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Recently, Emrakul made a meta post on why a certain question was deleted. It was a case of the question being low quality and off-topic. However, the question was highly upvoted (although incorrectly) and received a lot of views (possibly due to appearing in HNQs). Some of the answers were also highly upvoted since they were creative and funny. Another such question which has attracted a lot of delete votes is this.

I wholly agree that these questions should have been closed and deleted before they garnered so much attention. However, since this was not done so quickly, they are now two of the most upvoted and viewed questions. Therefore, they have historical value.

Historically locking off topic questions which are popular is common practice in other SE sites including Stack Overflow, Server Fault, Super User and many others (To see just go to the site and search is:question locked:yes). It has been done before here in puzzling too.

So, the question is should we historically lock these questions or just delete them?

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Generally, historical locks are reserved for exceptional circumstances. The pertinent question when historical-locking is, "what value am I preserving by doing this instead of deleting?"

There's an old adage on many Stack Exchange sites, which is roughly: if it's closed, expect it to be deleted at some point in the future. (This isn't always true, but generally...) In some cases, when that course of action just doesn't make sense, historical locks are used. For example, on Stack Overflow, this answer became a significant part of the site's humor and jokes. Obviously, it's not a good answer, and if it were posted today it would be deleted.

Historical locking is for questions and answers that should nominally be deleted, but are better kept around because they have played some significant part in the site's historical development, or are otherwise significant to the site, i.e. by ranking high in search results.

When it comes down to it, votes and views alone simply don't cause questions to make the cut. Looking at these questions... there's no real value to preserve. They're mildly interesting, but they contain no real information and no real challenge. Nobody's looked at them or seriously read them in forever, and they serve as a bad example of on-topic questions to new users. They were upvoted and received that many views solely because they hit Hot Network Questions, and were posted during a rough time in the site's history.

As you say yourself, these questions are low quality and too broad/off-topic. Without significant extenuating circumstances, the normal course of deletion should be followed.

This being said, if you happen to find a question which has been deleted and which you think serves some truly significant historical purpose, feel free to flag it for undeletion and historical locking, or post about it here.


As an aside, the two questions (one, two) your search previously pointed to have been deleted because, in retrospect, they're just not historically significant enough to warrant deletion.

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  • $\begingroup$ Personally, in these two specific questions, are you in favor of locking or keeping it deleted? $\endgroup$ – Rohcana Sep 14 '15 at 17:32
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    $\begingroup$ @Anachor The way I see it, they should probably be deleted. $\endgroup$ – Aza Sep 14 '15 at 19:55

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