The top unanswered questions haven't changed since I first started using CrossValidated. I'm tempted to post useless answers just to get these questions out of the way so I can actually use the unanswered questions feature. Should we do anything about this, and, if so, what?

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ The Tex site has get togethers to attempt to answer such questions. See their blog posts about it. $\endgroup$
    – Andy W
    Sep 2, 2011 at 17:56
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    $\begingroup$ @Andy Comment-answers are a part of the problem ;-) $\endgroup$
    – user88
    Sep 2, 2011 at 19:33

3 Answers 3


This is more a comment than an answer, but I don't want to promote the comment-answer trend (please note that I can understand why sometimes people leave comments rather than answer!).

IMO, 'useless answers' are not the way to go. Because we expect answers to be on the point and useful for future visitors. Rather, we can bounce those questions from time to time (editing, retagging, etc.), and wait for users' reaction. If nothing happens then it's just that the question does not deserve that much attention, or nobody is qualified to respond to it. So what? We should expect unanswer{ed|able} questions from time to time.


Whatever you do, don't be posting junk answers! All that does is negative. The author will be notified of absolute junk, we still won't have an answer to that question, and the site will look pretty bad if we start having deliberately useless answers to the questions we get. That ain't a good image for the site - "If we can't answer your question fast enough, we'll just troll you", that's what it says. The people in the community probably won't look to highly on you if you start posting useless answers (what good is an expert if he's just going to trash up the stuff he can't answer?), and consequently people will look down on this community for producing such trash.

Even if we put aside the social and visual aspects of it, there's also the mechanical aspect. The Unanswered Tab is no upvoted answers. If you're posting a useless answer, you're not likely to get upvotes. If anything you're likely to get downvotes, and so not only will it stick around in the Unanswered tab, but you'll suffer for your folly.

Don't think you have to be alone in answering these things. If you don't know the answer yourself, perhaps you might know of people outside the network who can lend a hand!

Image of sharing utilities

The above is a snapshot from portions of one of these Unanswered questions. Marked in red are in-built sharing utilities. Using popular social networking tools you can distribute a link to the question so that you increase the visibility. Or, if you know people directly (or have better places to distribute), we provide a convenient link for you to direct people at the question. With more eyes, you can get people who can commit a true answer.

There are even badges that are awarded if you use this link. The link contains a special query on it with your UserID here on Cross Validated. When people from external sites visit that link, you can earn the Announcer, Booster, and Publicist badges based on how many people you get to come over. Sure, you can also get these by promoting popular answered questions, but you can do double duty by sharing Unanswered questions - you'll be working towards getting the answers this site needs, while also helping promote the site as a whole.

If it's unanswered, the goal we should have is to get that question answered. With a real answer. You aren't limited to yourself in this endeavor - reach out to those around you to help bring conclusion to the problems that have yet to be solved!


There are at least a few "Unanswered" questions with one or more non-upvoted answers. If you'd like to see this list change up, rather than posting useless or inaccurate answers (which as discussed above, won't do anything), considering going through them and up-voting answers that are correct, but haven't received any attention presumably because the OP has moved on.

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    $\begingroup$ Or maybe copy some quality answers-posing-as-comments and paste them into answer fields, of course mentioning the sources. $\endgroup$
    – rolando2
    Sep 30, 2011 at 1:22

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