Can we merge these three Q&A's (they are all ~5 years old) together?

Other ones I've just discovered on July 31, 2017 but not yet reviewed:

PART II - Feature Request to Close Vote

Along that vein can I make a to add abandoned question as a reason for close votes?

NOTE: Answer I posted below diminishes the need for this request as an "Auto-Delete" for "Abandoned Questions" is actively being sought for Unanswered Questions on EOL Ubuntu versions.

Aggressive criteria for close votes:

  • Question is unanswered - AND -
  • OP hasn't signed on in > 6 months - OR -
  • OP has not responded to comment queries / suggestions made > 6 months ago

Generous criteria for close votes:

  • Unanswered Question is about EOL Ubuntu version - AND -
  • OP has not repled to comments posted > 2 years ago

There seemed to be interest in abandoned question close vote ~5 years ago here:

A tool / script to help find abandoned questions was written (~5 years ago) here:

Ironically the question in meta of closing abandoned AU questions seems to have been abandoned itself!

Justification (Response to comments)

I spent many hours yesterday going through the "Unanswered Questions" list with the goal of shortening it. A long list of unanswered questions may give the false impression that people in AU aren't paying attention or don't care.

It's futile answering questions when the OP is no longer around to flag your answer as correct. Additionally, you often need follow up information which the non-existent OP cannot provide.

All three of the potential question merge candidates ask the same thing ie, What to do when OP is no longer around to respond to comments or accept an answer?

The three proposed merge candidates have different answers and you need to read all three Q&A's to get a full picture. Merging them together simplifies this process. Some answers say an "Abandoned Question by OP" that has answers is still valuable. I agree with that in most cases as it will help others. However an abandoned question with no answers should qualify for close voting.

