Is there any way to stop/limit users constantly posting questions, and then leaving them open (ie, not accepting them or closing them)?

I've seen it a few times when a user asks a question idiotic or otherwise, which gets answered by users, and then the user moves on without even accepting the answer.

I just feel that it's an abuse of the spirit of community when a user constantly asks questions, and doesn't return anything to the community, even with something as simple as accepting an answer.

I would like to see some sort of functionality to limit users from asking more questions until they close/accept old answers. This would be happen when, say more than 20 questions have been 'abandoned' by the user.


This is a bit of a dupe (see: Which accounts have more questions than answers?) but both a search and the title creation failed to point it out until I'd posted the question.

  • Any examples at all? – cletus Aug 17 '09 at 10:44
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    I'm quite disinclined to name names. :) – Dan Atkinson Aug 17 '09 at 10:53
  • Naming names wouldn't be proper, but this is getting to be a big problem in the iphone tag :( – user134862 Aug 26 '09 at 15:57
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    With the recent 'Accept rate' on questions, I've seen a significant rise in the number of accepts, and percentages of some users. This has likely resulted in Jon Skeet getting upset that his mega-windfall of reputation has been limited to a marginal increase of 200! :) – Dan Atkinson Aug 26 '09 at 19:15
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    -1, not everyone is on stackoverflow for the karma (this isn't an rpg) who cares if the answer has a green tick box next to it, main thing is the question has been asked and answered. – JL. Oct 6 '09 at 12:03
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    @JL: It's not about just the rep though. It's also about future users who might want to know what the right answer was, and save themselves some time going through each one. Sometimes, the highest voted answer isn't necessarily the correct one. And conversely, sometimes the ticked answer isn't always the best one, but the person who would know that would be the one who asks the question. Therefore, having some finality to the question would benefit others as well as the person getting any reputation gain. – Dan Atkinson Oct 10 '09 at 18:34
  • @DanAtkinson to be honest, other than for points generation and letting the answers know: this answer solved my problem, i don't see the usefulness of it. You don't know why he accepted that answer. Maybe he was looking for a hack rather than a solution, maybe he is a beginner and the other answers looked too difficult, maybe a better answer came later and he didn't care to change it. There could be many reasons. I found it to be a generally safer bet to take the one that is considered the best by most users. Simply that an answer is accepted doesn't do me much. – Michael Sep 27 '13 at 9:28

Users are already given a small notification on their questions that have not been accepted after a period of time.

Also, you have no guarantee that anybody has actually answered the question appropriately. You can't force someone to accept something if it is not truly a correct answer.

To be quite honest, it sounds more selfish from you wanting to demand an accepted answer and the potential 15 points form it than it is for someone to ask a lot of questions and not accept any answers.

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  • +1 on your last sentence (not neccessarily concerning the OP, but in general). – balpha Aug 17 '09 at 10:51
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    I did think that, maybe it is a little wrong that I demand that users accept answers, but the benefits wouldn't really be for me, or my reputation. Preventing further questions would also give incentive for users to re-visit an abandoned question, and possibly give the relevant answers their due credit, or asking for further input with clarification. – Dan Atkinson Aug 17 '09 at 10:52
  • Although I am one who generally accepts answers and doesn't ask many questions, I would be personally offended if you stopped me from asking a question just because I didn't accept an answer on older questions. Like I said, you have no guarantee that any of the answers are worthy of getting the check. You aren't just supposed to hand that out if there isn't anything that deserves it. – TheTXI Aug 17 '09 at 10:55
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    Okay, so what do you do about the users abandoned questions? If a user asked a question and it either didn't get answered, or had answers that weren't acceptable, couldn't there be some way to induce a user to accept/close/clarify that is over an arbitrary age limit? – Dan Atkinson Aug 17 '09 at 11:05
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    I already said that there is a small message that appears on a question that has been opened for a long enough period (I think 48 hours) that informs the OP to accept an answer or set a bounty. What we are having hear is a fundamental disagreement about what to do about questions. You seem to be under the impression that every question needs to have an accepted answer when that is no where near the case, and setting up roadblocks like what you propose is likely to make the check mark not as clear of an indicator of a resolved issue as it currently is. – TheTXI Aug 17 '09 at 11:10
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    Why would a user close a legitimate question? Closing is meant to filter out questions which do not belong on the site. It is not the same as closing a support ticket (although the terms may sound the same). – TheTXI Aug 17 '09 at 11:19
  • Then I've made a mistake, because I've closed questions which I ended up answering myself. :) – Dan Atkinson Aug 17 '09 at 11:23
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    Yes, that would be an instance of "you're doing it wrong" I believe. – TheTXI Aug 17 '09 at 11:27
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    +1 on your second paragraph. I, for one, do not feel that I should have to accept any answers to one of my questions if I feel that none of them are satisfactory. For that reason and because of the way the bounty system works, I'll never post a bounty either, because if I don't like any of the answers, one gets auto-accepted at the end of the bounty period anyway; and whether I accept a bountied question or let it be auto-accepted, if a better answer were to be left later, I wouldn't be allowed to accept that one instead. – RobH Aug 27 '09 at 1:45
  • +1 for your reasoning, stackoverflow is not a game, people here have real lives and jobs, not all of them live on stackoverflow, and this isn't their favorite RPG. Who cares if a question gets accepted or not, if its answered, and that answer can be found from Google, thats the main thing. – JL. Oct 6 '09 at 12:06

