A regular ‘answer the unanswered’ slot

A little while ago, the idea came up in chat of having a regular ‘answer the unanswered’ session. This was taken up in meta, and there seems to be general agreement that it’s a good idea. TeX.SX is currently doing well for answering questions (97% answered at the time of writing), and so it seems like a good idea to keep things that way with a little community effort.

Questions end up as ‘unanswered’ for a number of different reasons. Some of course have no good answer at the moment, and so fully deserve to stay on on the list. For example, if there is a complex issue with a LaTeX package, it may well be that only a very careful review of all of the code can fix things. But most of the ‘unanswered’ questions are not like that. Most fall into one of three categories:

  1. Questions which have been answered, but where no-one upvoted the answer (so the system still regards it as unanswered).
  2. Questions which don’t really contain enough information to allow them to be successfully answered.
  3. Questions where there is an answer, but it takes a bit of effort to come up with it (but a lot less effort than rewriting an entire package!).

In all of these cases, what tends to happen is that the question drops of the front page and then is forgotten. What we therefore need is to periodically review the list of unanswered questions to deal with the ‘answerable’.

So the idea of a regular chat session came up. How will this work? The first session is bound to be a learning experience, but the general idea is that there will be a chance to talk on chat about whether questions can be answered, and if so who might have the best chance of doing it. A quick chat discussion will mean that questions can be dealt with without being forgotten again: this is particularly true when closing a question is best, as getting 5 votes to close on an old question would otherwise be a challenge.

Of course, there will be some questions where is looks like there should be an answer, but no-one at the chat session knows it! Setting a (small) bounty on these questions will keep them in the public eye for a week, and is likely to be one way to deal with them.

It’s unlikely that TeX.SX will get to 100% questions answered (you wonder how that is possible!), but keeping the number of unanswered questions really small should help to make this a great place to come for help. The first ‘answer the unanswered’ session should be taking place on the 7th of August: there will be a banner notice on the main site in advance of the event, so it should be easy to find.

6 thoughts

  1. Is there already a time slot fixed for the first session? (I don’t have much time to follow the chat recently.)

  2. Since I currently live in the US, the latest time slot would be best for me.

    Btw, is there some way to get notified about replies on the blog?

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