  • Why would we want to close a question just because the person who asked it isn't around anymore? And why would we merge old meta questions? Please edit your question and explain the benefits you see in these actions.
    – terdon
    Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 11:26
  • @terdon I spent many hours yesterday going through the "Unanswered Questions" list with the goal of shortening it. A long list of unanswered questions may give the false impression that people AU aren't paying attention or don't care. It's futile for those questions when the OP is no longer around to flag your answer as correct. Additionally, you often need follow up information which the non-existent OP cannot provide. I will edit the question as requested with this comment. Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 16:30
  • 1
    Please edit your question to add your rationale. However, note that i) if you need more information and the OP isn't providing it, vote to close as unclear; no need for a new close reason. ii) All you need to mark a question as "answered" to make it not be counted in the "unanswered" list, is one answer with a positive score.
    – terdon
    Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 16:35
  • @terdon I've edited the question now. What I did yesterday (instead of "unclear") was flag for closing based on "Other" and gave the reason as "Abandoned Question" and included the link to meta question: meta.askubuntu.com/questions/1843/… above. Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 16:43
  • Yeah, please don't do that. If you need information from the OP and the OP isn't providing it, then the question is unclear and should be closed as such. If you flag it, it just means that a mod will have to do it manually. The most important point here though is that we don't need the OP to mark questions as answered. All we need is one upvoted answer.
    – terdon
    Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 16:46
  • @WinEunuuchs2Unix terdon beat me to it by a few minutes, but if you flag like that, and I see it, I'll automatically decline it because there's better flags. Do that enough, and you get an automatic flags ban with all the declines. (It just makes noise for us, as well, which can get irritating after a while)
    – Thomas Ward Mod
    Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 16:54
  • @ThomasWard and Terdon, so one of us can answer the three potential merge candidates and the featurerequest for "Abandoned Question" and state the OP's question should be flagged "unclear" IF the OP hasn't signed on for 6+ months AND there are no upvoted answers posted? Although I may have had the wrong CV flag approach I hope both of you appreciate the effort is worthy to shorten the "unanswered question" list in the scenario where OP gave up. Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 17:03
  • @terdon I forgot to mention a few of the unanswered questions I got to flag as "EOL" because the OP specifically mentioned 10.04 or 12.04 which reached EOL April 2017. As 13.04 and 13.10 are also EOL now, could we flag all unanswered questions posted before 14.04 release date as EOL? When the OP has signed on last shouldn't matter. Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 18:51
  • 1
    @WinEunuuchs2Unix of course your efforts are appreciated and of course you're just trying to improve the site! There's no argument about that. I just wanted to point out that the number of unanswered questions doesn't depend on whether their OP is still around since all you need is an upvoted answer. Also, you never know when someone might come around with the right answer and if that's 5 years after the question was asked, then that's still useful.
    – terdon
    Commented Jul 4, 2017 at 22:55
  • @terdon thanks for the vote of confidence :) The questions I'm concerned with are fringe situations that couldn't be solved without OP providing follow-up information. You were right in the first place because between "unclear", "EOL" and "non-reproducible" we have enough tools to close these abandoned 5 y/o questions without resorting to a new CV type. I will "abandon" the idea of a new CV type :D Commented Jul 4, 2017 at 23:18
  • You're very welcome for the SEDE link. It is indeed an awesome resource. If you need some help with your cleanup, feel free to ping me in the Downboat
    – Zanna Mod
    Commented Jul 10, 2017 at 7:41
  • Re. Your edit including the MSE link - I don't think thats so much a project as a description of the (existing) infrastructure for automatic deletion (Jeff is one of the SE founders). If you are doing any cleanup, knowing that post is very helpful. Many abandoned questions are preserved. The presence of one upvote however undeserved, two comments however irrelevant (unless Q score is negative), and one answer however useless all (rightly imho) protect questions from deletion since they may indicate useful content. The rest is up to us :)
    – Zanna Mod
    Commented Jul 31, 2017 at 4:50
  • @Zanna Buried deep inside the many posts were references to automatic deletions one or two people had run. But enthusiasm fizzled out. Are you saying comments effect "Q score"? All this time I thought you were talking about positive score (up votes) or negative score (down votes). Commented Jul 31, 2017 at 5:52
  • No comments don't affect score (by score I do mean the sum of up and down votes) but if a post has a score of 0 and low views (< post age in days * 1.5 I think) and no answers it will be deleted unless it has >1 comment
    – Zanna Mod
    Commented Jul 31, 2017 at 6:22
  • Could you link to the specific post you are talking about if it's not that one, since you put the link at the top of your answer it's kind of confusing if it's not actually the one you mean
    – Zanna Mod
    Commented Jul 31, 2017 at 6:28

4 Answers 4


Answering the spirit of the question (in brief, very busy):

I agree that abandoned questions are sometimes unanswerable and I'm all for removing dead ends, but a heavy-handed approach to these questions (blanket closing) is not the way to go, imho.

The basic reasoning behind this is that Stack Exchange questions generally are not only for the OP - many other people besides the OP will hopefully benefit from questions being answered.

So, the fact of a question being abandoned is insufficient as a close reason, I think. The problem may be reproducible and the question answerable. Besides, the question might not be really abandoned; the OP might not have signed on for a long time, but they may well do so seeing a notification! Perhaps they are active on another site, just not Ask Ubuntu. I speak from my experience of cleaning up old questions.

Further thoughts:

A lot of people think we shouldn't bother with old questions, but I know that old questions matter because people are still finding them and using them all the time, so I give a lot of attention to them. I strongly agree with this

Unanswered questions are a dead-end in search; they're worth keeping around for a while on the chance that someone will find and answer them, but beyond a certain point if no one is expressing any interest in them they're just noise

I am currently doing this to clean up old questions. When(/if) we finish this project, we may try to work on abandoned ones. Our cleanup has a multi-level review system and we figure out what to do with the questions on a case-by-case basis.

