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I've been doing a bunch of digging around to help solve our accept rate problem. It's probably a multifaceted problem so I thought I'd tackle this one for now. According to meta, our policy is to vote to close as Not a Real Question (though Too localized seems to make more sense, but whatever.)

Finding abandoned questions is easy, Oli even has a nice web tool that does this for us. The problem is once I've voted to close there's no way for me to get that question on anybody's radar unless I:

  • Post it in the chat channel and hope enough people are around to close it.

  • Flag it for moderation, which means then the moderator's supervote can close the question too easily, and adds a task for them that the community should be able to easily handle.

  • Edit it in the hopes that the bump will get it in front of other high rep users who can vote accordingly.

In the review page I can see incoming vote closes, but not everyone has access to that, and it feels like there isn't a core group of people doing that (though I do it every day).

So, my TL;DR problem is, anybody on the internet can come in, post a question and bail on us. That costs them almost no effort.

However it takes us seemingly a much larger amount of effort to undo this, and it feels like we're losing this battle. So how can we make this easier?

  • Maybe an option is to have a scheduled session in chat, say every fortnight, where such question can be brought up and acted on. Something similar is done over at TeX.SX, see e.g. meta.tex.stackexchange.com/questions/1560/…. Another thing is if there is some feature that would help this business, then we could request one. – N.N. Jan 17 '12 at 21:06
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    Could we resurrect cleanup week? Given the number of Fanatic badges, I'd say there's a large population of AU fans that could be mobilized with property structure and advertising. – Jjed Jan 18 '12 at 1:50
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    @JacobJohanEdwards It's not dead. The tool is very much alive and in use - I just need a minute to clean up the code and I'll go public with it. – Oli Jan 18 '12 at 10:12
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Good news, the new askubuntu.com/review has an entire section that shows all the pending close votes on the site:

enter image description here

Now we have a number to drive down to 0, and when finding old abandoned questions it will just go in the queue, no more hunting for 4 people in chat, let's get to work!

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Purging those questions would be an option (not a popular one I know) but the truth is we are talking about software, it changes very fast, problems can be here and gone with small updates applied and there might never be an answer to some problem because those are solved in the meanwhile.

Questions that are more than 12 months old, that have no recent activity, no correct or at least good enough answers and the user has not been online for all that time could be easily just deleted. They will not help anyone to just leave it hanging around.

Why do we need to have all those closing votes to something that is obviously abandoned?

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    Would an answer like "cannot reproduce" be viable as an upvotable alternative? If so, this would either capture these kind of issues (thus allowing for people to upvote assuming they have a sufficiently similar setup) or would force the OP to respond. Frustrating as [cannot-reproduce] tags are, they are effective on meta.so in dealing with what are, in the long run, glitches, and not actual bugs or problems. – mfg Jan 17 '12 at 21:37
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    @mfg No, that would not be an answer (at least not one that could get any upvotes or accepted imho). "I found this bug report on Launchpad and here is the status" that would be a better one, bit its not always possible as you can imagine. – Bruno Pereira Jan 17 '12 at 21:40
  • what I mean is, in the first claim you make, it is as though software is updated too quickly, overwriting/correcting the problem, leading to an impersistence of problems, leading to unanswerable/untimely questions. Essentially, you are stating that unanswered questions can be caused by having problems existing in { } many instances. If you wish to capture a null problem, you need a null answer. Isn't "cannot-reproduce" the most effective answer in debugging when a problem cannot be found to exist (i.e. if updates make it vanish)? – mfg Jan 17 '12 at 21:48
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    Understood, but "cannot reproduce" questions should most likely be closed as "too localized" if that is the only answer for it, but as said on the question here, that takes way too much time and votes needed. It should be simple(r). – Bruno Pereira Jan 17 '12 at 21:56
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I've asked a few other members of the community, and they feel that we might even need more moderators to handle the load - and while I feel this way, I'm not sure this is the solution, but it might be part of a solution.

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    I think this might help, but fundamentally I think AU has a poor consumer/prosumer ratio. Giving a few extra rights to a few already-engaged users won't fix the fact we have far too few "librarians" doing the administrative work of voting, reviewing, commenting to ask for clarification, etc. – Jjed Jan 20 '12 at 21:15
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    @JacobJohanEdwards however, our already engaged users are limited in what we can do - five people can only close ~30 questions/day, which isn't a lot. Whereas, if we have another 2 moderators, they can just close them without limits. – jrg Jan 20 '12 at 21:33
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    @JacobJohanEdwards We used to do okay actually, it's just the recent surge of new users is overwhelming us, but we'll eventually have more high rep users who can help, hopefully by 12.04, heh. – Jorge Castro Jan 23 '12 at 18:00
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Forgive me if I have forgotten the ins and outs on bounties, but didn't they previously work in a fashion that they would set some kind of de facto acceptance of an answer in the absence of the OP?

I have used bounty'ing questions often, and in some cases it brings the OP back to the site. Nonetheless, it seems that, especially considering that we can qualify the purpose behind the bounty, we should be able to consider a bounty-winning answer equivalent to an OP-accepted answer (basically, it is a community-accepted answer).

Perhaps not only closing questions is a route to the goal of upping acceptance rates, but perhaps also opening up the ability of the community at large to be able to accept answers. Of course up-voting is not difficult, but creating a culture of active voting is. Perhaps pursue a way of promoting the electoral badges (i.e. sportsman, vox populi, etc)? Other sites would, based on the type of contest, appear to need more questions. As a result they use that Ask-a-question-about-[tag] contest. Maybe an approach to achieving any of the electoral badges could be used, i.e. get entered every time you ding the reqs to get the suffrage badge.

Also, I noticed there are currently 17 bountied questions, many of which are very individual-problem oriented. It seems bounties are being used for hyper-local issues, and less to develop canonical answers. Where possible, it seems like it would be a good idea to generalize any viable hyper-local questions through liberal editing.

  • The problems with bounties is that if the question is ---crap--- low quality/extremely localized, then we're left with one of our users -50+ of rep - and while rep is cheap, at the same time, trying to bounty each and every one of our 8,676 unanswered questions would mean 433,800 rep lost - THAT is more then Jon Skeet has. – jrg Jan 21 '12 at 18:41
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I am happy to add my vote to a close when I come across it, but all too often, votes simply go unnoticed. It would be helpful if there were a way for those with more than 3k but less than 10k rep to get a list of open votes they might weigh in on.

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