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I've noticed lately that SO's list of "Unanswered" questions is growing basically unchecked (84,477 at the time of writing). I realize that many of these are weak questions that the questioner never refined and that others are basically unanswerable. Still, it bothers me that the list is so large.

Is there any reasonable plan for cutting the list down to size?

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Related: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/41901/… –  heavyd Mar 31 '10 at 12:24

3 Answers 3

The "reasonable" plan is reputation and badges. Specifically, a sufficiently motivated person can earn rep by answering a previously "unanswered" question. For those interested in badges, there's the Necromancer badge that encourages answering old questions.

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The same reasonable plan in place for every other question:

Answer them yourself, or wait for someone else to.

Stack Overflow isn't a 'top-down' organization where someone makes a decision and everyone else follows. No one answers questions just because someone told them to; they do it because they want to.

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1  
It isn't a top-down command structure. But moderators and administrators do sometimes tweak the rules to improve things, so I think your answer misses the mark. Perhaps the first question is "are there too many unanswered questions?". Sounds like you think there's no problem? –  MarkJ Mar 31 '10 at 14:06

The problem is multifaceted.

  1. Some questions are so poorly asked that they are unanswerable, the original author refuses to clarify

  2. Some Askers don't bother accepting answers, so it doesn't matter how many people answer their questions.

  3. Some questions are difficult, and noone has managed to answer them yet. This problem should be fixed by the Necromancer badge, but it's hard to sort through all the old questions to find one to answer.

Solutions for (1)

  • Some kind of "flag as dead wood" strategy, so that old unanswerable questions can be deleted.
  • Once they reach a certain age, treat it as though there is a bounty, or even automatically enforce a bounty.

Solutions for (2)

  • Prevent users with an insufficient accept rate posting more questions.
  • Add a set of badges for accepting answers.

Fix 1 and 2, and 3 will fix itself.

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@Paul 2. is addressed via people upvoting answers ans well. I'll have to think over the extra bounty idea though ... –  C. Ross Mar 31 '10 at 13:50
    
+1 for dead wood idea –  MarkJ Mar 31 '10 at 14:08
    
"Unanswered" has nothing to do with acceptance. blog.stackoverflow.com/2008/09/ok-now-define-answered –  dmckee Mar 31 '10 at 14:26

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