Here's a suggested possible workflow for an abandoned questions cleanup (imagining this being done in a team using Trello or similar like our self-answered questions cleanup):

  1. Does the question already have an upvoteable answer that has been overlooked?

    • Yes: upvote the answer (editing if needed) and move on
    • No: goto 2
  2. Is the question good and answerable without OP?

    • Yes: upvote, edit if needed, answer the question, consider adding a bounty
    • No: goto 3
  3. Is the question unclear without further detail from OP?

    • Yes: leave a comment. If there's no reply, close as unclear (if info is provided, seek an answer)
    • No: goto 4
  4. Does the problem seem non-reproducible (without input from OP)?

    • Yes: if question is EOL, if OP gave up, solved with reinstall, found it was a bad cable or whatever, or does not respond to comments, close as no-repro (if OP solved, or provides useful info, seek an answer or suggest adding an answer)
    • No: If the question is poor quality, a downvote might cause it to be deleted if it has no answers...

Principle of cleanup: above all, seek answers and value answers, and make them easier for people to find by clearing noise.

  • This seems more like a full answer than a brief one :). Something missing with the unanswered question flowchart is End of Life tests, ie unanswered questions > 5 years old. Commented Jul 5, 2017 at 10:05
  • 1
    @WinEunuuchs2Unix that counts as no repro in my opinion
    – Zanna Mod
    Commented Jul 5, 2017 at 11:33
  • 1
    "but a heavy-handed approach to these questions (blanket closing) is not the way to go" currently the system basically deletes them, without any user intervention, which makes that concern moot.
    – Braiam
    Commented Jul 13, 2017 at 21:19

I wasted some time in the past, cruising meta for old unanswered questions resulting in my asking Do we really need EOL related announcements hanging about in the unanswered meta questions queue? A comment by @muru prompted me to answer it myself so as not to further extend the unanswered meta questions queue.

On Merging

It's my understanding that merging is fraught with pitfalls. As far as merging is concerned, I think you might find What criteria should be used when considering merge candidates? useful.

I for one would have difficulty determining which of those 3 questions to keep and which 2 to obliterate in a merge operation, so I wouldn't do it. For that matter you may have missed What happens to inactive users' questions? which is also related.

I would consider voting to close the ones generating the fewest views as duplicates of the one generating the most views as this would preserve them all. Many of the answers could use editing to update them to include current close reasons. You've certainly found some work that needs to be done, but I don't believe merging is the answer.

On abandoned questions

You personally have been helped by an abandoned question and I for one have earned a fair amount of rep for my answer to it. This prompts me to question the idea of closing an abandoned question that has no answers. Instead I suggest you answer them to the best of your ability if you feel the question warrants an answer, provide one.

  • I agree about diverse time factors being a reason for not merging questions. However in this case everything is about 5 years old. In 2012 (the year my laptop was made coincidentally) everyone was apparently too busy to see each other posting the same thing. I do appreciate you taking the time to add an answer to this question :) Commented Jul 4, 2017 at 1:23
  • @WinEunuuchs2Unix are you asking about unanswered questions on meta or on main?
    – Zanna Mod
    Commented Jul 4, 2017 at 12:53
  • @Zanna the spirit of this thread are "abandoned" questions on main. Questions are old, there are no answers and OP hasn't signed on in > 6 months. Sorry for delay couldn't ping you in msg from mobile today. Commented Jul 4, 2017 at 23:20
  • I think Elder Geek is writing about unanswered meta questions?
    – Zanna Mod
    Commented Jul 5, 2017 at 5:37
  • @Zanna that's correct.
    – Elder Geek
    Commented Jul 5, 2017 at 12:39
  • @WinEunuuchs2Unix Perhaps I missed the spirit of the question as all he examples are on meta. You have my apologies if there was any confusion on my part, I do however still think that meta.askubuntu.com/questions/16361/… addresses this nicely although it's more generic than specific to this post I believe the same considerations apply.
    – Elder Geek
    Commented Jul 5, 2017 at 12:39
  • @ElderGeek Sorry for misleading you. You cannot talk about main on main you have to go to meta to talk about main. Kind of counter-intuitive I guess. But anyway all these questions on meta about abandoned questions and need for new tags are all talking about the mianboard. Or at least I hope they are because that's what I'm concerned with :) Commented Jul 5, 2017 at 23:48
  • @WinEunuuchs2Unix Answer expanded
    – Elder Geek
    Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 3:40
  • @ElderGeek The links in your latest revision have answers. The whole point of an "Abandoned Question" is one with NO answers and the OP hasn't signed on for a long time nor has OP answered follow-up comments seeking additional information. It's late and maybe I misread your last link (really three links to the same Q&A) but the question has 20 upvotes, there are many answers and the top answer (yours) has 27 upvotes. An abandoned question would have NO answers, no (or very little) upvotes and an OP that has disappeared to Area 51. Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 5:11
  • @WinEunuuchs2Unix yes it does, but did not when I wrote my answer. (check the timestamps)The question was abandoned by the OP when a comment I wrote (since deleted) led him to the answer he wanted. It was an attempt to illustrate my point.
    – Elder Geek
    Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 13:58

