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Consensus seems to be that forced acceptance of answers, which appear valid to others of high reputation, should not happen even when the originator appears to have lost interest.

If that is a given, then I think we should move to allow such questions to be closed with a new value of Originator of question appears to have lost interest.

The guidelines on when to use this might be when the question has had no edits/comments made by the user in over a month, even when comments/answers have been provided and thus appear to be falling on deaf ears.

I'm sure many of us may have neglected following up on our own questions at times, and that these may become subject to closure. However, I would rather have a question I had forgotten about closed than have people working on a solution for it that I and others may never use.

UPDATE

The answer from @whuber got me thinking some more and so I wondered "Do closed questions ever get deleted?" - the Answer from @Jeff Atwood seems to be "sometimes".

Following up on @whuber's "carrot and stick" approach to what we all want, i.e. high quality Questions with high quality (Accepted) Answers, I'm going to make a further suggestion or two. I still don't have a grasp on all the Stack Exchange functions and procedures so I apologise if I go over any old ground.

When the community, by its normal voting practice, thinks a Question should be closed, for any reason, I think there needs to be some penalty on its asker - perhaps loss of Reputation gained for that Question plus 10 more points. Upvoted Answers to such Questions should NOT lose Reputation at the same time. Closed questions can be-reopened (unless they are moved to Deleted by the Moderators) by community voting, which should restore Reputation from the Question (but perhaps not the penalty 10 pts so that we avoid "risk of Closure").

I think I'll stick by my suggestion that "stagnating" questions should be closed but I agree with @whuber that reassessing "rewards and punishment" first may be a better approach to getting high quality Questions with high quality Answers (irrespective of their Acceptance).

  • Re the update. Some forms of closing a question automatically add a (Community) downvote, which is a mild penalty. Often, by the time this happens, such questions have accumulated a bunch of downvotes anyway, so the reputation penalty is there already. Users posting a lot of closed and downvoted questions in a short time automatically are barred from asking more questions. (But it takes an awful lot.) Incidentally, because so very few members here have 10K+ reputation, all deletions to date have been by moderators. That may change as we accumulate more high-rep users. – whuber Jan 11 '13 at 21:19
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Closing a question makes it less accessible to low-rep users. Closing a question that has potentially useful information, merely as a response to lack of interest by the person who posed the question, therefore is the wrong response because it can adversely affect people unconnected with the thread.


The SE system currently rewards people for accepting answers. If you want to improve acceptance rates, think instead about these options (which I offer as examples to advance this conversation, not as proposals that I advocate):

  • How to make reputation more valuable. (This can be done on a personal basis by anyone with the reputation to leave comments. For instance, consider praising individuals who accept answers.)

  • Whether the reward to the questioner for accepting an answer should be made larger.

  • Whether additional rewards could be offered, such as a badge for accepting a threshold proportion of questions.

The SE system also punishes people who accept few answers by flagging their identifiers with an indication of their low acceptance rates. This is the mildest possible form of punishment: it simply displays a fact about their behavior. Any form of punishment stronger than this would likely drive many otherwise constructive users away from the site.

Please bear in mind, too, that systems of rewards and punishment can distort information. (That's their intention!) In this case, providing too much incentive to accept answers would likely lead to many unworthy acceptances, falsely suggesting to newcomers or unsophisticates that these answers are better than they actually are. Beware the possible unintended consequences of an otherwise good-looking proposal.

  • I'm not sure how much rep is needed to see closed questions. With a low rep on SO (under 400), I don't believe I can see closed questions, but the FAQs all give 3000+ users the ability to vote to reopen any questions, so surely they can see them. I figure the threshold lies somewhere within this range, then. I also believe that closed questions cannot be found with Web search engines--I just did a test with Google for a question I closed earlier today and it did not show up, although a second posting by the same user (with the same title) did show up. – whuber Jan 10 '13 at 23:41
  • 250 rep seems to be the first level that users see Close votes but only on their own Questions - am not certain that we want casual users finding Questions that our community considers "not conforming to SE GIS standards" – PolyGeo Jan 11 '13 at 0:20
  • Seeing close votes is not the same as being able to see a closed question itself. There are good reasons to make closed questions accessible. For instance, many questions are closed as duplicates, but because of how they are stated, they may contain key words and phrases that serve as useful signposts when people are searching the site. (Questions closed as duplicates automatically contain prominent links to any duplicate questions.) That is why there is a distinction between closing and deleting a question. – whuber Jan 11 '13 at 14:23

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