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The Problem

As explained in this post and a follow-up to this one:

Obviously the event linked did a lot to clean up unanswered questions, but there is still a long way to go! Statistics for my favorite sites (unanswered with no upvoted answers) basically that number when you click on unanswered that shows up with the text "questions with no upvoted or accepted answers":

$\pu{\color{Green}{13} Worldbuilding}$

$\pu{\color{Green}{81} PCG}$

$\pu{\color{orange}{425} Astronomy}$

$\pu{\color{red}{4,673} Chemistry}$

How can we solve this?

My idea: Create a chat room like [spring-cleanup] dedicated to answering unanswered questions. In fact, I have already done this. My question is, can this work?

I am obligated to post a disclaimer:


I usually don't foray onto meta sites much, I'm a chemist, not a meta-chemist. This is one of my first posts, please tell me if anything needs to be fixed. Kindly, not like this one.

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    $\begingroup$ Your comparison is delightfully colorful, but not fair. Astronomy is much smaller and quieter than us AFAIK, and the other two aren't science sites. That said, it'd be pretty cool to coordinate a chat event or something to answer unanswered questions. We'd just need enough interested people. $\endgroup$ – M.A.R. Mar 15 '18 at 21:05
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    $\begingroup$ I'm afraid you don't know what you're talking about... There are reasons why questions are unanswered, and them people didn't want to answer them is one of more important. $\endgroup$ – Mithoron Mar 15 '18 at 21:36
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    $\begingroup$ @Mithoron has hit the nail on the head here. Most of the unanswered questions are either uninteresting, highly specialist knowledge, or just don't have a well defined answer. There isn't really a lot we can do about this IMO. $\endgroup$ – bon Mar 15 '18 at 22:16
  • $\begingroup$ How did you get that count of 4673? Currently, there's 4144 (not huge, but yes, that's a reduction of 10%) open, zero or positive score questions with no answers Consider editing in the post to reflect the new stats, or please clarify why would you also like to include closed questions in your count. As you can see yourself, many of them are simply duplicates. $\endgroup$ – Gaurang Tandon Mar 16 '18 at 3:23
  • $\begingroup$ Also, yeah, I just looked at Physics.SE's backlog. I think we're OK compared to them. $\endgroup$ – JSCoder says Reinstate Monica Mar 16 '18 at 16:45
  • $\begingroup$ Obligatory link to a similar panic raised a few years back: chemistry.meta.stackexchange.com/q/3527/5026 $\endgroup$ – Gaurang Tandon Mar 19 '18 at 5:31
  • $\begingroup$ A SEDE query that fetches the list of all bounties offered till date (data updated every Sunday). It is a great way to determine how effective even bounties have been in fetching required answers. $\endgroup$ – Gaurang Tandon Mar 19 '18 at 6:51
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As a site grows it is expected to have more and more unanswered questions.
In beta stages it was important to get to approximately 90% answered questions to show that there is an answering crowd with the interest to provide these.
With growth (as one might hope) the field is broadened, more specialised questions get asked, which are difficult to answer. On the other hand many questions get asked that are not as interesting as others, and as resources are limited the least interested won't get the treatment of a solution.
While the catalogue of questions gets longer, it is important to maintain quality, and also to weed out the worst questions. We do that every day by voting, flagging, editing, in short: moderation (as a community). The hope is that good questions gain visibility and eventually an answer, while the "bad" question disappear in the long run. (There are currently about 21k deleted questions, and about 26k retained.)

With an answer ratio of about 82% (see here), we are quite good at this balance and compare well to other sites like biology (81%), physics (79%), and mathematics (78%).

Except from active voting, flagging, moderation, there really isn't much that needs to be done. Since we all do this in our free time we should also focus on the content that we enjoy most when answering. (And always keep in mind, that some question remain unanswered for a long time - that's just how science works.)

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    $\begingroup$ Surely even a bad question should receive at least feedback (if not an answer) on how it could be improved... just ignoring a bad or boring question and allowing it to "get lost" is not a prudent way to establish a helpful and accessible community. $\endgroup$ – Ben Hughes Mar 22 '18 at 19:06
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    $\begingroup$ @BenHughes In an ideal world I would agree with you. From a practical point of view, and from experience, there are situations where this is simply a waste of time and effort; that's a bit sad, but eventually not avoidable. $\endgroup$ – Martin - マーチン Mar 23 '18 at 21:46

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