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It's fairly common to see users come to a SE site, ask a question, and never show up again. This is despite the fact that they got good answers from other SE members. Naturally if the question asker doesn't return they will never choose a correct answer.

What I propose is that these users get an email letting them know that their question has answers and they should return to the SE website and review the answers and choose a correct one if they feel any meet that criteria.

Criteria for sending the email:

  • Question is at least 3 days old

  • There is at least one answer

  • The user has only logged in once (when asking the question)

  • It is automated

Goals of this feature:

  • Gets users to come back to the website hopefully encouraging them to continue to return

  • Helps to increase rep which encourages members to participate

  • Increases rep which is helpful in newer SE sites that needs members to reach the magical 2k rep mark needed to community moderate

It's kind of frustrating to see so many drive by question askers ignore their questions. Hopefully this will help to mitigate that problem.

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2 Answers 2

I can understand the frustration with drive-by users. But I'm not quite sure unsolicited emails are the route to go.

Usually, you sign up to receive email. The only email from the sites that I believe are not possible to opt-out of are bounty emails, but I basically opted into those by registering. To that end, sending emails to users who may not have even registered? It seems a bit off-putting to advertise us as a place where you can choose not to join (and miss out on all the fun), yet pester them just because they didn't come back. Maybe other companies in the commercial world do that, but they're really annoying.

Part of the benefit of Stack Overflow is the ability to ask a question anonymously and easily, without jumping through hoops. If this results in a person forgetting to come back for their answer, then it's a bit of their own loss. Those users aren't being very community-friendly, but they chose not to join and we do better to respect that. Stack Exchange has been pretty successful without being a nag.

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I like the spirit of this feature request. It's oriented towards what's good for the community. Unfortunately, it doesn't address what's good for the drive-by user. From the user's perspective, this is an annoyance and a waste of time.

It's possible the user already got the problem solved elsewhere. It's possible that the user didn't get an answer but no longer needs one. It's possible that... many things, really. The one unlikely situation is that the user still needs an answer; if he did, he would've come back to check for responses.

So by the time the user gets this hypothetical e-mail, he's going to put it in the same mental bucket as Nigerian banker pleas and weight loss pill adverts. At best, he'll ignore it; at worst, he'll develop and spread a negative impression of the SE network.

If you can figure out a way to give the user some incentive to return (that the user actually wants), I'll gladly support this request. Until then, -1.

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If the user does not return for a month or so, an email remainder can be sent across and providing an incentive of +2 or something increase in reputation for returning and participating actively. What say ? –  Viraj Feb 24 '11 at 12:43
    
@Viraj, I don't see how that addresses my points. What makes you think that such an e-mail would be welcome? –  Pops Feb 24 '11 at 15:08

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