I've been skimming through some unanswered questions, and have come across some where the OP has left a comment saying "I figured it out--never mind," and no answers have been posted.

On questions like these that are somewhat common (e.g. finding the volume of a solid of revolution from Calc II homework), should we vote to close? Also, what reason would we select to close the question?

I am in favor of closing these types of questions as it helps reduce the "Unanswered Questions" count, and the marginal benefit of an additional example of finding the area under $x^2$ on the range $[1, 2]$ (or a similar problem) is small.

Another option for questions like these that have a $0$ net score is to vote them down to $-1$, and let them be auto-deleted after so many days.

So, my question really is:
What should we do with common sorts of questions that the OP is no longer interested in receiving an answer?
Do we vote to close (and under what reason), or do we vote down (and allow an auto-delete), or do we do nothing/answer the question?

  • 6
    $\begingroup$ One more option: invite the OP to post an answer. (At your discretion, you can add the promise of 10 points (upvote) if they do so.) If the OP abandoned the site and the question has 0 score, downvoting is the quickest way to clean it up. The cleaning script runs weekly (Friday night U.S. time). $\endgroup$ – 40 votes Jul 26 '13 at 2:06
  • $\begingroup$ The question itself is valuable (especially in math.SE). If someone someday adds an answer it will help the community and people searching something in google. I don't think an answer to a question is only for the questioner. It is for all people viewing it. The author has the right to delete the post if he's willing. $\endgroup$ – user79193 Aug 1 '13 at 10:48

If such a question is closed, it should also be deleted. Keeping a closed unanswered question around (unless it's a duplicate of something answered) serves no purpose, and pollutes search results. As you described, deletion can be done either via closure/deletion votes (requires $5+3$ user actions) or via downvoting and autodeletion (requires $n+1$ user actions, where $n$ is the current question score). The second way does look easier, especially since it may be hard to come up with an applicable closure reason. However, if the OP is still active on the site, they might react negatively to downvotes; if this happens, the site probably loses more than it gains.

In orthogonal direction: some users complained in the past about how hard it is to find more accessible questions to answer:

Looks like they would appreciate having a list of more approachable, unanswered questions. Sort of a practice range. If we had such a thing, you would have an easy way of dealing with routine unanswered questions: just add them to the list.

I don't know where this list could be placed, or how it would be maintained. A meta-tag would probably not be a good idea.

  • $\begingroup$ Nice idea. For some time we tried something like that in the chatroom "The Crusade of Answers". Problem is, it is not visible that much. Maybe a meta post like the one for reopen votes would be appropriate? $\endgroup$ – Julian Kuelshammer Jul 26 '13 at 6:40
  • $\begingroup$ @JulianKuelshammer I'm afraid a constantly updated meta post will be more of a nuisance to others than an attraction. One possibility is to keep doing what you've been doing: leaving some comment encouraging an answer, with a link to chatroom. The query Unanswered questions with a comment link to Crusade retrieves all questions with such a comment that are still without answers. (It searches for chatroom URL). Essentially it works as the queue you proposed. $\endgroup$ – 40 votes Jul 26 '13 at 13:06
  • $\begingroup$ @JulianKuelshammer One possibility is to reorganize your meta post, or create a new one, updating it with the best Crusade practices identified so far, including this and similar queries. At present the Crusade does not seem to have a well-defined home on meta. $\endgroup$ – 40 votes Jul 26 '13 at 13:10

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