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Hear me out on this. It's not what you'd expect.

On Worldbuilding, we have an extremely low amount of Unanswered Questions, typically hovering around zero.1 The longest I've ever seen a question stay unanswered is about a week. However:

  • Using this basic math (or this query, though I used the former for this calculation to be more accurate), 1,581 questions out of 2,653 total have accepted answers, for a rate of ~ 59.59%.
  • The inherent value of questions increases with the number of answers, because there are many different solutions to a given problem, all of which are valid. This is very important on Worldbuilding. We receive lots of answers to questions that hit the Hot Network Questions list.

I use this to make a point: We need new users to answer old questions. Why? They add new ideas, new viewpoints, new perspectives, and new thoughts. I often ask questions and have no idea what kind of answers I'll get. I often don't anticipate some of the more amazing ones. So even after I accept an answer, what answers would have come in the future, if only users were around earlier?

Worldbuilding questions often have no right answer, which is what sets us apart from other sites. So I think that these new ideas would be great to have.

But how can we add some motivation? More than once, I've thought of offering bounties on old questions to see if they would get new ideas. But I'm not sure how effective that would be. Still, it might be our best option.

At this point, I realize this question sounds like one for Community Building. But I want to apply it specifically to Worldbuilding, and so I ask it here.

How can we let these new voices be heard?

Or, if you disagree, why should we not do something like this?


1 Okay, right now it's at six, but it's a weekend.

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  • $\begingroup$ If you want multiple answers, you're asking for questions that cannot be answered definitively. And if you do that, lots of people will say the question is a bad fit for SE. I don't see this as solvable, unfortunately, though I'm largely sympathetic to your intent. $\endgroup$ – CAgrippa Jul 30 '15 at 19:41
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As a newish user, I hesitate to answer older questions because I'm not sure that my answer will ever be signaled as useful with up or down votes. I get the feeling that viewers only look at the top two or three answers, find the info/perspective they want then move on. Sometimes I'll find a question that I do have an answer for but the info I would provide has already been covered in a higher upvoted and/or accepted answer. I think I could improve on that answer in terms of clarity or layout but then the time cost outweighs my risk calculation that I'll not get any acknowledgment.

Some answers stay at zero votes because they really aren't useful or just low quality. Others lack the visibility to move up the answer list to get to where they really can be more fully appreciated.

I'm not sure there's a technological answer for this since answers with more upvotes should show up first. They are the most valuable, someone looking for an answer shouldn't have to dig around.

Perhaps there's a cultural fix though. When I became aware of this pattern of no [up|down] votes for answers with lots of competition for eyeballs, I've made a point to evaluate every answer that comes into the questions I ask and upvote if I think it's worth it. Since users natural inclination is to stop at the top of the answer list, perhaps we can train/encourage people to keep scrolling down the list and up voting useful answers.

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  • $\begingroup$ "I get the feeling that viewers only look at the top two or three answers, find the info/perspective they want then move on" - I agree, especially if those top two or three are fairly long. This issue is biggest for those that hit the "hot network list" - even if a new amazing answer, far surpassing any others, comes up, the likelihood of it getting the attention it would need to get past the top-voted answer seems nearly non-existent, unless the asker is around to change their checkmark. $\endgroup$ – DoubleDouble Aug 6 '15 at 23:12
  • $\begingroup$ "answers with more upvotes should show up first" you can sort answers by votes, age, and activity. That is really useful for questions that have many answers. $\endgroup$ – user1975 Aug 14 '15 at 18:49
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Apart from all what Green describe, and with which I perfectly agree, there is also the question of why wasn't any question accepted?

I usually try to accept one answer to all my questions (not so many so far, pretty easy to hold), but sometimes you don't find any very satisfying, so you leave it on. In that case, a new answer could get the attention of the OP and get the accepted hit, which will later also improve later upvotes, even if not reaching some other answers.

But as an answerer, I have sometimes the feeling that the Question's author simply forget/don't know (for newer)/left and never accept an answer. To give an example, sorry about basing on my own, but they are the ones I know more, but that answer on that question, was the first one, is reasonably high voted (10, and the question is at 2 for 1630 views as of now), and I think it fully answers the question of the OP. Why isn't it accepted? I have the feeling the author simply forgot... or left1. Generally, if we are in this configuration, a new answer, might not even attract the original poster's attention. And in that case, hard to be motivated, and we come to what Green describe.

Of course, I could be completely wrong and the answer in that example does not deserve to be accepted. But I think you anyway get the idea.

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  • $\begingroup$ The OP of that question is active. Also, with a total 14k on the top five sites by reputation, I think it's safe to say the OP knows how the network works. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Jul 27 '15 at 13:31
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling, In that case, the problem isn't likely to be the understanding of the site. But the OP only has 200-something rep on WB. Anyway, that was just to illustrate. I, of course, have no idea why in that concrete case, the answer wasn't accepted, as the small note points, it could be that the answer does not satisfy the OP, but as there is no feed back, who knows? But I have the feeling that sometimes it is simply forgotten. Or lost interest. $\endgroup$ – clem steredenn Jul 27 '15 at 13:36
  • $\begingroup$ I have a handful of questions on the site to which I have received plenty of good answers, but not accepted any. Sometimes (not saying that's necessarily the case here) it's simply hard to pick any one answer to accept. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Jul 27 '15 at 13:38
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling, that can be, but don't you think that would go against the motivation of newcomers answering older posts? A newcomers, seeing an older question without accepted answer, also does not know the reason for not accepting an answer. And it is only worth answering it, if the OP isn't satisfied with the current answers. Because, if that answer gets accepted, this is the only reasonnable chance that effort would be worth it. At least, this is how I see it. $\endgroup$ – clem steredenn Jul 27 '15 at 13:45
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I would suggest that the best way to get new users to post on old questions is to lead the charge. I often find myself commenting on questions that are months old simply because someone edited the tags. Edits and new answers bring old questions back into the sunlight, where new users can more easily discover them (like on the 'active' tab, which I use almost exclusively).

Also, it's important to upvote answers to your own questions. If someone provides a good answer to one of your questions, even if you already have all the information you need, make sure you upvote them for their commitment to the greater community.

And it might help if you link future questions to past ones. If you find a good question with few good answers, you may be able to ask a question to help fill in the gaps, or ask a related question and provide a link to the old one just in case an expert is around who might provide answers for both. This option may not be the best the way I'm describing it, but I think we can find a way to make it work.

I would like to point out, by the way, that this question made me more eager to answer old questions, so in a way it is its own answer.

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One simple way would be to make the Unanswered tab the default view when entering Worldbuilding. Personally, I tend to gravitate there anyway - maybe it's because I like answering rather than reading the answers of others (!)

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    $\begingroup$ Well the unanswered tab does not solve everything. Because, if one answer is upvoted, it does not appear there. But that does not mean that the OP accepted an answer. $\endgroup$ – clem steredenn Jul 27 '15 at 10:52

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