I deployed some basic reporting on the anon and low rep post feedback:

https://stackoverflow.com/tools/post-feedback (10k users only)

Turns out this system is really effective at getting feedback about the long tail.

On average feedback is left on posts that are 6 months older than the posts being voted on.

The reporting has highlighted areas where there is information rot, for example these questions contain old unhelpful content that people stopped voting on:

Here are some questions containing apparently helpful information, that people stopped voting on:

Looking through these question lists it is pretty clear that we need a strategy to deal with high value content that has been either "abandoned" or "neglected".

Over a question's lifetime it attracts many answers and the answers attract many comments. This makes it way harder for an end user to decipher what the solution to the problem is.

Now that we have some pretty good ways to isolate high value questions, what can we do to shape them up?

Do we need new site features to deal directly with this problem? (EG. edit bounty/edit voting)

  • 7
    I wonder whether a common source of 'No's in the feedback might be posts that don't answer users' particular questions. These would arise when a title catches the eye in a search result, but the post doesn't contain what the user is looking for. Maybe I'm misinterpreting, but anonymous feedback has a much higher proportion of 'downs' than registered feedback, which might be because anonymous feedback is drive-by and indicative of 'failed' search click-thrus. Commented Jul 22, 2011 at 12:51
  • 2
    @waffles, I've think you've run into the 'posting at non-optimal time of the day' problem with this one. I expected a lot more activity. Commented Jul 22, 2011 at 22:29
  • 3
    @Martin -- "Did this answer help you?" "No. It's a really good answer, but as it happened, it didn't help with my particular problem." Maybe we shouldn't read too much into those stats.
    – Andy
    Commented Jul 26, 2011 at 10:27
  • @Waffles: From your examples, it's not clear to me what you mean by helpful and unhelpful content no longer being voted on, or high value content that has been abandoned or neglected.
    – user102937
    Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 20:15
  • I'm voting to close this discussion as obsolete because this feature was abandoned by Nick Craver.
    – Cœur
    Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 8:58
  • @Cœur: It isn't really obsolete, since it's still perfectly possible to visit /tools/post-feedback on any site in which you have the relevant privilege and see the current stats. (I just checked on Space Exploration.) The team can apply [status-walking-dead] if they want, but there's no real reason to close. Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 10:26
  • @NathanTuggy then explain why other feature requests get closed as off-topic? See meta.stackexchange.com/questions/122699/…
    – Cœur
    Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 10:34
  • 1
    @Cœur: I just voted to reopen that anyway, so my explanation would be "folks had higher expectations of the imminent death of the feature back then." (It was closed, what, a few weeks after Nick's post?) Clearly those expectations did not pan out. Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 10:37
  • @NathanTuggy, OK, thanks, then I'm retracting my close-flag here. :)
    – Cœur
    Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 10:50

7 Answers 7


Short Answer:

I suggest creating another tab, archive, with the following subtabs for organizing questions.

  • Active Feedback: For questions with several feedback responses (say 25 or more?)

  • Dormant: Questions ordered by number of days without any activity.

  • Feedback Issue: Questions where (#No - #Yes) > (#Upvotes - #Downvotes) as this may indicate information rot.

And perhaps others?

I would then add a privilege allowing users with 1000 reputation ?or more? to view counts #Yes / #No next to vote counts (but only if they click to view vote counts).

I would then add two badges:

Statistical Background: You have a binary response (Yes/No). I think you basically want to know: Why did the user click Yes or No? Then, based on why, should the community / moderators / helpful low rep users take some action. Quoting directly:

Now that we have some pretty good ways to isolate high value questions, what can we do to shape them up?

In other words, what are the appropriate actions? As for actions, we have:

  • Close/Delete question
  • Edit Question/Answers
  • Do nothing

I believe the answer of 'Why did the user click Y/N?' will fall into one of a few categories. But think first for a minute what we know about this person. Pretty much nothing. If they're anonymous, why didn't they sign up? Is there some barrier preventing them from signing up? If they're a low rep user, why haven't they gained 15 rep to upvote? Zoe probably has 15 rep just from standing on the keyboard.

