There are a steadily growing number of questions which have perfectly reasonable answers which appear to have been orphaned in that the original asker is either:

  1. No longer using the site
  2. No longer using that login (perhaps it's an anon one that they no longer have the cookie to)
  3. No longer interested in the question.
  4. Feel the question isn't actually answered.

I suggest something along the lines of:

Going through all un-accepted questions with at least one answer with N upvotes and no comment on them from the asker and no activity within X days:

'pinging' the asker to indicate that they might want to take action themselves (editing the question to be more clear or commenting on the current top answer as to why they feel it isn't what they needed.

Repeat the search again in 1 week, the ones that have no been modified are then auto-accepted by a mod in some identifiable way 'community accepted' for example. This can confer a lesser (or zero I'm not fussed) rep effect than a proper accept.

The primary motivation here is to get the 'unanswered' view to give a real reflection of the questions still needing attention.

This would be a process that can be repeated every so often.

I suggest as initial values for discussion 14 days for X and 3 votes for N.

  • 7
    the thing that upsets me more is accepted wrong answers as opposed to having no answer accepted. if you twist peoples arm into accepting answers it likely more wrong answers will be accepted.
    – waffles
    Jun 29, 2009 at 23:48
  • 1
    Curious that this question is an orphaned question...
    – Kyle Kanos
    Sep 20, 2014 at 14:13

8 Answers 8


I expect a lot of these are casual users - i.e. not really invested in the site. They have their answer, they leave.

Accepting by proxy is... subjective, and I'm not sure it can be automated; and I'm not sure that the (few) moderators would want to invest hours each week doing this? I know on MSDN forums (over the weekend) they do a blitz on this (when I participated I would get the regular e-mail stack on a Monday morning); it must take ages, and they have more admins.

  • 1
    I agree on the subjective, I was hpoing to tune the parameters to vlues with low false positives but high reduction in orphans. by allowing any activity on said question remove if from consideration any serious issues might be avoided. I agree that without at least significant automation this is a non starter. Knowing how many unaccepted questions are from now 100% dead anon accounts (cookie expired) perhaps could guide the discussion.
    – ShuggyCoUk
    Jun 28, 2009 at 22:23
  • Sure, but after the first time that it has been purged (which admittedly would take a lot of work), it should be a lot less time for each successive purge, shouldn't it?
    – a_m0d
    Jun 29, 2009 at 7:08

I think we should have a new option in the close dialog marking the question as "Abandoned"


It depends on the question, if the question/answer provides no value to the community I think it should be closed.

If the question is specific enough to be unambiguous, things like "What is a mutex?" the community should be allowed to vote to revoke ownership, give the question back to community wiki owner, and the top voted answer should be marked correct.

But there is a much bigger question of motivation, why would you engage in any of these activities if there is no rep in it for you?

I guess an elaborate scheme could be instead of revoking ownership, taking ownership of a question and receiving all the upvotes/downvotes from that time on.

Perhaps old questions (3 months and older) need a different mechanism for receiving rep, thing like better phrasing, question and answer refinement should be the things voted on. Of course voting on merges is a big fat can of worms.

  • 'It depends on the question, if the question/answer provides no value to the community I think it should be closed.' -- or deleted. There is far too much noise and garbage. Apr 11, 2010 at 19:02

There's already a process that bumps two random unanswered questions every hour, in the hope that the questions either

  • get an answer, if they have 0 answers
  • get an upvote on the answers, if they have 1 answer

also see


  • 6
    I was specifically thinking of the ones that have upvoted answers, which seem to be the majority.
    – ShuggyCoUk
    Jun 28, 2009 at 22:35

There are also some with accepted answers that have a significant number of down-votes ( think double or triple digits ), but the question is abandoned, so the answer will exist forever.

  • 1
    this is a good point, the tick in this case is unfortunate...
    – ShuggyCoUk
    Jun 28, 2009 at 23:25

Maybe we could have "Question Auctions": if a question has no accepted answer and the owner hasn't logged in for 6 months, other SO users could bid some of their Rep to take over ownership.

I'm kinda not being serious... and I also kinda am.


Tough call. I have quite a few questions where I haven't accepted an answer but I have upvoted several of the answers, because either no one's really hit the nail on the head, or there are multiple answers that are addressing different aspects of my question. Not sure how to handle these. Sometimes I wish I could accept 2 answers rather than just 1.

  • 1
    I would suggest to both questions in the comments of each that a combination of them both would be accepted and would they consider editing to include the other. Whoever does (or does a better job) gets it, the the users choose to community wiki so much the better...
    – ShuggyCoUk
    Jun 29, 2009 at 18:54

Could we add a close option of Accepted answer. I have seen several question that the OP answered in a comment or commented on other answers as correct but never marked as accepted. While I am not sure that we want the community to mark answers for the op we there are corner cases where the information in the post history would give a moderator enough info to accept the answer.



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