I stumbled (to my utter amazement) on a question which was linked to a comment posted on Meta, namely https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/10659/what-does-tldr-mean

For those who do not have the rep to see deleted questions, it is as follows:

What does “TL;DR:” mean? [closed]

I found two different sentences that were prefixed by TL;DR:.

What does it mean?

TL;DR: "I've been here for quite some time, spent considerable time and effort in shaping the […]".

The question was asked by a high-rep user and was posted on Jan 30 '11 at 13:46 There were six answers posted in response to that question. The top answer received 59 upvotes. The entire question, along with its answers, was deleted by seven users on Sep 19 '12 at 2:02. Five of these are still very active today.

The reason it was first closed was because it was deemed as "general reference". The original wording was:

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.

Now, we should all be aware of the fact that a little over two weeks ago, an identical question was asked on EL&U: What does 'TL;DR' mean and how is it used?

Why wasn't that closed as "general reference" (especially by those very users who deleted the previous question)? Will that recent question plus its five answers be deleted one day? Until today, I would have argued that that was an impossibility, but I'm not so sure any more.

I ask because I once voted to close a question for being general reference—which it was. It had nevertheless received an excellent and detailed answer; the answerer was a newcomer who, being justifiably concerned, queried if his post was doomed for deletion. I reassured him that posts which had received at least one upvoted answer could not be deleted. Was I wrong? If the rules governing closure can be changed (as seems to be the case), is that good answer at risk of being deleted one day?

Furthermore, I strongly believe that the aforementioned TL;DR: question should be undeleted and marked—ironically—as a duplicate of the more recent one. If the original post hadn't been deleted, the second question would have been closed in an instant as being a duplicate.

I'm all for deleting GR questions that have accrued no upvotes and no answers in the space of, say, four weeks. They achieve nothing besides cluttering up the EL&U site; they should consequently be obliterated. Similarly, if the recent question was never (to the best of my knowledge) at risk of being closed, and it remains open to this day, then the older question should be reopened.

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    This question deals with a closed and subsequently deleted post some three years ago. The person responsible for closing it was not a mod nor a person whom I've ever "met" in the 20 months I've been a member of El&U . However, five of the seven users who deleted this post are active today. And I would like to know why a question posted nearly four years ago qualified to be deleted, but not its doppelganger. Although to be fair the title of the second TL;DR: question is practically identical to its original, the second OP showed research AND had understood correctly its meaning. – Mari-Lou A Dec 8 '14 at 10:57
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    Huh. I just cast a vote to reopen that question (11 more votes needed, it said), and was then told that it was deleted by a moderator and cannot be undeleted. Can questions deleted by mods not be undeleted? That seems quite bizarre … – Janus Bahs Jacquet Dec 8 '14 at 15:32
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    @JanusBahsJacquet that's why I'm asking for it to be undeleted. I received the same message when I clicked on undelete. But when I voted to reopen the messages says four more votes from other users are needed. – Mari-Lou A Dec 8 '14 at 15:39
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    Yup, that worked for me, too. I wonder if the question will be automatically undeleted if it gets reopened, or if we’ll just have an open, deleted question … – Janus Bahs Jacquet Dec 8 '14 at 15:40
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    @Erik Kowal Gosh, you worked hard today. Thank you for doing a masterful job :). – Mari-Lou A Dec 9 '14 at 5:44
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    I'm glad you thought so! (And, you're welcome! :) – Erik Kowal Dec 9 '14 at 6:45
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    That's a good question, but one that I have no definite answer to; there certainly hasn't been a rush to respond to you thus far from that quarter. Also, much of the moderator decision-making seems quite opaque to me; but then, I haven't participated in any of the chat rooms where some of them hang out. If you can survive the esoteric/rarefied level at which those chats tend to take place, it is possible that you might get a better idea there regarding the factors they take into account in some of their decisions. – Erik Kowal Dec 9 '14 at 7:05
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    @ErikKowal problem is that the person who closed it wasn't a mod, but a "community manager" according to the OP whose TL;DR; question was closed. Moreover this OP is a very high rep user but who is much less active nowadays. Now, why didn't he raise any flags when the second question was asked? Especially when it received so much attention. Maybe he had forgotten about his closed, and deleted question. Anyway, how does anyone delete five answers where the top post has 59 upvotes? – Mari-Lou A Dec 9 '14 at 7:14
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    There definitely needs to be a badge for best copy-editing – Mari-Lou A Dec 9 '14 at 8:32
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    I just provided the fifth reopen vote for the 2011 question, so that hurdle is no longer an issue. But the "questions deleted by a moderator cannot be undeleted" bar remains in place—and evidently insurmountable. – Sven Yargs Dec 9 '14 at 20:37

Duplicates are not bad. In fact, they're good:

There’s often benefit to having multiple subtle variants of a question around, as people tend to ask and search using completely different words, and the better our coverage, the better odds our fellow programmers can find the answer they’re looking for.


I wish people wouldn't delete questions with good answers. You're destroying the useful contributions of your peers!

Also, merging is a thing.

if there’s anything of worth in the answers, the question should be merged with another question rather than being deleted! ... I’m not necessarily advocating deletion, either; we want some of these merge stub questions hanging around so people can find two “identical” questions that were asked in two totally different ways. The exact, perfect duplicate question, in my experience, is much more rare than people think.

edit: Actually, it looks like no questions have been merged here since 2012, so maybe the mods have forgotten about it, or we mortals have forgotten (or never knew in the first place) that it can be requested. Let me repeat that last part really big so everyone knows:

Merging is a thing! The older question should be undeleted and the two questions should be merged!

