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I've been a member on other SE sites for a while now, but only recently joined SU. I found a few things a bit different here, and there are a couple of things I think could use some discussion.

1. Answering old questions.

Over about a 3 day period, I searched through SU questions in my speciality topic area (proxy servers). I spent quite a lot of time and answered about 30 questions, many of which had no other answer. Compared to other sites, I found the response to the answers (mostly no response at all) to be quite discouraging, and in fact learned that if you want to gain rep on here, you need to jump on new questions quickly, and ignore old ones.

This isn't going to get all those old questions answered. Many of the "unanswered" questions I saw actually had a perfectly good answer. Sometimes the asker just wanted reality to be different so resisted accepting the correct answer, or worse argued with it.

I know that "late answers" are reviewed, and so I think it would be interesting if reviewers were encouraged to give some kind of reaction to the answer, such as an upvote or downvote if they feel the answer deserves it.

In many cases these questions come up on google searches, and so an answer even years later can still be useful to people.

2. Lack of reward from the community compared to other SE sites

Compared to the other SE sites, it seems that people are much less likely to upvote an answer they see and find useful. I've had comments from OP like a variant of "thanks for that!", yet no upvote. I don't want to ask these people to upvote directly. I see it in a lot of other posts also, so often I will go and upvote something that I think deserves it, just out of a sense of redressing the injustice that the responder's effort was not appropriately rewarded.

Do people need to be reminded to reward other people's efforts when they are helped? Do they need to be reminded that they can upvote more than 1 answer if the answer is helpful?

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    If it bothers you that you don't get the green "accepted answer" checkmark on old questions with no other answers, you might post under the OP and say beforehand that you can do a writeup if they'd like, or simply go to their profile and look at the "last seen" field. If *votes* are more important to you, the question's "viewed x times" stat is an okay indicator and surrogate for how well it ranks on search-engines. Note also that it's common to score points from good answers many months after they've been answered. – SeldomNeedy Jul 25 '16 at 19:38
  • It doesn't really bother me about the check mark, as presumably that can only be set by the OP/asker (is there a proper term for this?), and they may be long gone. Just reward for effort is the thing. Understood about playing the long game. – Adrien Jul 25 '16 at 21:13
  • @Adrien - You mean they accept your answer? If you are expecting question author's to return after 6 months to accept your question, you are expecting what likely will not happen, unless they are active in the community. – Ramhound Jul 26 '16 at 2:19
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    If you want answers to be accepted, answer questions, by authors who are active in the community. If you answer a question that is more then 2 years old, expect to be challenged to improve your answer, if it already isn't an excellent answer. The only thing worst the a link-only answer, Is an answer that duplicates what has already been said, or an answer that does not really add anything relevant. Be sure any answer to older questions, actually work for the operating system/program/ect version, when the question was used. – Ramhound Jul 26 '16 at 2:20
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    Additionally, one of the actions that throw off the red flags in my head, is answering dozens of questions in a short amount of time. Perhaps I expect an unachievable high expectation of other people, but I often take hours to answer a single question. So I literally can't see how anyone could answer dozens in the same period of time. – Ramhound Jul 26 '16 at 2:24
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    @Ramhound no I don't expect people to come back, but I presume somebody else will see it because of (a) the review process and (b) it gets bumped. I'm not generally into repeating others' answers, unless I feel they missed something or got something wrong, and then I will more likely comment (except when I had rep < 50 and couldn't do anything except post an answer).. – Adrien Jul 26 '16 at 3:13
  • @Adrien - Your target audience is small. Somebody that has the problem and has the reputation to issue a vote. Your reputation is high enough that your answers to old questions are not reviewed. If you don't have the reputation to comment, what you don't want to do, is post an answer that is actually a comment. – Ramhound Jul 26 '16 at 3:49
  • @Ramhound I guess so. I just found that out the hard way as well, someone with 1 rep who asks a question can't even mark your answer as the answer..... there's gotta be something wrong there. These things add up to ensure old questions don't get answered. Still a lot more questions do get answered – Adrien Jul 26 '16 at 4:00
  • If you answer a question, then it's answered, what does getting an answer accepted by the author have to with anything? Just because an answer isn't accepted does not make it unhelpful – Ramhound Jul 26 '16 at 5:11
  • It makes a big difference when you're starting out and need the rep to do things like comment. – Adrien Jul 26 '16 at 5:50
  • @Adrien So write quality answers, edit existing answers and questions, doing that will generate 2,000 reputation . – Ramhound Jul 27 '16 at 6:30
  • All answers should be quality answers :) As for editing, other people's answers, or questions, that requires rep. There's a bit of a hump to get over before you can start that. – Adrien Jul 27 '16 at 22:30
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    @Adrien there is no minimum reputation required for accepting an answer. Same for editing - at least the edits that can earn you rep, which is what Ramhound is referring to. When you have <2,000 rep, you can suggest edits, which go into a review queue, and if your suggestion is accepted, you gain 2 rep. After you have 2,000 rep, your edits no longer need reviewed, but you can't earn rep that way any more. – Dan Henderson Jul 28 '16 at 2:55
  • @DanHenderson it's actually just the first 500 edits give you reputation. – Ramhound Jan 4 '17 at 23:38
  • This is a known problem. In practice, reputation is about popularity, not about being useful to the community. For useful actions we have badges, hence meta.stackexchange.com/questions/97455/… – Nemo Mar 21 '17 at 6:33
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I skimmed through your answering history, and I noticed that many of your answers that still have zero votes are in response to questions that are either already answered or posted by very-low-rep users.

