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What do we do with 'useless old questions'? Ones that never really defined the problem, will never have an answer & no-one would care if they vanished off the face of the earth. They don't provide any searchable resource. Dead weight. Not even perhaps through any fault of their own.

I don't want to single out individual questions really, but as I'm tidying up my 'followed' questions, I've come across quite a few that never resolved original issues with the question. Maybe the OP found an answer elsewhere, but whatever the reason, the question itself has just been left to rot.

You don't need to be able to read this, just an indication that whilst some questions are deleted over time, because the Community bot has a set of rules as to how it does some of this tidying up itself, it can't handle questions which have multiple comments, which would be a feature of this type of 'useless question'. If we take these multiple comments as an attempt to properly define/hone the question - but without success - then there's no automatic cleanup.

example of 'following' list

Not all the remaining questions are 'junk', of course. As you can see from the pic, some got answers & were accepted. My 'following' list doesn't only contain 'junk', but really the only time I perform any examination of these is every few months in some downtime, I'll have a look back through the list to see which bore fruit or still hold some kind of interest. That could be the only time anyone looks at some of these ever again.

Examples, as I find them… I didn't want to single out any individuals, but in chat was asked for something to 'hang my coat on' as demonstration of the type of question I mean.

This - How to prevent Finder from resetting? - I never did figure out what the OP was asking. Maybe it's me being thick, but basically it got nowhere & I don't see it as having any future value for searchers.

Or this - MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2016, Two Thunderbolt 3 ports) - Reinstalled High Sierra but cannot login the iCloud account - though a well-defined issue, comments had some guesswork as to how to handle 2FA, but nothing concrete. Problem 'went away' after upgrading. Maybe this one could have an answer added, if there is a method for dealing with 2FA on High Sierra [which I still don't know] or if the answer is just 'update to Mojave'.

2017 iMac can't boot - we have a lot like this, many with actual resolutions. OP basically couldn't connect for Internet Recovery. Comments beneath got hung up on the keyboard & confusing responses from the OP rather than looking to Ethernet or USB boot… but the end result is the question has no real value.

[I'm still going through my followed list - I'll add more if I find them]

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    Maybe we could assign a tag that identifies it should be pruned? Then take some sort of action on a periodic basis?
    – Allan
    May 29, 2023 at 11:57
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    apple.stackexchange.com/questions/452293/… is an interesting case: kind of relevant, kind of on-topic, nevertheless unlikely to ever be answered.
    – nohillside Mod
    May 30, 2023 at 12:38
  • I see a little bit of value in (some of the) unresolved questions like this in that you can at least know that someone else had the issue when you search.
    – dwightk
    Jun 2, 2023 at 12:16

2 Answers 2

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Some thoughts on this (and I need more time to think about it, just wanted to get this out of my head and a comment didn't have enough room):

  • What's the downside of having these questions on the site (the three you mention have +/- 100 views each)?
  • What do we loose in terms of potential entry points in case we delete questions instead of finding one for which the unanswered question is probably a duplicate?
  • Which existing mechanisms can help, for instance Community Bot bounces, mod flags etc.

Also, some statistics

  • We currently have 22186 unanswered questions
  • 4818 of them don't have any comments. This includes recently asked questions of course, but in general this might be a good indicator for questions which don't have a lot of value anymore.
  • Unanswered questions per month (people seem to have had more time for research during Covid, and Ventura brought new problems)

