In the past we ran a Clean Up week to find abandoned questions or questions that needed votes, and so on.

Oli set up an awesome site here where it would find older questions and give you a queue that you could just go through when cleaning up. This worked out well, and we went from something like a low-70% accept rate to the high 80s.

Our accept rate is now 78%, and given the 12.04 growth I was thinking maybe we should do this again, but not as a special event, just encourage people to keep doing it. Sort of like how you're supposed to keep your room clean all the time instead of when mom comes home.

I think it's much easier to just run cleanup all the time because:

  • The new review view is awesome for incoming close questions. In the past if you found a question and flagged it you had to go find 4 people on chat or whatever to help you close a question. Now it just goes in a pile and everyone with close votes can review it, no more questions stuck in limbo!
  • The close queue started at 400-something and after a week or two it was down to 0, and we now have enough people looking at it that it remains 0 after people review every day -- this means we can easily handle a ton more incoming close votes.
  • The new queue means we can run cleanup without flooding the moderators with close votes and swamping them, we can just chrun through them.

Also this can be not about old abandoned questions, but just about questions without answers in general, getting people to review and edit questions without answers, etc.

  • 1
    I <3 how you guys are trying to take it easy on us, but that doesn't mean we can't help :-)
    – jrg
    Sep 2, 2012 at 18:49
  • That's the first I had heard of the 'review view', I can't believe I never saw it before. Maybe it should be promoted more, or featured more prominently? According to this announcement from November I've completely missed it for nearly a year! Sep 3, 2012 at 6:55
  • @TomBrossman thats the "old-new review", this is the "new new review".
    – jrg
    Sep 3, 2012 at 11:43
  • @jrg Good, now I don't feel so stupid... Sep 3, 2012 at 12:08

1 Answer 1


It's all well and good closing down the old crufty questions and the new review tools do a good job for that but I'm more concerned about another factor: the rate we answer new questions.

Answering questions is much more important than closing them!

Cruft does need to be cleared up but I don't think this is the time for that right now. Unless I'm deeply mistaken, the rate of new questions is far outpacing the rate of answers.

Look at page 5 of the new questions. 200-250 questions and they're less than 24 hours old still. Most importantly, most of these questions have no answers. We're not talking about votes here — it's not like they have answers without votes (one of the things the clean-up targeted) — they have nothing close to an answer.

These are the questions we need to target. If we don't answer our new questions and spend time playing around with the old questions instead, the site is failing its main objective and we're just treading water.

We need more people answering but we also need better systems. Here's what I'm thinking:

  • Hardware questions need to be perfect, first time. The current system seems to be that people post a rubbishy vague mess. This is followed by a comment from somebody in the community asking for lspci (et al) and that's followed by an edit... By this point the question is on page 4 of the new questions and lots of people are never going to see it.

    We need to improve the question form so people include the right information all the time. I've suggested asking follow-up questions based on the tags (that edits the post automatically) via javascript but I've never had a chance to write anything like this.

  • Outreach programmes to get more helpers. The wider Ubuntu community knows who we are (several of us here are also Ubuntu Members who post on the planet) but we need to make it easier for new people to get involved in topics they're interested in, at a level they can manage.

    How successful is the five-a-day program for Launchpad? Something similar to that might work for us and it wouldn't be hard to randomly email unanswered posts to different people.

  • We need to be better. If you're a hard-working member here, you're probably enjoying this post and if you feel I'm wrong, I probably am but as much as this is a system or numbers problem, we're also at fault. We're here now and we've let things get to their current state.

    We need to improve things but we need to remember how to be better users too. A couple of examples from my activity:

    • I know I have answered things that were probably duplicate questions. I felt it was easier to answer them than track down the best parent. I was lazy and probably greedy.

    • I've also stopped opening some questions because I know how painful it'll be to discern anything of value. Wifi and networking threads are famously hard to understand and they seem to be 90% bug related. I'm not going in, I'm not fixing them and I'm not answering or closing them.

