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Why are there so many unanswered questions? (In Q & A)? Answered

If you click on "unanswered" on the Q & A page, you'll see questions that are technically "unanswered" from 2 years ago. In many cases, these questions, appear to have been answered with numerous good choices to award a "best answer" to. Yet they still remain this way.

Are these authors forgetful? Perhaps a little ungrateful for the time people took in answering their questions? Or could they in fact ALL be "unanswered" questions?

I would like your opinions. Should the staff at Instructables place an "expiry date" to questions and simply write them off as answered if ignored by the author? Should an email be sent out to the authors prompting them to tend to their questions?

What do you think?

(BTW, I award best answers to my questions).



Best Answer 6 years ago

I tend to think it is a combination of several elements, including dissatisfaction with the answers (correct or not), ingratitude, trolls (people just looking for attention), those that are unsure what to do when they get an answer and the one-timers. The one-timers being those who sign up just so they can ask a specific question and then, for whatever reason, whether they get a good answer or not never return.
I've been doing this long enough that, mostly, it just sort of rolls off my back when an author forgets or fails to show a little gratitude.
Regarding the old "Unanswered" questions, its my opinion that those over 6 months or so old should be moved into an "Archive" category rather than calling them unanswered. Having a massive roster of "Unanswered" questions gives the appearance that asking a question here produces poor results when, in my opinion, just the opposite is true.

There were so many good answers and suggestions here that it was difficult to choose just "one", but in order to not look hypocritical, I choose Burf's answer as the best. I think the easiest method to dealing with stale questions would be to put them in an "archive" category and leave "unanswered" questions fresh with the ability to still be answered.

Exactly! and very well said I must add. The impression it leaves is incorrect, but looks bad nonetheless.

Hopefully some of the staff sees this topic and makes a concerted effort to change the things we all see.

Its not like we're criticizing for the sake of criticizing. My point is to bring some attention on this, so that they'll make it better for all of us. :)

I have asked and asked and asked for a community voting option so that stale answers get answered. the author can override the community voted answer, but if it goes by the wayside they get an answer.

Staff have the option to select / unselect best answers but it's best practice to leave it with the authors.

(well that was weird.... My answer to "thegeeke", just showed up here, and I had to delete it...) ? o_0

Anyway, what I was trying to say is that you've presented a good alternative to this issue, and its a shame that no one is listening.

I just think its high time that something gets done. It serves no useful purpose to anyone when selecting "unanswered" questions, to see 2 year old results.

Another suggestion I thought was emailing the author a notification "hey, it's been 2 weeks and there have been x answers" -- could be a great hook for the lurkers who post a question never to return.

Hey frollard, I thought I'd let you know that after waiting a while, I did get an email today about this question, although it could have been worded a little better (imo).

"Your question has 33 answers. Is one of them the best answer? Let everyone know!"

What it should say is: "You're question shows it is "unanswered". You've received ___ number of answers. Please check your question and award a "best answer" if you no longer need help with this question".

I think that would clear up some confusion for those that just don't know what to do. It should also be "clearly written" when a person posts a question that they should award "best answers" as that will mark the question as "answered". (There is currently no mention of that).

What do you think?

Totally agree with the above, and along those lines, even have a close question/completely unanswered/repost button that bumps it (to a maximum amount of times).

"your question has gone without any answers, {extremely rare I know} -- perhaps consider modifying it to garner more attention.

Absolutely! There are many, easy ways for staff to manage this section a little better. It could start with some education about "what to do" when people post questions. Simply add in "mark a best answer when you get the help you need", since many people have no idea they should do this.

I really like the "bump" idea. It would stop a lot of people from reposting the same question in an effort to get back on page 1.

There should also be a way to manage the trolls that use this place. You see a lot of people who sign up, ask a question and never come back. Perhaps those are the questions that a community voted answer could be found.

In my question I proposed, "Should an email be sent out to the authors prompting them to tend to their questions?"

Great minds think a like. :D

What i think happens is either the person doesn't find a good answer (BTW you do get an e-mail notification now and then asking if your question has a best answer yet.) or the answers written don't make sense or don't help and is thus useless, or the person gets lazy and forgets. And the main one i find problems with is when your question gets shoved back off the main page so no one sees it and no one answers it, or its too hard a question to answer.

I hope this helps, thanks.

Thanks. I have yet to hear that email notifications are going out...

I do agree with your point about questions once they are off page one. They clearly get much less attention. This is why I think it would be useful to have an option to filter the "unanswered" questions by date (oldest or newest) for example, much like comments can be filtered. It would at least give more recent and relevant questions to view, instead of 1 and 2 year old ones.

Just wait, if you don't "best answer" this question, in a couple weeks you'll get one.

Holy cow! You were right. I just got an email saying that "Your question has 33 answers. Is one of them the best answer? Let everyone know!"

What it should say is: "You're question shows it is "unanswered". You've received ___ number of answers. Please check your question and award a "best answer" if you no longer need help with this question".

Or something like that...

Now all you have to do is best answer this question. (or else it will seem hypocritical)

I thought of that actually. I normally don't leave questions unanswered that long, but for "scientific purposes", it couldn't hurt to test this theory out. - Good call. :D

There are cases for some of my questions, where the question turned into a valuable discussion, and all the answers were great - but there is no way to reward everyone, so I rewarded no-one, which seemed fairer. Perhaps there should be a "group best" box !

