I recently asked a question on Stack Overflow regarding how the .hgignore file for Mercurial should look for an Android project in Eclipse. I believe the question is fairly simple (although not for me, as I'm all new to Mercurial (and Android development)). It should be pretty easy to understand exactly what I'm asking (I even put it in bold ;), and I cannot see that there is a reason why this question shouldn't get a good amount of decent answers pretty fast.

Two of the answers that have been suggested I found to be fairly OK, so I commented on them and gave the answerer an up-vote. However, none of them were completely answering my question as I good as I hoped for (e.g. compared to a similar question for Mercurial and Visual Studio), so I didn't accept them. After that, I didn't see any more suggestions...

When looking on the Unanswered page, I see listed X questions with no upvoted answers. Since I voted up two of the answers to my question pretty early, I assume that resulted in my question not showing up on the Unanswered page. Will that then again mean, that by doing so I kind of ruined it a bit for myself, since (I assume) fewer people will even discover my question?

So, to improve my "chance of getting many answers" in the future, should I avoid upvoting answers when I don't intend to accept them as the final answer (even though I feel they deserved some kind of appreciation)? Or do I perhaps only have too high hopes on how fast one should expect answers to ones questions?

4 Answers 4


Much like Hans Passant, I tend to avoid the Unanswered Questions page altogether. Instead, I rely on the interesting tags feature and the tag pages for the topics that I'm inclined to answer questions about.

If I've been away for a few hours or more, I'll go to the tag pages and review all of the new questions that look interesting, regardless of whether or not they've been answered, and I'll take the time to read them and provide an answer if there's something to add, even if there are upvoted answers present.

Granted, I typically answer questions tagged mod-rewrite and .htaccess, which, due to the limited popularity of those tags, makes it fairly simple to pay attention to just about every question. Conversely, for the more popular tags that I watch - like Java - it's very easy not to notice 90% of what's asked.

If you don't get complete answers when there are a lot of eyes on your question, so to speak (generally when it appears on any of the main Stack Overflow pages), I feel like you're at a disadvantage for getting more attention at that point no matter what you do. However, if I were to go looking for unsuccessfully answered questions, I think it's helpful to know what answers provided something of value (both through upvotes and comments from the OP).

Giving consideration to questions like that seems like a more likely scenario than me wanting to wade through the Unanswered Questions page to look at questions that had answers which were largely ignored (it's not always clear what to make of that). Naturally, that's just my take on it, and people in general may feel differently.

Or do I perhaps only have too high hopes on how fast one should expect answers to ones questions?

I think sometimes it simply comes down to whether or not the right people happen to see your question when you ask it. Many questions are in fact answered quickly, but I've also seen some questions which were effectively answered over a week or more later. It's hard to say how the people who answer questions like that find them, but I don't think that you're any more likely to catch their attention by holding yourself back from upvoting worthy answers.

  • Thanks for a thorough and interesting answer! Lots of food for thought here, for someone relatively fresh to Stack Overflow :)
    – Julian
    Commented Sep 10, 2010 at 19:27
  • @Nailuj - You're very welcome, glad you found it interesting. And thanks for the comment, I noticed an extraneous "not" in my post when I came back to reply, heh. :)
    – Tim Stone
    Commented Sep 10, 2010 at 19:46
  • You poor thing. Have an upgoat, as they say.
    – Mark C
    Commented Oct 23, 2010 at 2:26

I can't speak for everyone but the unanswered page is something I avoid looking at. It is the home page for the bozo questions, I've never once seen a worthy question in that list. The page was almost surely created to attract answers to faltering questions. But given a choice between an unanswered question with some upvotes vs an old unanswered question with no upvotes at all, I always go for the former.

Revive your question by assigning a bounty.

  • 3
    I go there looking for questions I've got half a chance of answering before people like you do! :)
    – Benjol
    Commented Sep 10, 2010 at 13:51
  • 2
    Home page for the bozo questions made me laugh. :) But it's a little bit unfair: There are great really hard / rare / niche questions that simply don't get any answers quickly, because nobody knows the answer. That said, I never use the "unanswered" page either: I almost only look on the home page, and sometimes some tag pages.
    – Pekka
    Commented Sep 10, 2010 at 14:08
  • 1
    @Pekka: Conversely, if somebody's asked an excellent but obscure question, and nobody's been able to answer it, it's quite likely that Hans couldn't answer it either. Commented Sep 10, 2010 at 14:25
  • Interesting to see people opinion on the unanswered page...
    – Julian
    Commented Sep 10, 2010 at 14:58

I don't answer unless I have something to contribute. If I do, and have the time, I answer. My last Nice Answer badge came from a question with several upvoted answers that weren't quite complete, so I gave a more complete answer.

Upvoted answers may discourage some people, but not the only one I can really speak for.


Yes, I also tend to avoid upvoting 'decent' answers until I get a 'good' one.

Of course, if someone else likes your question and upvotes it, then it's got more chance of turning up on the questions page, for the likes of Hans ;)

  • The part about "if someone else likes your question and upvotes it" is a bit interesting here. For people to actually answer your question, they have to see it. Which mostly (I guess) means seeing it at (the top of) the unanswered page, or high up in the general questions page. However, what to do in my case when I've already voted on some answers, and also doesn't get any votes on my question (my question isn't bad, it is clear what I want etc (it is even starred by two people), so I don't see why it wouldn't get a couple of more votes to "increase interest")...
    – Julian
    Commented Sep 10, 2010 at 15:04
  • @Nailuj, people differ greatly on their attitude to upvoting questions. Some people upvote every question they vaguely like. Others only vote up very well written or questions that were useful to them. (Other people [meta.stackexchange.com/questions/17204/… ] vote up questions they answer, possibly to get that question more exposure and thus potentially more upvotes for their answer too, but I didn't say that).
    – Benjol
    Commented Sep 10, 2010 at 20:50

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