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I know this has been discussed here on CV meta before, but the most recent discussion I can find is quite old, so I thought it might be worth a new question.

We have a lot of unanswered questions. Roughly 1/3 of all the questions are "unanswered" (per the Stack Exchange definition); that's around 73,000 unanswered questions. Some of these actually have answers but those answers haven't been upvoted or accepted. Others seem like unanswerable questions, or questions with flaws, but which haven't been marked as such. Some have comments that are really answers.

I'm wondering if this reflects badly on CV compared to other SE sites. I'm also wondering if there is anything we can do about it.

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    $\begingroup$ What kinds of updates are you expecting? If you just want to know how CV compares to other sites, then -- like any of us -- you would have to query the other sites through the SE app. Your ultimate questions about "reflects badly" and "do about it" have IMHO been discussed to death in the past. $\endgroup$
    – whuber Mod
    Nov 30, 2023 at 15:36
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    $\begingroup$ What to do? Answer, vtc, vote, what else? If you want to do more, choose a tag of your liking, go through unanswered questions in it, answer if you can, find dups, and else: Aggressive vote to close ... $\endgroup$ Nov 30, 2023 at 15:55
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    $\begingroup$ @kjetilbhalvorsen Starting a bounty on a good, but old and unanswered question can be another option. $\endgroup$
    – J-J-J
    Nov 30, 2023 at 18:46

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My first thought was to vtc this post as a possible duplicate to the already well discussed posts which, even though took place almost a decade ago, still are in complete relevance.

In any case though, large swath of unanswered questions has been a headache not only for this community, but it is rather a network wide issue.


I'm wondering if this reflects badly on CV compared to other SE sites.

I don't know about the current standing of CV among her other sister communities. But we can all agree that no one would love to see hundreds of questions, that have genuine well-researched queries, lying unanswered in a dark corner.

I'm also wondering if there is anything we can do about it.

Peter, as far as reducing the number of unanswered questions, there is no radical overnight approach. You have to resort to the old means, discussed both here as well as in other SE posts- the most prominent ways are closures and answering (nodding to kjetil's comment).

$\bullet$ Closures Let's face it: one can count by the fingertips the number of folks who volunteer in clearing the review queue along with the mods. We need greater participation from the community not only in the review queue but also to search for old questions that can be closed as dupe/low quality/programming based (there are many which escaped the vigil eyes back then).

$\bullet$ Answering

$\diamond$ If you see a question already has been answered completely or there are few hints which you can compile as an answer, then please go ahead and make an answer (referencing the said comments and if it is verbatim, then as community wiki).

$\diamond$ If you can provide at least a comprehensive partial answer, then again don't hesitate to jot down one.

$\diamond$ Find it interesting? But you can't provide the answer? Then provide bounty to promote it.

$\diamond$ Edit old questions of your followed tags that you deem are good queries but otherwise missed the mark due to some unwise usage of ambiguous formalism into a more cogent structure. Trust me, I happened to edit few old posts that received answers subsequently.

$\diamond$ Share any such posts that you think deserve an answer among your peers, colleagues, professors. This, in turn, might initiate participation of new, experienced users.

Continuing the same point, I would add that at the end of the day, we need more answerers. So, we need more participation. One way is, as I wrote, to share the platform and spread the words in the forest.

$\bullet$ If there is already a good answer but not upvoted, then give a $+1.$

$\bullet$ Identify those tags that have the most unanswered questions. Try to pinpoint any possible reason or so. Every tag has a batch of top answerers. Why didn't they answer? See if you can find anything and address the same.

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    $\begingroup$ We need greater participation from the community not only in the review queue but also to search for old questions that can be closed as dupe/low quality/programming based---Not sure why I hadn't been paying attention to old questions for closing, but I may start dedicating more time to that given the review queues usually don't have a lot of action anyway (compared to other places like SO). $\endgroup$ Dec 5, 2023 at 7:56
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    $\begingroup$ That would be great, Shawn. I used to dig and "excavate" many old posts, removed the dead links, edited out unnecessary info. Of late, though, my schedule has trimmed my activities here a lot but still if any other members rise up, that would be great. $\endgroup$ Dec 5, 2023 at 8:37
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I sometimes find old "unanswered" questions that are actually answered in the comments to the question. When I find such questions I often create an answer from the comments (crediting the commentors), but somehow I also feel a bit bad about taking credit for others work !

