Yesterday afternoon, when I logged into the LEX at SC4 Devotion and scrolled down to read the recent comments on some of the downloads, I noticed one of a variety that has been known to push my buttons a little, both as a content creator and as an SC4D admin. The question was, “why is the download locked?” When I went to the file in question and looked at the history of the file and the creator’s work on the LEX, it was fairly clear to me why it was locked, and a quick investigation confirmed it for me. The download was locked 6 years ago, because it had been superseded by a newer, snazzier pack of that creator’s work, which combined the contents of the locked file with a bunch of similar lots, providing a more convenient package.
In fact, there’s a grand total of 3 reasons why a file on the LEX could be locked: 1) the aforementioned case, that the file has been superseded by a newer version, often combined with other like files from that creator into a larger, tidier package; 2) there’s a serious issue with the file, and it’s locked temporarily while those issues are being sorted out, minimizing the spread of tech support issues; and 3) the creator no longer wants to distribute the file, for whatever reason. Granted, there are cases where a creator or admin might not spell it out all that well, and might take the locking for granted. That said, 99% of all locked files on the LEX are locked due to reason #1, and those files are permanently locked. The aforementioned commenter was one of the nicer ones, in that he/she simply asked about the fact that it was locked, rather than doing what many other commenters had done–demand it be unlocked, on occasion using expletives and slurs to get their point across, even if the file in question has been locked for several years, and it’s clearly marked that the file is obsolete.
Foul language aside, there is a fair point to be raised here–why do we lock files in these cases, instead of deleting them? It’s basically a way of ensuring legacy support, as some files get updated and others that link to them don’t. Consider this scenario–you picked up an older lot off the STEX, which happens to list BSC Texture Pack jeroni Vol01 as a dependency. That particular dependency pack was superseded in October 2008, when its contents were merged into BSC Textures Volume 3–a fact noted on the download page for the original file. Had the creator, a file custodian, or an exchange admin simply deleted that file, instead of locking it with a note, you’d instead see this if you tried to follow the link. That’s the LEX’s version of a 404 “page not found” error. Unless you have the history of all dependency packs of 2008 vintage memorized, it’s unlikely you’re going to figure out that BSC Texture Pack jeroni Vol01 is now included in BSC Textures Volume 3, and you’re basically screwed. But because the file was locked with information on the download page, instead of it being deleted, crisis is averted.
Here’s another situation: let’s say you’re a long-time player, who is coming back to the community after a long absence, and you have a hankering to build some highway spaghetti with the RHW. You don’t yet know that the NAM has gone to a monolithic paradigm, in which the RHW is actually included in the NAM itself, rather than being a separate download. So, you remember that some guy by the username of Tarkus (hey, I know him) was involved in its development, and go searching for it, and because the old download page from 2007 is still there, pointing you to the monolithic NAM, you know what you’re doing. Had I simply deleted that page when that particular version got superseded, it might not be immediately apparent, and you’d have to drop onto the forums and meekly ask what happened to the RHW.
For those wondering about server space from hanging onto those locked files, it’s pretty much a non-issue. We have plenty of it, and as the point of keeping these locked files around is merely to maintain the download page and point people in the right direction, we can theoretically replace the original with a blank. And because no one will be downloading these files, our most critical resource–bandwidth–is largely preserved.