There are a number of posts on here about this and I've posted a number of times to the Ask Ubuntu but stuff that doesn't need dealing with ends up at the top of a review queue. There are multiple routes to that situation but it's sucking our ability to deal with today's questions.

I'm certainly not the first person to point out that most busy SE sites (of which Ask Ubuntu is most definitely one) get more new questions than they deal with. This builds up quickly. We're letting 3000-5000 questions enter a "zombie" state every month.

The reason for this post is the activity on this question. It's by no means the only example but it's answered and quite highly voted but it's so old that the original context is now off-topic for us (we only support various Ubuntu releases). Ignore the AU policy aspect here, and look at what has happened:

  • One user finds it and votes to close
  • That generated a review task that sucks in 7 more people resulting in a 4/3 split to close (meaning the original vote stood).
  • This left it on the close queue and 4 more people voted closed it
  • Then one user and a mod re-opened.

14 users to do nothing. What a complete and utter waste of time. Those 14 votes should have gone towards making sure one of the ~150 questions that isn't dealt with today is properly dealt with.

As Gilles points out, that instance may be as much about our policy as anything else but again, try not to get distracted by that. The mechanism in which it took up so many people is the part of the problem I'd like to discuss.

There are a number of separate sub-issues around questions on the site but there's altogether too much focus on historical issues (answer rates, etc) and seemingly little on our abilities to deal with our flow. That incorrect focus has us putting emphasis on reviewing fossils rather than the new questions.

I honestly don't have one good solution that fixes everything but I know that review needs to better reflect the current requirements of sites, rather than just giving people a load of pointless busywork.

But I do have some suggestions to help with the problem:

  • Prioritise ≤24h questions in all review queues. Make sure that there's nothing out-and-out bad making it to tomorrow.
  • Use quality metrics (score, views, top-answer-score) to insulate some questions from review (they can still get straight close votes though).
  • Add a workflow for dealing with today to the review system. Build it into something where you aren't picking the type of action, rather that you're dealing with what's most important.

The aim would be to refocus all of review onto our newest posts so we aren't spaffing time over an otherwise impenetrable wall of ancient posts. It's is a waste of reviewers. Let the roomba deal with those.

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    400+ questions in the close queue, was it always that big or it's a recent phenomenon (Eternal September)? – gnat Sep 5 '14 at 11:25
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    What are you proposing then? That the community has no power at all to handle old posts that are off-topic? That moderators are burdened with that task? What point is there in community voting then? There will always be contentious issues in a community, where the opinion is divided, you cannot prevent this or call it 'doing nothing'. It is at those edges that a community is defined as well. – Martijn Pieters Sep 5 '14 at 11:50
  • @MartijnPieters Fair points. I've added my suggestions but I think the whole review workflow needs retargeting for new-before-old. And I wasn't suggesting stopping the community from closing old things, just keeping them out of the review system. – Oli Sep 5 '14 at 12:07
  • @gnat It's been around that for a while. It got to over a thousand a while ago. – Oli Sep 5 '14 at 12:08
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    "Focus reviewers on “today”..." -- "The queue already works this way... Sorta: the more previous reviews a given task has had, the closer to the top of the queue it'll be..." (quote source) – gnat Sep 5 '14 at 15:00
  • @gnat That response was to request for items to be sorted by number-of-reviews. Just because something has more more reviews doesn't indicate how old it was when it entered the review system. If anything, this means the older posts with a couple of reviews are bobbing along ahead of the newer items with one vote. – Oli Sep 5 '14 at 15:15

Ignore the AU policy aspect here

Why would we ignore a critical aspect of the problem?

Stack Exchange was built to be a long-term repository of knowledge, not a repository of information that expires every six months.

Having questions whose topicality depends on when they were posted is not what SE was built for, and speaking both as an SE user in general and as an AU user in particular, this isn't something I want.

stuff that doesn't need dealing with ends up at the top of a review queue

If it needs closing, it needs closing, so it'll have to go through the close review queue or some equivalent mechanism at some point.

Speaking specifically as an occasional AU close reviewer, I find it difficult to review off-topic votes. Part of the reason that the UI sucks: either I'm only told that a question is off-topic with no indication of why, leading to puzzlement for questions that are obviously about Ubuntu…


… or I have half my screen wasted in generic guidelines that obscure the question when I scroll:


But another part of the reason why reviewing questions about old Ubuntu release is that not only do I need to remember which releases are supported at the moment, but under the current policy I also need to know which releases were supported at the date the question was asked.

Generalizing away from AU, I don't see how you would “block good, old, answered posts getting anywhere near the close queue”. If someone is voting to close something that they shouldn't, that's a problem, but not one that can be solved automatically: educate the user, and if that fails, ban them. If the rules are so confusing that there's a lot of disagreement as to what should be closed, that's a sign that the rules may need to be revised. But in the end, if something needs closing, it needs closing, no matter how old or “good” it is (how would the system judge that? We know very well that score is no indication of on-topicness or of admitting non-primarily-opinion-based answers).

P.S. By the way, there is a solution to your problem, based on current AU policies: when a release expires, have moderators go through the tag for that release and delete all questions (or start by closing if you want to allow a last-ditch review). If there's a clearly applicable policy, moderators can enforce it, there's no need to go through any voting process. (Conversely, if there isn't a clearly applicable process, then the review system is needed — and your complaint here is invalid.)

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    Perhaps not delete, but certainly close. – ChrisF Mod Sep 5 '14 at 12:00
  • @ChrisF close as "can no longer be reproduced"? – gnat Sep 5 '14 at 12:13
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    @gnat - that sounds like the right reason - they'd need to add it to the custom close reasons if it's not there already, but that's not a problem. – ChrisF Mod Sep 5 '14 at 12:15
  • @gnat That close reason exists (“this question is about an end-of-life Ubuntu release”), the issue is not a missing close reason. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Sep 5 '14 at 12:22
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    @ChrisF Since the policy is clear, they could go straight for deletion. Ok, closing does allow others to ensure that mistakes weren't made (there are plenty of badly-tagged questions). As for the close reason, it already exists, the problem is not a lack of a close reason, if anything the problem is that this is a close reason. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Sep 5 '14 at 12:23
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    In the spirit of doing things to make the internet a better place (a founding tenet of Stack {Overflow,Exchange}), I can't square off deleting tens of thousands of questions (many great, and very answered) that could either still be relevant today or serve as a good reference for tomorrow. I agree that we've crafted a rod for our own back but what other choice is there? Seriously. – Oli Sep 5 '14 at 13:51
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    (And the reason I asked to ignore this policy is because this is just one example of something old pushing newer junk out of the way. The post is supposed to be about prioritising the right stuff, not our policy). – Oli Sep 5 '14 at 13:52

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