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Ask Ubuntu currently has the lowest Percent Answered of any Stack Exchange site.

What do you think about this, and what should be done about it?

Part of the problem is the attitude of questions asked, with little info provided, and often about old or different systems. Also, once answered, the OP does not always bother to mark it as answered.

Apart from that, large amount is probably due to [duplicate] nature of flagging, even if the duplicate question is out of date or irrelevant. This can be a good thing, but considering that most other sites, with a similar amount of traffic manage a much higher answering rate, what could be improved upon?

Update 20140308:

Alright, currently AskUbuntu is the second lowest, due to this apparently month old site - but still doing quite badly out of 116 sites...

  • 3
    Do closed questions count in that stat? – kiri Feb 10 '14 at 21:14
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    @minerz029 As far as I recall, it uses the same criteria as the Unanswered page/tab. – user98085 Feb 10 '14 at 21:17
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    The part that too many OP does not bother to mark a question solved (and sometime even not voting it up) is quite annoying. Wouldn't for example a reminder when one answer is voted up a minimum of times help? Or giving more points than the +2 we have now? – Rmano Feb 10 '14 at 22:42
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    @Rmano I actually thought that the email the user registered with could be used to notify them that the question should be marked as answered, once an admin thinks it has been, or when it passes a number of votes - even if they have not asked for email alerts - but this would seem invasive, and may be ignored as they skip over it in their inbox, or because they set up a hotmail account for it etc. – Wilf Feb 10 '14 at 23:27
  • I think this can help: meta.askubuntu.com/questions/7189/… – Parto Feb 11 '14 at 6:55
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    Maybe we can add a flag to say to a moderator that the question seems solved but the OP didn't mark as such. I imagine the mods will be able to mark it as solved... or not? (Or maybe is too much burden?) – Rmano Feb 11 '14 at 19:18
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    @Rmano - it might be some of burden - but some question could be marked as answered anyway, as it may be fairly easy to guess the appropriate answer - e.g. askubuntu.com/a/414203/178596. Some questions can probably be closed as 'out-of-date' - e.g askubuntu.com/questions/13318/usb-mouse-freezes - Also, out-of-date questions could be marked as not suitable for marking as duplicates. – Wilf Feb 11 '14 at 20:32
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    I noticed that a lot of new users use the comment on an answer to say "works!", "thanks!" etc. What about opening a pop-up to any user commenting with a reputation less than say 50 with "if this was useful/correct, do not comment; vote the answer up and if solved the problem, accept it". (the last part only if it was his/her question). And maybe a shortcut to do that in the same pop-up. It could really help... – Rmano Feb 12 '14 at 15:01
  • @Rmano - good idea, you could do a feature-request for it :) - remember the ones that just edit 'SOLVED' into the title... – Wilf Jul 12 '14 at 21:15
13

I'm not be the best guy to answer as my rep indicates but I will answer anyway :)

Why is this happening?

Because your site is on the main page of Ubuntu.com. What does it say? And if you get stuck Askubuntu! It doesn't say read the docs :)

Ubuntu is the most popular Linux distro out there, every time a user finds a silly problem, he comes here (I am no different).

More newbies than experts, this would be the result and more! Experts would get tired of answering questions, they want real good questions, otherwise they won't answer.

(When was the last time you saw Jon skeet or jeff answering questions that have less than 10 votes? Jeff left SE because it's not challenging anymore, this what I believe. Skeet doesn't count, he's a robot :P)

And let me ask you, didn't you ever think about just dumping Ubuntu and trying a more challenging experience like Arch or FreeBSD? Or maybe just different experience like Fedora? If you really love Linux then yes you did :)

What does it mean? You're no longer active on this site, either because you got bored answering low quality questions or because you decided to try another distro.

What we can do to improve that?

Declare martial law like they do on Arch forums, don't answer newbies unless they read 200 wiki pages :) Maybe even close them. That's how SO does it. SO isn't doing much better than this site, it's just that they close so many questions

(and I hate them for that, but if you think about it, it's the only way to deal with so much questions, or maybe hire 2 more Jon skeets or Castro :D)

I do not have any other solution, this solution is effective, newbie questions should not end up here in the first place, ubuntuforums.com is the right place for those questions (I am a newbie too).

And there's another issue, that I wanted to discuss on meta.SE but they'll vote it down anyway, you see SE is becoming huge, really huge. Too many sites, for example, you'd prefer to answer Ubuntu questions on superuser or serverfault or unix.SE or here, you can't maintain a community that huge, some sites will be less active than others, it's inevitable.

Note

If Ubuntu becomes a rolling release, (it's being discussed) then there will be far less questions, because there will be 1 version, and you wouldn't see an issue on 12.04 or 13.x, one version for everyone, similar issues for everyone, and I hope it would be more stable like Manjaro not Arch.

Another thing are the questions related to driver support, on superuser you don't see that many questions related to drivers because Microsoft somehow supports so many hardware out of the box, if ubuntu can do that, then the number of asked questions would be so much less than today.

