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On the Chemistry SE site, I sometimes answer inactive questions to help the poor asker out. However, my efforts are mostly in vain, since neither the OP nor the community would realize that I had answered such a question. As a result, such answers remain unaccepted and at 0 rep, just like the question.

In my view this really discourages people from giving thought out answers to people in distress. Are there any incentives to promote answering the Tumbleweed questions?

Edit: I do like helping people whenever I can. But there are so many questions beyond my expertise and no one else looks toward answering them. How can SE encourage those questions to receive attention, and possibly get an answer? I not am saying these questions are great or anything, they may be bad questions as well, but there should be a way we can acknowledge every post, and close if off-topic, or upvote/downvote and give an answer if on-topic.

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    ...yes; you help people? The question also gets bumped to the front page, so people will probably see it (and vote). There's always an incentive to answer: you are helping someone.
    – Mithical
    Jul 4, 2017 at 7:12
  • @Mithrandir The question was in the homepage when it was first posted and it didn't receive any votes, what's the guarantee that it will now? Jul 4, 2017 at 7:13
  • @PrittBalagopal people who missed the question the first time will see it now.
    – Glorfindel Mod
    Jul 4, 2017 at 7:14
  • @Mithrandir you help people I do like helping people whenever I can. But there are so many questions beyond my expertise and no one else looks toward answering them. How can SE encourage those questions to recieve attention, and possibly get an answer? Jul 4, 2017 at 10:11
  • @PrittBalagopal one thing comes to mind: the bumps by the community user.
    – Glorfindel Mod
    Jul 4, 2017 at 12:23
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    possibly related: The problem with extrinsic motivation
    – gnat
    Jul 4, 2017 at 17:35
  • @Glorfindel the community user randomly bumps random questions, you can't rely on that for giving tumbleweed attention. Jul 10, 2017 at 7:59
  • No, but it's one thing that helps (a little). Another thing is the 'unanswered' questions tab. Some questions are more 'interesting' than others; SE doesn't need to ensure a 'fair' distribution of attention, whatever that might be.
    – Glorfindel Mod
    Jul 10, 2017 at 8:07
  • SE doesn't need to ensure a 'fair' distribution of attention, whatever that might be. Why is this so? Even if a post was bad, doesn't it deserve the attention of the community to point out that it's bad? Nothing can be more hurtful to a new user in need than a completely ignored question (imo). Jul 30, 2017 at 3:29
  • Oops I forgot to ping you @Glorfindel Aug 26, 2017 at 6:52

2 Answers 2

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Each year during , we have a hat awarded to people who give an accepted answer to a Tumbleweed question. Last year's was Lifesaver. I think several people have already proposed to turn it into a permanent badge.

However, my efforts are mostly in vain, since neither the OP nor the community would realize that I had answered such a question.

How is this different from answering any other old question? Posting an answer will return it to the front page, no matter how old the question is.

just like the question.

You can always upvote the question :)

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However, my efforts are mostly in vain, since neither the OP nor the community would realize that I had answered such a question.

I often tell folk - you aren't just helping OP - you're helping the next person who types in your question into Google.

I don't go around looking for old/tumbleweeded questions. I've often had an issue I've found a solution for that was strange and confounding, hit up a search on a site to see if it's been asked, found a question without an answer similar to my solution, and I answered it.

Let's talk motivation - on the site where I have the most reputation, I've pretty much lost the motivation to hunt for reputation. I however find it handy to have these oddities and useful things somewhere people can find them. On that metric, no good, unique answer is ever in vain.

The quick answer is a short term goal. The value of an answer goes beyond that.

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  • Fair enough, but very few users try to search for tumbleweed questions to answer. Most of the attention is on the newer and active questions, hence the "Fastest Gun in the West". Assuming that there were incentives to answer tumbleweeds, such as increased rep per upvote or some other incentive, it would give unanswered questions more attention, and slightly lessening the imact of FGitW. Aug 26, 2017 at 7:41
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    Oddly enough while for quick rep gain figw is nice, the class of hard tumbleweed question is nice for passive, long term rep gain
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Aug 26, 2017 at 10:57

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