I would agree with that. I have experienced the same thing, and am having that problem here again... With a group best or either multiple "good answers" versus a "best answer" could achieve this as well.

That way good questions would tie up with good answers. Or a flag "LOTS of Best answers".....

Exactly. I would love to credit everyone here that has contributed. There's been a lot of good suggestions on how to improve the whole Q & A section.

Oh, and they have got to fix ONE more thing...
Don't call the Tab "Answers"... They aren't answers, they are Questions...

Who's ever heard of "answered" and "unanswered" answers??? o_0

My only beef is that if someone gives an answer to a question and the OP doesn't respond, it IS listed as unanswered even though an answer has been given. It seems to me that to be unanswered that the question should have no replies at all. Perhaps they need to change the name from Unanswered to Undecided and have the ones with no replies be the ones listed as Unanswered.

My 2 cents.


See now that would just make too much sense. :P

But all kidding aside, I agree, some of the terminology and the results need improvements.

I just hope that the staff looks at this as "Positive Feedback", versus us just complaining.

That said, ones where the whole thing is gold ARE rare.


I also think that when people ask the question if it's urgent they will google it and probably put the same question on a number of forums. They may not sign on to instructables for many, many months because life has taken over and instructables may be waiting for the author to respond to their message before they put answered. There are also people who sign up and leave. ............then there is the Bermuda Triangle...........

Very true. :) For many of these reasons, we've discussed the idea of an expiry date system or even a member based method of awarding best answer to unanswered questions. So if either were applied, the author could "un-award best answer" if they returned from the Bermuda Triangle to re-participate. :D

Good idea! I doubt that they are coming back from the Bermuda Triangle too good a destination, all your dreams come true.....or so I've heard.

Maybe I've missed something in all these conversations but at the top of the list you can request: Newest, oldest and active.

This must be a good topic seeing as you've stirred up a 'hornets nest'. You must be a great journalist!

Thanks. - The newest, oldest and active sort is for comments on this page only. There isn't a "working" method to sort Q & A by most popular. - Actually, there is a way, by clicking on "Popular" (found on the left of the Q & A page), but unfortunately when you click on this option, you get no results...

I don't think everyone posting questions knows about best answer. Others are just too lazy/ungrateful, and in some cases it's just hard to choose a "best" answer. At least that's my take on it. To be honest, I stopped really caring if people give me best answer or not awhile ago. I just want to share my knowledge with others in a place where I can feel free to ask questions in areas I don't know much about. For instance, I am a computer hardware and troubleshooting guy, but I don't have a huge knowledge of programming. I've done basic programs in almost every language around, but I've never really gotten really good at any language. So if I need help with programming, I can ask. If someone needs help fixing their computer (or I also know a little about AV), I can help with that. Generally the people with the lowest best answer percentage are the ones who help others the most. Sad, but true.

Thanks for the reply. I understand your point.

I'm still relatively new here (posted my first 'ible last month), so I wasn't aware of all of this. I have posted a ton of answers myself, and have a low percentage. Perhaps its due to your theory as many of those answers are in "unanswered" questions.

I guess I still care a little, (its hard to feel effective at 18%), but I'm also just not seeing the value of using anything in Q & A but the "recent" function, as "unanswered" just gives me a very old list. At the very least there should be a way to sort the data into most recent etc.

On your other point, a great resource that I use for programming help is at StackOverFlow. You should check it out if you haven't already. It's the first place I turn to when I need help.

I agree something should be done, but don't feel bad about your percentage. Mines 9%! :) Most members around here start to somewhat get to know each other and usefulness is normally determined by the content you post. I've already seen that you post quality content, and I appreaciate that, as I'm sure others do. Just remember its not about quantity but rather quality. Keep up the good work! :)

Well thank you. I appreciate that. By no means do I lend a hand for the praise or percentage, but I'm sure you can relate, when you see your own numbers. I have also begun to notice a pattern in those that help out, so perhaps I am becoming part of the crowd in that sense. (Not a bad place to be). :D

I agree, it's not a bad place to be. Sometimes, even if someone doesn't pick best answer, they will write you a nice "thank you comment". Personally, I actually prefer that, but then again, that's just me. :)

I agree with you there. A simple thank you at least acknowledges your efforts.

So, again, Thank you. :D


6 years ago

Some people ask the same question again and again
other authors don't check on their question.
I PMd one and was told ke the auther likes to wait 3 months before
deciding on best answer
Another author didn't know of an obligation to hove best answer?.
one fellow cursed me for asking!!


You were cursed for asking! Whoa... perhaps that author should consult a trained mental health expert than post questions here. :D

I get that there are a variety of reasons an author may have and some just don't know. I may be wrong, I just think a simple robot message saying "your question has X answers" would suffice.

Or staff could simply allow for a way to sort "unanswered" questions by most recent, to allow more people to respond if necessary.

People who scan through the questions regardless of their age do so because they are experiencing similar situations and may find that one of the answers provided dovetails nicely with their needs.Leave them all in.


I'm sure there are useful reasons to keep all questions available for view. (Avoids redundant questions, if people search first...) But, that's not my point. I just don't see why any question should remain "unanswered", unless its "legitimately" been unanswered, for more than say 6 months or a year.