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    Many, many questions have been merged, including 36 in 2014. Here's SEDE's most recent (which may not be the last because that data set lags a bit): Above thing or thing above? – Andrew Leach Mod Dec 11 '14 at 12:29
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    The best solution, and the fairest. – Mari-Lou A Dec 11 '14 at 18:03
  • @AndrewLeach - Thanks for setting me straight; I was going by a Google search for occurrences of "merged by" appearing on EL&U. I confess that I myself had forgotten that it was possible to merge questions, so I hope this answer helps remind others that we can request merges. – phenry Dec 12 '14 at 15:29
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    Google is almost certainly crawling as an unregistered, unlogged-in user. Consequently any hit on the merged question is routed automatically to the merge target, which may explain the lack of "merged by" in the results: it never actually sees that text. – Andrew Leach Mod Dec 12 '14 at 15:35

I'm curious what the point of resurrecting the old question in order to immediately close it as a duplicate of the newer one.

It seems to me that we now have a canonical answer to the TL;DR question, that goes further than the original question or the original answers. The second question is higher-quality than the first. If we had never deleted the first, the second might have been closed and we'd have only the first set of answers instead of the second.

Even so, undeleting the old question won't help future visitors at all, as far as I can see.

It is strange that we can re-open the question while it is deleted, but not undelete it, but either way I see no reason to play with the old question at all. It was off-topic before, it's off-topic now, AND a duplicate of an on-topic question.

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    The first original question was closed for being off topic; i.e. general reference. The second question wasn't closed, and yet the answers they generated are to all intents and purposes the same. Duplicate questions, as far as I'm aware, are never deleted, because (if I recall correctly) users always find a way of asking the same type of questions but using different words. Duplicate questions are helpful for the data base. Unless I'm mistaken. I'm also concerned that questions which I had believed were "safe" can in fact one day be deleted without our consents. – Mari-Lou A Dec 9 '14 at 21:32
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    Duplicate questions are not deleted, as you said. But in this case we are talking about undeleting a question. At this point I don't think it helps at all, especially since the old question doesn't provide a particularly useful rephrasing of the new question (i.e. it won't help future searchers). – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Dec 9 '14 at 21:36
  • The point of resurrecting the original question is one of fairness. Why is that question deleted and off topic while the second isn't? – Mari-Lou A Dec 9 '14 at 21:40
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    The first question asks what is the meaning of a word. The second question asks about the usage of a word, because the reported meanings do not seem to match its usage. It includes basic research. – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Dec 9 '14 at 21:42
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    That question generated six answers, the top answer scored 59 upvotes. If that question got closed and deleted, who's to say the same won't happen to a less popular question with only three answers posted, tomorrow. Before promising people today that their posts are safe, I'd like to be sure myself. – Mari-Lou A Dec 9 '14 at 21:50
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    I'm not sure how you can promise that someone's post is safe. A moderator could delete it. Someone could edit it. The site rules might change and the question be deemed off-topic. The question might already BE off topic (or otherwise close-worthy) and the answer was a waste of time, because shortly nobody will be able to read it. It's my understanding that whatever rep the users earned will be kept, even if the post is deleted. But they are not eligible for MORE rep. – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Dec 9 '14 at 21:53
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    Good, now I have my answer. No posts are safe from being deleted. And I really don't think the main concern of that user was rep, it was because he had spent a LOT of time on that post. It was a lengthy, detailed and and practically flawless answer; however, I along with four other users, voted to close that question because it was clearly GR. – Mari-Lou A Dec 9 '14 at 21:55
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    I would say, you can't know with absolute certainty that a post won't be deleted. You can only guess, based on your understanding of the site's rules and community. – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Dec 9 '14 at 21:57

The original question simply asked what TL;DR means, which is beyond a shadow of a doubt General Reference. And it wasn't just closed by ELU mods and high-rep users - I'm not sure what's happened to now-deleted user "Will Hunting", but I think he is/was one of The Powers That Be within the entire Stack Overflow group of sites.

The second question (which I haven't closevoted) has at least some credibility, in that it could be seen as asking for more details about the "status" of the usage (is it acceptable in a formal context, for example?).

Personally, I think the fact that over 100 users are prepared to upvote a meandering answer to that second question (with its pointless plethora of "not-so-funny" images) doesn't reflect well on ELU.

On the other hand there's an argument for saying it must reflect what many people want to see here - why else would they keep upvoting? If ELU mods or even higher-level representatives of TPTB within SO want to close/delete the second question they'd have my full support, but I don't see why I should have be the first one to stick my head above the parapet (I don't mind here on meta, because I assume most of the people who disagree with me are casual visitors to the main site, who are not so likely to read/downvote my words here).

  • Will Hunting is/was a hi rep user but not a mod or TPTB. – Mitch Dec 10 '14 at 16:51
  • You're wary of getting downvotes, someone with nearly 90,000k? What about the user who lost 59 upvotes then? I never asked TPTB to delete the second question. But I think, it was still a GR question that received an excellent answer, despite the glittering animated gif (deleted) and multiple images, nobody dared shut the question, I for one would have been the first to have protested, but because I didn't know there was a duplicate. Which there was. The answers on the original question would have satisfied the OP and the user who wrote the top post could have easily answered the dupe. – Mari-Lou A Dec 11 '14 at 12:00
  • @Mari-Lou: I didn't mean I'd be bothered by the effect of downvotes on my numeric rep value! I meant that if I CV'd the TL;DR question as "trivial, GR", it's practically certain someone would post an acerbic comment taking issue with my position (accusing me of being "elitist", or whatever). And any attempt by me to justify my position would be overwhelmed by casual "drive-by" users upvoting any and all comments that cast me in a negative light. Granted, I don't value such users - but it's still not nice to be attacked by them. – FumbleFingers Dec 11 '14 at 14:16
  • OK, I'd misunderstood. I see what you mean, now. – Mari-Lou A Dec 11 '14 at 14:54

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