Abandoned threads are toxic. They take up space, people's time and they hurt our answer ratio.

As a moderator now, I have the power to directly email somebody about their conduct on the site but not only is this time consuming for me, it might not seem very official to the other party... And I still have to chase it up if they don't respond.

I suggest a feature: Alert user

In short, this is an action like "Close" where people can vote to have the site contact the thread author by email, alerting them to urgent editing required.

  1. People vote for this, or moderators and trusted users can toggle it instantly.
  2. It sends the email and adds a banner, telling people that the OP has been contacted to make edits (eg: stop posting comments/answers until there's been an edit)
  3. 48 hours after the alert, if there hasn't been an edit, the Community account closes the thread. Perhaps issue another email at this point to tell the user.
  4. 48 hours after that, the Community account deletes the thread completely.

If the user edits the post, all Alert votes and banners vanish, Community re-opens. Perhaps bump it to the top of the pile (if that's not what happens by default) so people can see it fresh.

The rationale for this is clear. There are plenty of people here that would like to help and in most cases, extra explanation from the OP clears things up and helps generate the answer. When this doesn't happen and the OP doesn't come back, the thread rots and generates lots of comments asking for more info, or worse, generates guess-answers that don't really help anybody.

Something like this allows us to be fair, allows the community to keep itself clean and helps us get our answer rate into the high-90s.

1 Answer 1


I've been thinking about this too. To be honest I think you'll be wasting your time.

Other than the very hard/impossible questions which we'll always have had a bunch of us trudge through the unanswered with "can you update this with some info?" etc. or whatever.

I think it probably scales better than you mailing people. Plus, if say, 3 people have already left a comment asking for info I don't think a mail will help that much either -- at that point we've held up our end of the arrangement, the person's obviously gone off or something.

We're going to end up with a long tail of junk no matter what (it's just the nature of the internet) so I've been mostly working on making our existing good answers better (linking, adding more docs, etc.). Mostly concentrating on making the cream float to the top instead of getting mired in the sludge.

(I also miss the 99% answer rate, but that's just the cost of getting bigger)

  • 3
    I don't know. I think there's still a salvageable percentage of abandoned questions that come from people who just forget about the site. There isn't a notification system in place to remind them. I think a system like this not only helps us clean up but also turns our perceived success rate around, making us look more valuable as we chase things up.
    – Oli Mod
    Feb 16, 2011 at 15:05
  • Sure, worth a shot I suppose! Feb 16, 2011 at 15:13

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