I find myself going back through old questions periodically, and I occasionally come across questions on which I feel I can share some insight.

My question is: why bother? If the question is old and inactive, especially if it already has a number of responses, it's unlikely that anyone will notice one more response way down at the bottom, much less take the time to read it and vote on it. I feel like my voice would be entirely lost in the din.

It seems like there should always be incentive to answer if you think you have something to offer, more incentive than just "so it's there in case anyone wants to wade through old questions reading every single answer to weed out the good but late ones from the mediocre but timely ones".

Or am I missing something?

I guess this question wasn't "programming-related" enough, despite being upvoted a number of times in its brief life.

I still want to know if others feel like there's an incentive other than just "to say it, in case" or "in case someone upvotes it far in the future".

  • Recommend closing as not a programming question. Also SO meta question. Also discussion oriented. Also argumentative (there should be an incentive for doing X!).
    – Pollyanna
    Commented Nov 12, 2008 at 4:43
  • If the question doesn't already have a good answer, or you do have something significant to add, then you can depend on the "long tail" to give you rep over time. I'm still getting rep on questions I asked months ago.
    – Pollyanna
    Commented Nov 12, 2008 at 4:44
  • But if the satisfaction of helping others out who come later by way of Google isn't enough, then consider the help and entertainment you have received and let that be your payment and incentive. You do not know who you will help, and over time your kindness may well come back to you.
    – Pollyanna
    Commented Nov 12, 2008 at 4:45
  • Closed and re-tagged. @chazomaticus: For future reference, all sofaq questions should be wiki mode, as should discussions such as this (don't think this really qualifies as a frequently-aq though).
    – Shog9
    Commented Nov 12, 2008 at 4:55
  • 1
    There is an incentive. If you answer a question more than 60 days later with at least 5 votes you get a necromancer badge. These are quite hard to get as only 16 have been awarded so far
    – Sam Hasler
    Commented Nov 12, 2008 at 18:40
  • For Google and the poor soul who has to dig it up in the future who was in the same position. Do it for them.
    – Nazadus
    Commented Nov 13, 2008 at 2:44
  • I cannot agree more. Commented Apr 11, 2010 at 18:48
  • See also How can we make good answers to old questions float to the top?
    – gnat
    Commented Jan 10, 2015 at 19:42

4 Answers 4


Necromancer badge of course. Why else?


The person who asked the original question can easily see new responses.

Whenever I see new activity on a question that I've asked, I review the new responses. I always upvote any response that I think adds to the conversation.


If you have relevant info to add, add it!

As other users view that question at a later date, they will be able to gain from your comments. If your answers are insightful, and help answer the question they will get up-voted.

If however your comments are of a side-note nature (e.g. a related bug) then maybe you could post the question/answer in a new post more specific to your specific additional info.


Can we talk? Can I be honest here?

A lot of the 'dead' questions that could use an answer or a better answer are also unattended. i.e. the account is anonymous or abandoned.

If I take the time to read through any existing answers and decide that I can improve upon it, great. So I take the time to provide a detailed answer and, when appropriate, a working tested code sample.

Now my effort is added to the din.

Days, weeks, months pass by and there is no activity, either because it is a niche question or just has had no hits.

So now, I have an unaccepted answer in my list with 0 upvotes. That is a metric that is in-your-face and I do not like to see white zeros in my list.

So, should I go and delete the answer? No? Why not?

Oh Yeah! someone else may have the same question at some later date! That's right. So now we are expecting people who have the same question to sift through x number of answers and try to find the right one. Sounds like fun.

And if someone looks at my profile and sees page after page of consecutive white zeros they are liable to take that at face value and that is not the image I wish to project. So I would rather delete the answer than take the zero.

Call me an egomaniac if you like, that is the truth of it.

So, really, where is the incentive? Citing altruism is well and good. I feel that exchanging my time, knowledge and experience for a virtual payout is altruistic.

If I make it a habit to make the effort to answer a lot of abandoned questions, especially niche questions, my efforts have improved the content of the site and I expect that effort to be recognized.

So here is my suggestion:

Add to the 10k privileges the ability to accept answers for abandoned questions.

This means we have to define 'abandoned'.

  • Asked by a dormant/abandonded account with no activity for xxx weeks/months?
  • Asked by an active account with serial hit and runs (<50% acceptance)
  • Just plain OLD - a three (arbitrary) month old question with an obviously correct/superior answer

These are just a few suggestions.

Bottom line is: You are making money from my knowledge and time. Make an effort to make it worth my effort.

And to anyone who says 'If you don't like it, don't do it' I say....

I love it, and if making me feel that my effort is appreciated can be accomplished with a minor policy change where is the problem?

CW so I don't get rep-raped(tm) for stating an opinion. ;-)

  • FYI, if you have a suggestion, make a new post here on MSO and tag it feature-request. It'll be noticed instead of just being an answer to a question.
    – waiwai933
    Commented Apr 11, 2010 at 18:49
  • @ anonymous downvoters - wow - you are really adding to the dialog! I took the time to express my feelings and you just hit and run downvote. That's mighty big of ya. Commented Apr 11, 2010 at 18:53
  • @waiwai933 That and similar feature requests have been posted many times: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/26639 meta.stackexchange.com/questions/40792 meta.stackexchange.com/questions/8600 meta.stackexchange.com/questions/3669
    – balpha StaffMod
    Commented Apr 11, 2010 at 18:54
  • 3
    -1 because I have 37 not-accepted zero-score answers in my profile and I'm not ashamed of any of them, nor of showing them.
    – balpha StaffMod
    Commented Apr 11, 2010 at 18:56
  • 2
    ~80 not-accepted zero-score answers for me (+5 accepted zero-score), on SO. It's not a problem. @Sky: If you get butthurt because people find your "feelings" not useful, then don't post them.
    – Gnome
    Commented Apr 11, 2010 at 19:42
  • I currently have over 100 zero-score answers (about half of them accepted). Even have a -3 answer that I refuse to delete because I still think the question sucked. On the other hand, I have just as many 5+ answers and over a 50% accept rate (for answers, not questions). I think I can safely say I'm not too worried about the zeros, though I will occasionally delete old answers if I don't think they're still adding anything (i.e. other people's answers are good enough or better). If the answer's good, who cares what the score is?
    – Aarobot
    Commented Apr 11, 2010 at 20:10
  • @Gnome - not butthurt - rep-raped, but thanks for that image ;-) Commented Apr 11, 2010 at 21:46

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