In some situations, I have experienced the following: I have answered a question. Then, after a couple of days (say a week for example), there has still been no feedback to the answer (no comments, no downvotes, no upvotes), even if my answer has been the only one to the question and it is likely that the questioner and/or some of the people commenting the question must have seen it.

Up to now, my procedure in such a situation was simply to delete my answer. (To be honest, I often feel a bit like an "idiot" if I work out a solution to a posted problem and then learn that the poster apparently does not care about this.)

Do you think deleting an answer in such a situation is a good idea? What do you do if you experience such a situation?

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    $\begingroup$ The best advice I can give is: $ $ get used to it. If you look at the tail end of any prolific contributor's answers you will find many hundreds of answers with zero votes. Look at it from the bright side, at least the answer didn't get downvoted negative for dubious reasons such as: too short, too long, too quick, differences in style, politics, humor, etc. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Jan 24 '15 at 16:37
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    $\begingroup$ I just checked my profile, and out of 4025 answers, there slightly over than 150 answers with zero score (some of them may have downvotes and upvotes, though); and over half my answers have score $\leq 3$. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Jan 24 '15 at 16:41
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    $\begingroup$ @Asaf: Out of $9452$ answers I've a bit over $350$ that show $0$ votes and weren't accepted. (And another $220$ or so that were accepted but show $0$ votes.) And well over half of mine come in at $\le 2$, though many of those were accepted. $\endgroup$ – Brian M. Scott Jan 25 '15 at 6:23
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    $\begingroup$ @Brian: Interesting. You wrote just over twice as many answers as me, but it seems that you have nearly four times more zero scored answers. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Jan 25 '15 at 7:18
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    $\begingroup$ @Asaf: Ah, so you were counting accepted $0$-vote answers as $0$ score; I wasn’t sure. (I think of acceptance as a positive score.) I’ve answered a lot of first-time questions that don’t interest many people, and from them I often end up with an acceptance and no votes, or nothing at all. And at one point I answered a bunch of very sophisticated topology questions without any return at all, from what I think was one person with several accounts. And subject area matters: Henno Brandsma is running $17$% zero score answers. $\endgroup$ – Brian M. Scott Jan 25 '15 at 7:29
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    $\begingroup$ @Brian: Yes, acceptance is some sort of a vote; and $0$ score is still possibly voted on (both up and down). I was just lazy, counting finite stuff always seemed so... tedious. :-) $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Jan 25 '15 at 7:54
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    $\begingroup$ @Asaf: Not only that, but counting finite stuff is hard; infinite stuff is usually a lot easier! (I dimly remember a lecture in which Ken Kunen was proving that something existed. He started with a large (infinite) pool of potential candidates and weeded them out in several steps. And at the end he could say, ‘And $A$ is large, therefore it’s non-empty’. Hard to do that with finite sets!) $\endgroup$ – Brian M. Scott Jan 25 '15 at 7:57
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    $\begingroup$ I want to know how to deal with questions where there is another answer, and yours is completely ignored and has no votes on it whatsoever. $\endgroup$ – IAmNoOne Jan 25 '15 at 9:52
  • $\begingroup$ @Nameless If everyone else is ignoring your answer, why can't you? $\endgroup$ – user147263 Jan 25 '15 at 22:56
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    $\begingroup$ @Nameless: There's really nothing much to do but move on and hope that the answer eventually proves useful to someone. (And yes, that's easier when you've written $9000$ answers than when you've written $90$. It's still true, I think.) $\endgroup$ – Brian M. Scott Jan 26 '15 at 7:23
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    $\begingroup$ @Nameless: If your answer gets ignored, and there are other answers which say the same things, I would say you should just go ahead and delete it. If you have anything different to add, you can edit your answer and forget about it. $\endgroup$ – Aryabhata Jan 27 '15 at 16:48
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    $\begingroup$ Does deleting the answer benefit anyone? Leaving it, assuming it is a good answer, has potential to help someone, sometime, with a similar question. $\endgroup$ – Patricia Shanahan Jan 30 '15 at 4:52
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    $\begingroup$ @PatriciaShanahan: If there are multiple answers which say the exact same things, then deleting serves to reduce the noise (lesser stuff for people to vote on/read through etc). $\endgroup$ – Aryabhata Feb 2 '15 at 17:41

You may find the query Longest time (in days) to accept answer interesting: the current record holder is an answer posted on December 12, 2010 and accepted on December 7, 2014. (I don't know why the OP did not wait 5 more days to make it exactly four years.)

