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Example case

The following question

"Unable to resolve the following parameters:" jags error for Latent Class Model

is a question that is more than two years old now. It has just been bumped up by community for the reason

This question has answers that may be good or bad; the system has marked it active so that they can be reviewed.

The problem with that question is:

  1. It is not very easy to understand the exact problem (possibly on the edge of off-topic because it is sort of debugging, the underlying problem might be statistical but it is not stated in an explicit clear way)

  2. The original poster has not been on the website since more than two years.


Question

How should we deal with such paralyzed questions?

  • On the one hand I might think that closing and deletion is the only way to 'finish' such questions because the original poster is unlikely gonna be around to accept answers or provide further information on the question (e.g. explain ambiguities, clarify text, provide original data, provide code example/output, etc.)
  • On the other hand sometimes those questions may contribute to the site, and they are only not very pretty or clearly written.

In more general terms (I do not necessarily wish to discuss the particular question which might lead to a simple answer 'just close it')

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First, if a question meets reasonable criteria for closure, it should be closed. It doesn't matter if the question is new or old, or if the poster is active or inactive, etc. Conversely (but similarly), if a question is good (clear, on topic, etc.) it should stay open, even if it is old and the poster is long gone. The issue then is what to do with borderline situations.

In general, if there is an older question that might need some interaction from the OP, but the OP is unlikely to return, I would lean towards closing. First, I have long thought that the standards for closing old and unattended questions should be somewhat less generous than new questions where the OP is actively engaged. Second, if a question needs some attention from the OP, and won't be able to get it, it will most likely just linger in limbo. That doesn't do anyone any good.

I gather that part of your interest in this question is that you believe it might be valuable for the site, if tightened up just a little bit and given a good answer. So let's add the condition that the thread at issue has a lot of potential. However, from above, it still needs a little more from the OP, and it still won't get it. In this case, I think the ideal solution would be to close it and ask a similar question that would afford the answer you believe would benefit the site, but that does not include any of the lingering ambiguities that hamper the current question. Always remember that you can ask and answer your own question on SE sites.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 I liked especially your second paragraph and it matches my ideas that one should be more generous when the OP is actively engaged (but this creates a problem when this engagement is cut off). It confuses me however why you use the past tense "I have long thought that the standards for closing old and unattended questions should be somewhat less generous", or do you still have this opinion? $\endgroup$ – Martijn Weterings Nov 22 '18 at 18:32
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    $\begingroup$ Regarding the third paragraph. I personally like wilderness and weeds. As an analogy, I do not wish so much to delete them from stackexchange. But then again, I have never considered so much the copying of those weeds into a nice clean garden, a question of my own, where I try to simplify the problem or write it more easily (with this particular question, for me a simpler, easier, introduction-type question might be useful to have on the site) $\endgroup$ – Martijn Weterings Nov 22 '18 at 18:37
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    $\begingroup$ @MartijnWeterings, I have thought & continue to so think. Re: paragraph 3, they needn't be deleted, just closed. In fact, an option would be to close them as duplicates of the new, clarified Q. $\endgroup$ – gung Nov 22 '18 at 19:05
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    $\begingroup$ +1, I agree with everything here. Just want to add one more thing (@MartijnWeterings): an old thread that has 0 votes and some un-accepted answers with 0 votes can be effectively deleted by anybody by downvoting the Q. If it's downvoted, old, and does not have upvoted answers, then it will be automatically deleted pretty soon. I confess that I sometimes do this when I encounter clearly useless/confusing old threads. $\endgroup$ – amoeba Nov 22 '18 at 20:32
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    $\begingroup$ +1. "It is not very easy to understand the exact problem" sounds precisely like "unclear what you are asking" to me. Let's close such questions. $\endgroup$ – Stephan Kolassa Nov 26 '18 at 15:14

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