With significant User Feedback: Yes

  • Perhaps feature this question in the ads to the right? (server-side)

With significant User Feedback: No Note this insight from Tim

  • When question has several downvotes, perhaps it should be closed?
  • When question has several upvotes, perhaps it should be edited for clarity or information rot.
  • When question has no upvoted answers, close/delete it? (This was Jeff's suggestion in a comment below the insight from Tim

With all that said, I doubt you'll be able to predict why a user responded the way they did without collecting more information from them (via cookies or something). ie. What (if anything) did they just search for??

Hence, I suggest the archive tab instead of trying to determine why a user responded Yes/No.

  • 11
    I love the badge suggestion
    – waffles
    Commented Jul 26, 2011 at 6:44
  • 2
    I really like this. I'd suggest "conservationist" rather than "preservationist", though, because if you're editing a question, one thing you're not doing is preserving it... Commented Jul 26, 2011 at 11:42
  • 1
    When I came up with the name "preservationist", I had googled, and apparently this distinction is known. I'm open to either one. I just thought of preserving it from deletion... as opposed to conserving space & deleting it...
    – M. Tibbits
    Commented Jul 26, 2011 at 17:04
  • Regarding your suggestion on information rot, a mere difference might not be helpful, as the number of anonymous users will always be greater than the number of voters... perhaps a normalized approach would help. Otherwise, good ideas. Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 17:04
  • Sure thing, Suggestion excellent yoda. Speak wise you do.
    – M. Tibbits
    Commented Jul 30, 2011 at 20:59
  • 1
    Archaeologist and Excavator badges are in the oven
    – waffles
    Commented Aug 15, 2011 at 7:14
  • Isn't this post status-completed ?? I see the badges: meta.stackoverflow.com/badges/158/excavator meta.stackoverflow.com/badges/157/archaeologist
    – gideon
    Commented Jan 24, 2012 at 9:41

Here are my suggestions:

Suggestion #1:

Badges can be awarded to answer with n anonymous votes = (anonymous useful votes - anonymous not useful votes). The badges can be awarded multiple times. The actual count be determined by moderators based on the data that they have gathered so far. I am not sure if 10,000 is too less for Gold badge.

  1. Omniscient: One having total knowledge. Gold badge. Total useful + not useful votes greater than or equal to 10,000.

  2. Profound: (adj.) showing or requiring great knowledge or understanding. Silver badge. Total useful + not useful votes greater than or equal to 5,000.

  3. Cognizant: (adj.) aware; having knowledge. Bronze badge. Total useful + not useful votes greater than or equal to 1,000.

enter image description here

Suggestion #2:

  1. Add a new section just above comments section that displays the count of useful and not useful votes by anonymous users.

Separate section to show anonymous votes

Suggestion #3:

  1. When the first anonymous user clicks the Yes button, a comment with the message Yes, this post was useful. can be posted under user Community with an upvote and subsequent clicks by anonymous users can be added as upvotes.

  2. When the first anonymous user clicks the No button, a comment with the message No, this post was not useful. can be posted under user Community with an upvote and subsequent clicks by anonymous users can be added as upvotes. Even though, actually speaking it is not an upvote for the answer but it is a support to that comment saying that the answer is not helpful.

Posting the anonymous users' votes as comments with an upvote to the comment.

  • 8
    Logically - 3 people agree that "this post was not helpful", so it should be +3 anyway. Either way, I don't think it should be displayed as comment - it isn't a comment.
    – Kobi
    Commented Jul 26, 2011 at 11:10
  • 4
    I took the liberty of undeleting this and upvoting it because it is something we have considered-- not sure we will go this route, but it does capture the intent which is to give anon users a constrained voice ala prefab comments Commented Jul 26, 2011 at 23:45
  • @Jeff Atwood - Someone commented that you don't like having too many comments in the posts. I thought it doesn't add any value to have a suggestion pointing towards that direction. That's why I deleted it. Anyway, thanks for undeleting and upvoting the post.
    – user162697
    Commented Jul 26, 2011 at 23:49
  • Hrm, I think that was me who left the comment... I didn't intend for you to take it as any type of official position, I was merely theorizing. Don't let people prod you into deleting suggestions that you think are good. Commented Jul 27, 2011 at 0:28
  • I like this idea, but seeing the Up/Down votes against the Helpful/Unhelpful looks really strange...I figured the upvote count to a lot of users meant "this is really helpful" Commented Aug 1, 2011 at 0:12
  • Agree, but only the +1 votes should count. If something wasn't helpful, it's not a good answer anyway. Commented Jul 17, 2013 at 7:07
  • These numbers are really off. About 50 posts would be eligible for the bronze badge. Only one would get the silver. None have yet to reach the gold.
    – Laurel
    Commented Aug 17, 2016 at 19:13

Grab bag of suggestions:

  • If we could filter the post-feedback lists by tag we could focus more efficiently on our areas of expertise.
  • Where multiple answers to a question have feedback, these could be grouped and associated with the question, or perhaps the 'highest ranked' of those answers. Then all the feedback for the answers to one question would appear together.