If you feel like deleting an answer, just do it (within reason; under 5 self-deletions per day). But if you find yourself doing it frequently, it's better to adjust your choice of questions to answer.

My suggestion: when considering whether to write an answer, assume that right after clicking "submit" the author had an accident.

enter image description here

Do you still want to write an answer? If yes, go ahead—whatever happens, you will not be disappointed. If not, I'm sure you can find a better thing to do with your time.

  • $\begingroup$ Can you fork this nice query to include the users asking and answering (and possibly another fork in which you can filter by the user whose answer was accepted)? $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Jan 24 '15 at 23:44
  • $\begingroup$ Here is the version for one answerer, and global $\endgroup$ – user147263 Jan 24 '15 at 23:56
  • $\begingroup$ Many thanks! Pretty cool. Also I just realized that we totally skipped the obligatory Billy Joel reference in your post. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Jan 25 '15 at 7:13

I don't really think that deleting your answers because no-one has reacted to them is the greatest use of your time, to be honest. There's little cost to the site to keep your answers available, and someone may come around later to whom they are helpful and who will provide you with some sort of feedback. And it does take some amount of your effort to periodically go through your "ignored" answers to decide whether of not to cull them. (I'll just add that not too long ago I had an answer accepted that was nearly three years old at the time. So it's never a lost cause.)

From the moderator side of things, you are to a fair extent free to decide what to do with your posts. If you do delete a fairly large number of them at a go, an automatic "potential vandalism" flag is raised for the moderators. While we're generally more concerned with users self-deleting (answered) questions, we'll take a look to see if anything has been deleted that is useful, and perhaps send a warning about not deleting too much stuff. Of importance, note that according to the Terms of Service

You grant Stack Exchange the perpetual and irrevocable right and license to use, copy, cache, publish, display, distribute, modify, create derivative works and store such Subscriber Content and to allow others to do so in any medium now known or hereinafter developed ... in order to provide the Services, even if such Subscriber Content has been contributed and subsequently removed by You.

While IANAL, in practice this seems to be taken to mean that even though you may choose to delete your posts, the "community" can decide to undelete them without seeking your explicit permission first. (Actually, you've already given permission.)

If you really care about getting some sort of feedback from askers when you provide an answer, one option is to be more picky about the questions you answer. This may include:

  • checking to see is the account of the asker is registered. Unregistered accounts have a tendency to get lost (by, say, clearing the cookies from the browser being used), and so these users are much less likely to return. You can check if a user is registered by going to their profile. If you do not see

    unregistered user profile

    the account is registered.

  • checking whether the user has responded to answers given in previous questions.

  • if the user has sufficient privilege, check to see if they have ever voted. (The number of votes cast appears at the bottom of their profile.)
  • check how much effort the asker put into the question. Greater care put into asking the question is very likely correlated to the chances that they will respond to your answer in some way.

Taking such factors into account, you can then decide whether you want to provide an answer. (This may/will result in a dramatic decrease in the rate at which you post answers.)

The other option, as mentioned by Bill Dubuque in a comment, is to learn to live with this situation: some of your answers will never elicit any response whatsoever.


I'd normally leave a comment under the question, asking the OP if they had read my answer, and if they have any troubles understanding it or need me to elaborate on some parts.

If the OP hasn't been very active recently, I might skip that part.

Sometimes I try to think what I can add, or some additional point I think is worth repeating, and edit those things in.

Other times I might just leave it as it is, it is bound to be useful to someone at some point. So only rarely I delete my answers for no feedback. I don't think it's normally a good idea.


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