Photo Album
Creative Commons License photo credit: KJGarbutt

Some community managers ponder deleting old, long inactive contributions, due to a lack of technical resources or a belief that those contributions somehow take away from what they are currently trying to accomplish.

This is something that smaller operations are more prone to do because they may be hitting the limits of their web hosting plan – the database is too big and it is hogging resources.

But, I believe that when you delete older contributions wholesale – not because they violated your guidelines or for a specific reason on an individual basis – you are damaging your community’s history and legacy. To remove them is to rob yourself and your members of the wonderful opportunity to look back and see where you came from. It is not unnatural for a long term member of a forum to look back at posts from years gone by and reminisce.

It would be like opening a family photo album and tearing out the first half of the album and throwing it away. Or if you just started randomly deleting folders of photos that you have taken with a digital camera. Old photos, like old community posts, provide us with milestones, perspective and emotional reference.

The motivation for this thought was really to based on history and legacy, but let’s not forget that for many communities, search engine traffic represents a majority of the traffic that you receive. Many of those visitors are coming in through old posts that relate to what they were searching for and, perhaps, include the answer to a question that they have. Old posts can offer tremendous value. Removing them has a negative impact on the usefulness of your community and the incoming traffic (which can mean new members) that you will receive.

If you are thinking of doing a mass removal of old contributions due to a lack of resources, I encourage you to find another way.