I was reviewing the Close Votes review queue when one of the questions to be reviewed for closing was:

A word that means that something is not real but feels real

It was asked more than a year ago and apparently it got protected today.

What is the best practice adopted in EL&U for closing questions that are more than a year old?

Is there any tangible benefits for closing questions that are too old (to migrate) citing any of the close-vote reasons?

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  • 2
    We have thousands of questions (maybe tens of thousands) that we should close based on the current rules and guidelines. We didn't have them three to five years ago (we have English Language Learners now), but we have them now. I don't want to see new users quoting them as an excuse for their off-topic questions. Actually some users did that as if they could post an off-topic question because there is a similar question posted 5 years ago and that's the reason we should keep closing those off-topic questions.
    – user140086
    Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 19:12
  • 1
    @Rathony: Feasibility? How many questions do you estimate need killing, and who decides, and how long does a decision-to-kill take? For example: 100,000 questions at 10 person-seconds each is 278 person-hours, no coffee breaks. That's two seconds per person per question for a five-person kill agreement, 5 seconds per person per question for a two-person kill agreement. (And, do I use too many hyphens?)
    – ab2
    Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 21:56
  • @ab2 Hi, ab2. I am not proposing to close and delete all of them at once. The poster asked a question and I expressed my opinion. I think it is a good thing to close old questions and delete them even if they are more than a year old.
    – user140086
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 4:21

2 Answers 2


All questions, even old ones, provide examples to new users about what we think is acceptable on the site. If a question does not meet our standards, it may be closed regardless of how old it is. With this in mind, we might want to peruse some of the oldest questions in the Frequent tab and bring them up to our current standards or mark them with a historical flag.

  • How does "mark them with a historical flag" work? Do I flag a question for moderator attention and then specify that I'm requesting that EL&U's "historical question" blurb be added to explain why a question with (let's say) no sign of research is open? Consider this (recently closed) question from 2010: Is it "bear" or "bare" with me? It has received 125 upvotes and elicited an accepted answer that has received 224 upvotes). The upvotes strongly suggest that people have found the question (and answers) useful.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 17:19
  • That's a good question, @Sven. Would you mind posting it as a separate Meta question? I don't think we have an established policy and we may need some discussion.
    – Kit Z. Fox Mod
    Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 17:21
  • 2
    @SvenYargs It looks like you are thinking that questions with the historical flag remain open... but in fact it is stricter than being closed. Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 21:38

Close the older off-topic questions as a means to discourage low quality answers; protect any question that is older than 12 months to prevent new users from making any contribution; stick a historical flag so no one can post a new answer nor express their approval on the question, or cast a vote on any of its answers. Anything, but anything is better than deleting them, as recommended by one member.

@sumelic Thanks. As far as I understand, English Language and Usage Meta is to discuss workings and policies of this site and that's why votes don't affect your reputation points. I will write a post that includes the list of all worthless crap that should be closed and deleted when I have time. It is high time we did that. – How can users nominate old, popular questions for exemption from closure as being of 'historical value'?

I am not proposing to close and delete all of them at once. The poster asked a question and I expressed my opinion. I think it is a good thing to close old questions and delete them even if they are more than a year old.

Madness. Sheer folly. The idea of possibly deleting three or four years' worth of database because hundreds of questions asked in 2010/11/12 do not conform to today's guidelines, is pure folly. It was those old questions that first attracted me here in the first place. I looked up a question, and the answers on that question spurred me to read another post, and another, and yet another until I was hooked.

Back in May 2013 my Italian private student wrote: “... our body's health...” I wasn't sure about the spelling, should it have been “..our bodies' health...”? I Googled, and EL&U popped up, the rest is history as they say. If that question had been deleted (because it lacked research) I would never have come across this website. I was a rookie then, a baby, a newcomer, and I was fascinated by the answers that had been posted. I was literally in awe.

Our bodies' or our body's

Recently, a high rep user has suggested that old questions which are clearly off topic should be deleted because they are "worthless crap". They do not conform to the updated site's policies. Not today they don't, but they did between 2010 and 2013. Why the need to penalize users who followed the rules back between 2010 and 2013?

It's like bulldozing a 19th century English country cottage because it was built following yesteryear's building regulations and norms. Is that fair?

