Unicorns for everybody!

.... not really.

I'm talking about our long trail of "list of X" that predate the site since immemorial times. As you can see in previous discussions people doesn't want them deleted, but being closed do not prevent deletion, locked prevents deletion but also prevent from updating, and closed prevent new additions. Well, I have the perfect solution, but first, how I got the idea.

While reading the related discussion in the tags, I came upon this question which was asking exactly what to do with the "list of X" and "what X are available", Jeff said (paraphrasing): well, this is tricky, there are valid "lists" that aren't too broad (too broad in this context that there are enough to fill a book about them). Well, there wasn't exactly too much consensus at the time but it catch up my attention the SO example that were based the discussion about one of the ideas (locking). From here on my proposal.

They deleted effectively all answers, no questions asked, and moved everything to a GitHub repository. The list is about freely available books about programing (they really have many, I recommend you to read some). If you check the "stars" that the repository has is over 25k, the amount of users contributing in the number of 309, is actively maintained (last commit 9 hours ago and active contributions in the timeline), anyone can contribute, it has a nice index (!), over 4,700 forks, +2k watchers that gets alerted for each new contribution, etc.

This is a win-win situation. People will find the list as they want to, we still get the traffic, a grumpy user will stop complaining, anyone can contribute to the list, it allows markdown. Did I forget something?

  • 1
    This is interesting and better than deleting. I'm not convinced it would work though, remember that SO users are much more computer literate than AU users. Everyone on SO known how to program (or is learning to) and github is a familiar tool for them. I'm not sure how useful it would be to the AU community though. I still lean towards locking the things, that way they're still there for the people who have favorited them and they clearly state that they're bad questions and we don't want new ones of that type.
    – terdon
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 15:01
  • @terdon but locking (as said in my question) has drawbacks: new additions are not possible, corrections neither. Also, the "new contributions" are very far between each of them, and plain crap. If you check the deleted answers in the list questions most of them are "I like Y too, because FDS".
    – Braiam
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 15:10
  • We don't want new additions, we all agree that such questions should not be asked here, so there's absolutely no point in adding new answers and bumping them to the front page. That also solves the "new contributions" problem you mentioned. Locking does not prevent corrections though, you can still edit the answers as you please. Your
    – terdon
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 15:12
  • 1
    "They deleted effectively all answers, no questions asked, and moved everything to a GitHub repository." that seems impossible to me ;) I hope they moved everything to a GitHub repository first (or is this a clever plot to have the deleted?)
    – Rinzwind
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 15:16
  • @terdon but a list isn't useful if it's not updated. I touched this topic in our previous discussion. What if suddenly all those IDE's, media players, etc. cease to exist? Should we have a truncated list that nobody can update?
    – Braiam
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 15:23
  • 1
    @Braiam locking does not prevent edits. There is no issue here. If they cease to exist, downvote the answer. Even better, just ignore these questions altogether. I don't really understand why we're bothering with them. I didn't even know they existed before yesterday.
    – terdon
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 15:25
  • @terdon you don't seems to know how locking work. You can't vote, edit, add, remove, nothing. A state of eternal slumber, total stasis. Check it out again not even flags works.
    – Braiam
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 15:27
  • @Rinzwind well, the one that did where moderators, so I presume they can still see the list even before deletion.
    – Braiam
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 15:28
  • @Braiam hmm, perhaps locking is the wrong term then. I am referring to whatever process adds this message to the top of the question. That is what I want, a clear message that this is a bad question and not welcome here but only kept for historical reasons. I thought that was added by locking the post but I may well be wrong.
    – terdon
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 15:31
  • @terdon well, the problem is that you still can vote to delete them. Is a vicious circle.
    – Braiam
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 15:32
  • It's only a "problem" if you vote to delete them. Just control yourself, take a deep breath and say "No!" to the delete button.
    – terdon
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 15:33
  • @terdon I don't want them in the site. I don't want them in the site. I don't want them in the site. I don't want them in the site. I don't want them in the site. Is not the right place for them.
    – Braiam
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 15:34
  • 3
    @Braiam That really isn't your choice.I think that it has already been explained to you why these questions are useful to the site, to search and to new users. Commented May 19, 2014 at 16:25

2 Answers 2


It's hard to talk about "what users want" when none of the cited past discussions seem to end in agreement. The "accepted" answer on this question is not the popular favourite... By a very long way.

It appears to be a battle between:

  • A small, tight band of Deletionists. People who would uphold every single founding rule of SE, regardless of the community's view, with tools that allow them to edit, delete and track nearly-deleted posts.
  • Preservationalists who manually have to check what's being destroyed, who can't counter-vote until it's frankly too late, and when they do find something, they need to find other people who feel the same. The "recently deleted" list is usually full of moderator deletions so no, that doesn't help them.
  • People who would rather be answering things but constantly get sucked into meta squabbles about why we should be deleting something or tagging something sideways this week.

The fight isn't fair. It's much easier to delete something you want to delete than it is keep it alive... And I think that's a real shame given the effort that has gone into some of these posts.

What you're suggesting is:

  • A load of work.
  • Harder to maintain.
  • Doesn't rank at all (the point of SE)
  • Detrimental to the site metrics... Lots of views equals lots of new users. We're nothing without new blood.
  • Is rather consistently against the popular point of view.

More than anything, these just aren't a problem.

People constantly cite them as broken windows but I see no evidence of that.

These aren't our problem at all. Not processing a high enough proportion of new questions is our sticking point. These aren't contributing to that at all.

Yet we seem destined to spend at least another five eternities debating whether or not something valuable to the site (at least on utilitarian metrics) should be deleted or not.
Why can't we just leave Britney alone and answer something?

