27

I'm relatively new as an active user here, so I'm still in the honeymoon phase where tackling 20,000 unanswered questions looks like fun.

So, I thought I'd get together some ideas/tips/motivation to take this on.

Obviously it's not going to be realistic to get that down to 0, but I thought we could do our best and see how far we can really get.

I've posted a community-wiki answer below with a template for tracking our progress, which anyone is welcome to edit.

Anyone else keen to jump on board?


A suggested approach

Look through the unanswered and no answers questions. Questions are here because they have no upvoted/accepted answers or no answers at all, respectively.

Then take one or more of the following actions (at least one of these should be possible on any question):

  • Answer interesting questions. Sometimes the answer is hidden in a comment - ask the commenter to move the answer to a real answer. Make a note of the question (perhaps by favouriting it). After two or three weeks, come back and either vote up the real answer or – if nothing happened – "steal" the answer and post it yourself. Example. Also, don't be afraid to post partial answers - something is better than nothing, as long as its an attempt to answer the question!
  • Comment on questions to ask for an update. This will ping the asker who might come back to let us know how they've gone. Maybe they solved the problem and could post the solution, or maybe it's still an issue but they have more insight into it.
  • Vote for good questions. Push them up the list for others to answer.
  • Vote for correct answers. If a good answer is already on a question and has 0 votes, upvote it! This will take it off the unanswered list (don't do this if you don't understand the question & answer though). Don't be afraid to do this for partial answers either, providing they're correct/good.
  • Edit or downvote bad questions that are still on-topic. Editing will bump them and make them easier to understand and answer; downvoting will eventually cause the garbage collector to delete the questions.
  • Close or flag off-topic questions. Depending on what your rep allows you to do.

Some of these steps have been inspired by an earlier meta post by toscho.

A low commitment approach

Haven't got time to go through the unanswered lists?

Whenever you see a post on the home page that was last modified by the Community user, load it up. This is an unanswered post that has been bumped. Then, just follow the suggestions above for this post only - every one will count!


What's in it for the community? (i.e. why do we want to do this?)

  • People get helped and the resource here grows! People might come back and become regulars, more people might come here through Googling, etc. All the usual benefits.
  • Our community floats up the StackExchange network 'percent answered' list (we're behind Joomla; we currently beat Drupal, but only by a couple of percent!)

What's in it for you? (i.e. why do you want to do this?)

  • The satisfaction of seeing these stats change and knowing you were a part of it
  • You'll probably get rep (although to avoid disappointment please don't do it just for this, particularly given some of the unanswered's are old, you're less likely to get accepts)
  • You might get badges! Revival and Necromancer in particular deal with old questions, and of course there's all the usual stuff too (like tag badges and the other answer badges, voting badges, editing badges, etc.)
  • All of the usual benefits of answering, eg. you'll learn quite a bit yourself!
  • It's a great way to find questions worth answering, rather than getting disappointed wading through low quality incoming questions looking for something to answer

What do you think?