The site's regulations, and guidelines are modified almost on a yearly basis, it is therefore quite probable that there are going to be questions which are on topic today which will no longer be in four or five years time. Questions that may seem banal and irrelevant to future users, but which at the time was a source of interest and intrigue. If the community deletes five-year-old questions today, it means questions that were submitted in 2015 could be deleted in the future. From an egotistical viewpoint; where is the guarantee that my contributions are safe from deletion?

Do I like every question that has been posted? Do I think every question must be saved for prosperity? No, of course not, but if a post older than 12 months earned a couple of thousand views, generated one or more answers which attracted upvotes then it means someone, somewhere, found that question or its answers useful. Should we endorse deleting that post because it fails to conform with the present-day guidelines? There are other avenues, one of these is to close that question with the approval of five users. If this needs to be said, closing a question is not equivalent to deleting it.

Difference between “locked” and “closed”
Why is this question locked?

  • 4
    I would feel more comfortable with this answer if you focused it on how you felt about deleting old content as opposed to explaining how you think another user feels and how wrong that user is for feeling that way.
    – Kit Z. Fox Mod
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 14:39
  • I'm not saying it's a personal attack. I'm referring specifically to where you say "anything is better than...[what was] recommended by another user" and "a high rep user ... wants to take that away from me". You can explain your position without referencing anyone's difference of opinion.
    – Kit Z. Fox Mod
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 15:07
  • You are the one who always comment ELU is different from Yahoo Answer. The difference between bear and bare should belong to Yahoo Answer, not here. I really don't understand why you so much care about Yahoo Answer type of question. Do you want this site to look like Yahoo Answer? Then, fine. You have one vote and I have one vote. Let's see who agrees to close them and delete them. Why do you think users would not come to ELU because we deleted the old questions? I am planning to raise this issue in Stack Exchange Meta and ask the authority which way is better and I will take the question (con
    – user140086
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 16:41
  • as an example. We don't need those questions. We have more than enough good-quality questions that can attract users. I didn't come here and settled by finding an old off-topic question. I just typed "English question to ask" or something. Those questions are off-topic. They don't belong here.
    – user140086
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 16:42
  • Why should this question be deleted? What is the difference between furnishing, interior and décor?. Some users might Google the word and come to ELU. Then, we should not delete it. Why are we applying double standards to the same crap? Just because the question about bear and bare was asked 5 years ago? Crap is crap. I don't see the reason why the question should not be deleted while tens of similar ones are deleted everyday. Who knows? 5 yrs later, one mil might view it
    – user140086
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 16:56
  • The question has "historic" value, I don't even like it. The answers are "meh", but once you start deleting these old questions, questions that were posed before the current guidelines, then you're on a slippery slope. How many "old" questions would not be tolerated today? I bet there are hundreds, you even said "thousands" and what about the answers to those questions? You're going to be deleting them as well because they answered a general reference question. Well, I disagree.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 17:37
  • The LQQ of today rarely attract the HQ Answers of "yesterday". The guidelines on EL&U have been established to avoid future questions like "bare" vs. "bear", but that doesn't mean they should be dumped and deleted. Obviously users liked that question, nobody was twisting their arms whn they upvoted the OP, otherwise why has it got so many upvotes? It has little to do with time, I could show you 5-year-old questions with fewer than a 1,000 views.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 17:39
  • You are still in a imaginary world where you believe upvoting is working on ELU. Why do you care so much about past users who are mostly gone? What historic value does the crap have? It will make ELU look more like Yahoo Answer. Is it worth it? I don't think so. How come a question about bare and bear have a historic value? Just one liner question with two-liner answer without any link or reference? Dream on. I will ask the authority to have a clear verdict on this issue. I doubt they will agree with you. Let's see. My comment is done. Just never tell me what is right or folly.
    – user140086
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 17:53
  • Here's a question 5 years old, only two upvotes, 702 views Gender, generally associated with “toad” characters in English fiction and folklore The number of upvotes and views are always irrelevant? Will you vote to close this question as being off topic, and then vote to delete it? This question does not have "historical value" but I wouldn't delete it all the same. But I would probably vote to close it, if it was submitted today.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 18:03

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