Why do some questions die after a few minutes and get lost in the space of stackoverflow?

Is it stackoverflow's question display strategy?

Is it the people, focusing on something else?

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5 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Generally, it's because they're poorly-asked questions that don't make a lot of sense.

The amount of time you invest in a question is directly proportional to the quality of answers that you are likely to receive. This question is a good example of a bad example, and it's one that's unlikely to get very good answers. Some people simply can't answer even if they wanted to because they don't understand what you're asking. Others will simply refuse to answer questions that don't make any sense.

It's definitely not a conspiracy against askers, nor is it a problem with the view system. Occasionally, you will see good questions that go unanswered because they're about uncommon problems or require highly-specialized knowledge that the typical answerer is not likely to have. I have asked a few such questions myself. But this is definitely the exception, rather than the rule.

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Generally yes, there is a lot of unanswered questions and a lot of questions which deservers much better answers. In the same time this is enthusiasts site covering all technologies. It's not like MSDN where small group of people is paid for answering questions (with priority for people who bought MSDN subscription).

This is all connected to simple reason: there is a lot of users, a lot of questions, a lot of tags and you must very carefully choose title for your question and also you must very carefully choose tags. Using the most general tags is not always the best way because if your question is a hard one it will very quickly disappear from the main page as well as from the first tag page.

You have some limited tools which can help you to resurrect your question - you can edit question and add some details or you can start bounty on the question. Even these tools are not enough for complicated or specific questions. If you don't attract a specialist you will most probably don't get the answer. That's the cost of popularity and large amount of questions mostly browsed in single pool (main page). Of course your question can be so complicated and so specific that nobody here can simply answer it - but I have same experience with other technical forums. Hard questions are answered more rarely.

Also some topics are simply hard. I'm visiting were 60% of questions are really specific. This tag suffers from a lot of unanswered or badly answered questions and it is also very hard to get some reputation from answering question there because once you make a good answer, there is only very small group of people who can judge that and give you an upvote.

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I definitely agree with Cody's answer and especially with this:

The amount of time you invest in a question is directly proportional to the quality of answers that you are likely to receive.

A clear question will not stay unanswered.

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It might be if it's on an obscure/unpopular topic. –  Henk Holterman May 7 '11 at 12:40
    
I agree, there will be always exceptions. –  udo May 7 '11 at 13:28
    
Start asking relly specific questions, you'll see that they don't get answered, no matter how much effort you put into the question. –  Michael Sep 29 '12 at 14:24
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Unfortunately you are correct. Questions are no more answered.

For once they live too shortly on the main page. Secondly there is some weird scheme of "interesting" questions which chooses to never display a particular question on the main page at all.

And it has nothing to do with the quality of a question.

Recently I asked an SQL-related question which got maybe 15-20 views after my effort with multiple updates and then was lost forever. I got no answers. Since it was quite urgent I went on to ask on other sites. I got useful answers on sqlteam.com and on MSDN forums.

Ten days go I asked this question: How does Visual Studio decide for which files to keep editing history after the files are closed in the editor?

It only got 16 views and no answers.

I think Stack Overflow fell a victim to its popularity.

Whenever you have an urgent matter I recommend you aks on other internet forums as well. There are smart people everywhere.

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Maybe you should " start a bounty " to get an answer.. ;) –  jjj May 8 '11 at 5:44
    
No I shouldn't. If that's the attitude that has won here, I'm better off as far away as I can. –  user136634 May 8 '11 at 7:38
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Apart from poorly-asked questions, for which I would expect at least a comment, there are questions that are not asked because the question is reporting something other users cannot verify; for example, if the OP is reporting that he got a strange result from a code snippet (maybe in C++), he could not get any answer because nobody is obtaining the same result, and it's not immediately clear for which reason the OP is getting that result.

As reported by @Henk Holterman, the topic could be unpopular and nobody knows the answer, or doesn't have time to investigate to answer to the question; questions about unpopular programming languages are an example of unpopular topic.

The number of questions posted on SO contributes to make such questions less visible; if there are few users who could answer those questions, it is probable they don't note the question; the fact the question is not using tags users have selected as favorite contributes more to make the question less visible to the users who could answer it.

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