Can we reconsider the automatic lock-down of zombie threads?

I know this has been asked before, but, again, today we had another good example of why automatically closing zombie threads may not be a good policy.

In this ancient (from 2000) pit thread, the subject was the Roma people, or to use the pejorative as it was in the thread, “Gypsies”.

I thought we were very fortunate that a person of Roma ethnicity had seen the thread, registered, and then posted in it. In fact, I thought it was a very important post and it surely would have engendered more discussion. Alas, it was locked.

The person who resurrected the thread, i.e. the person of Roma ethnicity, being a new member (registered June 2010) is probably unaware of the zombie lock-down rule and might well wonder what the hell is going on. Beyond that, I doubt that he/she will know that, in order to continue the discussion, he/she should open a new thread (possibly in GD, if he/she was even aware of that forum).

In any case, leaving the thread open would have provided a simple and natural forum for that person to continue to address the issues that had been brought up regarding the Roma. Now, as a result of the zombie policy, I fear we may have lost him/her.

More generally, can you remind me why this policy exists. What is the gain? It’s not self evident (to me, at least).

Thank you.

Besides putting excess strain on the hamsters, if the mods were to reverse their Zombie ruling, who knows where that might lead? Best not to venture down that road and just pretend everything’s hunky dory.

I’ve never applied a blanket rule on thread closings. I’m at work right now. I’ll reconsider my decision when I get home.

Who says it’s not? :smiley:

Though I’ve found it’s copacetic more often than it’s hunky dory around here. But YMMV.

There’s nothing to stop a new thread being opened to discuss racism against Romani or travellers, and the BBQ Pit is probably not the best place for a serious discussion on that topic.

I agree, the zombie policy doesn’t seem particularly thought out. What exactly is wrong with responding to ideas from years past? Real, you know, scholars do it routinely. So what if the earlier posters are long gone? The important thing (at least for serious subjects) is the ideas, not the people behind them.

Conversely, if the zombie policy really is necessary and good, why not just install a little code somewhere to automatically lock all threads when they’ve reached the age of three months since last post, and prevent the revivals that people find so hideous? Why do we have to always see a zombie joke and a withering remark about the resurrectionist’s inattention to thread dates?

Sure, but, speaking generally, if the new comments follow upon the old discussion, why should the threads be separate?

I view the Zombie thread as a conversation that ran its course. The participants have moved on to new ideas and have probably forgotten the context of the old conversation. Questions raised and answers given fall on ears that may no longer be around.

It seems like a closing post from the Moderator/Admin saying “Thank you for the post. The participants may have forgotton all about this thread. I’m closing it so that the old conversation can give way to a new one”. Then

  1. “PM me here if you would like me to start a new thread with your post and a link to this old thread”
  2. “Please feel free to start a new conversation and link to the old thread. PM me here if you need help starting a new thread”

This would help keep the database less fragmented, preserve the old conversation, and make way for a new one without forgetting about the old one.

I find it confusing and irritating to be going along in a thread, possibly making mental notes of issues I may want to reply to, only to eventually realize that this entire discussion happened a decade ago and that everyone involved has forgotten all about it. I think the current policy of starting new threads and linking to the old ones is the best way of handling it.

Not only that, but ears that may still be around have led to changed brains. Say a poster in 2000 had a certain view on a certain topic and posted vocally about it. In 2005 there was an epic thread that wound up reversing said poster’s position. Then in 2010, someone trawling through old threads discovers the one in 2000 and resurrects it with a heated argument. Where’s the sense or usefulness in that?

Here are some previous discussions of zombie thread policy here at the SDMB:

They state what others have said here:

  1. There isn’t an automatic lock policy.
  2. Each forum’s moderators approach zombie threads in a way that they feel is suitable to the forum.
  3. There are some good reasons to close some zombie threads. There are some good reasons to keep others open.

In this instance, I closed the thread because:

  1. The thread is more than ten years old.
  2. Several of the posters in that thread don’t post here anymore; and
  3. It’s in the Pit, which means it is unlikely to result in renewed, ordered discussion. While you may be correct that the new registrant may not have been aware of our customs regarding zombie threads, he’s probably equally unaware, that he entered a discussion in a forum in which few rules apply to discourse. He probably made that post without being aware that he can be called just about any name (except a select few) or that insults could be directed at his family members.

I’ve consulted with Miller on this and he agrees with the closure. You are correct that I should have been more clear about what I was doing and what his options were. I’ll do my best to remedy that lapse right now.

Thanks for your thoughtful response.

During the day, I’ve had time to think more about the topic. It’s become clearer to me that my point, my main concern, actually, is that very often zombie posts are caused by newly registered users who have somehow stumbled onto an old thread that’s of particular interest to them. In such instances, it’s a bit of a shame to immediately close down the thread.

For one, the newbie may misunderstand why that’s been done and possibly feel attacked, or at least insulted. But beyond that, he/she can’t be expected to have the know-how to open a new thread on the topic, especially while referencing the original post. In fact, they may have even interpreted the zombie lock-down as a sign that they shouldn’t open a new thread on the topic (i.e. “Oh, I must have stumbled into a forbidden area”). Not too likely, I admit, but possible. Regardless, joining a board and then having your very first post locked is hard to interpret as a warm ‘welcome aboard’.

So, at the risk of making even more work for the mods, would it be possible to try to include some explanation, as well as some direction or guidance on how to proceed, when a zombie thread that’s been resurrected by someone who’s just registered (quite possibly in order to post to that very thread) gets closed down?


Everything he said! A suggestion for when a noob resurrects a zombie. Close the thread, start a new thread in the noob’s name (in the appropriate forum), and include a link to the zombie thread. Then send a PM to the noob who resurrected the zombie, telling him/her why it was done that way.

Just a suggestion… :wink:

Actually, since we seem to get so people finding the SDMB through Google searches, and then signing up as new members, i think what we need is some sort of message that new members see when they join the boards. Something like:

Thankyou for joining the Straight Dope Message Board. If you found this Board through an internet search, please note that some discussion threads are months or even years old. If the conversation you wish to join is more than X months old, please start a new thread instead of resurrecting the old one.

We’ve discussed locking all threads more than a year old. We might yet do it.

Well, let us suppose you find a rebuttal to a post, where you believe you have crushed their thesis. However, the (now long gone ) poster actually was an expert on the subject, knows full well your supposed crushing rebuttal, and would be able to destroy your ideas in a few expert lines. But now he can’t as he’s long gone or even maybe dead. Thus, replies or debates to old posts are a bad thing. Now, if it’s something like “What’s your favorite ice cream?” then it’s hardly critical to be locked and in fact I have seen the Mods let some zombie threads lurch back to life.

In this case, it’s clear that the thread is fairly controversial. Also the Op hasn’t posted here for 8 years, one poster is banned, and several others are also very inactive. So, it was a good call.

But why? The point the OP was making is that a brand spankin’ new member was able to make a contribution to a 10 year old thread. If it had been automatically locked, the new member might not have bothered to sign up. You do want to attract new members, right?

The idea is that you use a link to the old thread by way of kicking off the new one. We need to make that clearer, obviously.

You know, Moderators have the power to split threads. Can you maybe split the new posts into a new thread, and add a link back to the old one?

That is an outstanding idea!

That is precisely what I would do.