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What is the proper procedure for recommending that an old question be retained as being of historical (and continuing) interest despite its clearly not satisfying current site standards for research by the poster?

I have seen some very old questions marked with a boilerplate blurb to the effect that the question has been granted special exemption against closure because it is of historical significance (which may involve, in some cases, an unresearched question that drew excellent answers).

But how does a site participant nominate an old question—and in particular, an old question that has been closed or is in danger of closure—to be "marked with a historical flag"? 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 when more-recent, similarly unresearched questions are being closed?

A case in point is this recently closed question: Is it "bear" or "bare" with me? The question was asked on August 18, 2010, and the poster shows no signs of having done any research at all. On March 6 of this year, it was closed for lack of research. But in the intervening 5½ years, the question has accumulated 125 upvotes, and the succinct but authoritative accepted answer (which cites a "common errors" reference work) has received 224 upvotes.

On the one hand, the question clearly does not pass muster by current EL&U standards. But on the other hand, the large number of upvotes and the huge number of page views (1,096,414) strongly suggest that people are interested in the question and have found it (and the answers to it) useful. When I ran into it in the Review queue, I voted to reopen the question because of its established record of interest to site visitors (it remains closed as I write); but what I would really like is to see it granted an exemption from the site's current Q&A standards.

  • Here is a question with such a lock on it: english.stackexchange.com/questions/1431/… – Kit Z. Fox Mar 14 '16 at 18:45
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    Questions with a historical lock are not really "open." It is an alternative to closing, but it is in fact more restrictive, not less: people cannot vote or add comments on locked questions, among other things. – herisson Mar 14 '16 at 19:06
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    There are dozens, scores, maybe hundreds of worthier questions. It is only the number of views that question has drawn (1096499 times) which is impressive, the answers themselves were nothing to write back home. One answer is copied verbatim from a prestifious website, the upvotes it accumulated were because users believed the citation belonged to the poster. I prefer kit fox's suggested question because the answers are/were original, amusing, and eye-opening. But that's my opinion. – Mari-Lou A Mar 14 '16 at 19:27
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    I think the question only has so many upvotes because it is so old. As Mari-Lou says, having it on this site is not actually very useful. If you do a Google search for "is it bear with me or bare with me?", we're the first result, but our answers are short and not really any better than the multitude of other results. – herisson Mar 14 '16 at 19:34
  • Since my question here is about the logistics of nominating an old question for preservation—and not primarily about the merits (or not) of the question I use as an example of an old question that has been closed despite numerous page views and upvotes—it would perhaps make sense to replace that example with a more meritorious one. But then my question might attract comments arguing that the example question shouldn't be embalmed as historically significant, but simply reopened. Fundamentally, I just want to know what the process is for requesting "historically significant" status. – Sven Yargs Mar 14 '16 at 21:16
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    Why do you want it to stay open? If it gets closed it's not going to be deleted. Why should it stay open forever, gaining even more useless answers? – curiousdannii Mar 14 '16 at 21:34
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    @curiousdannii - Close voted questions can be easily deleted by 5 users with enough rep. Locking prevents this, as it also prevents new answers, comments, etc. – anongoodnurse Mar 15 '16 at 0:14
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Apologies if you've already seen this, but the process is described to some extent at the following Meta Stack Exchange post: What is a historical lock, and what is it used for?

How do I request a historical lock on a question?

Flag the question for moderator attention, with the "custom description" option. In the flag description, explain why you think the post should be historically locked. A moderator will evaluate the question using the criteria outlined above, and will either lock the question, or decline your flag with an explanation.

Alternatively, if you want to try and gain more community support for the question, or contest the moderator decision, you can post a question here on Meta.

  • This is very helpful, sumelic—thank you! @Kit Z. Fox, is this the moderators' understanding of the process, too? How do you all feel about handling a continuing stream of lock requests for highly upvoted old questions that are closed or are in danger of closure or simply don't meet current standards for research? – Sven Yargs Mar 17 '16 at 4:20
  • I am accepting this answer as correct and decisive because I just followed it in connection with the "bare/bear with me" question, and a moderator very kindly agreed to lock the question. For what it's worth, my flag requesting a lock read as follows: "Please consider locking this question as historically significant. The many upvotes it has received, and the many, many page views it has accumulated suggest that it serves a worthwhile purpose despite not meeting current site criteria for a posted question." It may well be that other users submitted similar flag requests at the same time. – Sven Yargs Mar 18 '16 at 23:44
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I would have voted to close it if I had not run out of my close-votes.

  1. As you mentioned, the question is general reference and it can never qualify as a legitimate and on-topic question for English Language and Usage. If it were asked today, it would take less than an hour to close it as general reference.

  2. The viewer number has nothing to do with the quality of a question. As you have noticed, a popular single-word-request question can generate a couple of thousand views in one day while a serious and well-researched question does 30 to 50 views per day.

  3. We need to close all those general reference questions that were asked when the community didn't have firm rules and guidelines. The question could be used as an excuse for current and future users to post a similar off-topic and general reference question as it was not closed properly.

We should select all those general reference questions that were asked from the beginning up to one or two years and close all of them and delete them if they are deemed worthless. I would vote to delete the question as it is closed now.

Edit: I believe it is high time that we did the clean-up exercise of this community by selecting all those worthless questions that are off-topic and figured out how to deal with them.

  • @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. – user140086 Mar 14 '16 at 20:05
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    You're suggesting that the site should delete questions which may have received one or more answers, which may have been highly upvoted, with answers that may have helped visitors. Questions that were asked four or five years ago before ELL was created. And you decide which ones are "worthless crap"? Who do you think you are? – Mari-Lou A Mar 14 '16 at 20:56
  • @Mari-LouA One thing I found your comment very strange is what difference does the number of upvotes make? Do you stillll think voting is working on ELU? Do you think all the questions asked one or two years ago are less helpful because they don';t have as many upvotes as those asked 4 to 5 years ago? Who do you think you are? The question should never have received an answer in the first place. All right? That's general reference question. We didn't have policy at the time, but we do have now. Why do you even close a question now? If you don't close it, it will receive an answer. Your point? – user140086 Mar 15 '16 at 4:15
  • @Mari-LouA What is the point of closing this one-year old question, english.stackexchange.com/questions/161184/…? What makes you think this question and its answer might not have helped visitors? Could all the questions have helped visitors depending on their proficiency? I am really curious to know why you think "bear/bare" question should not be deleted while casting the first vote to a very similar worthless crap. – user140086 Mar 15 '16 at 6:07
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    Well, to start with the newer question has zero upvotes, and I don't think it's "worthless crap" and seeing as it has two fairly good answers I would not delete it either. Next, although we have ELL that question is also off-topic because it lacks research. I gather you would delete off topic questions that were posted 4 or 5 years ago, your provocation is quite unrelated to my comment above. – Mari-Lou A Mar 15 '16 at 6:16

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