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When I ask a question I always follow up with the answers that are arriving. I upvote good answers and I give feedback to answers which did not help me. I downvote answers missing the point. I always accept an answer if there is a correct one.

It seems that many askers do not follow this discipline. I consider this to be a problem. Good answers are being neglected and deprived of their "vote reward". Bad answers do not receive feedback which might have helped the answerer to improve his approach to answering.

When I answer, and I receive zero votes and zero comments, I am disappointed. I want to know what came out of the time that I invested. I'll be happy to take positive and negative feedback.

Is the Stack Overflow system doing enough to encourage askers to follow up with every answer rigorously? What more could be done?

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  • 6
    If an asker isn't doing their part to follow up on answers, shame on them. But we can't really make them. Aug 29 '13 at 18:10
  • 3
    @BoltClock'saUnicorn Stack Overflow has many game mechanics to drive behavior. Might work here as well.
    – usr
    Aug 29 '13 at 18:10
  • 2
    But askers aren't playing any game except getting an answer that works for them
    – Pekka
    Aug 29 '13 at 20:28
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    @usr - There are already badges and rep incentives for accepting answers. You can't make someone be good. Aug 29 '13 at 20:30
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    @Cyborgx37 if we can't, why do the badges exist? They are there to make them. And they work. I want more of that stuff.
    – usr
    Aug 29 '13 at 20:31
  • @usr - Why do you think more awards (which are almost completely meaningless to the vast majority of SO visitors) will work when the awards that already exist do not? Aug 29 '13 at 20:34
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    @Cyborgx37 I don't think that. I call for any measure causing a proper follow-up. Be creative.
    – usr
    Aug 29 '13 at 20:36
  • @usr There are 2 parts to your question: are we doing enough; and what more could be done. For the second part, how about a system-generated notice to authors of questions with no accepted answer, for questions more than X days/weeks old, politely asking them to wrap up the question? Limit to one notice per question, one notice per day. But seems to me the first problem is there is not a consensus we should do anything more. Maybe better to focus there first.
    – HansUp
    Aug 29 '13 at 22:02
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    I have my list with askers. They don't need to vote or accept. But I don't need to answer other questions in the future. And if I do, I do it in perhaps a month or two if the question is still unanswered. Might be helpful for others, but hopefully to late for the original asker.
    – Greenflow
    Aug 30 '13 at 0:24
  • @Greenflow What if your answer doesn't solve their problem? Or they don't understand it? Or they don't find it useful? Would you expect them to accept it anyway? Or they're just SOL on ever receiving help from you again?
    – Cody Gray
    Aug 30 '13 at 4:38
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    @Cody Gray, don't worry. I try to be fair. And of course, I know when my answer is not as good as it could be. Also when you look into their profiles, you see that they are parasites, which often confuse you with google and then are too lazy to even do one click. I certainly did no put anyone on my list because he accepted a better answer. Or another answer.
    – Greenflow
    Aug 30 '13 at 8:51
  • There is a feature request to send new users a message when they're not accepting or upvoting.
    – S.L. Barth
    Aug 30 '13 at 9:15
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No one owes you feedback. Least of all, quasi-real-time feedback.

No one forces you to answer all questions. Least of all, questions asked by people who don't provide the feedback you crave.

Not everyone shares your concerns. You're not the only person who craves feedback on answers, but plenty of others follow a more r-selective approach.

So, if you care about feedback, check out a user's prior behavior before investing energy in answering that user's questions, and decide accordingly.

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    My question is about the SO ecosystem as a whole. It would benefit from more feedback. I do not care so much about my personal fate, but about the whole.
    – usr
    Aug 29 '13 at 20:24
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    Well, I disagree. The ecosystem benefits from a wide variety of user with a wide variety of expectations and interaction styles.
    – Rosinante
    Aug 29 '13 at 20:53
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    I'm responding to the "system suggestion" that I comment on how this post could be improved. I believe that's directed at quality/correctness/usefulness, but I'm complying as an illustration that this is just another situation where the use of votes for agreement as well as quality/usefulness is a widespread design issue. I voted down because I disagree with the position, but also because I didn't like the "attitude" that this answer displayed, which I consider borderline hostile. The attitude could be improved, but I would still disagree with the content. Aug 29 '13 at 23:47
  • Indeed, I am always surprised at how quickly my answers become sexually mature. I suppose high fecundity is as good an explanation as any for the frequent explosion of comments asking how to do "one more thing".
    – Cody Gray
    Aug 30 '13 at 4:39
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I agree with Shafique that most users do NOT know how sites like stack overflow work. And that is partly the reason they don't give feedback. I see nothing wrong with encouraging users to provide feedback, i.e. post the answer and then write in parenthesis (e.g. if the answer works for you please acknowledge that it did). Most people do recognize that time and energy, especially when there is no $ exchanged, is a SPECIAL thing! They just need to know how to 'say thanks-ask more questions-communicate' on a busy looking webpage with too many things to click.

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    +1, although I'll be curious to see what the overall support is for this. I'm amazed by the number of people strongly opposed to any suggestion that the SO/MSO ecosystem "encourage" certain behaviors, particularly when it comes to voting. It seems to a very libertarian outlook on things. I for one believe that societal norms are a good thing and ought to be continuously improved and promoted for the common good. Aug 29 '13 at 23:36
  • It would be fine if the system encouraged this behavior. But adding something like this to your post, whether in parentheses or not, would just be noise and therefore in violation of our standing rules. It would be edited out, and if you did it repeatedly, you'd probably get a friendly note from a moderator.
    – Cody Gray
    Aug 30 '13 at 4:35
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I suspect that many users do not know what is expected of them. This is completely normal - when I was new I asked crap questions, too. I had to clean some of them up later when I "grew up".

This might be a cultural issue. Not very different from weak/eroding corporate culture. We have a steady instream of "culturally untrained" members which is eroding culture. Btw, culture for me means "the set of behaviors and attitudes in common use".

There is a fairly straight-forward way to establish culture/behaviors: tell people what is expected. What is good behavior that we will reward, and what is bad behavior that we will hold you accountable for? Often, people are good-willed and want to comply.

My proposal: the system should generate a message to the inbox/mailbox of the asker after a few days when it detects that a low level of feedback was given. The message should say something like:

"Hope you've been happy with the answers! The answerers are awaiting your feedback now. Please make sure to follow up with them to show your respect and to help them improve."

I'll leave the precise specification of this feature to the Stack Exchange team. Maybe we can even send the message (almost) always for one month and observe the difference in behavior. This could even be statistically determined by the level of activity per question.

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