  • 2
    Let's get the unanswered rate under control This is like that very famous song Farting in the wind (or was in candle, can't remember ;-)). This is an issue that the complete SE stack have, and is mostly caused by really crappy questions, questions that targets out-of-date stuff, questions which require a lot of input which is ignored by other users, answers that does not really answer the question, askers that does not understand the answer and most of all, new users that simply abondan their questions without any feedback. All questions without answers (or downvoted answers only).. – Pieter Goosen Jun 29 '16 at 7:31
  • ..or that has no upvotes and which is downvoted will be removed by the system – Pieter Goosen Jun 29 '16 at 7:31
  • It is a huge undertaking, we already such capaigns like closing off topic questions. It helps a bit, but does not entirely solve the issue – Pieter Goosen Jun 29 '16 at 7:38
  • 6
    One thing I have noticed is that active users (including me) tend to post answers as comments when the question is simple or silly. This certainly happens when the question is unclear and we post a comment that includes an answer with a questionmark. When we have guessed right, that's the end of the question. – cjbj Jun 29 '16 at 10:29
  • @cjbj you have a really valid point here. – Pieter Goosen Jun 29 '16 at 10:37
  • 1
    @cjbj I do come across a few of those. I think those should still be posted as answers - a short answer is still an answer, after all. I do occasionally do the same, particularly if it's something like 'Maybeeee try this....', and then if the asker confirms it worked, I'll post the same thing as an answer. – Tim Malone Jun 29 '16 at 10:37
  • 1
    @cjbj In the end, comments aren't meant to be for answers - they're transient; can be removed at any time; and are meant for clarification on the question rather than answering it – Tim Malone Jun 29 '16 at 10:38
  • @TimMalone I agree. But it simply feels a bit awkward, as if you're trying to let something small "hey, you got a typo there" pass for something big "here's fifty lines of annotated code to solve your problem". – cjbj Jun 29 '16 at 10:40
  • @TimMalone. Case in point: wordpress.stackexchange.com/questions/230920/… – cjbj Jun 30 '16 at 7:26
  • @cjbj Perfect! I think that's the way we should encourage others to do it if when similar situations come up. Either way, your answer is upvoted - whether or not the user comes back it's still considered 'answered'. – Tim Malone Jun 30 '16 at 7:53
  • I like the idea of converting comments that proved helpful into answers as I've struggled with choosing between answering & commenting a few times. I've just started flagging really bad questions and off-topic questions, but am I just causing a headache for those with more rep than I have? – Andy Macaulay-Brook Jul 22 '16 at 9:11
  • @AndyMacaulay-Brook Thanks for stepping up to help! I don't think you need to be concerned about flagging too much (as long as your flags are helpful, of course - you can see how they're being received in your profile). We do have a deficit in close-vote users here which is a problem, but I think the answer to that is for more of us to work on getting the rep to help with it - and for the problem to be visible. Avoiding flagging just leaves bad questions around hiding 'beneath the radar', making it harder to find the good stuff but disguising the problem. So I say, keep going! – Tim Malone Jul 22 '16 at 10:36
  • 1
    Where do we stand on converting comments to answers? I'm coming across a few questions where the OP acknowledges that comments have solved the issue and I've started adding a comment asking them to write their own answer and accept it (props Tim I think, who I saw doing similar). Now, I could make the answer myself but that doesn't quite feel right. It would get an answer published more quickly though. – Andy Macaulay-Brook Jul 22 '16 at 15:17
  • @AndyMacaulay-Brook See this post above :) first dot point under 'a suggested approach'. – Tim Malone Jul 22 '16 at 22:13
  • Aha. Cool, I shall go with that. – Andy Macaulay-Brook Jul 22 '16 at 22:15
11

Update answer below with the following:

