9

The No Answers section of the unanswered tab seems to have a lot of questions where people are trying to figure out how to perform a certain action in a given webapp. If this can't be done, and there's no easy workaround, the question often sits unanswered. Generally no one will be certain enough of a site to give a definitive answer of "sorry, that's not possible".

Example 1
Example 2
Example 3

288/3015 questions are unanswered, almost 10%, which seems high.
Picking the first two sites randomly from the dropdown in the upper left:
Photography has 3/1220 with no answers
Home improvement is still in beta, has 9/981 unanswered.

Area 51 says that a site needs 90% of questions answered with upvotes to be healthy. Webapps has 10% with no answers, period. This can potentially discourage new users who come to the site and get silence in response to their question.

Is there anything which can be done about this? Is this just the nature of the beast?

5

This was one of my great fears for webapps -- we are attempting to map the surface of the entire internet, and any question about any website is fair game.

Help define a Web Applications Stack Exchange site

such a site would be ridiculously broad -- "ask questions here about .. uh .. any website on the internet!!" So I hope you can see why we don't want this for [superuser.com] which is already quite broad in scope.

What I belatedly realized was that most questions would center around the giants of the internet: your Facebooks, your Gmails, your Twitters, and so forth. And that's fine, because those web apps have huge reach and a large audience of people willing to ask and answer questions about them.

Of course, that does nothing to solve the problem you are describing.

The only thing I can possibly think of is a "too obscure" close reason, but I wonder if watching the question languish unanswered isn't its own sort of default close reason.

But, we don't want the site filling up with a disproportionately large set of unanswerable questions, either. Perhaps on webapps we might have a policy of deleting questions that don't get answered within, say, a year -- under the assumption that the internet is huge and they're too obscure.

  • I disagree that these questions are caused only by the scope of the site. By aiming at so-called experts, you're basically asking for questions that are less likely to be 'easily' answered. I do agree that the site should handle these questions better, as SU has similar problems with abandoned questions or ones that simply have no satisfying answer. – Ivo Flipse Dec 18 '10 at 13:40
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    @ivo are you kidding me? It's totally caused by the scope of the site. If we created a site just for Facebook (as an example) the proportion of totally obscure unanswerable questions would be tiny. Not saying I want to do that, necessarily, but the scope of this site is enormous and getting larger every day as the internet grows. – Jeff Atwood Dec 18 '10 at 20:34
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    I feel the problem is caused by the users, who are trying to do obscure things and post their feature-request here in the vain hope that someone will listen. We should simply close (or rather delete) these questions, because they only clutter the site and aren't likely to receive an answer. – Ivo Flipse Dec 18 '10 at 20:57
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    @ivo then that's an argument in favor of closing obscure website questions as "too localized" -- but who decides what is too localized? If it's not on the alexa top 500 global websites list? alexa.com/topsites – Jeff Atwood Dec 18 '10 at 20:59
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    I don't think the problem is necessarily the site (about which the question is), but what the question is trying to achieve. These questions aren't asking for how to do something that's readily available, but rather asking for changing something about the status quo to make it work as they want it to. That should be discouraged, because it doesn't belong here and we can't solve their problem. – Ivo Flipse Dec 18 '10 at 21:02
  • Great example by @rchern: webapps.stackexchange.com/questions/7238/… A popular site, but an obscure question. Sometimes people should accept that their favorite app doesn't exist or doesn't do what they would want it to do. But don't blame me for telling them so. – Ivo Flipse Dec 18 '10 at 21:09
  • What an awful question that is, geez! q: – Rebecca Chernoff Dec 18 '10 at 21:23

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