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Out of curiosity why not a purge unanswered questions?

There is lots of talk about "fixing the site" and its said that answering unanswered question is a good way to do this. I don't understand the reasoning behind this.

I would like to know why the effort to why fix them other than to make metrics look nicer? Below are my reasons for thinking its a counter productive effort that stifles current activity.

Reasoning

First there is little to no incentive to go back and answer these question and the incentives that exist are not community driven. I'm referring to the bounties that seem to have been offered from the 2013 Refactoring thread. Though well intentioned I don't like this sort of behavior, personally I would rather solve the issue through leveraging community involvement through using the existing site mechanics as they were intended.

Second most of them are subtly unanswerable. Either they are off topic or they develop to become too localized. The few good unanswered question I could find are unanswered because the question is brutally hard.

If the question is one that the community has an interest in getting answered it will be asked again. This time with the opportunity of having the attention of the current community on it. If it deserves to be closed it is more likely to be closed. If it deserves to be answered its more likely to be answered (due to visibility allowing for more up-votes and the possibility of engaging the OP in necessary).

It seems purging them would increase activity and the quality of the site as a QA forum. Additionally I help prevent stagnation cause by those questions causing similar ones (that may be a better fit) to be off topic. To elaborate think of a venn diagram, the questions remove the incentives for a sizable circle area within the circle that is all on topic question.

I figure there will be examples of questions that are popular though unanswered. The purging can of course have exceptions based upon votes/views but that should not a part of this discussion.

Edits to Address Points Made in the Answers

So I believe the goal behind both ideas is to bring attention to the questions. The Refactor address this by using (mostly) artificial incentives to involve a small subset of the community (the ones who participate in meta - the ones who don't feel like participating).

Deleting and allowing the questions to be re-asked involves the entire active community in addition to using the incentive system the site is built around. The bold bit being the important distinction.

Also I suppose deletion wouldn't be necessary. Perhaps a mass closing would be less absolute option? I fully understanding not wanting to be the person who name is on the deletions. Perhaps closing them with a message that is is okay (or even encouraged) to ask similar questions would be an alternative.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The point of the Winter Refactor is not to "fix the site," per se. I'm not sure what we'll do this time around, but the original one was mainly an attempt to get eyes on the old questions that don't normally get much traffic except, maybe, for the occasional bump by the community bot. \$\endgroup\$ – Josh Dec 11 '14 at 21:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JoshPetrie My question is not really related to the Winter Refactor other than if this were to be done it would probably be the best time. Mainly was thinking about stuff and came to the conclusion that such questions are harmful to site's goal as a QA site. So why not remove them? \$\endgroup\$ – ClassicThunder Dec 11 '14 at 21:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ Oh, I see. I guess you can ignore most of my answer pertaining specifically to the refactor then. But I'm still not sure I see how old unanswered questions are harmful to the point of needing bulk deletion. \$\endgroup\$ – Josh Dec 11 '14 at 21:57
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I'll answer again, based on your edit. Specifically, I want to address this:

Deleting and allowing the questions to be re-asked involves the entire active community in addition to using the incentive system the site is built around. The bold bit being the important distinction.

I think I see where you are coming from. It seems to me that you're saying that by deleting the question, and having somebody (possibly eventually) re-answer it, the entire current community will see the new question since it we appear on the front page of the site.

However, the same can be said of the process of editing the original old question: it will be bumped up to the front page, making it more likely to get visibility.

If we're going to delete and wait until somebody re-asks, we're not really involving the entire community until it gets asked. Until then, we're waiting on one of the potential few people who actually have that question to ask it. We might lose that question for a long time, which would be sad if it was a good question.

If we're going to delete and immediately re-ask on the original poster's behalf, that's functionally the same as simply editing the existing question.

So why not just go back and edit old questions instead? I still would argue that it involves the community more: more people can edit than can delete, and those edits will push the questions to the front. Plus I think there's a difference between having a question and being able to see a question somebody has and think "that is an interesting problem." This question for example, is not one that I would likely ever have in the near future given what I work on, but I think it's really interesting.

Plus, the act of simply going through and unilaterally axing a bunch of old questions seems very much against the spirit of the site. We aren't a dictatorship and we shouldn't discriminate against users just because their question is old.

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Out of curiosity why not a purge unanswered questions?

Just because a question doesn't have an answer doesn't mean it's a bad question. There are a lot of reasons it may have simply failed to get any traction when it was originally posted; perhaps, for example, there was nobody on the site at the time who was knowledgeable in the area.

There is lots of talk about "fixing the site" and its said that answering unanswered question is a good way to do this. I don't understand the reasoning behind this. I would like to know why the effort to why fix them other than to make metrics look nicer?

While there have been discussions about addressing perceived or actual problems with the site (such as relatively poor participation in certain community actions), the Winter Refactor event isn't aimed at "fixing" anything, necessarily.

Answering unanswered questions is good for the site, since it's basically what the site is about. The event isn't about adjusting metrics (but having metrics is useful to gauge the success of the event).

But, that said, metrics are important because if the site's metrics skew way out of line it could be closed (this is a general truth; I'm not saying this site is in danger of that, or anything).

Though well intentioned I don't like this sort of behavior, personally I would rather solve the issue through leveraging community involvement through using the existing site mechanics as they were intended.

I am not a fan of the bounty mechanism as an incentive to participate either. I would rather there be something else but I don't know what it could be. We have to work with the tools we're given and we're not given particularly good tools for this sort of scenario.

Second most of them are subtly unanswerable. Either they are off topic or they develop to become too localized. The few good unanswered question I could find are unanswered because the question is brutally hard.

That's fine; vote to close them then. Then the question would eventually get deleted.

It seems purging them would increase activity and the quality of the site as a QA forum. This time with the opportunity of having the attention of the current community on it.

I don't see how? Without a good reason why, I'm loathe to and arbitrarily delete "anything older than date X that has 0 answers and a score of less then 5" or something. Especially since it would basically have to be me (or one of the other diamond moderators) doing all of it.

As for "having the attention of the current community," that's the point of the Refactor event: to focus the effort of the community on a section of the site's questions that, due to the way the site operates, are no longer "in the spotlight." We don't need to delete questions to do that.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for taking the time to read though the proposal, I have edited the question addressing what I feel the important distinction is. \$\endgroup\$ – ClassicThunder Dec 12 '14 at 0:43

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