There are currently almost three thousand unanswered questions (questions with no upvoted or accepted answers) on this site. If I recall correctly, some sites actively try to bring this number down to zero. All we need to do is

  1. close unsound questions

  2. convert comments on these questions that are answers to answers

  3. provide an answer to questions with no answers

  4. upvote good answers.

Shall we make a plan for the community to act on this?

  • Would it be possible to get a list sorted by date asked (secondarily by most recent modification)? It would be helpful to note if this is a current problem (let's say the rate in the last 6 months) rather than years ago.
    – user3169
    Commented Sep 18, 2017 at 20:39
  • Could you put in the actual url to show which tab/page you are looking at? When I go to your link and click on the "newest" tab, I can see answered questions. Also "modified" may not be so helpful (date-wise) because it can include non-substantial edits. You are asking a very good question, but I think some more in-depth analysis is needed.
    – user3169
    Commented Sep 18, 2017 at 23:33
  • Can we add a relevant "close" action, something like "Unanswered in the past six months"? That makes it easier to vote.
    – Andrew
    Commented Sep 19, 2017 at 16:30
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    @Andrew "unanswered" is not valid close reason. Either it should be closed for an actual close reason or edited to attract some answers. Our goal should never be to fix our statistics, but rather to fix what is causing the bad metric.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Sep 19, 2017 at 18:12
  • @ColleenV not to nitpick but the bad metric is a system that depends on indifferent questioners to "close" questions. Unless there is a way for the community to pick the best answer when OP does a runner?
    – Andrew
    Commented Sep 19, 2017 at 18:26
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    @Andrew "unanswered" is not the same thing as "no accepted answer". I'm at work and can't dig up the exact link that explains it right now, but I will when I get a chance (if someone else doesn't beat me to it)
    – ColleenV
    Commented Sep 19, 2017 at 18:35
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    @Andrew Here is the blog post about what "answered" means. It's from 2008, but I believe it's the same criteria - Unanswered questions have no answers with upvotes (or accepted).
    – ColleenV
    Commented Sep 19, 2017 at 21:55
  • @ColleenV. Got it. I've already answered a few today.
    – Andrew
    Commented Sep 19, 2017 at 22:17
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  • 1
    This has popped up in "Featured on Meta" almost 18 months later, and there are now almost 5000 "unanswered" questions. Part of it is that questions have answers written (and upvoted) but not accepted. The blog post stackoverflow.blog/2008/09/30/ok-now-define-answered also says, "Heck, we don’t even expect people asking questions to come back and accept an answer most of the time." What, if anything, can be done about drive-by question posting?
    – Mick
    Commented Feb 19, 2019 at 8:31
  • alright, we should do what some other stack exchange sites do, have an account that autoremoves questions that fit criteria such as "no accepted answer,no activity for 30 days, and no upvotes" Commented Feb 26, 2019 at 20:16
  • I'm a new member and a little confused. When I look at older unanswered questions, I find that almost all of them are in fact answered in the comments to the original question. It seems inappropriate to repeat one of the comments as an official "answer". How does one "convert comments on these questions that are answers to answers" if one is not the commenter?
    – hguler
    Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 17:07
  • @hguler You copy it and put it in an answer, and delete the comment. :) You can keep the person's name.
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 3, 2019 at 23:04
  • The number of unanswered questions is now below 4000 for the first time in ages.
    – James K
    Commented Apr 7, 2019 at 6:52

3 Answers 3


I initially wondered, "Would most of the unanswered questions would be poorly-written questions that didn't really need an answer, aside from an initial comment or two?"

After I looked through the list, though, I thought: Indeed, a few questions fit that description; however, as I looked through the list, I also found some questions that looked quite good – they simply didn't have an answer yet.

So, do we need a "community plan"? I don't know about that, but it's probably not a bad idea for ELL regulars to at least keep an eye on that list every now and then, and look for good questions that maybe slipped through the cracks.

Also, perhaps we can give this idea another mention during the Winter Bash. (I'm not sure if we'd get a hat for resurrecting an unanswered question, but who knows? Even a potential hat might be just the right impetus to find an unanswered question and finally give it a well-deserved answer.)