  • That you don't want to recognize that it's a problem is a problem in and on itself. You know why people can't answer new questions that hits us on daily basis? Because they either are crap or are swimming around crap. That is a problem, and the solution is heavy moderation in both ways. Old and new questions. If you don't want to solve the old, just focus on the new and let people that want to get the old fixed figure this out.
    – Braiam
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 15:21
  • My proposal is a sane and sensible solution to this. Unless you have other argument that isn't "not our problem" I don't see how this could be constructive.
    – Braiam
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 15:25
  • 3
    Old questions aren't stopping people answering new ones. That's one of the more ludicrous claims I've seen to date on this.
    – Oli Mod
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 15:38
  • Abounding about my previous comments, hordes people see these question (check the views), see those ridiculous upvoted posts and think "hey, this is what this site is about". Moderating them (the users) becomes a hassle, since there are people that wants to add their own list to the list (I've seen 9 more attempts of big list in the last month). I see a problem with this, and I blame those questions. Now, what is the reason of the low quality questions/answers in the site?
    – Braiam
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 15:42
  • 2
    @Braiam prove your points. Where are the hundreds of questions asked that request lists? Where are the whiny meta posts "Whah! Why was my Q closed? It's just like this super upvoted one!"? Where are the comments where the OP uses these questions as an excuse? You're the one who thinks they are a problem., the onus is on you to provide us with evidence supporting your claim. When people post non-Ubuntu questions, we close them. When people post list questions we close them. What's the difference?
    – terdon
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 15:48
  • 2
    @Braiam You're citing the broken window issue... Where is this flood of copycat questions? What comes in gets dealt with in seconds. You're blaming the wrong things.
    – Oli Mod
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 15:54
  • @Oli if we are doing our work right, obviously I will not find them, you can. Asking me to haunt ghosts without ways to accomplish the task is too far fetched. The fact that those questions are still asked is enough for me to see a problem, denying that it isn't is not the right solution.
    – Braiam
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 16:19
  • 4
    @Braiam I'm not denying that similar questions very occasionally get asked I'm saying their level is well below what could ever be considered a problem and that their existence doesn't neccessarily correlate with existing questions. If anything somebody seeing one of these questions should see the ~200px banners that explicitly tell them they're not great question styles to use.
    – Oli Mod
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 16:23
  • 2
    I respect this answer and it is this attitude that keeps me coming back here, FWIW Commented May 20, 2014 at 7:02

This is a much more reasonable solution than simply deleting them, true. However, there are still quite a few problems with it:

  1. You are still moving this content off-site which is part of why we don't want to delete them in the first place.

  2. Many users will be scared off by github. This is AU not SO. This means that your stated goal of allowing edits to continue will likely fail.

  3. The answers will no longer be indexed by google so they will stop bringing in views which is one of the main reasons we want those crappy questions to remain.

  4. Why in the world would anyone want to go to such a huge effort as setting up a whole github repository when the questions and their answers are already here on the site? Again, we're not SO, we're orders of magnitude smaller.

  5. I am still not convinced that there is a real problem here. The only argument against keeping these questions I can think of is that they might (I said might) give new users the impression that such questions are on topic. I don't see evidence of this. While we are indeed flooded by a metric crapton of bad questions, I don't recall seeing any that asked for a list in the past few months. I really doubt that these questions are causing us any problems. They're closed for Pete's sake!

Which brings me to my preferred "solution" for this "problem". Simply close them and add a message to each of these questions under discussion that reads:

This question is present as a matter of historical interest. While you are encouraged to help maintain its answers, please understand that "big list" questions are not generally allowed on Ask Ubuntu and will be closed per the FAQ.

This has already been done for the IDE and media player questions. Let's do it for the rest as well. This approach has the following benefits:

  1. It lets us keep the questions, and the traffic they bring, while making it very clear that such questions are not wanted.

  2. The existing answers can still be improved but no new answers can be posted.

  3. It does not require the (extensive) extra work of setting up an external repository for them.

  4. We don't send users off to a different website to find the information they are looking for.

In combination, the above seem to address all of the issues you have with this type of question, we get to keep them and new users won't use them as an excuse to post similar ones.

  • Re 1st point: the only thing that prevents them from being deleted is that there was no place for them. If there was a place for the treasure of information this discussion wouldn't spark in first place. Check the chat logs, that's the only place where I've seen jrg said this. Was a CM that proposed this solution to the problem. (Notice that CM at the time said it is a problem (citation needed), which until now hasn't been solved or there hasn't been actions towards solving them)
    – Braiam
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 15:58
  • 2
    @Braiam I don't want them to be deleted. I think that keeping them around closed and with the disclaimer I mention is the best solution and much better than deleting or moving them. If you want to claim that jrg or a CM say differently, you're the one who should search the chat logs. Don't really see how it's relevant anyway though, those would just be other people's opinions. Mods and CM are just regular humans ya know.
    – terdon
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 16:06
  • askubuntu.com/q/594/169736 <-- what about this?
    – Braiam
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 16:07
  • 2
    @Braiam what about it? That's a question from 2010, exactly like the others being discussed here. It has been (correctly) closed and I would like to see the disclaimer added to it. Apart from that, I don't see how it's relevant.
    – terdon
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 16:09
  • oh, do not see? People is still looking at non-working solutions. And the disclaimer on top is not a party stopper, you and I know that people simply ignore them.
    – Braiam
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 16:20
  • 2
    @Braiam what? Where? That question is a list of blogs and it was asked more than 3 years ago when the site was in its infancy. How does it show that "People is still looking at non-working solutions." or that "the disclaimer on top is not a party stopper"?
    – terdon
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 16:25

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