I'd like to propose a way to deal with controversial questions.

Current state of events.

Every once in a while a question pops up that by itself is flawed when set against site rules, but at the same time is adopted enthusiastically by the community.

Right now rule violation/on hold status, a lack of correctional actions by the OP or reputed users lead to closure and then deletion.

After deletion the question with all that goes with it basically is gone, never to return. (Disregarding the small chance that there are 3 10K users that will actually resurrect it)


Sometimes a question only can fixed by the OP, because it boils down to what this person drives. And sometimes the OP is never seen again.


Sometimes a question is kept on closed and undeleted because of 'historic value' at the discretion of the reviewer.

Several discussions have addressed this already, with good arguments put forward about the lines in the sand, but petering out without any real outcome towards site policy that I can see (yet).


Every once in a while a discussion sprouts indicating that maybe the rules sometimes fail us when dealing with the untidiness of life as it happens. So, what if we define 'historic value' and so create a purgatory of controversial closed undeleted questions?

  • Rule violation.


  • High view count.
  • Multiple answers.
  • Multiple up-votes.

I really want to keep such questions and their answers. I think they achieve something. It would be something like What is a historical lock, and what is it used for?.

Examples. (hard to find)

References. (A pretty random list, and one of em mine)

(in fact the list is endless)

  • Can you provide a handful of examples of questions which meet your criteria and qualify for a historical lock? Ideally questions which aren't currently historically locked.
    – Dan Bron
    Aug 27, 2016 at 11:24
  • Will do. Will take some time. Trigger was of course english.stackexchange.com/questions/343411/…
    – Bookeater
    Aug 27, 2016 at 11:28
  • 2
    You say "After deletion the question with all that goes with it basically is gone, never to return.". But that is not true. It takes only 3 votes from 10k users to "undelete" a deleted question.
    – NVZ Mod
    Aug 27, 2016 at 12:17
  • @NVZ, I've read a lot of debate on the subject by now, and my impression is undeletions happen rarely only. Anyway what I'm trying to achieve is a smooth way to handle the unwieldy and to prevent the need of undoing/revisiting/discussion.
    – Bookeater
    Aug 27, 2016 at 12:50
  • 2
    It's five votes to put a question on-hold; it's closed automatically after a period; and it takes three delete votes to delete it (who can be the same people as voted to close, and a mod vote counts as five and three respectively). However, it seems to me that what you are proposing a new class of historical lock. Historical locks are actually quite rare, principally because they must be actioned by moderators. Are you suggesting binding moderators to "historical-lock" a question or an automatic process?
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Aug 27, 2016 at 19:29
  • 2
    What are these 'rules' I keep reading about? I see a number of suggestions and reccomendations, but nothing about rules.
    – Mitch
    Aug 27, 2016 at 21:00
  • 2
    I still don't understand what you're asking for here. You mention four criteria for decision-making, but not who makes the decision or what the result is. This sort of proposal needs to be absolutely concrete, thought-through and complete, I'm afraid -- principally because it has to go through Meta.SE after it's been considered here.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Aug 28, 2016 at 8:32
  • 2
    @Andrew Leach, It is a proposal keep controversial questions visible. The criteria have no boundary values either. I wanted discussion, hence the [discussion] tag.
    – Bookeater
    Aug 28, 2016 at 8:35
  • Although by now it is very clear where this is going.
    – Bookeater
    Aug 28, 2016 at 8:36

1 Answer 1


As you pointed out, there is already a similar site policy for dealing with controversial questions: historical lock. I don't think we need another mechanism, especially not an automatic one (I can't tell if that's what you're proposing).

As the question you linked to indicates,

Questions can be historically locked when:

  1. The post is Off-Topic or Not Constructive, and
  2. The post is stellar, in spite of its off-topic nature, and
  3. There are a large number of views, upvotes and inbound links on the post, and
  4. The post is contentious; e.g., it has been closed and reopened at least once, or deleted and undeleted at least once

If you want to keep such a question and you think it adds something valuable, you can flag it for a moderator to review, or make a Meta post to gather support for locking the question. One example of a successful Meta appeal to get a question a historical lock is Sven Yarg's answer here: The “bare/bear with me” question: what should we do with it?

You can see that your criteria (High view count. Multiple answers. Multiple up-votes.) are basically just a subset of the criteria for a historical lock.

I think the additional criteria for historical lock are important. Many bad questions receive multiple answers. This is especially true for single word requests, where a vague question often gets a lot of answers since there are a lot of words that seem like they might fit. High view count and upvotes are better indicators of value, but they still are not always reliable, especially for recent questions where most of the attention may be from being on the front page or getting on the "Hot Network Questions" list rather than from being a useful web search result.

I would say the best indications that a question is controversial are closures and re-opens, or deletions and un-deletions. These show that different community members feel strongly about having this question on the site.

However, in this case, the question can't be undeleted because one of the users who voted to delete it is a moderator. So the best way to establish that it is a controversial post that a number of community members think is valuable is to make a Meta post to gather support for undeleting and locking the question. I don't think it's a good idea to establish a system for avoiding the discussion process.

  • +1. "a moderator voted to delete it", which one are you talking about?
    – NVZ Mod
    Aug 27, 2016 at 20:22
  • @NVZ: you have enough rep to view deleted questions, right? You can see the history of the question yourself: english.stackexchange.com/questions/343411/…
    – herisson
    Aug 27, 2016 at 20:23
  • Yes. That one was deleted by "tchrist♦, NVZ, Mitch", before tchrist became a mod. So maybe it can be "undeleted", I see the option there.
    – NVZ Mod
    Aug 27, 2016 at 20:24
  • 1
    @NVZ: only the current status of the user matters; even though tchrist wasn't a mod when the vote was cast, he is now.
    – herisson
    Aug 27, 2016 at 20:25
  • @suməlic: is deletion by a mod permanent, or can the mod reverse their decision if they wanted to? Aug 28, 2016 at 3:37
  • 1
    @Chappo: Mods can delete or undelete as many times as they want without restrictions. So no, it doesn't have to be permanent.
    – herisson
    Aug 28, 2016 at 3:40

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