+----------------------+-----------+-----------+-----------+---------+
| Date                 | NoVotes   | NoAnswers | %Answered | Rank    |
+----------------------+-----------+-----------+-----------+---------+
| April 13th, 2017     |  20,639 ↑ |  10,383 ↑ | 72.77% ↑  | 150st ↓ | +
| December 15th, 2016  |  18,856 ↑ |   9,383 ↓ | 73.63% ↑  | 141st ↑ |
| November 1st, 2016   |  18,820 ↓ |   9,600 ↓ | 73.36% ↑  | 144th ↓ |
| October 8th, 2016    |  18,902 ↓ |   9,799 ↓ | 73 %   ↑  | 143rd   |
| September 12th, 2016 |  19,091 ↓ |  10,051 ↓ | 72.65% ↑  | 143rd ↑ |
| August 26th, 2016    |  19,384 ↑ |  10,279 ↑ | 72.08% ↓  | 144th ↓ | *
| August 20th, 2016    |  19,235 ↓ |  10,165 ↓ | 72.19% ↑  | 143rd   |
| August 17th, 2016    |  19,281 ↑ |  10,241 ↑ | 72.13% ↓  | 143rd   |
| August 13th, 2016    |  19,223 ↓ |  10,188 ↓ | 72.14% ↑  | 143rd ↓ | *
| August 6th, 2016     |  19,242 ↓ |  10,221 ↓ | 72.06% ↑  | 142nd   |
| August 3rd, 2016     |  19,340 ↑ |  10,316 ↑ | 71.97% ↓  | 142nd ↑ |
| August 1st, 2016     |  19,296 ↓ |  10,287 ↓ | 72.00% ↑  | 143rd   |
| July 29th, 2016      |  19,376 ↑ |  10,376 ↑ | 71.90% ↓  | 143rd   |
| July 25th, 2016      |  19,315 ↓ |  10,315 ↓ | 71.92% ↑  | 143rd   |
| July 24th, 2016      |  19,337 ↓ |  10,321 ↓ | 71.88% ↑  | 143rd   |
| July 21st, 2016      |  19,481 ↑ |  10,466 ↑ | 71.71% ↑  | 143rd   |
| July 19th, 2016      |  19,478 ↑ |  10,462 ↑ | 71.70% ↓  | 143rd   |
| July 17th, 2016      |  19,417 ↓ |  10,410 ↓ | 71.75% ↑  | 143rd   |
| July 14th, 2016      |  19,519 ↑ |  10,511 ↑ | 71.63% ↓  | 143rd ↓ |* 
| July 12th, 2016      |  19,471 ↓ |  10,486 ↑ | 71.67% ↑  | 142nd   | 
| July 11th, 2016      |  19,476 ↓ |  10,478 ↓ | 71.65% ↑  | 142nd   | 
| July 9th, 2016       |  19,688 ↑ |  10,664 ↑ | 71.42%    | 142nd   | 
| July 7th, 2016       |  19,676 ↑ |  10,656 ↑ | 71.42% ↑  | 142nd   | 
| July 6th, 2016       |  19,672 ↑ |  10,647 ↑ | 71.41% ↓  | 142nd   | 
| July 5th, 2016       |  19,627 ↓ |  10,612   | 71.43% ↑  | 142nd   | 
| July 4th, 2016       |  19,635 ↑ |  10,612 ↑ | 71.42%    | 142nd   | 
| July 3rd, 2016       |  19,631 ↓ |  10,603 ↓ | 71.42% ↑  | 142nd   | 
| July 1st, 2016       |  19,727 ↓ |  10,705 ↓ | 71.31% ↑  | 142nd   | 
| June 30th, 2016      |  19,739 ↑ |  10,707 ↑ | 71.30% ↑  | 142nd   | 
| June 29th, 2016      |  19,728   |  10,693   | 71.28%    | 142nd   | 
+----------------------+-----------+-----------+-----------+---------+

Format inspired by this post on Travel.SE Meta.

* Rank dropped on these days due to the introduction of new SE sites in the list.

+ There are now 166 sites listed. We're 16 places from the bottom spot. When this record started we were placed 17th from the bottom.

  • Couldn't find detailed answer rate in inspector – cjbj Oct 8 '16 at 11:24
  • 1
    @cjbj It's in a hidden field after the lv-stats-wrapper :) <input type="hidden" name="percent-answered" value="73.3596636514206"> Thanks for helping update this, I haven't had time to be here much lately! – Tim Malone Nov 1 '16 at 23:20
  • Found it. Sneaky bastards. – cjbj Nov 3 '16 at 9:45
7

I know this is abuse of the answer field, so I'll see from your downvotes if it is appreciated, but I went through unanswered plugin-recommendation posts and flagged them down. If some more people would follow suit, that could help. Here's the links:

EDIT: all posts done

  • 1
    FYI, I've turned my other answer into an off-topic tag tracker, and added plugin-recommendation as a completed tag. Figured as I started to go through other tags too that it would keep things cleaner to keep it all together. – Tim Malone Jul 24 '16 at 23:43
4

This answer tracks the removal of unanswered questions in off-topic tags.

