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I'd like to compile a list of reasons why questions go unanswered on bse or don't have accepted answers. With the intent to categorize them, and do rudimentary analyses on the 500 questions that have evaded us.

  • Question does have answers, but user hasn't accepted:

    • User hasn't returned
    • User has not logged in using same account to accept
    • User doesn't consider answer sufficient
    • User has answered own question somewhere in the 'thread', and not posted detailed answer to accept.
    • User has stated that it is solved, but omits the resolution method from comments or edits to own question.
  • Question has gone unanswered:

    • has comments requesting clarification, still unclear
    • comments have clarified the question but still unanswered
    • Question answered (and confirmed) in comments but not added as an answer
    • Question clear, how to answer isn't.
      • too big?
      • expertise needed?
      • theoretical?
      • no off-the-shelf solution exists
      • no convenient custom solution exists

This may be a foolish task, but classification can spread some light on the make-up of our dreaded 'unanswered list'.

I'm sure I've missed a few subtle scenarios, please feel free to suggest

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    $\begingroup$ There's also the occasional "question answered in comments but not with an answer" scenario. Often the answering comment is a half request for clarification/wild guess, or is a link to an answer on a rather different question. $\endgroup$ – gandalf3 May 29 '15 at 7:04
  • $\begingroup$ indeed added, any more? $\endgroup$ – zeffii May 29 '15 at 7:07
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    $\begingroup$ This correlates with meta.blender.stackexchange.com/q/691/12 $\endgroup$ – iKlsR May 29 '15 at 14:33
  • $\begingroup$ yep, an extra metric to help judge the 'missed impact' of an unanswered question. nice. $\endgroup$ – zeffii May 29 '15 at 14:39
  • $\begingroup$ I believe that, even if the OP hasn't marked an answer as accepted, the question will still be considered answered if it has an answer with an upvote. $\endgroup$ – PGmath Jun 9 '15 at 14:30
  • $\begingroup$ PGmath, yes! maybe I should make the distinction, i'm really talking about questions without accepted answers. $\endgroup$ – zeffii Jun 9 '15 at 14:50
  • $\begingroup$ @PGmath you are right, i forgot : meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/271395/… this changes my own post a little $\endgroup$ – zeffii Jun 10 '15 at 9:20
  • $\begingroup$ One possible solution for many of these stray threads which have not been accepted is for the Stack Exchange network to start automatically marking answers as correct(and also possibly requiring moderator consensus) when they have reached a certain amount of up-votes. 10+ positive votes often indicates a solid answer and now people who never come back are not leaving loose ends behind. $\endgroup$ – MarcClintDion Jun 10 '15 at 18:12
  • $\begingroup$ Excellent post. You should post it on Meta SE $\endgroup$ – TheBro21 Jun 11 '15 at 12:28
  • $\begingroup$ I know for one that a lot of questions I've seen don't have an answer. lets link a few. blender.stackexchange.com/questions/26962/… blender.stackexchange.com/questions/29113/… and pretty much any question asked by @gandalf3. frustrating, but worth noting. $\endgroup$ – Scalia Jun 13 '15 at 15:30
  • $\begingroup$ This post would be very useful on Meta SE $\endgroup$ – TheBro21 Jun 18 '15 at 6:35
  • $\begingroup$ It would be nice if we could convert some comments into answers if they answered the question. I don't think there's a lot of incentive to answer a question the OP is no longer struggling with. Here's a good example - a question by a new user that was solved within 15 minutes because a comment got them to think differently about the problem and as a result they understood what to do differently. Should I now answer the question that was already addressed sufficiently? $\endgroup$ – Mentalist Oct 18 '15 at 5:37
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    $\begingroup$ @Mentalist yeah, answer and it will likely get up-votes. Sometimes the OP doesn't return to accept the answer, goods question deserve decent answers. $\endgroup$ – zeffii Oct 18 '15 at 6:44
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I think you missed "User actually figured out question on his/her own, but gave shoddy answers or asked questions in answers and therefore cannot answer own question." Lack of motivation may also be another cause, as well as spelling issues (which StackExchange seems to be very good at avoiding.) God I hate spelling issues and grammar problems, they really do make questions a pain to understand.
Oh, and in case you were wondering... This question was unanswered. The question about unanswered questions went unanswered.

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    $\begingroup$ my post is marked as discussion :) we can freely ponder these things. If you can reword your proposed missed reason, i will add it. $\endgroup$ – zeffii Jun 3 '15 at 19:19
  • $\begingroup$ Ah, okay. The first one used to be my bane: I was like "Okay, now how do I shoot the bullet without something getting sent flying?" and I had asked a followup question about how do I get the bullet object to move after it was created, and it turned out that it was just disconnected, but I'd been giving out ghastly, incoplete, "your'e on to something" answers that I couldn't actually answer my own question, which I kinda see as a problem. $\endgroup$ – Nefer007 Jun 3 '15 at 19:28
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    $\begingroup$ if added a generic version of the scenario you painted, last item in the first set. the "can't explain how i fixed it" kind of questions could be removed if the question has very few views after a set amount of time. $\endgroup$ – zeffii Jun 4 '15 at 6:53
  • $\begingroup$ No, I really did solve it on my own. But because I'd been giving the "onto something" answers, I couldn't even answer it. That's a problem. $\endgroup$ – Nefer007 Jul 9 '15 at 13:32
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    $\begingroup$ Upvoted for: "The question about unanswered questions went unanswered." :-p $\endgroup$ – Mentalist Oct 18 '15 at 6:55

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