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SFF.SE has been around for a while now; it has grown and matured along the way. We seek to provide quality answers to quality questions. All this material is kept preserved for all to see now and in the future.

Many old questions make their way back to surface every now and again when they have an edit made or a new answer is given. This can act almost like a time capsule to see what our site was like in the early days.

However, in my opinion, it might also be a deterrent for new users who see the attention lower quality posts receive and think that it would be hard to add anything useful.

The particular one that brought me here was: https://scifi.stackexchange.com/a/1829/57310 - If this was posted today, I feel like that it would be downvoted and possibly converted to a comment.

We also had this old answer, that was actually the Accepted Answer until recently it was flagged as "Not an Answer" and deleted (10k+ viewing only). https://scifi.stackexchange.com/a/1515/57310

Now, I do not hold anything personally against the users or answers, they were a product of their time. However, what should be done about them going forward to maintain the quality we have now come to expect?

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In general, if you see an answer that is obviously bad, treat it like any other answer. If it's not an answer, flag it. If it's a bad/incorrect/poorly researched answer, downvote it. Whatever you would do if the answer was newly posted, just do that -- with one caveat.

There is a mechanism available to specifically deal with very old questions that used to, but no longer, fit the standards of the site, the historical lock. It's used in rare cases, as a way to "grandfather in" particularly interesting or significant questions that would otherwise be closed. But that's really a very special-case, not meant for general use. I can't think of very many questions on this site that would qualify (maybe the "Matrix Battery" question, which really is out of scope as real-world science.) Nothing like this exists for answers, but it does show that the idea of allowing historically significant content to stick around is something that exists in the SE culture.

In my opinion, the way we can honor that philosophy with answers is to just be a bit more lenient with older posts, especially popular ones that contain a lot of interesting information. If new users try to emulate those answers and are corrected, it's not that difficult to explain to them "that post was made back when our standards were still evolving, it's a bad example to follow". We shouldn't penalize the OP who posted what was, at the time, a perfectly legitimate post, in good faith.

But if a post is clearly "bad", bad enough that it probably should have been flagged originally, then there's no need to leave it alone just because it's old. This is particularly true in cases like the one you referenced, where there's very little real content to be lost anyway. I would say, flag the post, and leave it up to the community and moderators to decide we think it's worth keeping or not.


On a side note, questions or answers that are more than 60 days old, and scored > 3, do not have their reputation removed when deleted. (At least that's what I've been told.) So even if an old, now-bad answer gets deleted, the OP will not lose the rep they already have, if that's relevant to your question.

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    Example of a historically locked question on SFF (note that this was the very first question on the site, so it's historically significant if anything is!) Anyway, +1: I fully agree with this answer. – Rand al'Thor Sep 2 '16 at 19:32
  • I think the OP not losing there rep is very relevant because it show we can hold the community to a higher standard without harming users that, as you mentioned, were posting in good faith. – Skooba Sep 13 '17 at 20:58
  • As probably one of the worst offenders of that era, don't hesitate to clean up the site just because my name is attached to it. – DampeS8N Nov 5 '17 at 10:03
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Currently, there's really no good way to handle them, as the previous answer notes. They probably should be downvoted, but the sheer mass of upvotes that accumulated on them (due to old age or NHQ effect) makes that "solution" rather toothless and useless and impossible to scale.

My pie in the sky idea (I realize it is unlikely to ever happen) is some sort of community-applied notice that says something to the effect of "This answer does not present any in-universe evidence or out of universe reasoning; and therefore does not meet the quality standards of the site", similar to "No evidence" notes on Skeptics.SE, but - unlike Skeptics - the notice is the final action on the answer, not the first step towards its deletion.

This way we can (1) preserve the content yet (2) prevent future visitors and readers from incorrectly assuming it's good, quality content due to too-many upvotes it accumulated.

And yes, before someone points it out in the comments, I'm perfectly well aware that plenty of my own old answers would deserve such treatment, and am totally content with that. There are many answers I myself gave, especially early on, that don't meet my own present quality standards.

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  • What do you think should happen to the HP answer Rank linked to in the comments? That answer was flagged NAA but was disputed (one user recommended deletion, others said it looks OK). As the user who asked that question your opinion probably matters most. Should it be preserved (and possibly downvoted)? Deleted? Would you like the moderators to add a post notice?... – Null Sep 4 '16 at 5:08
  • The relevant post notice options are either (1) "Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted." or (2) "We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed." – Null Sep 4 '16 at 5:09
  • @Null - in an ideal world? (a) Have it stripped down to zero rep, (b) edit out all the non-answer fluff, leave it at "I personally don't think it was Harry's most cerebral moment in the series", (3) then slap the notice of "We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed." on it. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Sep 4 '16 at 11:41
  • @Null - at that point, I would be happy to leave it non-deleted, except that I am strongly of the opinion that (#a) will never happen since that idea by Richard and myself was severely controvercial (zeroing out votes on answers that clearly don't deserve them). Without (#a), I would say let Slytherincess fix it up, or delete it if other people flag it as well - possibly after explicit Meta vote on that answer. However, without the latter 2 steps I would not feel comfortable with deletion. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Sep 4 '16 at 11:42
  • Slytherincess has edited her answer so everything should be good now. – Null Sep 5 '16 at 1:18
  • @Null - yep, it was a good edit. The answer definitely no longer fits as an example for this Meta :) Thanks for asking for my input though! This is just the kind of moderation approach I have been hoping for for this site! – DVK-on-Ahch-To Sep 5 '16 at 1:19

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