To help, go through a tag and check questions to see if they are truly off-topic (i.e. if they are specific to that plugin, or cannot be reliably answered without knowledge of that plugin). Focus primarily on the 0-score questions and, if you consider them to be off-topic:

  • downvote them,
  • flag, or vote to close, as off-topic,
  • and if it's a new question, comment to let the user know.

Downvoting is the most important part. Within a week or so, the Community bot will automatically delete any questions older than 30 days that have a negative score, and this is the primary way we can clean up these tags and part of the unanswered rate, hence helping us find more questions we can answer.


Tracked tags:

  • Ugh - this is why I don't use this site - what's the point when all questions I want to ask are going to be marked off topic, and all questions I want to answer will already be closed? – Dave Hilditch Apr 15 '17 at 19:18
  • @DaveHilditch If you're saying you're only interested in questions about plugins, then yes, this is the wrong site. Search in meta for previous discussions about the difficulty of managing plugin Qs. The wordpress.org forums are probably the best place for plugin specific questions. – Tim Malone Apr 15 '17 at 21:42
  • Wordpress.org is also awful because they autoclose comment threads after 6 months - there are so many unanswered questions just sitting on there that could be answered, but they just close them all. – Dave Hilditch Apr 23 '17 at 11:11
2

A question that has come up a couple of times when dealing with the unanswered off-topic questions has been are we adding more work by flagging all these?

I thought I'd add another answer to give my take on this. Please feel free to comment with your opinion (particularly if you are a close-voter, it would be good to get another perspective!) and we can update this answer with a general community take on this.

The questions:

  • "It seems that since we started flagging off topic posts more agressively to notch up the answer rate, the close-queue has doubled. In that case we're just overloading our mods in stead of upping our score." - cjbj

  • "I've just started flagging really bad questions and off-topic questions, but am I just causing a headache for those with more rep than I have?" - Andy Macaulay-Brook


Firstly, everybody has their own copy of queues, so queue sizes will be different for everyone. That makes it hard to tell how high the close vote queue is actually getting.

Aside from that, we have a deficit of close voters at the moment. We have several active under-3k rep users, and several active 3k+ users, but given 5 close votes are required to close a question the activity level just isn't in the right place at the moment.

In my opinion, every active 3k+ user who wants to help with moderating the site should be using as many close votes as they can per day. I am not sure if this is or isn't happening; because of the low number of voters it could be possible that people are voting but then these votes are just aging away.

So the best solution is to get our close voters more active, and to get more close voters. We can encourage people to be more active here by maintaining a good level of high-quality, answerable questions.

The above are some general observations. I don't particularly think "too much" is a reason not to flag. We have a problem with new off-topic questions, unanswered off-topic questions, and even answered off-topic questions. What this exercise is doing is making the unanswered off-topic questions more visible so they can be dealt with, and 'fix' the ratio of answerable questions. This then makes it easier to find answerable questions, which raises the activity level, encourages more people to hang around, results in rep raises, contributes more moderation power, and generally results in a more active community.

Even though it might be adding more work to the close vote queue, in my opinion avoiding flagging just leaves bad questions around hiding 'beneath the radar' and disguising the problem.

A reminder that this answer is just my opinion at the moment. Please comment with your perspective and we can update it to reflect a community consensus answer.

  • 2
    Well following our exchange in comments above, I've been flagging away and downvoting. I try to leave positive comments if I think a questioner should try to improve things and I guess I need to get in the practice of running through my history and following up on those. The great thing is that all of this is pretty easily accomplished on the iPhone app, making it a less onerous task. I worry about answered off-topic questions giving the wrong impression- not sure what to do there. – Andy Macaulay-Brook Aug 4 '16 at 14:19
  • 1
    @AndyMacaulay-Brook Re answered off topic questions, you can still flag these, and they can still be closed - if they get enough votes ;) – Tim Malone Aug 25 '16 at 22:05

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .