There are sometimes very specific, difficult-to-answer questions which are left unanswered. I just had an idea that might solve this problem:

How about a growing reward for questions without answers and without down votes, owned by an active user (who is likely to look at his old questions). Then other users would be more motivated to browse through old, unanswered questions. And the questioner himself would be more motivated to write how he solved his question after he gave up waiting for an answer.

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    There are already bounties. – kiamlaluno Sep 11 '11 at 14:21
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    this is not bounty, this is reward for both sides when old question is answered, bounty is pushing your experience points to have question answered asap, this could push users to answer old question – Marek Sebera Sep 11 '11 at 14:31
  • Hmm, I would give this only for questions which got some number of upvotes. – Paŭlo Ebermann Sep 11 '11 at 17:37

I have never believed that unanswered questions languish for lack of a rep payoff.

Look, people answer questions here out of obsession, or desire to be helpful, or display at the lek. You can't trade rep for cigars.

If a question isn't answered, chances are greatest that it falls into two buckets:

  1. It's a poor question. The 'wall of code' begging for assistance is high on this list.
  2. No one reading has a good answer.

Offering more rep isn't going to cure either of these.


I agree that there are many unanswered questions in need of attention, but I'm not entirely convinced that a growing "reward" would solve the problem. For argument's sake—as you stated—let's assume that a "reward" is only awarded for questions that

  • have no downvotes (or have some other minimum score) and
  • have no upvoted answers

Furthermore, let's assume that the reward grows by 10 reputation every month (the precise value would obviously require some trial-and-error, but you get the idea). Although this might help get old questions answered, I think that it could also encourage people to delay in answering new questions. After all, if I'm solely motivated by reputation, why should I answer a question now if I can get more rep for answering it later?

I think that a better solution would be to have the Community ♦ user place bounties on old questions to motivate people to answer them. If Community ♦ already offers bounties, we could just increase the frequency at which it does.

  • A mechanism to encourage users to give solutions to their old, unanswered questions would be nice, tho. Simply for the sake of completeness. – Lenar Hoyt Sep 11 '11 at 18:01
  • "After all, if I'm solely motivated by reputation, why should I answer a question now if I can get more rep for answering it later?" – I don't think so, because there is still the race between the people who know an answer to be the first one with a good answer to get the reputation points. Furthermore, the growth could be unsteady: e.g. the first 10 Minutes 1 rep/min., then 3 h no change, then 2 rep/h. and so on … It will take some research to find the right parameters. That way one could improve the early quantitive answer / late high quality answer ratio. – Lenar Hoyt Sep 11 '11 at 19:14
  • You're absolutely correct in saying that this would take a lot of trial and error to get right. I just think that it sounds awfully complicated for something that could also be achieved by having Community ♦ offer bounties, instead. – Chris Frederick Sep 11 '11 at 19:26

Actually I'm placing bounties to interesting questions wihtout answers, and if I could place more than 1 active bounty, I'd be able to feature more interesting questions. There are several badges for answering old questions as well, so there is stimulus. As I browse 'unanswered' some times, I can say Rosinante is right - they are either poor or difficult to answer.

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