I have a few ideas, some of which are bold:

  1. Add questions / answers to review. It seems to me that these questions an answers are easily cleaned up when brought to the attention of the community. I suggest that questions / answers which have a high value (such as through an Anonymous User feedback algorithm) should be highlighted through the existing review section. This could be, for example, a new tab next to first answers.

  2. Add bounties to good questions without good answers. Administrators (or the community user) could put out a bounty for good and high value questions which do not have good (or currently appropriate) answers. If such a question already has an accepted answer that is no longer good, the voting process should rise the cream, and perhaps the bounty could be manually awarded. (Perhaps this concept is slightly different than a bounty is currently.)

  3. Automatically protect old good questions with good answers. The system could automatically protect good and high-value questions with good and high-value answers. This would prevent noise (such as low value comments and answers) that make an otherwise good question and its answer appear dusty and useless.

  4. Automatically delete old, useless comments. The system could automatically delete comments older than X months with fewer than Y upvotes. Good comments will stay, but not-so-useful comments will be left behind.

  • +1 I really like the idea of auto-protecting old, good questions.
    – M. Tibbits
    Commented Jul 27, 2011 at 6:12
  • 8
    Hmm, it seems you're saying that comments without upvotes aren't good comments. With this I wouldn't agree. Commented Jul 27, 2011 at 13:45
  • Of all of them, #4 is certainly the one I'm least sure is a good idea. I agree that not all comments without upvotes are bad comments. But I do think that the vast majority of unhelpful / bad / obsolete comments comments have 0 upvotes.
    – KatieK
    Commented Jul 27, 2011 at 15:22
  • 1
    There are also a bunch of comments with tons of upvotes that are fairly useless as well. [Insert favorite comment rant here]...
    – M. Tibbits
    Commented Jul 27, 2011 at 21:34
  • 2
    Deleting comments might break the chain of discussion, to the point where the high-voted comments become gibberish robbed of their context. Bad idea. Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 20:30

I took a look at the first question (struct/class) and see that a fair of the content is ok. The hugely upvoted accepted answer's link still functions, and it's not really a concept that goes out of date. I think the comments on the accepted answer, are relevant to the answer.

There is a problem with a few of the answers in that they are treating it like a forum, so they're just points being made, that would better be comments. Most of the answers are ok for such a beginner question.

Looking at a few more questions down the list, I see some good questions with a host of what seem to be good answers (without having full technical understanding if they are or not). There's a few bad answers in there, and a few old comments, but I'm not seeing it being a big issue.

  • I don't have time to look at them all today, have to run, so I'll see what things look like tomorrow. Commented Jul 22, 2011 at 0:40
  • 1
    it has 13 answers many of which are of little to no value ... a pile of comments that make no sense and so on ... its classic info rot problem
    – waffles
    Commented Jul 22, 2011 at 0:41
  • 5
    @waffles, ok, by info rot I thought you meant that all the information was no longer relevant. I guess you mean that there is some useless info and some useless Meta info. Commented Jul 22, 2011 at 0:47
  • @waffles, looking closer, I see that there most of the answers are ok for a beginner question like that, but there are some that are basically treating it like a forum. answer edited. Commented Jul 22, 2011 at 0:49
  • @waffles, I looked at a few more, and just saw good questions with a lot of good answers (without having the technical knowledge to evaluate all of them), and maybe a bad answer or two. I'm not really sure there's an issue here. Commented Jul 22, 2011 at 3:05
  • @waffles, I like Siva's suggestion for a starting point, just keep it as a simple comment so no extra UI added (just a little code under the hood). Commented Jul 28, 2011 at 3:26

Community should adjust the random bumping of old questions to take feedback in account. Questions with unhelpful but upvoted answers should be bumped more often than the others, so that they can get more eyes.


I would check if old questions that are no longer allowed by the various policies that have been put into place are really useless. You might be surprised...

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