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I'm seeing a lot of questions in the queue of late up for closure as "off-topic because abandoned". All of the questions I've reviewed tagged like this did not have an answer marked as "accepted" and in most cases did not seem to have upvoted answers (I do recall seeing a few though).

To me, that the user didn't report having resolved their question (remember we discourage "thank you's"), doesn't mean those questions, the comments below them and the answers supplied have no value to those who might read them. It could be that links to other resources or answers provided the solution the user was seeking. We have no way of knowing if that was or wasn't the case. We also have no way of knowing if someone who's read the question may have benefited from the information they obtained in the answers or comments.

I have two questions regarding this I think we should discuss.

  1. What constitutes a question being "Off-topic because abandoned"?

  2. What's the motivating the attempt to close these question using this as the reason?

Is the motivation behind this practice simply to artificially raise our accepted answer stats by removing posts that appear to be "abandoned" or are we truly cleansing the database of low-quality content; something the stated reason for closing them doesn't imply? I've seen questions with what I thought were quality answers being proposed for deletion. That's my primary reason for posting this question.

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Note that there is a difference between closure and deletion. Just because a question is closed does not mean it will be deleted.

Everything below is my personal opinion only.

Purpose

I can only speak to why I propose to close abandoned posts. Generally, I only even consider this close reason for users who participate infrequently on SFSE. If a question is borderline/unsalvageable, has not gotten good answers, and lacks enough generality to make it useful elsewhere, it really doesn't add much to the community.

If it's a good question that just doesn't have an answer yet, I would try to answer it, edit it, or offer a bounty to increase visibility. But I'm less likely to take those steps if I don't believe the OP will even know the difference.

When I find such a low value post, I try to close it to help improve the quality of this site. If the OP (or someone else in the community) disagrees, it's easy to pipe up in the comments to clarify that it is not abandoned, and if it gets closed successfully, any edit will place it in the Reopen queue.

Template

I do have one quibble with the pattern you discuss in your post, which is that I believe our close reasons should be fully formed sentences. So when I decide a post meets my criteria for abandonment, I will use a complete sentence such as:

I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it appears to be abandoned.

At times I have added some additional copy about retracting my vote under certain conditions, but I never found anything that felt right.

General Abandonement Criteria

  1. The question was posted at least a year prior.
  2. The question does not have an accepted answer.
  3. The Original Poster does not have any activity within the last 2-3 months.
    • I generally only scan their profile for recent Questions or Answers.
    • If a question needs some back and forth with the OP to be improved, and they do not even visit SFSE on a monthly basis, the odds of improvement seem minimal.
  4. The question does not have a rigorous Minimum Viable Reproduction.
    • If you couldn't even provide clear MVR a year ago, the odds you can now are not good.
  5. The question has a narrow focus.
    • Many of the questions I vote to close for this reason seem specific to one project and do not contain generally applicable learns for the broader community.
    • Those questions which appear specific to one project seem likely to have been worked around in some way or another. The project is not likely ongoing.

Bullets 4 and 5 above tend to also overlap the "specific problem" close reason:

Questions on problems in code you've written must describe the specific problem and include valid code to reproduce it. For help writing short, self-contained syntactically-valid examples, see: SSCCE.org

However, I sometimes still use this separate custom close reason anyway, either because it would have been borderline to close it as such or to highlight the fact the OP seems unlikely to return.

  • 1
    Adrian, I don't want you to think this post was directed at you personally. You're not the only user who's marking posts for closure. The quoted text came from a post which wasn't one you'd personally marked. While a post may seem specific to one project, that doesn't mean it may not be similar to someone else's project. The answers to those questions are just as important, if not more so than the questions themselves. Let's not toss out the baby with the dirty water as the saying goes. – crmprogdev Dec 5 '16 at 13:17
  • @crmprogdev I never assumed it was directed at me. Again, I only vote to close if I think the question is pretty worthless already. We all decide for ourselves where to draw that line, I'm just laying out where I draw it. – Adrian Larson Dec 5 '16 at 18:51
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    The one word "abandoned" was probably me. I do it when I find questions that are generally > a year old, have no accepted answers, are generally for a narrow focus and bumped by the community. On mobile it is harder to tell if the question was bumped by community unless you click into them. I tend not to answer bumped by community as the effort does not seem worth it unless the question was well written in which case it would have an answer already...Just my honest opinion. – Eric Dec 6 '16 at 0:35
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    I've actually observed Adrian's application of his criteria and I think he's doing a fine job (although I wonder where he finds the time :-) ) - there are probably hundreds if not thousands of these posts that add no value to the community because of their narrowness and abandonment by the OP – cropredy Dec 6 '16 at 21:22
  • @cropredy Thanks! I don't seek them out, I just flag them if I see a problem post pinged by the Community. – Adrian Larson Dec 6 '16 at 21:24

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