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I've been reading a number of posts on SO regarding unanswered questions. Despite the 'accept rate' not really being that important, I'm one of those people who likes to keep things in order. Therefore I'd like to suggest the possibility of being able to mark questions as unanswered.

Now, before you all jump on me for what you may deem a silly suggestion - it does come with some benefits. For instance, on my Stack Overflow account I have only one question which didn't receive a usable response. This question is no longer important to me as I often flit around like a butterfly from one project to the next. In this instance I approached the problem from a completely different angle, so I didn't feel it appropriate to answer my own question, given the new approach didn't answer the original question. Hence I am left with a question which is unanswered.

Now your ordinary person probably wouldn't care about this. And while I understand the prospect of 'just ignoring it', the OCD in me requires some kind of closure. Wouldn't it be nice to have a feature where you can actually mark (after X amount of time) the question as definitively unanswered? The benefits of this would be as follows...

  • OCD people like me can gain closure.
  • People won't be tempted to mark a question as 'answered' just to keep their accept rate at 100%
  • Other searchers (having searched already) will find questions which are known to be unanswered and will know ahead of times that they can (a) try again because X time has passed or (b) look for an alternative.
  • People like me will stop asking questions about unanswered questions.

I'd suggest that after X time passes, the question can be marked as unanswered, and that those marked questions will be included when the accept rate is calculated, even if those unanswered questions are shown differently in some way.

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Wow... two downvotes and nobody kind enough to actually tell me why. Nice work. – Simon May 31 '13 at 15:11
Is there something wrong with deleting the question in question? If it's irrelevant and unanswerable, that would seem the best closure to me. – Hannele May 31 '13 at 15:14
Well in my opinion, that really depends. Is it more helpful for someone to find that other people have asked the question with no resolution, than to search and find nothing? I prefer the former. – Simon May 31 '13 at 15:17
Voting on Meta works differently; one of those downvotes is mine, simply because I disagree with the idea entirely. – Anthony Grist May 31 '13 at 15:20
Ahh okay, apologies. I didn't know it was different here. – Simon May 31 '13 at 15:28
You can't mark a question as "answered". You can only accept an answer. There's a difference. – Nicol Bolas May 31 '13 at 16:17
Semantics to be honest. I already gave up on this one, though fully expect the downvotes to keep rolling in. I'll be disappointed if I don't see a rep of zero by Monday morning. :) – Simon May 31 '13 at 16:22
up vote 6 down vote accepted

There's no such thing as "definitively unanswered", only "currently unanswered". Not currently having an answer, even X amount of time after the question was asked, doesn't necessarily state that it will never receive an answer.

What would happen if a question was marked as "definitively unanswered" then actually received an answer? That's conflicting information which, unless the person who asked it comes back and accepts the answer, has the potential to incorrectly imply that the posted answer is incorrect even when it's not.

Accept rate is no longer visible to other users so there's no reason to keep it at, or even close to, 100%; it's a meaningless metric now. I can't find an accept rate anywhere on my SO profile (I didn't look that hard, admittedly, and I've also only asked a single question). If it's still visible on the user profile then perhaps it should simply be removed?

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Okay, that makese sense I suppose. I wish they would just remove the accept rate then... cos it drives me nuts. And +1 for a less aggressive answer. First post / suggestion on meta, and already feel like it'll be the last. – Simon May 31 '13 at 15:31
@Simon They've already removed accept rate. It just doesn't exist anywhere on the site anymore. – Asad Saeeduddin May 31 '13 at 15:34
My god... they have removed it. When did that go? I give up. It's the weekend. – Simon May 31 '13 at 15:38
@Simon It was a long standing feature request that was accepted beginning of this year. – Asad Saeeduddin May 31 '13 at 15:39

If a question isn't marked as answered, doesn't that already imply it is unanswered? I'm not sure why we would need an additional status to indicate this.

If you're talking about unanswerable questions, which are slightly different, we close those around here.

Regarding your arguments for this feature:

  • There is no accept rate any more, so that isn't a factor in people marking questions as answered
  • Other searchers can simply look for questions that are not answered, instead of having to rely on a redundant "unanswered" status
  • You underestimate people's tenacity when it comes to issues of answer acceptance
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Well first of all, how can you definitively claim that something is unanswerable? The question I posted is most likely answerable, but hasn't been answered with something that was useful. After X months, I now know that this question hasn't been answered - and if I had a mechanism to make that noted, surely it would help others to follow different avenues of thought. – Simon May 31 '13 at 15:16
The mechanism to note that a question has remained unanswered for a long time is just to look at the date of the question and see there is no accepted answer. Again, I don't see the value in restating information that is already available to users. – Asad Saeeduddin May 31 '13 at 15:19

People won't be tempted to mark a question as 'answered' just to keep their accept rate at 100%

This doesn't exist anymore. Probably for this reason.

I'd suggest that after X time passes, the question can be marked as unanswered, and that those marked questions will be included when the accept rate is calculated, even if those unanswered questions are shown differently in some way.


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The first one is marked as answered and the second is marked as unanswered. Permanantly. Wel...Unless it gets an answer...since we don't want to prevent users from answering questions don't we ?

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