I don't agree with imposing a limit to the number of abandoned questions - that would just force people to accept answers so they can post new questions, even if the answers are lacking in merit. But, I'd definitely go for a solution that prods users to revisit their un-accepted questions.

I'd like the bar at the top (that lets users know they've earned a badge) to prod a user who has an un-accepted question*, to consider accepting an answer.

To take this idea further, the user could be forced to tick something along the lines of "None of the answers till date are satisfactory" along with a textbox to explain why. This would allow the community to revisit these questions, differentiating them from questions that are just suffering neglect.

If this results in new answers, then I'd reset the "None of the answers.." status, and force the user to revisit the question again*.

Imho, this would be enough to deter selfish active users abandoning their questions. It forces them to explain why they've not chosen an answer, and if the community thinks the reasons are bogus, will result in their questions being downvoted. Otoh, this may be too intrusive and a watered-down solution might fare better.

* only if fulfils some criteria. e.g last activity on the question was x days/months ago, and/or it has atleast 1 answer with y upvotes

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    Yes, you have a good point there. Accepting answers just for the sake of being able to ask new ones would indeed be more detrimental to the community, than having the user there at all. – Dan Atkinson Aug 17 '09 at 11:25
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    Perhaps the votes for the question itself could be used to deter users who post a lot of mediocre questions? IE only allow 15 questions with a vote score <= 0 in the last 2 weeks. – user134862 Aug 26 '09 at 15:51
  • +1 A very good idea. I like that 'none of the above to date' idea. @petrich: I don't like limiting low vote questions. Just because a question has low votes doesn't automatically mean that it's mediocre. Very specialized, questions tend to get low viewership and, as a result, low votes. So posting a limit on the number of low vote questions one can ask will, by extension, limit the number of very specialized questions one can ask. – RobH Aug 27 '09 at 1:55
  • It's unlikely that a user is going to have many specialized useful zero/negative-vote questions in a small timeframe that will actually make for a good long-term reference. A stream of no-vote questions means that either the questions are of low-quality, or the user should be using the user groups/IRC/other medium to get one on one help. Questions with even a single upvote would not contribute to the limit, nor would questions older than 'x' days. – user134862 Aug 27 '09 at 4:52
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    Also, I am in favor of this proposal. It's a gentle push to get users to provide useful feedback, rather than mandating conformance. – user134862 Aug 27 '09 at 4:54

This is a much larger issue in the lesser trafficked tags--one or two trigger happy users can easily create enough questions to swamp the available pool of users who are able to respond. A single user starves the other legitimate questions, users who usually post answers become demoralized and the community suffers.