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    $\begingroup$ If the person who wrote the comment is still active here, I sometimes ask them if they want to turn their comment into an answer. But if they have stopped participating, I think it's fine to do what you do. $\endgroup$
    – Peter Flom
    Dec 6, 2023 at 16:54
  • $\begingroup$ Good point Peter ! I have also done that before but probably should make it a rule. $\endgroup$ Dec 6, 2023 at 16:56
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    $\begingroup$ I've been pinged by fellow members with a comment that my previous comment will do as an answer and this is good all round -- for pinger, pingee, and we hope the site. I think I've done the same and certainly should. $\endgroup$
    – Nick Cox
    Dec 6, 2023 at 17:30
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    $\begingroup$ As I wrote in my post, if you are quoting the comments verbatim, then make the answer as community wiki. Otherwise if there is even a minuscule modification during the compilation, community wiki shouldn't be a matter of concern and yes, there should be reference to the said comments. $\endgroup$ Dec 6, 2023 at 18:59
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    $\begingroup$ This is a good idea, but beware the consequences. When you do post an answer, you are taking ownership of it and will need to justify and explain it: that becomes your work. Don't be afraid to take credit! But if you merely copy and paste a comment that turns out to be wrong or misleading, you could be embarrassed. Remember, whoever posted that comment made a choice not to answer: often that choice was made because the comment is incomplete, inadequately explained or supported, or the poster was unsure of its correctness, appropriateness, or usefulness. $\endgroup$
    – whuber Mod
    Dec 10, 2023 at 17:16
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Perhaps some stupid answers, but ones that come to the top of my head:

  • I don't know how this generally works across the Stack Exchange, but I'm wondering if there can simply be an "old questions" review which automatically pulls old and unanswered questions and allows people to vote on whether they should remain or be deleted. Something that would be particularly useful is a feature that you can vote on questions that the user clearly won't accept answers on anymore (e.g. user posts question in 2012, gets answer in comments, says thanks, and never sees the site again).
  • Perhaps some kind of bounty-based system where a user is rewarded for doing similar actions. E.g. a mod puts up some bounty for clearing 100 or so reviews of old questions to clear the bin. To perhaps minimize how much of a bounty, it could also be in a contest format where the person with the most reviews gets a set amount, with a 1st Place, 2nd Place, and 3rd Place award given.
  • Some kind of badge to the same effect (perhaps in relation to the first point).

I feel there would probably have to be some kind of incentives to really get that ball rolling, hence the suggestions.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 for the suggestions, for they seem prospective. However any such substantial changes require a major overhaul and that warrant a network request at Meta. In any case, close to what you envisage in point one is done by "bumping" of posts by community wiki, albeit arbitrarily. I'm not sure about how the second pointer would work - I reserve reputation points only for the quality of posts one contributes and not on other activities but this can be modified (as your third pointer suggested) to achieving more badges (presently, afair, there is an excavator badge or so). $\endgroup$ Dec 5, 2023 at 8:46
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    $\begingroup$ I figured some of these may not be achievable in an easy way given the rigidity of SE. Perhaps I will consider some other ideas if I come up with any. $\endgroup$ Dec 5, 2023 at 8:49
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    $\begingroup$ One relatively easy idea (I think!) would be to make it easier to navigate the huge number of pages of unanswered questions, either by having a button that goes to a specific page, or by being able to mark questions as "read" and not shown or something. $\endgroup$
    – Peter Flom
    Dec 5, 2023 at 11:06
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    $\begingroup$ These are good suggestions, but note that they already exist in some form. The 'community user' will automatically bump 1 Q >1 month old w/o any upvoted answers to the top of the main page. When you see them, you can investigate & see if there is anything you can do. I used to do that when I was more active. Also there are badges for answering a Q >1 month old & having the 1st A to +2, & answering a Q >2 months old & getting your A to +5 (revival & necromancer). $\endgroup$ Dec 5, 2023 at 12:53

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