Note: I don't mean to say that we should wait until the Winter Bash; I'm just saying that we might have a spike in this activity at that time of the year.

  • Are there statistics on how many users visit the site to browse existing questions? I feel like perhaps 80% of the new questions are simple variations on old questions, just with slightly different wording. I've already complained about how difficult it is to find duplicates -- so much so that it's often quicker to answer the question than to find another that's relevant and properly answered. I can't imagine it's any easier for those who are already not native speakers.
    – Andrew
    Commented Sep 19, 2017 at 22:20
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    Point being that we should really have data to support the principle that old questions should be answered because they may be useful. If no one is browsing for the vast majority of questions, wouldn't we just be spinning our wheels?
    – Andrew
    Commented Sep 19, 2017 at 22:23
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    @Andrew Tagging can really help with matching up questions with potential duplicates (and it makes the "related" questions in the sidebar a lot more relevant). If you're going to answer the question instead of spend time looking for the duplicate that probably exists, at least clean up the question, make the title descriptive, and tag it so that we have a better chance that we'll find THAT one to use as a master for dupes :) If everyone made everything they saw just a little bit better, I think the improvement to the site as a whole would be surprisingly significant.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Sep 20, 2017 at 3:22
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    @ColleenV I'm not entirely sold on the idea that tagging will help much, since so many tags cover a broad range. However I have been trying to close at least a few questions each day, even if it means shamelessly stealing FumbleFingers' numerous comments. :)
    – Andrew
    Commented Sep 22, 2017 at 19:41
  • @Andrew - I know there have been times in the past where I was searching for a question I was pretty sure I'd seen before, and I was finally able to locate it thanks to one of its tags. Sometimes tagging works.
    – J.R. Mod
    Commented Sep 22, 2017 at 20:39
  • @Andrew Also, sometimes it's the combination of tags that helps. Did you know that you can use tags in the search box? For example if you search for [present-perfect] [past-simple] you can see how much trouble deciding between the two can be sometimes... If you get the opportunity, try replacing [grammar] with a couple more relevant tags, reload the page, and check out how much more helpful the sidebar becomes.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Sep 23, 2017 at 0:55
  • J.R and @ColleenV, is it okay for me to convert a comment that may not be correct into a community wiki answer? I think that's better; at least, if it's wrong, it can be downvoted. Commented Sep 24, 2017 at 16:47
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    @user178049 Personally, if you aren't sure that it is correct, I would just leave it as a comment. I think community wiki answers should be for things that need collaboration and not "reputation consequence avoidance". If you convert a comment into an answer, and add references, examples or other significant detail to it, you deserve the reputation. If you're just copy and pasting something you're not sure about so that the question can have an answer, I don't think that's a good idea. It would be better to refine the question so it attracts a real answer, then we can remove the comment.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Sep 24, 2017 at 20:38
  • How about community bounties on good questions that haven't been answered? Commented Sep 28, 2017 at 14:51
  • @Araucaria Do you mean something like I suggested here: ell.meta.stackexchange.com/q/3545 ?
    – ColleenV
    Commented Sep 29, 2017 at 3:25

As a newcomer to this site, is it appropriate for me to try to help with old questions? I am still feeling my way, having only recently joined ELU (and subsequently ELL). I am an academic book editor and have been for a long time, as well as being a native English speaker.

  • 3
    Welcome! You should feel free to answer any question that catches your eye :) There is a lot of good advice here on meta and in the help center for writing great answers. I think the Submitting answers that merely answer the question discussion and How do I write a good answer might be good places to start.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Oct 11, 2017 at 12:08
  • If you know the answer to a question, I do not see how your being new to the community should prevent you from answering it.
    – CinCout
    Commented Feb 28, 2019 at 5:40

A plan or some structured way to do it sounds good, if this is still a thing. Mind you, I tried to do some yesterday. Some I upvoted a good answer that was already there, some I answered when they'd had nothing (despite being old), and at least one I wrote out as an answer (with more explanation) something that was in as a comment. After all, they can't become answered with no answers. Of course, adding an answer then needs someone to upvote it. But they downvoted it instead, with no comment to indicate why. Might be hard to get much cleared if that keeps happening...

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