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I've seen this a few times on multiple Stack Exchange sites and it's bugged me. I've wondered if the community has come to any consensus on how address and handle such questions.

Specifically, I've seen users ask questions that might not be answerable. Some of these questions sit around and get up-voted, and up-voted-- people would like to know the answer but under certain circumstances these questions may not be answerable because they involve a level of knowledge that either no one can have, or such a small pool of people are capable of answering the question, there is a reasonable chance that such questions will almost certainly never be answered.

Arqade is good place to go to find some of these. As such, consider the following questions as examples:

What would cause Sauron to attack?

  • 20 Upvotes and currently sits at the top of the Unanswered Questions list.
  • What could be a good questions about an old Commodore 64 game. The problem is this can probably only be discovered by reverse engineering the game or asking an original developer. That's probably never going to happen.

Some “Serious Sam” Levels End Prematurely

  • This question is well documented with 11 up votes.
  • The problem is that this is also a highly technical question about a closed-sourced game. The only people who could probably debug or address this are the original developers.

I could probably find a few other questions on other sites with the similar flaws. Usually they involve users of specific software, or hardware, asking extremely specific questions that only the originators of the software or hardware could address.

As a community, what should we do with these types of questions? After significant aging should we vote to close them? Should we leave them and let them set at the top of the Unanswered Questions list for eons? Should answers stating that the question is unanswerable be aloud for these very obscure questions, if that is the unfortunate truth?

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1 Answer 1

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Potentially unanswerable questions should be left up simply they are potentially unanswerable. Who knows? Maybe one day we'll have some crazy AI that'll reverse-engineer that Commodore 64 game. Sure, you might say that that far in the future, nobody will really care. But what if aliens From Beyond The Rim were really frustrated about that game (a la Futurama aliens that were obssessed about Single Female Lawyer) and we needed to fix that bug to appease our new tentacled overlords?

Of course, we might just put that previous rambling up to me having a nervous breakdown, but the point still stands. We shouldn't do anything about unanswerable questions because they won't always be unanswerable.

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Well, I chose these questions because I constantly see them at the top of the list in Arqade, and they "haunt me". But, the truth is, there are also other types of questions that are unanswerable because they assume possibly false premises. Addressing the issue of the false-premise is usually made in the comments and some times takes as little as a few words to respond. These questions bug me too. –  RLH Jul 20 '12 at 17:50
    
Well, those questions with content issues can generally be closed as "Not constructive" or with a custom mod flag. –  Yawus Jul 20 '12 at 17:53
    
On a side note, if we do remove these questions and Eldritch Abominations From Beyond The Edge invade our planet demanding to know why Sauron keeps killing them, I'm just going to have say "I told you so." –  Yawus Jul 20 '12 at 18:08
    
And, I'll give you the answer mark because I don't like seeing my answer percentages get below 95%. I'd still like to get another response to my question, though. –  RLH Oct 4 '12 at 19:39

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