  • 5
    +1, "And if you get stuck Askubuntu!" I think you are correct, this has a lot to do with new user and them asking duplicate questions. It's great that Canonical sends users here so that they can get help and not give up on Ubuntu and great that we help them do just that. However it is a double edged sword, new users may be less likely to search for duplicates before posting their question and are almost certainly less likely to know if a particular answer could help them if the issue is the same but is not verbatim to their issue. =duplicate questions=lower answer rate.... – TrailRider Feb 11 '14 at 0:54
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    I don't think new users is the problem really. Sure, they leave out information, but you can get them to answer usually. Also, I flag it as duplicate if the answer is already on Askubuntu. I see many more questions in the new queue that are just beyond my ability to answer, and I would consider myself an experienced user with college level knowledge of Linux. – Paul Tanzini Feb 11 '14 at 3:24
  • Hmm.. hiring more Skeets and Castros. That sounds like a solution. – Seth Feb 11 '14 at 3:45
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    Jeff left SE because it's not challenging anymore, this is the truth citation needed – Flyk Feb 11 '14 at 9:09
  • @kalina he's not rude to say that, if i was him i wouldn't say it either, the truth cannot always be told kalina... let me tell you this, there is a stupid Q&A site called yahoo answer, just a silly site that i liked, i had more points than you there, about 5k (much harder to get points there coz people cant vote you up, I spent years) and i was very excited about helping people in programming section, if you go there now, what do you see? low quality questions, duplicates, stupid questions, i just left, this is a personal experience – Lynob Feb 11 '14 at 11:49
  • @kalina i was active on many small forums, i was the only guy answering and just left, do you have a blog? if you do have a blog and not too many comments and followers you'll feel the same, there will be a day you'd say, screw this blog, it's fun and all, but i have to do something else than typing, I'll keep my ideas to myself and go have some fun – Lynob Feb 11 '14 at 11:52
  • @Fischer since he hasn't made a public statement to that effect, it's not really right for you to make it on his behalf. – Flyk Feb 11 '14 at 13:08
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    @kalina who am I to make a statement on his behalf? I'm nobody, I was saying what I believe to be true, not the absolute truth, anyway, I edited that line and removed the word "truth" from it – Lynob Feb 11 '14 at 13:20
  • @Fischer exactly my point. – Flyk Feb 11 '14 at 13:43
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    We've had unanswered question problems long before the site was featured on ubuntu.com. – Jorge Castro Feb 11 '14 at 14:08
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    @JorgeCastro well but featuring this site on ubuntu didn't help solving the problem, just spend 1 week on arch forum, see how effective their plan is! closing everything will solve it, the electronics.SE site is pretty damn good at doing it :) but here you must be softer, because you're featured on ubuntu, it's like ubuntu.com saying "I expect from askubuntu to solve every issue our users have", at least that's how i see it – Lynob Feb 11 '14 at 14:25
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    We're not any "softer" here than any other SE afaict; we just have more people asking questions than reviewing by a large margin. – Jorge Castro Feb 11 '14 at 14:27
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    @JorgeCastro of course, i said this in my answer, it's inevitable, because the users think of ubuntu it as "a newbie introduction to linux", isn't that the slogan of ubuntu? i've had this discussion here in the comment section askubuntu.com/questions/417727/… now what is the slogan of arch users? "if you're not prepare to fix it yourself use ubuntu" i've been an arch user, i know :D – Lynob Feb 11 '14 at 14:35
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    I don't think it's inevitable, new user questions are easy to answer, it's horribly written questions that are hard to answer. – Jorge Castro Feb 11 '14 at 14:51
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    @wilf I misunderstood the question then :) and thanks for stackware, it's my favorite hobby to keep trying different OS, I don't remember that I installed a distro for longer than 6 month, I get bored, try another :) the installer is not strange to me, command line installer, i had to install manjaro that way a month ago, I'll try stackware tomorrow or Thursday :) – Lynob Feb 11 '14 at 15:39
16

Long-time listener, first time answerer .... (ubuntu user for a long time too).

I'm a regular on the CodeReview site and we are still in Beta, but are trying to get promoted. We had a "beta review" last November that identified a number of issues stalling this promotion.

One of the items identified as an issue is the number of unanswered questions that was accumulating in CodeReview ....

As a community we started a "Call to duty", and responded to the situation. A second event that happened is that recently the StackExchange DataExplorer was updated to include details from Beta sites. As a community we (the CodeReview folk) have been comparing ourselves to graduated sites, and measuring our progress (and hopefully raising awareness with SE Community Leaders).

Today I pulled up the data on AskUbuntu, and was somewhat surprised to say the least....!!!

We have coined the term 'Zombie' to mean "an old question that has no answers", and we have been in the process of 'shooting' those zombies with quality (thus up-voted) answers, or, if the questions are off-topic, they are being closed.

This is a long winded way of me introducing this chart here which shows the changes in nature of your zombie population that has happened over the past 3 years (or so ... 150 weeks):

ask ubuntu unanswered questions

The blue line with the steep curve is the number of unanswered questions (question was older than 72 hours, and had not been answered) at the date given on the X axis. To make the scales work, that data is presented as 10's of zombies so you should multiply the Y-axis by 10 to match your current statistics of 28K unanswered.