We used to use the "unclear what you're asking" close reason for that, but the verbage to the reason has changed. It used to contain "was only relevant to a specific user or at a specific point in time" or similar wording. So, out of habit, if I was going to CV something I thought was abandoned for the reason cited in that bit of verbage, I would use that reason.

  • In comments above terdon also uses "unclear" as a close vote for abandoned questions. When looking at the "unanswered question" list though anything over 5 years old can automatically be voted as "EOL" IMO. If the user has signed on in the last couple of years a polite "has this been solved?" comment could be posted before VTC as EOL. When you say "the reason cited in that bit of verbage" it's unclear to me what bit of "verbage" you are looking at. Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 3:12
  • "was only relevant to a specific user or at a specific point in time" Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 3:24
  • Ah yes, that brings up the third CV reason for closing abandoned questions using current CTV options "unreproducible" Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 3:56
  • 1
    @WinEunuuchs2Unix we're not supposed to close questions as EOL when the version was supported at the time, though the no-repro reason is usually applicable imho. RobotHumans - the no-repro reason contains the phrases (or equivalent) you mention if I'm not wrong
    – Zanna Mod
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 19:08
  • That might be.. Commented Jul 8, 2017 at 2:29
  • @Zanna I totally agree we shouldn't close answered questions as EOL but don't you think an unanswered question should be closed as EOL when it's 5 years old? Commented Jul 8, 2017 at 23:56
  • @WinEunuuchs2Unix why 5 years? What's special about 5? Doesn't matter what I think anyway; that's just not what the EOL reason is for as meta has repeatedly decided, but we can close unanswered EOL questions as no-repro
    – Zanna Mod
    Commented Jul 9, 2017 at 4:33
  • @Zanna LTS's are for 5 years. So anything >5 is automatically EOL except perhaps server versions which I think sometimes get extensions. Thanks for pointing out non-repro for all unanswered questions at EOL. Could you point out a link to a tutorial for writing a SQL script or something that can search on that criteria? Commented Jul 9, 2017 at 14:11
  • @WinEunuuchs2Unix go here: data.stackexchange.com for all such things
    – Zanna Mod
    Commented Jul 9, 2017 at 14:14
  • @Zanna TYVM it's an incredible tool. Looks like my next week is planned for me :) Commented Jul 10, 2017 at 0:54
  • @WinEunuuchs2Unix - yeah. I used the archives at one point to write a canonical question finder. Just happens. Data is good. Commented Jul 10, 2017 at 5:47

In meta Stack Exchange I've been directed to a link where we can request auto-deletion of abandoned questions on EOL Ubuntu versions that have no answers:

Automatically deleting the questions will save close voting on thousands of questions, clogging up the review queue and taking years to do what could be done overnight. This was discussed on a different question:

I'll update this answer as progress is made.

You must log in to answer this question.

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