Proposed options for improving the situation:

  1. Require users to maintain a certain answer to question ratio. This should cause most of the obnoxious users to leave, at the expense of a small bit of answer spam.
  2. Add the ability to ignore/hide users. This will cause the questions to build up, leaving a backlog for new experts who wish to join. Perhaps a mod could be notified if a user was blocked a certain number of times.
  3. Require less votes to close a question in tags that are less popular (but restrict to a minimum of 3). Alternatively, grant users with higher in-tag reputation more voting power.
  4. Somehow encourage mods to be more active in less popular tags (cruft gets shifted out pretty fast in c#, less so in vb6)
  5. Grant moderator-like privileges based on activity within a tag, rather than for the entire site
  6. Increase the penalty for a downvoted question and add additional points for a starred question. Colossally obnoxious users would be downvoted into oblivion, but good questions would reward both the op and those who answer.
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    IMHO, #1 is a very bad idea. That would drive away the people who come here to find out stuff that they need to know and don't have very much to contribute in the way of answers themselves. Not every user who does nothing but ask questions is trigger happy or obnoxious. – RobH Aug 27 '09 at 2:02
  • Perhaps the ratio should kick in gradually then? Like at the beginning there's no requirement, but after 40 questions, you have to make at least one answer, and after 80 questions you would need 3 answers, etc. Not sure if that would work any better though... (just tossing around ideas) – user134862 Aug 27 '09 at 4:30
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    +1 - this is a Q&A community. Don't let anyone put you down because you ask a lot of questions. This is contributing. – JL. Oct 6 '09 at 12:18

First off, users who are only asking questions and not answering them are contributing to the community. People just Jon Skeet and Marc Gravell are not contributing questions to the community, they are contributing stellar answers, and the only way for there to be stellar answers is that there already exist questions.

The "not marking as accepted" is a bit of a minor problem though. Instead of something intrusive that forces users to accept answers, perhaps they could get a once a month note in their "inbox" (SO inbox, not real inbox) that says

"Your question [Question title/link] does not have an accept answer."

That way the user can choose to ignore those if they choose, or they could choose to revisit the question and etc... Once a month would be the absolute maximum however.

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    I used to be a strong proponent of the "Asking questions is contributing." position. I have revised my thinking. Of course, good questions help. But we have some uses who ask endlessly and to all appearances 1) aren't learning anything 2) really would rather type another badly worded, ill-founded, mis-informed question then fire up google. These users are takers, and should not be accumulating the non-trivial rep because the haven't demonstrated the sense to use it or the sense of community to be trusted with it. Fey! – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Aug 17 '09 at 14:26
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    BTW-- we also have some question dominated users who do not follow the pattern outlined above. They are excused from detention, and don't have to write lines. – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Aug 17 '09 at 14:27
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    People who ask good questions are definitely contributing. People who ask multiple things that are kinda structured like questions aren't. The "exact duplicate" and "not a real question" close reasons are Good Things here. – David Thornley Aug 17 '09 at 17:36
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    Oh, yeah, I definitely agree. I've closed many 'not questions' and 'duplicates'. But the point is that the site should be conditioning the users, rather than punishing them. If you punish and alienate users, you'll find that you have none left. But if you encourage them to do good things, and close the bad questions, then you'll turn them into valuable assets, rather than just lose them entirely. – devinb Aug 17 '09 at 17:57
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    devinb: it's a fine balance between encouraging the new users and annoying the old ones. – user134862 Aug 26 '09 at 15:47
  • I agree, however, we are talking about restricting the one action that the site is based around. It is a question & answer site. To have answers, you must first have questions. Not all of them will be perfect, and we have processes in place for that. – devinb Aug 26 '09 at 17:27
  • The process in place right now works very well for popular tags like c and c# because there's a lot of user-traffic. In less popular tags, there are too many checks and balances to make moderation effective. – user134862 Aug 27 '09 at 4:39

Why not take 2 reputation points away from each user when they post a question and allow only people with -10 rep or higher post questions?

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    Having no rep requirement for asking questions is part of the low barrier for entry here. Being able to ask questions here is what draws new users to our sites - if the privilege to ask questions has to be earned, they're not going to bother, and our attractively low barrier to entry becomes a roadblock, to our own detriment. – doppelgreener Sep 27 '13 at 0:05

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