Lately I've noticed several older questions (some as many as two years old) that are being flagged as off topic and are in the queue to be closed.

I don't understand this? Why would we waste our time on questions that are so far off of the front page that we wouldn't even have to see them if they weren't being flagged?

Further, perhaps more personally, it bugs me because these questions were easily considered on topic at the time (way back when we were still trying to define ourselves.) Many of them have a dozen upvotes or so and many have a few really good and useful answers on them. It would be questionable to close them today since they seem to be useful to someone (and, in a general sense, are about aviation an airline operations).

So can someone please explain to me who is trying to get all of these questions closed down two years after the fact? I think there are better uses for the review queue than this... Not sayin', just saying.


2 Answers 2


While I don't entirely disagree that all questions should be evaluated based on current standards, I've found that the people who vote to close old questions tend to be people who want to be rule enforcers.

There are a lot of mentalities which emanate from Stack Overflow out into our smaller communities, and chief among them is the notion that you need to close everything which is in a grey area for on-topic because, if you don't, those sorts of questions are going to keep getting asked and turn into a cancer that destroys the site.

That highly protective stance developed out of necessity, because problems can get out of control quickly on a site which gets thousands of questions per day. But Aviation.SE is SOOOOOOO MUCH SMALLER than Stack Overflow. To illustrate, 10165 questions were asked on Stack Overflow yesterday... on Aviation, we got 6.

Before voting to close any question, but especially one that is years old, you should ask:

  • Did the question get a good answer? If it did, it's likely indicative that people in our community are capable and interested in answering those sorts of questions, and until proven otherwise, just let it be.
  • Is the question such a bad fit that it's actually harmful? Is it actively encouraging new questions which are bad quality or that our community doesn't want to answer? If the answer is no, then you might be doing more harm than good to the community by voting to close. It makes people feel that the community is petty and mean-spirited.

In summary, YOU ARE NOT A ROBOT. Act like a human. Don't close a question because "those are the rules". Vote to close when doing so will actually have a positive effect.

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ "It makes people feel that the community is petty and mean-spirited." <-- That. Fundamentally I think that's my biggest concern. And like you said, we don't have to be mean in order to keep this stack under control. This isn't SO, we just don't need to act like that. $\endgroup$
    – Jae Carr
    Commented May 6, 2016 at 21:00
  • $\begingroup$ I've upvoted thousands of questions and answers on various SE sites, but I've never been happier to upvote an answer than when I upvoted this one. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 10, 2021 at 17:57

Per Meta, all questions should be evaluated based on our current standards. This ensures consistency across the site, and prevents people from getting the wrong idea of what is considered a good question based on older posts. If users feel that a question should be closed/reopened, they should post about it here on meta as usual.

I would argue that being a small site makes this even more important, not less. It's much easier to look through all of our old questions to find similar questions, and we've had new users lately confused about why old questions were not closed but their new question is. Although letting old questions stay open may prevent people from seeing us as petty or mean-spirited, they instead see us as showing favoritism, particularly of old users over new ones. For example, we seem to be saying that how airlines choose food is on topic, but the codes they use for the food or what they do with it after a flight isn't? I'm not saying it's related, but it has been pointed out that there has been a decrease in new questions recently.

If the question is blatantly off-topic or unlikely to get enough votes, it may be flagged for moderator attention. The conversation on these meta posts is focused on "how best to handle these questions" and not "just leave them alone."

I understand how it can seem wrong to be closing questions that were left open before. But there is no statute of limitation here, and our idea of what is on-topic may change over time. For extraordinary cases of old questions that are not considered a good fit, but still have some value, moderators can apply the "historically significant" lock to also prevent edits.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ How do we determine if something should be marked as historically significant then? Perhaps my best option is to simply request that flag if an older question is being closed down. That's the best of both worlds, right? People know it's not actually on topic, but we don't have to hassle with deciding if it should really be closed? $\endgroup$
    – Jae Carr
    Commented May 6, 2016 at 14:53
  • $\begingroup$ The "historically significant" is on a case by case basis. It seems to only be for questions that have no hope of being reopened, but also should not be edited and bumped to the front page anymore. Otherwise, closing them is sufficient. Note that this is a "historical" lock that goes on top of the close, not instead of a close. I put a better link in my answer for that. $\endgroup$
    – fooot
    Commented May 6, 2016 at 14:57
  • $\begingroup$ At least how airlines choose food actually is at least somewhat related to aviation (low humidity and air pressure affects taste and there are weight constraints as well as equipment constraints, some of which are regulatory in nature.) What codes are used for the meals and what's done with them after flight, though, isn't really related to aviation at all. Also, since IATA sells the manual that includes those codes, I rather doubt they want us posting it here. $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Commented May 16, 2016 at 19:46
  • $\begingroup$ @reirab I don't disagree, I wasn't intending to argue they should all be on-topic. You bring up good points for the food choice but they aren't discussed in the current answer. $\endgroup$
    – fooot
    Commented May 16, 2016 at 19:55

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