Assume a question is clear, fully fleshed-out in details, compliant with question policy, and relevant to a large audience... but unanswered. At what point (if ever) does this question because closable as abandoned? That is, does a valid question become invalid if a user leaves the site? After a certain period of time? If so, how long?

What to do with abandoned questions does not specify a detailed definition, dealing with how rather than what is.

  • meta.askubuntu.com/a/1981/6005 - that seems like a definition to me.
    – jrg
    Commented Feb 3, 2012 at 23:00
  • @jrg That answer defines prerequisites and a solution, so votes are arguably on the composite value of the post, rather than the prerequisite. The question itself asks the question of how. It would be a good idea to ask what (ideally, the first part of that answer would be an answer here)
    – Jjed
    Commented Feb 3, 2012 at 23:01
  • 2
    Bugs are a subset of "off topic questions" and abandoned questions are a subset of "too localized questions". I'm not sure we need them as separate close-reasons, though I'm not at all against them. Just for the record: Abandoned questions are most commonly too localized. Commented Feb 3, 2012 at 23:12
  • I've moved my linked definition mentioned above to here. Commented Feb 5, 2012 at 15:55

2 Answers 2


If "Abandoned" doesn't become a separate close-reason, we don't have to define it at all:

This question is unlikely to ever help any future visitors; it is only relevant to a small geographic area, a specific moment in time, or an extraordinarily narrow situation that is not generally applicable to the worldwide audience of the internet. See the FAQ.

A question, for instance, which describes a problem and - since it's abandoned - will never have a tested solution in an accepted answer, will not help future visitors. In most cases, the problem has gone away, or the user has solved the problem and simply didn't take the time to update their question (which is fine, by the way; People do as little or as much as they like).

These are a few criteria applying to abandoned questions which make it too localized:

  • An out of date Ubuntu version is run by a small number of users
  • The problem has been fixed after an update, virtually nobody will ever encounter this problem again - since the probability of you running the exact same revision of Ubuntu is minute
  • The problem occurred because of unusual software or hardware, making the number of users who will be interested in the question even smaller yet.
  • The issue has not been solved, but it doesn't affect anybody anymore, not even the OP. Which is evidenced by the fact that they don't respond to requests for information and so on.

In certain cases, I will close an abandoned question for any of the other close reasons if they apply.

In short: These comments people leave before they vote to close - "this question appears to be abandoned, ..." - are extremely helpful! But the question gets closed for the usual reason, we did not add a new close-reason, nor do we abuse the "too localized" reason for abandoned questions. In theory anyway.

In practice, we might very well be wrong about any specific question. If so, a flag to re-open from the OP will usually be enough to re-open the question. If I see that people are interested in or affected by the question, and it's within the scope of the FAQ, there is no reason not to re-open it, and it's easy to do so.

  • Well I did slightly misunderstand the question. Still, if anybody asks "what exactly makes a question abandoned?", I'll have to say I just don't know. We're trying to figure that out as we go, but the cleanup effort is too awesome, is well worth making the odd mistake. Commented Feb 4, 2012 at 1:35
  • the cleanup effort is too awesome, is well worth making the odd mistake. Could not agree more on that. Commented Feb 4, 2012 at 1:37

In the case of when the question meets most of the following criteria:

  • The question appears to be of decent quality (i.e., it's a legitimate question, it is not spam, it stays within community guidelines, and it remains salvageable through edits)
  • The question is not a Community Wiki
  • The question is about a problem specific to that user's system (or at least no one else seems to be having the same issue)
  • The user's account no longer exists, so they can't follow up with additional information or accept an answer
  • The question is very old and hasn't been updated in a long time (i.e., months or years)

...then I'd say the question is "abandoned" and can be flagged in accordance with http://meta.askubuntu.com/q/1843/18612

(I'd like to present Why does pressing Alt + Tab cause a freeze? as an example of where this may be appropriate.)

(Answer content based on my previous post and posted here as it seems appropriate. This is of course based on my previous definition of what an abandoned question is. If you notice an issue with it or have questions, please let me know in a comment and I'll revise as necessary.)

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