( ... by the way, for some reason you have some odd answers in the system that are much, much older than the questions, and that is why there are negative numbers in the early charts..... )

It is apparent that your zombie problem is escalating, and you need to deal with it.

By comparison, the CodeReview chart looks like:

CodeReview stats

and you can see that we are proud to have started making a significant dent in our zombie population.

In the process of pushing for the site promotion, we have developed some other charts which you may find interesting. This one is a measure of the site activity, and it is clear where the different Ubuntu releases happened ;-) , and it is clear how those influxes of activity impacted your zombie-stats too :

Ask activity

  • 1
    Wow - great answer :D - but how can it be possible to have 'Precognitive Answers' - is it just from when questions get merged? – Wilf Feb 26 '14 at 17:10
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    @Wilf - I don't know... sometimes SEDE has some odd data. I am guessing older questons were merged to the new ones.. This is the worst offender, answered 3 years before it was asked. I am not a mod here, or anywhere, so maybe they can tell me? .... ;-) – rolfl Feb 26 '14 at 17:12
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    @rolfl it was merged askubuntu.com/posts/320632/revisions – Braiam Mar 8 '14 at 16:34
  • Somehow I completely missed this answer. Thanks for those stats, they're pretty useful! – Seth Jul 21 '14 at 15:31
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It would be nice to give us more overall close votes as a community:

It is pretty easy to find things that should be closed, here's one off the top of my head that results in 17 pages of crap we can close:

I get 27 close votes a day. After 20 in review, that leaves me with 7 votes I can use to help clean up the site. Seven!

  • 3
    You get 27? Since when did we get 27? (btw, a feature request for more would be nice) – Seth Feb 11 '14 at 21:06
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    I thought we blacklisted crash... – Seth Feb 11 '14 at 21:06
  • @Seth nope, none has been blacklisted. BTW, I presume the 7 is a typo of 4. – Braiam Feb 14 '14 at 15:30
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    To get more close voters we need more voting so people gets more internet points D: – Braiam Feb 14 '14 at 15:30
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I'll throw my 2 cents here, I think Fisher hit the spot, and the big problem are the new users (most of them, not all):

  1. Not much information (logs or other stuff) regarding the problem in hand
  2. Explanation of the problem itself is of bad quality
  3. Most posts itself are written in bad English
  4. New users don't vote answers as correct
  5. They don't search before asking

This removes motivation for others users to answer those questions, resulting in a high percentage of unanswered questions.

I use Ubuntu, but I also use Slackware (and used other distros in the past) like so, I've been participating on other helping sites, like linuxquestions or arch forums and such, and they have a different philosophy:

Users should be educated on first searching then asking finally voting

In here, they don't bother searching before, they just ask, and we can see this site has a lot of information already, most of the questions asked, have already a solution and has been asked before.

So, how to lower the unanswered questions?

As a new user joins AU, he should receive a warning or some basic instructions, like:

Search -> Ask -> Vote

  1. Search first,
  2. Ask only if your question isn't found
  3. If answer is given mark the question as answered

When a user doesn't do this, the question should be closed and the reason why is the above instructions.

  • 2
    The site already forces people to search when they're new users AND does a duplicate search as they write the question. – Jorge Castro Feb 11 '14 at 15:33
  • The site also sends people to this page when they are new: askubuntu.com/questions/how-to-ask – Jorge Castro Feb 11 '14 at 15:35
  • Then a reinforcement should be made on accepting answers (if that's the case). Instruct users on voting perhaps? – LnxSlck Feb 11 '14 at 15:35
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    It does that as well, it has popups when people leave answers. – Jorge Castro Feb 11 '14 at 15:36
  • Then i guess it's only item 1-4 responsible for unanswered questions – LnxSlck Feb 11 '14 at 15:37
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    @JorgeCastro - Perhaps they could watch through a guide video perhaps, which they have to watch all the way through - but they might be able to skip all the way to the end...)? HTML5 would allow it plus some fancy stuff. Even a 'quiz' of some description afterwards to make sure they were paying attention. – Wilf Feb 12 '14 at 22:59
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    If people aren't reading the few sentences or tips the site tells them then they're not going to sit through a video. – Jorge Castro Feb 13 '14 at 4:02
  • In deed, maybe a simple 2 or 3 seconds presentation then – LnxSlck Feb 13 '14 at 10:41
1

Riding my same old horse into town, I blame the duplicates policy (Duplicates Policy Incentivizes Clutter Rather Than Canonical).

AU feels more chatroom than Wikipedia as users are encouraged to ask and answer duplicate questions. Potential fixes:

For ASKERS:

  1. AU shouldn't allow you to ask a question until you've done some searching.
  2. AU should optimize its search engine to make it easier for one-timers to find the right answer rather than writing a duplicate question.

For ANSWERERS:

  1. As cleaning up is just as much work as answering questions, AU should reward users with points for spotting duplicates and pointing ASKERS to originals.
  2. AU should actively strive for canonical questions and answers by penalizing ANSWERERS who create duplicates rather than edit the original answer toward canon.

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