Locking of old threads

Sometimes I google for something R related and come across a post in the RStudio Community. I'm very active in online technical discussions, so I often want to add information - either provide a solution to a thread that hasn't been resolved, or add a workaround, or any other information that may be helpful for future visitors. But I noticed that usually the threads are locked.

I find it very limiting, and it's a reason why I've started advising some of my clients to post questions on StackOverflow rather than here, just because I know that while here people are friendlier, at least on SO someone can come along in a year and answer, which isn't uncommon.

Are threads automatically locked after a short period of inactivity? If so, I'd like to officially cast my vote in favour of abolishing auto-locking of threads :slight_smile:

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+1 on this ... there are times, too, where I've wanted to 'resurrect' a thread. Instead, I've typically had to 'reincarnate' a thread instead by starting anew and linking back to the original, which feels clunky. I wonder if Discourse (the underlying forum software) has any sort of necromancer plugin :laughing:?

These are the official explanation and suggested walk-around.

Thanks for the link Andres. I do understand the reason why some threads should be closed.

It still seems overly restirctive. I have asked questions on stackoverflow where there was no answer for a long time and all of a sudden somebody answered months later, and it was very helpful. I would never have known that my question is answered otherwise. Similarly, I've answered questions more than a few months after they were asked many times, and in almost all cases the old participants in the discussions were grateful.

So I would still like to raise this issue and reconsider the automatic locking of ALL threads. Perhaps simple "help with my one specific issue that I'm having" threads make sense to close, but more general/discussion threads don't. So maybe the author of each thread could choose at time of creation whether they want to auto-lock? If the decision has to be made for all posts, I would personally prefer to err on the side of too much discussion rather than the side of helpful information not reaching its audience.

I beleive auto locking can be set per category, maybe it can be set per tag also, if that is the case then I think the "question" tag (which enables Stackoverflow like interactions) could be set with no auto locking, but I think that globally disabling auto locking is not a good fit for this forum since this is more beginner oriented.
On Stack Overflow there are plenty of people that will bully you if you do not comply with the forum policies preventing you from making the forum a mess.

Thanks for all this feedback.

I think this is a good example of survivorship bias; As a moderator, I am exposed to many situations where a thread should be closed but wasn't, and I don't see situations where value would be created by reopening the thread for a follow-up answer, but wasn't.

Just to reiterate FAQ: Why are Topic-Threads Automatically Closed After a Certain Amount of Time?

  • Discourse just doesn't deal with threading very well, long topics very quickly become impossible to follow. I've been experimenting with the discourse Q&A plugin, but it's not stable on our site yet.
  • With StackOverflow, all "replies" are "answers", and so new users with related but distinct questions are led to pose a new question. On a discourse forum, the more natural course of action for a new user following the same pattern is to pose a reply - even if that belongs as a new topic.
    • We had a lot of issue with this before being more aggressive about auto-closing.
    • Splitting those replies into new threads is relatively costly, requiring manual intervention.

If I had to guess (with no data to support this), I suspect the problem of novice-users posting replies where a new-topic is warranted likely dominates (more likely to occur and is more problematic to the forum) the other problem.

I genuinely think that the "Create a new topic and link back" pattern is the more appropriate one for a discourse site, given the differences in design between SO and discourse. It's no more clunky than SO forcing users with a question related to an existing one to pose that as a new question. Auto-closing does make things more clunky for people to share new solutions, but given the constraints of discourse, not auto-closing creates a host of other issues.

Sadly this isn't a feature supported by discourse or a custom plugin yet.

I have two ideas to improve things,

  1. Trust Level 4 users are able to reopen a thread and comment. I know dean personally and so was happen to bump you up to TL4. I'd love to grow our group of trusted sustainers who are free to edit and add this kind of thing... if you have recommendations?

  2. I posed this problem above as a survivorship bias problem — I see the problem we're optimized on but not the one your talking about — so as an experiment I'm tweaking the closed topic message slightly, to expose myself to more situations where people really want to add their comment to an existing thread.
    This is still clunkier than it can be, but at least I'll quickly have a clearer idea of how many people are trying to add solutions to older threads. If a good number come in, I'll add this to our discourse development queue.

The message now reads

closed %{when}
<br><br>This topic has been closed.
<br><br>If you have a query related to it or one of the replies, 
start a new topic and refer back with a link.
<br><br>If you would like to add a solution to this thread, 
please send it to @economicurtis as a Direct Message. 
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This topic was automatically closed 7 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.

If you have a query related to it or one of the replies, start a new topic and refer back with a link.