Sometimes owners of already-solved questions will only upvote new answers that significantly help them in their situations. If the situation has long been dealt with, they might not even be able to test your answer, so it's understandable that they didn't vote.

Users with only 1 reputation point, in my experience, sometimes forget about this site entirely, or only check back after several weeks have gone by. It's not unusual to get no response from such users. If you do get a "thanks!" comment from them and your answer is the first one posted, it's perfectly fine in my opinion to say something like this:

Glad I could help! If my answer completely solved the problem, you can click the check mark next to it so future readers know it's useful.

If they accept your answer, delete your comment.

If you're consistently getting no upvotes, make sure you're actually answering the question. Saying "do X to accomplish Y, or maybe try Z" can be useful to an advanced user who knows how to do X and Z, but for many users, step-by-step instructions are needed. You've recommended your company's software a couple times (and that's fine - you do a good job of disclosing that fact), which might make some people uneasy. You can counteract that by being a lot more detailed in how to use the software to accomplish the task. Also, in all cases, try including pictures. People like pictures.

Note that all new answers push the question to the site's home page, no matter how old the question is. A really awesome answer will almost certainly get some votes.

  • thanks - good suggestions. Personally I often find the interesting answers don't only directly answer the question (esp if it's already been answered), but add something (e.g. more background or theory) to help people understand why things are that way - that can help them even more in future. Answers that are only focused on resolving a very specific problem may be great for that person's immediate need, but the person may not really learn anything, and the answer may not be as useful for other people having similar but not exactly the same problem. – Adrien Jul 24 '16 at 22:16
  • p.s. re recommending my company's product. I do prefer to be completely open about such things. In some cases I sought out the questions to answer which lent themselves to a solution using our product. This is just a simple matter of only having so much time in a day, and we do have a goal to increase referrals and hopefully sales. I hope it's obvious from anyone looking at my responses (and I really appreciate the time you would have had to put into this) that this isn't my only goal. In many cases I've recommended other software, or even a competitor's. – Adrien Jul 24 '16 at 22:20
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    FWIW, if you are adding nothing new to an older question that you are answering, you really cannot expect to be rewarded for the answer. I myself have answered fairly ancient questions when I have stumbled across an old issue but with a newer/more-stable solution. But I am not personally hunting those types of questions to “retcon” a new answer; it happened organically for me in my hunt to get a problem solved myself. You should approach questions/answers the same way; let them organically come to you and you will reap the rewards in the end! Best of luck! – JakeGould Jul 25 '16 at 6:46
  • Sure, I don't see much point either if one is adding nothing, it just becomes noise. Whether what is added is nothing or not can be subjective though. – Adrien Jul 25 '16 at 21:14
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What is written in BenN's answer is completely true, just an additional aspect:

Compared to the other SE sites, it seems that people are much less likely to upvote an answer they see and find useful.

Generally Superuser is the site which attracts people having an IT problem but no idea on computers (or at least this is the site where questions from these people can survive), that can be the reason why we have a lot of abandoned question, no upvotes on answers and so on.

When I'm to answer a question with only a small chance that it's abandoned I ask for clarification on a comment and if don't get answer in a few days then vote to close it as unclear.

I know that "late answers" are reviewed, and so I think it would be interesting if reviewers were encouraged to give some kind of reaction to the answer, such as an upvote or downvote if they feel the answer deserves it.

I know there are also positive examples, but also there are a lot of negative ones. Reviewing posts from new users (with 700+ reps currently I don't think yours are reviewed) I upvote only good ones ANSWERING GOOD QUESTIONS, putting a lot of efforts answering poor questions I think is just vaste of time add have only a small chance to be useful to anybody ever.

  • thanks for that. I didn't really consider the impact the target audience would have, and I think you're right on that. The whole "good question" thing is also quite subjective. I've answered several down-voted questions which I didn't consider to be bad or unuseful questions. I guess it's always a problem when dealing with moderation of questions relating to such a wide domain of knowledge. – Adrien Jul 25 '16 at 21:17
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    A lot of good points here. I'll add one other tool for checking whether a question has been abandoned. Check the author's profile to see the last time they visited the site. If the question is two years old and they haven't been back since the day after posting, that's a pretty good sign. BTW, there's a browser script that adds a ton of useful features to the SE UI called SOX (github.com/soscripted/sox/wiki/Features). One of its features is displaying the last time the author was seen below every post. – fixer1234 Aug 22 '16 at 5:26

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