We've got an old, popular question which IMHO is deserving of a historical lock - marking it as a significant question, but not one which should be serving us as an example or a guideline for what we accept. The question is Help Me Find The Unnecessary Words, which provides a paragraph and challenges members to edit it by chopping words out.

I think this question should be locked for the following reasons:

  1. It falls afoul of our more recent discussion, where we decided that rephrasing requests are off-topic. You can copy-paste all the reasons cited there, but to summarize: such a question invites many rephrase suggestions, most interchangeable, and is of little use to others. Such a question is only useful in the long term by expanding its scope tremendously into general guidelines on the topic of editing, and that is not the sort of content we want to encourage here.

  2. The top-voted answer (currently at +29, beating out second place by 16 votes) demonstrates the problematic nature of the question: it doesn't provide a suggestion for the challenge at all; instead, it states that the question is a poor match for the site, and proceeds to offer general editorial guidelines (quite excellent ones, I will add). In other words, the top-voted answer does not answer the question, except inasmuch as it would equally answer any such question about any other text. Will we decree editorial excision exercises on-topic, but point them all at our existing answer? That makes no sense.

  3. This question is indeed being suggested as justification for allowing new low-quality questions on the site.

Since I know at least one or two members are likely to object to a historical lock on this question, I'm bringing the topic up on Meta before I actually do anything. Objections and agreement are both welcome.


2 Answers 2

I say lock it, for all the reasons that you suggested here. It's a valuable question because while it is a rephrase request it's better than a lot of critique questions we've gotten, but I think it can serve the good it can serve and still be locked.


Maybe I should answer this, because I hold the top-voted answers on Unnecessary Words and Rephrasing Request and additionally used the former as justification. Maybe this all looks a little bit contradictory, but bear with me.

First, I don't think I got 29 upvotes because I stated the problematic nature. I got these because of Eschbach's marking steps (so despite my first paragraph).

Second, as stated, I'm not a fan of most critique questions on the site, I'm not a fan of rephrasing requests. Put your historical lock on it, I'm with you.

Third, before you do it, you should recall, that this should be (with defined restrictions) a community driven site. The question you want to lock as not being a good fit, has over 20 (twenty) upvotes. All posts on the meta question about rephrasing do not have 20 votes even if you sum them up.

Maybe we guys are the most active on Meta. That does not mean we should ignore what the majority of the users of the site vote for.

The upvotes on the original question are from the early beta, when we had way more active regulars than we do now. A question posted today can't compete, in sheer votecount, with an old question. I don't know what the majority of the users of the site vote for, except what I actually see. –  Standback Jul 6 '12 at 4:14
Secondly, a question being popular doesn't mean it's a good fit for the site. See Stack Overflow: Where We Hate Fun. This is exactly what the historical lock is for. –  Standback Jul 6 '12 at 4:30
@Standback, you are mixing things up here. This is in no case a "fun" question. This was invented for popular but obviously out-of-scope questions. There should be a good reason to overrule the community decision. I see that for popular comic posts, but not for the question we discuss here. –  John Smithers Jul 6 '12 at 8:46

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