What's the downside of *not* automatically closing forum posts after 30 days?

What is the actual downside of leaving forum posts open instead of locking them 30 days after the last response? I've never actually operated a popular public forum, so I just don't know.

I'm sure many of you are familiar with the DenverCoder9 problem. Similarly frustrating is the situation where I can help answer an old forum post definitively, thus preventing a bunch more half-answered posts from propagating off the original one, but the post is locked.

I'm working through an issue with TLS inspection at my workplace causing the "unable to get local issuer certificate" error when attempting to set up sync. I found ~5 forum posts where I could make a meaningful contribution (this one specifically)… but they're all locked.

I guess I could ask a forum admin in Meta to unlock the post in question, but that added friction is enough of a deterrent, I'm not sure many people will go to the effort. It's also a lot of friction to create a new forum post, referencing the five (then six, then seven, then eight) previous forum posts, in an attempt to create a definitive answer—but I'm willing to do that if you feel it's the right thing to do.

So again, back to the question of what's the downside of just not locking the posts in the first place?

3 Likes

The main justification is really just to prevent stale information. For example we regularly saw people searching for X feature and tagging onto the end of an old thread some rant about how something so basic isn't available even though the feature itself had been developed and integrated into the application over a year ago and the thread was from 2 years before even that.

Likewise for support, instead of opening a new post with the support template and "please read" instructions many people would try to tag what they assumed to be a related issue to the end of something completely unrelated which then confused matters greatly for people trying to help.

Basically for features and support it is somewhat useful as it just prevents stale info. I have to admit I'm not sure if this could be looked at as something more granular if we are talking about meta, lounge, plugin categories etc. (or if this is already the case).

If you have useful info about a topic you are knowledgeable in then feel free to make a post about it anyway, we often tag these with the "tips and tricks" label to make them show up in the "wiki" header at the top.

6 Likes

From briefly peeking at the categories it looks like Support is the only one with a 30-day close after the last post. Features shows one year, Dev and Lounge show two years and the others do not appear to have a limit.

5 Likes

Daeraxa has the general answer, though it really only applies to specific types of forums (even specific types of threads within them): those in which information/claims/complaints/proposals/etc. age poorly.

Too many topical boards that are not tech/product support boards also engage in thread closure without any actual rationale for it, and it results in confusing duplicate threads and a lot of wasted effort re-re-re-discussing things. E.g., if you were running a board about sci-fi actors, there would be no sensible reason to close the thread about, say, Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars prequels, since it will never be incorrect that he played that role, and if you permit multiple discussion-forks over time, the same questions and interesting facts and complaints and praises and fan-fictional theories and etc. etc. (including sometimes false information that has already been debunked) are going to be re-posted multple times eventually, in distinct threads that don't have any clear relationship between them.

What a forum like this one really needs is "soft closure" that happens automatically after a long period of inactivity, and "hard closure" in which a moderator marks something as resolved. Anyone should be able to request un-closure of the former kind, e.g. if someone posted a problem report or a "how do I ..." question, which has not been resolved (or perhaps not ideally resolved), and someone else later has a useful answer to it.