improved by users which will push that content to the front. Sep 17, 2022 at 20:44
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This same question came up on puzzling.se a while back, and my answer there is site-agnostic, so I'll just reproduce it here.

Guidance from meta.se says close them.

I refer you to this question:

I think we can all agree that by Today's standards this question would be closed (with a couple of valid reasons to choose from).

However, things were different back then - well from what I can gather, I see quite a few questions like this from back in the day. This kind of question was clearly acceptable at one point.

So, should I vote to close it or leave it be? And just for extra understanding, what would happen to any rep for that question and the answers if it was closed?

Accepted answer:

View all question with today's standards. If the question fits as per current standards then leave it open; if it doesn't fit then vote/flag to close it. If we keep the questions which don't fit as per current standards, then people will ask why the questions are still open.

This sentiment is echoed several times across many posts at meta.se:

Basically, judge all questions by today's standards. If a question should be closed by today's standards, then it should be closed, regardless of when it was first asked.

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    This is a good way to handle things as it makes it clear to future users what is and isn't an on topic question.
    – Joe W
    Sep 16, 2022 at 16:02
  • @JoeW Be aware that sometimes "today's standards" are not shifting towards the better. I know at least one stack that has had such a shift happen, with a lot of good and well-received content having been weeded out because a vocal minority has basically taken over and those who disagree have thrown in the towel. My vote goes to Araucaria's locking. Then again, once you lose moderatorship to the "new stack order", any such policy is going down the drain anyway, so...
    – DevSolar
    Sep 17, 2022 at 20:05
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    @DevSolar It isn't a matter of agreeing with the standards or not but treating each question equally. If you don't think the standards are correct you should address those concerns on this meta site. Locking the question can cause confusion as people still will point to that question as being on topic as a reason another question should not be closed.
    – Joe W
    Sep 17, 2022 at 20:13
  • @JoeW The point I am trying to make is that a Q&A can have intrinsic value even if the format is outdated. I dislike the concept removing insight or even just (non-trivial) "historic" material for any reason. I am not going to fight any battles over that (and this stack is not the one I was referring to), I am just presenting my opinion.
    – DevSolar
    Sep 17, 2022 at 20:19
  • @DevSolar Closed questions with positive scoring answers aren’t removed. They’re still there, they still show up in search results. Sep 17, 2022 at 20:37
  • @DevSolar If anything, locking questions makes them less accessible than closing them. Locked questions cannot be edited by anyone but mods and are not bumped to the front page when mods do edit them. So I’m not sure why you’d favor that over closure. At least the closed questions can be edited and improved by users, which pushes that content to the front page. Sep 17, 2022 at 20:42
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    @DevSolar And closing those question is the proper action to take. We should not be taking different action on a post because it is 10 years old versus one that was posted today. Closing a question does not remove it from the sight and people are still able to access it just as they had in the past.
    – Joe W
    Sep 17, 2022 at 22:30

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