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As a relatively new member of Seasoned Advice (well actually to Stack Exchange itself), I can still remember the problems and issues I faced when I first joined.

The most important of them all is that there still exist several old questions that are now considered off topic and not allowed anymore. The problem lies in the fact that these questions usually have very high upvotes and might cause the new users to think these types of questions are quality and recommended type of questions. Here's an example: What cookbooks do you always come back to?

And then just earlier today, we had a user asked this. This is clearly off topic because it is polling for a "simple" recipe app on a phone. But it's easy to see how he might have thought it was okay since he said he saw this question and assumed his question is okay to ask: Digital recipes storage?

So my question is, what is the reason we keep these older question that is now considered off topic around? I am sure it will continue to confused future new users who stumble on the site and prompt them to ask questions that they think is on-topic because they use these old offtopic questions as examples of what can be asked Seasoned Advice.

I also understand that editing and closing my question is not a direct slight towards me. But that's only because I've been here for over a month now. Most other sites on the web, an edit or closed question is considered offensive. I just feel like, it's a bad first impression/experience for most first time users when the fault lies in the confusing mixed signals that these old offtopic but very highly voted question cause.

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Yes, the team even made a comment about this in their most recent blog post, The Trouble With Popularity:

[...] And even if you grandfather a few in, you’ll enjoy neverending requests asking why their fun question or answer has to be removed, while this one over here is allowed to remain.

It's important to note that these questions are not off-topic; if they were to be closed, it would be as Not Constructive because they take the form of polls.

Definitely flag/vote to close questions that you feel don't belong here - doesn't matter how old or upvoted they are. I can't guarantee that we'll close each and every one of them immediately - sometimes we have to take into account the likelihood of a mass panic and wait for enough opposition to build up - but we're definitely paying attention.

Ideally we'd like to see these questions start to get closed by the community as more members reach the magic 3k rep. There are quite a few now!

  • SO has deleted, not just closed, a lot of those old questions. Should we (well, moderators) be considering that for our old questions too? – Cascabel Feb 3 '12 at 23:38
  • @Jefromi: I have to answer that with a very cautious "yes". Stack Overflow has big-city problems... we don't, and when we do (such as the food-unsafety parade) we generally can and do address them individually. While I do consider these old questions to be eyesores - broken windows, so to speak - I do have some trepidations about going on a rampage on a site that isn't that high-traffic yet. We have actually deleted a lot of the really awful crap; a lot of what remains and is being referred to here is more on the mediocre side IMO. – Aaronut Feb 4 '12 at 0:11
  • At the very least I think we need to see "popular" question closures have at least some community support. We (or at least I) don't hesitate to act in open-and-shut cases, like recipe requests or "what should I eat" polls, even if they're getting upvotes, but things like cookbook lists and recipe organization are considerably deeper into our site's current and historical gray area. I'm actually very happy to see these kinds of discussions being opened on our meta - however, I'm not sure if 2 votes should be considered enough to tip the scales... – Aaronut Feb 4 '12 at 0:13
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Really, that favorite cookbooks question ought to be closed. Its existence—and high upvote count—is an artifact of history: over time, the entire Stack Exchange community (speaking as someone who has been around since Stack Overflow beta) has discovered which types of questions work well and which don't. We've learned that type of question doesn't work well.

Unfortunately, during our “childhood” we gained a lot of those questions (they are fun, I confess). We just haven't managed to clean them up yet (by closing, and possibly deleting)—if you look, you'll find a lot on Stack Overflow too. The number of people with 3,000 or more reputation (required to cast close votes) is limited, and the number of diamond-mods even more so.

When you run across one of these historical questions which should be cleaned up, feel free to flag it for moderator attention. If you flag it as "doesn't belong here", it'll bring it to the attention of the people who can deal with it. If you need to explain why, you can use the text box under "needs moderator attention" but beware that means only a diamond-mod can deal with it.

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