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Say a post has been inactive for a period of time, what happens if you answer, comment or even vote on that question: who sees what you've done? Is voting good practice on inactive questions as it keeps them 'alive' so to speak. Is the OP alerted if any of this occurs. I've read this 'bumps' the question back onto the front page, does this happen every time one answers, comments or votes on an old question?

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    $\begingroup$ These older discussions seem to be related, at least to some extent: What is the protocol (if any) for answering old questions? and Resurrecting old questions?. $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Aug 30 '16 at 4:57
  • $\begingroup$ @MartinSleziak Thanks for your links, they are very helpful. One bugbear someone made on the links was "Another problematic situation that comes up is when outdated information is resurrected, which can confuse/mislead people who don't know it's outdated." But to me this seems a small price worth paying, the date of old posts should be noted and readers keep an open mind surrounding changes that may have been made in the meantime (it's called progress!). $\endgroup$ – Daniel Buck Aug 30 '16 at 15:55
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    $\begingroup$ The point: to get the Necromancer badge! (Actually I got the badge by answering a question not realizing it was old.) $\endgroup$ – GEdgar Sep 4 '16 at 13:30
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The whole point of stack exchange is to build a high quality collection of questions and answers for a given subject. If you think of things in these terms, it is irrelevant how old a question is. If you can improve the corpora with a better answer, add it.

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  • $\begingroup$ Great, I've learned so much from MSE, it truly is a great resource. One of the reasons I posted this question was I spent a while putting together an answer to a question about a Khan Academy primes+cryptography page from a few years ago, I think, just because the OP was so confused by the Khan page, which even though they will have moved on someone else would hopefully be helped. $\endgroup$ – Daniel Buck Aug 30 '16 at 16:08
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    $\begingroup$ Also consider that answering old questions improves the signal-to-noise ratio of the website; it is very frustrating to search for a hint on a problem, only to find old, unanswered stackexchange posts :) $\endgroup$ – Math1000 Sep 9 '16 at 10:47
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Answering bumps the question but (I think) only for those who have clicked the "active" option, not for those who are using "recent". Commenting notifies the person who posted the question. Commenting on an answer also notifies the person who posted the answer. Commenting may also notify a few others who have contributed to the question/answer – see the related posts about comment notification for details. Voting only notifies the person you have voted on.

Also, anyone who stumbles across the question at some future date benefits from your answer/comment/vote, and I think that's the main point in taking these actions on old posts.

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    $\begingroup$ I think you mean "newest" when you say "recent"; You are right, in this view all that counts is the date the question was first answered.One might add users that favorited the question to those that have a reasonable chance to note acitivity. (IIRC they'll see answers and edits and comments to the question). $\endgroup$ – quid Aug 29 '16 at 23:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Gerry Myerson Thanks, that cleared up some points. So we should feel free to get stuck into a 4 year old debate if there's something new to say. I guess with the comprehensive search this makes sense. $\endgroup$ – Daniel Buck Aug 29 '16 at 23:33
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    $\begingroup$ "first answered" should be "first asked" in my comment. Sorry for the noise. $\endgroup$ – quid Aug 30 '16 at 0:15
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My first post was quite recent, answering an OP that was about one and half years old. It got an immediate response which was quite gratifying and made me feel welcome on the site. However, my post was more of a comment, though I posted it as an answer, not knowing any better. Apparently I would not have bumped the question up to active if I'd followed the guidelines and just commented. But then, my 'comment' ended up correcting a mistake that resulted in a better answer. It's possible that many users that came across the old discussion were confused by it. So, if anything, commenting on/answering old posts should be a priority!

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As noted, commenting (resp. answering) serves as a "message": you can notify an answerer/commenter (resp. OP) of your thoughts on the question. In this sense, there is certainly a point. Don't worry much about bumping as the bump is very temporary and is not caused by comments. As far as votes go, there isn't even a counterargument, really. It requires little effort on your part and doesn't bother anyone (unless you're downvoting, in which case standard etiquette applies).

There is also another thing to keep in mind, if you want your comments or answers to receive significant attention: is the question popular? If it's popular, your contribution, in the near or long-term future, will likely receive substantial views. On the other hand, more obscure posts may not; indeed, perhaps you may never receive a reply or a thumbs up.

You should still post, however. Certain topics require specialized knowledge and hence are less popular. However, twenty years down the road, maybe a graduate student is working on a complex problem in a specialized field and stumbles on a helpful contribution of yours. In this situation, posting a comment or answer for this one hypothetical graduate student would be reason enough to post.

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  • $\begingroup$ The bit about specialist knowledge makes a lot of sense, since as you say down the line someone can google and find your answer, which of course won't be the most popular question site wise but will do its bit for the site. Now where did I put my specialist knowledge ;-) $\endgroup$ – Daniel Buck Aug 30 '16 at 16:16

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