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An old question was brought to my attention.

I encountered a question in the "Close Votes" queue. I responded this way:

Welcome to ELL! Please share what research you have already done, and what you found that confused you. The word "barber" has an interesting definition in the dictionary that might surprise you. After reading it, what do you think the answer might be? (To improve your question, use the [Edit] button on your question and add details, please.) Please read the "Contributor's Guide to ELL" and Details Please. Keep contributing and welcome! – whiskeychief yesterday

A moderator has pointed out that:

@whiskeychief - Good advice, but the "Welcome!" part of your comment rings a bit odd, seeing that this question was asked in 2015 and the OP has not logged in for almost 11 months. – ♦

I usually use a very standard "welcome" comment when a question needs to be improved and the OP has a relatively small reputation count.

The SE system wants a response

At the moment, the question has:

  • a close vote in the queue for review
  • an open bounty (+50) from a moderator

The system is looking for an action, either a close vote, a comment, or an edit.

I generally respond to the Review queue without considering the aging of the original question.

So, the question:

Is it proper to simply assume the commenter has abandoned the site and won't be back to fix it?

Should I change the way I react to a question based on how old it is?

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  • The "new contributor indicator" is a good way to know when a "welcome" message is appropriate. Many users have low reputation but have been around for a while. – ColleenV Sep 25 '19 at 11:06
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As to your first question, remember that any question on ELL is meant to help the learning community at large, not just the person who originally asked the question. So, if it truly needs an improvement, make the improvement.

In cases where the question is new and the OP is active, you may want to nudge the OP to make the edit themselves. But if the question is as old as this one, with the OP largely inactive for several months (you can see when a user was last active by looking at their profile), then it's probably best not to address the individual but simply use your privileges to improve the question as needed.

If the problem is something like "This question needs more context," it's probably best to leave the question alone, because your assumption about the improved context might not be the correct one, particularly in the case where already-existing answers make different assumptions. But if the problem is something more along the lines of reformatting a question or adding a source to an uncited quote, those can be done regardless of how old a question might be, particularly when the question seems like an otherwise good question.

Note: When you edit a question, it goes to the top of the active questions list. Some decidedly mediocre questions may not be worth putting there.

P.S. I'm not sure why that question attracted a close vote. It seems on-topic to me.

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