    I know I'm not being good enough and given the number of these questions we're not dealing with, I suspect I'm not the only one.

I shouldn't need to point out the obvious: if we answer more questions off the bat, our answer rate goes up and we're not left playing catch-up trying to close dead questions...

  • While you bring up valid points for discussion, we (Ask Ubuntu) generally don't have sufficient number of people answering all of the questions. The number of people asking questions have always outnumbered those who are answering. Those of us who spend time answering now have to deal with the extra number of questions. Unless there is some incentive to answer questions, I am afraid many people would never bother to do anything other than ask even more questions.
    – jokerdino Mod
    Sep 3, 2012 at 11:38
  • I'm not sure I'd rely your stats link. We have plenty of people who come here and ask one question just as we have people who come here and answer multiple. Counting the deficit between groups of users doesn't show the problem (how many questions are going unanswered).
    – Oli Mod
    Sep 3, 2012 at 11:49
  • Compared to Super User, Ask Ubuntu has lesser moderators and high rep users but we end up doing far more than what they are doing. We get more questions and answers every day than them but we don't essentially have enough personnel. One idea might be to get the developers to follow their specific tags and answer the questions. ObsessiveFOSS suggested the idea of having prompt questions depending on the tags but was convincingly shot down with points that SE system will not be amended for the specific needs of our site.
    – jokerdino Mod
    Sep 3, 2012 at 11:49
  • Yeah I've suggested something similar. More than that, I've suggested a way in which it can be implemented without requiring SE to rip the whole submission process up. Somebody could write some javascript that looked at the tags when the user clicks submit. It could them pop up a dialogue with the required questions, take the new input, shove that onto the body of the post (with formatting) and then submit the question. That javascript file could then just be included in our theme. Nice and simple :)
    – Oli Mod
    Sep 3, 2012 at 11:52
  • But my main point (to go back to your first post) is we can't accept the fact that we get more questions than answers. We need to fix this or we cause massive cleanup issues later on (and fail our users who need help).
    – Oli Mod
    Sep 3, 2012 at 11:53
  • I was just using that data query to put forth the idea that we don't have enough personnel to answer questions. Don't read too much into it. :) And if you could finish that script up soon-ish, it would be really awesome.
    – jokerdino Mod
    Sep 3, 2012 at 11:56
  • How do you suggest we fix this? While answering questions is a far more viable and sustainable idea in the long run than cleaning up abandonware, I am afraid we don't exactly have a decent plan to tackle this issue. I am eager to listen to your ideas.
    – jokerdino Mod
    Sep 3, 2012 at 12:06
  • @jokerdino I did suggest three things in my answer: improve the questions which are often awful, draw more people in from the wider Ubuntu community and improve ourselves by not being lazy.
    – Oli Mod
    Sep 3, 2012 at 13:01
  • Yes, you did sir. I must have been running low on caffeine.
    – jokerdino Mod
    Sep 3, 2012 at 13:05
  • 1
    I try to review incoming questions as they come in and it's difficult to get a person to even edit their question with the information we need, so on that front there's not much we can do. Do a search for questions with the "we need more info" pro forma comment that have no answers and you'll find a bunch. Sep 3, 2012 at 15:15
  • Yeah we're not bad at review but that doesn't turn into answers. My point is by the time a lot of hardware questions are ready to answer, they're multiple pages deep and that's too late to get useful views. If we can improve the process before the question is posted so the question can be answered as soon as it hits the site, it might have a chance. Plus it saves a lot of manual review work.
    – Oli Mod
    Sep 3, 2012 at 15:24
  • Well, for me, when I review it's not just closing, it's also voting for existing answers and editing (and answering if I can), which does bump questions back to the front page. Sep 3, 2012 at 17:55
  • Hmm, ok so maybe instead of "cleaning up old questions" as clean up we should just encourage people to review questions, which will lead to voting and answering and so on. Sep 3, 2012 at 17:58

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