There have already been several discussions about abandoned questions and more particularly closing them or forcing acceptance to answers, etc. I am curious as to what community consensus might be on how long to give someone to address a request before simply doing it yourself, if possible. Obviously it may not be possible to provide clarification without assumptions or speculation, and it is possible a request may go unnoticed. But many times it is clear a request has either been ignored (later responses or new questions) or the user won't be back any time soon to address it (no recent login or anonymous question).

Let's have an example. In this question clarification was requested, given in comments, and then requested to be edited into the question to clean up and clarify. I agree with this approach, as it helps to inform and educate new users on site protocol and etiquette. In this case the request was clearly seen, since the user visited and provided additional comments after, but never addressed.

The same situation also often arises with 'can you post your comment as an answer'; either asker solved their own problem or someone else did as a comment, which asker saw and thanked as yet another comment, but nobody ever made an actual answer out of it. There are other meta questions that address whether it is appropriate to step in and do this, but not how long to wait before doing so.

I see this with both new users and those with high rep. I understand not everyone has as much time to devote to the site as some do, and there can be a bit of time between logins. Or that an @ wasn't used when it needed to be so the request is never seen, making a 'ping' potentially appropriate. I also understand a desire to be polite - not steal someone else's potential credit/rep (even if you attribute the answer to a comment, your answer is still all that can be upvoted in the rep system), or give them a chance to provide edits.

The closest I've found to a suggested time frame is in Should we move to close old, abandoned questions with not enough detail? which was a couple of days plus checking for last login time (what if they haven't logged in - a week?). Would that apply in cases like this as well?

1 Answer 1


My personal policy on Questions asked by anyone who has been around long enough to see examples of the high quality Q&A format we strive to achieve on all postings, who then posts a Question missing basic details, is that I usually give early advice, followed within an hour or two by a proposal for closure. My recollection is that, when the Meta Question you cited was asked and answered, there was no "On Hold" status available to create a grey area between Open and Closed so closure seemed quite "harsh". With "On Hold" now available and, from what I can see, working well for a year or so, Question askers have plenty of time (I think about 5 days) to address any shortcomings in their Questions and get them into the Re-Opening cycle.

For new users I try not to be as quick to propose closure, and to try to offer more substantial advice before I do but, at the same time, I will propose almost immediate closure on very poor Questions lest they start to catalyse other new users to see them as acceptable postings.

Overall, the appeal of Stack Exchange sites to me is the immediacy with which answers to questions can often be found. I see the priorities of our site as being to:

  1. have as many high quality Q&As available to provide an instant solution to searchers as possible; and
  2. try and get any Questions that are asked into the pipeline, so that they are not just provided with a one-off Answer, but are started on the path to becoming high quality.

I recommend:

  • watering high quality Q&As with praise (upvoting, accepting) so that they will proliferate;
  • weeding out low quality through downvoting, closure and eventually deletion.
  • editing as soon as you feel you can significantly improve the chances of a Question being answered. If the asker or someone else thinks your edit inappropriate you may see it rolled back but even that just helps to develop a feel for what and when is appropriate to edit.

Partly as an aside, I think that there is another Q&A worth referencing in this discussion: Standard practice to close (valid, but vague) questions abandoned by asker?

  • I had looked at the question you reference (along with three others) but didn't pull it out to specifically cite. I do want to point out, however, that this question is more about editing tasks than closures, per the example. To some degree these things cannot be addressed by the rep system - nothing to downvote (comments as answer) or new (low rep) user who doesn't spend much time here or won't be back.
    – Chris W
    Commented Apr 28, 2014 at 19:06
  • Obviously the answer by Chris W worked for the asker but for some reason the answer is never accepted. It's nice, and neat, to have an answer accepted. Perhaps the encouragement should go to the original asker to accept a suitable answer and if they don't fix it up a moderator can accept on their behalf where it is obvious like the cited case - for the benefit of those who come later to view the thread. It's not so easy when the asker looses interest or has solved their problem with the help of comments and no longer replies. Commented May 6, 2014 at 5:42
  • @MichaelMiles-Stimson The acceptance issue is already covered at meta.gis.stackexchange.com/questions/3002/… and more particularly meta.gis.stackexchange.com/questions/471/… Part of me agrees with you, the other thinks answer votes is a reasonable alternative and the arguments presented valid. To me it's less of an issue than what can regular users do to clean up after drive-bys, regardless of behavior modification.
    – Chris W
    Commented May 7, 2014 at 3:47

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