Out-of-date questions

I came across this "How did the human brain evolve?" question. It is a 7-year-old question with about 16 upvotes. It is a great example of the Q&As I am talking about. Evidently, the answers are insufficient, albeit also upvoted. They either talk about a specific gene, or very general concepts. This is of course what we have observed time and time again and why we have a close option for broad questions.

I thought about voting to close on the basis that it is too broad, but this has about 1k views and a lot of upvotes so clearly has value on the site.

Why these questions exist

There are many other questions like this that were made before Bio.SE left beta. Before beta, the rules were different and the aim of the game is to see which questions work and which don't. Closing wasn't so clear-cut because we didn't know which questions would eventually lead to good answers.

Next steps

Should we be closing these "old but gold" questions as they turn up, or just let them be?


3 Answers 3


As an initial reaction, I feel that old inactive questions should be left alone, if they don’t pose a big problem. It seems a bit unfair to judge old questions by new standards, when the person asking the question might not even be active at the site now, so they cannot edit according to suggestion. The same problem also occur at all SE-sites (just look at some of the most upvoted Qs at SO).

Also, my feeling is that the site has enough problems to moderate (and attract) new incoming Qs and As, and effort is better spent there than on old materials. There is also the risk that a small number of single users take on the task of “re-valuing” old questions, which might lead them to push their own agenda on good vs bad Qs, in relation to the site community as a whole (both the current one and how it has looked over time).

However, we should be careful not to close new better-framed questions on similar topics (as duplicates), just because an older related Q exists, which has these problems. Then they could actively hurt the site.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I totally agree with this answer $\endgroup$
    – AliceD Mod
    Commented Nov 12, 2019 at 20:23

I agree with @fileunderwater's answer.

I would add that another tool we have available is a "historical lock" which prevents a post from being answered and commented on while keeping it available, and adding a notice that it is not an example of a good question under current site standards.

I definitely do not suggest we go through and historically lock a bunch of old questions, but it's a tool we can use if a particular question becomes problematic and yet should be maintained: if it continues to attract attention that's below the site standards, if it gets abused by new question-askers as a reason their new question should be allowed, etc.

What is a historical lock, and what is it used for?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I also thought of the historical lock. Seconded! $\endgroup$
    – S Pr
    Commented Nov 13, 2019 at 13:41
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I wasn't aware this was a feature. This sounds more proactive than doing nothing. $\endgroup$
    – James
    Commented Nov 13, 2019 at 16:28
  • $\begingroup$ I'd be really careful using the historical lock, unless a newer question which covers the same material exists. There may be (or may come into being) updated and correct answers. It would be nice if you could put a custom post notice on the question instead, or even on the older answers. Just don't want to prevent good material from being produced. $\endgroup$
    – rotaredom
    Commented Jan 2, 2020 at 13:52

Another potential solution is to either generate (or wait for someone to generate) a better asked but related question and simply mark the old question as dupe of the new better question (regardless of vote count).

Probably not the best solution since general or poorly asked historical questions might not necessarily overlap well with new, better-asked questions.

But in a way it "closes" the old question and immediately directs a visitor to both a better asked question and (hopefully) a more up-to-current-par answer as well.


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