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This is a sibling to How should we handle obsolete answers? – but with a completely different focus: while the answers there are simply not longer valid for Android versions newer than X – I'm asking about answers which became completely invalid. Examples:

  • How do I send SMS from PC through Android Phone or to Android Phone? Link rod, the recommended service is no longer available (and the website is in "parking mode", i.e. only showing ads and maybe other unwanted content)
  • Services and their approaches might have been completely changed. I'm not talking about "Menu › X" must now bee looked for at "Menu › Z › Y" (in that case: Edit the post and fix it! :) – but rather working completely different now, thus no longer matching the question

And other things that "invalidate" an answer in a way not easily recoverable by "edit and fix it".

It would be unfair to the answerer to…

  • downvote it (at least if it was a valid answer "back then")
  • delete it (unless older than X (180d?)), as the reputation gained by the answer was earned at the time the answer was valid

An option might be to "mark" it:

  • prepend a "quoted emphasized" block with details (a la "this answer is no longer valid because…")
  • strike-through "broken parts"
  • remove "rotten links" (to prevent dangerous affects with new content popping up there)

Before acting in any way, I'd like to see your opinions – and reach a community consensus. So please point out your thoughts!

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N.B. I'm posting this answer to explain what happened with Izzy's first example, in case any non-moderators are confused. It's not meant as an authoritative statement of policy, and I'd love to hear (agreeing or differing) reasoning from the rest of the community.


In the case of the first example you posted, I started editing the question in the way you suggest: removing the rotten link, and adding a note to say why. I was thinking exactly the same way you suggest: that's fairer to the answerer. On Stack Exchange, we tend to dislike deleting people's stuff unless it breaks the site or is actively harmful to the community.

But while I was making the edit, I changed my mind. As I wrote the note saying that the recommendation was no longer useful because the product doesn't exist any more, I felt silly. Why would we continue to carry a recommendation that isn't useful to anyone? All the people the answer might have helped have been helped and have moved on; it's not useful to anyone any more. And because it's no longer useful, there's the risk that future visitors might downvote the answer. Is that what the answerer would want? I don't think it is. I think that they'd come back and delete the answer themselves if it started getting downvotes because it was no longer valid.

In this case, the answer was old enough for the rep gain to survive the deletion of the answer, so the asker lost nothing. I'd hope that that's always the case if the answer has been invalidated by outside change. So in this one case, I decided to delete the answer instead.

I'd rather much see that kind of flexibility - choosing the response that's best for everyone in the particular situation - than a blanket policy. Sure, it opens the possibility of different moderators on different days doing different things - i.e. inconsistency - but I think it's worth it.

  • 100% agree with you, Dan – you even filled the gaps I've left open in my question. Do you happen to know the exact time frame for the "gained rep to stick"? I knew it once but forgot. Something along the lines of 90 or 180 days? – Izzy Aug 30 '16 at 13:21
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    I think your 180 day guess was right; I had it in my head as six months. – Dan Hulme Aug 30 '16 at 13:38
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    I agree. Answerers keep their rep for old answers even if deleted, so we're not losing anything if the answer is now completely unusable as in the case of a closed-source service that has shuttered. I'd say just be careful in the case of old apps that have been taken down, etc. -- there's always an .apk floating out there somewhere. – Matthew Read Aug 30 '16 at 19:52
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just ask the person who asked the question for what do with the question

  • Won't work, as like the person who wrote the answer, the person who asked the question in 98% isn't active anymore. Apart from that, I've asked about the answer, not the question. – Izzy Sep 5 '16 at 5:36
  • make a vote on the answer. if it is unwanted, then remove it – Saksham Goyal Sep 5 '16 at 12:27
  • As already pointed out in my question: Downvoting it would be unfair, upvoting would be inappropriate. – Izzy Sep 5 '16 at 12:29

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