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We (your moderators) have been mulling over an idea for a good way to deal with old, unanswered and unanswerable posts. We've been in discussion with the StackExchange team and while we're a long way from actually launching this, we feel it's about time we involve the community and let you help shape how such an event would work.

So what would happen in Clean-Up week?

Our working plan is to form a list of all the questions that aren't acceptably finished. They will be of a certain age and will either have no answers or answers without enough votes to count as a real answer. With that list users will be able to do one of several actions to help clean up the site and at the end of the week, the users who have been most helpful will get a reward.

The aim is two-fold: we heavily decrease the number of dead questions and get more users involved in the community both at an answering level and in maintenance.

The actions for dealing with a thread are pretty similar to new, active questions:

  • Identifying good answers - Plenty of old questions do have some answers but those answers haven't been voted for nor have they been accepted. In these threads we need people to vote for the good answers, just like normal. Getting a good answer up to +1 will classify the question as resolved and get it off our list.

  • Answer it - You probably haven't seen every question on the site so some of these questions will get organic answers. You'll get rewarded by the community in the regular way.

  • Flagging old topics - Given the nature of Ubuntu releases we need to make sure we prune out unanswered old topics about old installation techniques or hardware issues that may be fixed by upgrading Ubuntu. This won't always be automatic but we need to keep on top of how many active, old-release questions we have.

  • Removing or improving the unanswerable - Ask Ubuntu is only as good as its questions. We will need people to chase up old threads to make sure they have enough information to be answered. If their users don't respond and edit their posts, we need to cull the deadwood.

  • Merging duplicates - So many duplicates slip through the gaps and we end up with multiple answered questions covering identical ground. While this isn't the prime aim of the week, any duplicates (even from established, answered questions) are candidates for treatment.

  • Identifying good, hard questions - Some questions are unanswered because they're really very tough to solve. There's no value in closing them so if you can't answer them, we need users to try and involve relevant external groups and get askers to keep the information flowing in. If we can match people with the knowledge with the questions, we fulfil several of our goals.

Rewarding participation

As part of the discussion leading up to this post, we've been talking about rewarding users who jump in with both feet. There are still some technical issues to rectify that SO Inc might not be able to help us with though, so if you're reading this and you know lots about the SE API or relevant systems development, we may need your help in getting a system set up to handle things.

The main problem is keeping track of the list of target threads (which we will generate for the week) and what actions people do on them. We need to track new answers, comments and flags (even after moderators deal with the flag in question) so that when we reach the end of the week, we can see who has done best.

As for the rewards, we're negotiating with SO Inc to see what we can do. Extra points for anything but answering questions appears to be out of the question but physical "swag" (Ubuntu t-shirts, mugs, mice, etc) might be an option depending on the geography.

When will this week be?

TBA. We need to overcome technical issues to track the progress through the week and until we can do that, we can't really hold a competitive event like this. Ideally this would occur prior to the 11.04 Natty Narwhal release.

Any ideas, questions, etc?

This is still a very young idea so we'd really like your input especially about the process of doing the week where we're still technically trying to work out how we do it.

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    I'm so in. I don't really need any reward, I just like fixing stuff. – Octavian Damiean Apr 4 '11 at 17:58
  • How do we non-mods start to merge things? Flag them for attention, or start a thread here? I was recently (coincidentally) thinking about starting a thread for a couple of groups of overlapping questions, but wasn't sure if it was appropriate. – belacqua Apr 5 '11 at 19:59
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    @jgbelacqua Yeah just flag them, explaining what you think should be done. If it's particularly complicated you can discuss it in the chat. – Oli Apr 5 '11 at 20:19
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    This is a very good idea. I was wondering if there was someway to do a clean up on weird questions and even weirder answers. – Luis Alvarado Apr 11 '11 at 21:47
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    Also questions that do get an answer but are not accepted because the user wanted something else that was not mentioned in the question to begin with. This happen for example when i ask something specific and when i get the answer i want something additional that was not in the original question. – Luis Alvarado Apr 12 '11 at 14:52
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    I think we should this event started soon. We can use the Ubuntu Regulators room for this event. – Octavian Damiean May 20 '11 at 8:19
  • We need to do this, like, now. – jrg Oct 25 '11 at 13:01
  • Did such a week ever get started or are you still planning (4 years after the idea was born)? Such a clean-up week would be useful by now too. Btw I got here via this post. – Byte Commander Feb 20 '15 at 8:56
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Unix & Linux has a few unanswered Ubuntu-tagged questions that you might be be able to answer (and you can probably claim them if the asker doesn't object).

Conversely, if you have unanswered questions that aren't particularly specific to Ubuntu (especially command line questions, but not exclusively), feel free to pimp them to the U&L community (e.g. on the chat, or even migrate them).

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Here's a list of things we could possibly look at (in no particular order):

  • Unanswered with 0 answers sorted by oldest
  • Normal Unanswered
  • Tumbleweeds
  • Questions that are open but have "Possible duplicate of" as a comment so we can check them.
  • Unanswered questions in , sorted by either age or low views. This would help us find the too localized bug report ones.
  • Questions where the OP responds to their own question but doesn't have an accepted answer. "I ended up solving this by doing foo and bar"

Changing ?sort=newest to ?sort=oldest in the URL doesn't seem to give me what I need, however, since we want to clean things up we want something old, so say less than 60 days; which means we can just write a set of queries on data.se look at all those questions and tell people to look at those questions.

  • +1 for the list. Maybe add there Questions that have a negative score, find "very similar" questions that have not yet had the "possible duplicate of" assigned to and tags that are only used once and not needed since there are others better oriented for the question. – Luis Alvarado Apr 11 '11 at 21:51
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Question: Will the dates be announced on the main page, like the moderator elections were, or do we have to watch this post/other posts for the dates?

Also, regarding awards (And I know I'm putting multiple questions into a single post), I'd think that reputation would be fine - no need for physical Ubuntu swag (In my opinion). You also mentioned the geography catch - I don't think that anything should be offered that can't be accepted/sent to everyone in the community, if they qualify.

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    As of right now this running outside the realm of the StackExchange team - so the only rep you would get is from standard site functions that provide you rep. The idea of tracking these additional site functions which don't typically provide you with rep is to create a competition and leader board - to which we could reward top N users with something other than rep - ie: swag. :) There will be a site banner posted when this gets close to starting, but you should always check meta for cool and interesting site-related things :) – Marco Ceppi Apr 4 '11 at 15:53
  • @Marco Ceppi Ah ok. So it's entirely AU based. And I always check meta every few days anyway. ;) – jrg Apr 4 '11 at 17:32
  • for now yes - though if other SE sites wanted the code - it is, as you would imagine, open source :) – Marco Ceppi Apr 4 '11 at 18:05
  • @Marco sounds awesome. :) – jrg Apr 14 '11 at 22:01

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