enter image description here

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    Quick thoughts on your quick thoughts… 1. As they stand, they are dead-ends. 2. Some of my examples could be marked dupes or an answer found, but not the first one which is a true cul-de-sac. 3. I need to think more, too. 4. - 5. The bot would eventually sweep at least some of those up, zero interaction [wouldn't it?] 6. Yup, the reason I've even got this far is because I have enforced stay-at-home right now ;)
    – Tetsujin
    May 29, 2023 at 17:41
  • @tetsujin Sure, they are dead-ends. But with 100 views they don't attract a lot of viewers anyway.
    – nohillside Mod
    May 29, 2023 at 17:47
  • PS: Get well soon!
    – nohillside Mod
    May 29, 2023 at 17:48
  • 1. Yup, that's why I feel they need some sort of 'sweep up' as & when we find them & 2. Thank you very much. Well on the road to recovery - it's just a bit of a long road… but with an end in sight ;)
    – Tetsujin
    May 29, 2023 at 17:49
  • apple.stackexchange.com/questions/248642/… has the most views out of the unanswered/uncommented list, apple.stackexchange.com/questions/181913/… the most views with comments (well, not that it's helpful)
    – nohillside Mod
    May 29, 2023 at 17:55
  • If you want to play around yourself -> data.stackexchange.com/apple/query/1755946/viewcounts
    – nohillside Mod
    May 29, 2023 at 17:56
  • Eek. Both those questions are now very probably completely unintentionally click-bait. Even the 'me too' deleted answers underneath are ancient, making me think that even for people finding it through search more recently, they have nothing they really needed. Isn't NPAPI as dead as Flash these days too?
    – Tetsujin
    May 29, 2023 at 18:05
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    @Tetsujin Indeed, these two for sure can be deleted (and are, now). Wondering whether we just should review those with a significantly high view count and decide on their fate?
    – nohillside Mod
    May 29, 2023 at 18:13
  • Perhaps - though that's really a 'rainy afternoon & I have absolutely nothing else in the world to do today' type of job ;)
    – Tetsujin
    May 29, 2023 at 18:16
  • Perhaps this is a task for Community, with some updated rules? A question for main Meta? [Though idk if the bot is smart enough to even be able to really define a ruleset for this.] Actually… no. It's expecting too much. The ruleset is good, but these probably need human 'extra knowledge'.
    – Tetsujin
    May 29, 2023 at 18:17
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    We probably could extend the query to check whether the OP just posted this one question (and never came back) or whether they are still active on AD.
    – nohillside Mod
    May 29, 2023 at 18:21
  • But I wouldn't trust any Community Bot to handle this by itself.
    – nohillside Mod
    May 29, 2023 at 18:21
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    Yeah, it would be like expecting ChatGPT to give good answers ;)
    – Tetsujin
    May 29, 2023 at 18:24
  • Really nice chart, would it be possible to have a list of unanswered questions that have no comments
    – Thinkr
    May 30, 2023 at 11:21
  • @thinkr data.stackexchange.com/apple/query/1755938/unanswered-questions, needs some tweaking to filter for commentless questions.
    – nohillside Mod
    May 30, 2023 at 11:24
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Not a direct response to your question, but on the topic of "useless old questions" there are some other pain points:

  1. Questions that have 0 answers, but are fixed or answered in the comments.
    • Can't we simply have a button for "promote to answer" and it becomes an answered question from the community wiki?
    • Or should I just copy and paste the answer, give credit to the commenter, but leave it as my answer? It seems reasonable for me to get the rep for doing that work, when the commenter didn't bother copying their own comment in as an answer once it was clear that fixed it.
  2. Questions that ask and answer about deprecated tech.
    • I'm really not so concerned on how to fix a problem in MacOS 9.x. Still, it's useful to know - legacy systems exist, and sometimes old bugs find new life. But a tag of 'Mac' or 'MacOS', though, seems inappropriate - especially on this site. If it's an archaic question/answer, it should be tagged as such. Maybe as "Legacy" or "Historical" or somesuch? (That would be easier than narrowing it down to MacOS 9.2.3 build 582.202.1 and such narrow tags aren't used, anyway)
    • If it is an old question with new answers for newer versions, that is also useful to know. Perhaps it's that the date of the last answer is more relevant than the date of the question?
  3. Questions that are CLOSED as DUPLICATE.
    • Closing can be somewhat subjective. Duplicates may be closed as such, but the question's comments since closing differentiate it from the "duplicate." But, now, the only way to add an answer is via a comment.
    • Worse, a question that already has answers before it was closed as duplicate is now no longer a duplicate. Instead, each question has distinct answers, so I have to look both places?!?!? How is that helpful?
  4. Questions that are CLOSED for other reasons (no longer in scope, etc)
    • Just because the question no longer fits in the forum's scope doesn't mean it's a bad question - often the opposite. But there's no way to add an answer, other that with just a comment. That immediately degrades the value of an answer, and it prevents the user from earning rep (It's not the user's fault the question is closed).
    • It would seem better to mark such questions as "Grandfathered" rather than "Closed" - it would convey the same meaning, but leave it open for apropo new answers as tech/versions/etc change.

I guess my point is that the OP's concern here feels like the tip of the iceberg to me. And, at the end of the day, at least some manual curation will probably be necessary. Perhaps a different bot/script could mark such questions for moderator review, similar to flags on new questions.

Overall, it might be worth it for the mods to draft a "Best Practices" that could be used for this. That could include creating some new tags that, if nothing else, categorizes such questions that have commonalities that can be dealt with in bulk later, if needed. Also, some new tags like "Legacy" could be automatically filtered out unless the user explicitly asks to include them. (And Google would still find those, too - though they could be ranked lower)

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    There are some good points here - however… they need to be split to either new questions or answers on existing relevant questions. Taken as a whole, this is a discussion proposal; which you may have noticed can only be discussed in the comments right here. It will also only be found by people actually looking at the only vaguely-related topic in the OP above.
    – Tetsujin
    Jun 8, 2023 at 17:32
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    Thanks for the post, there are some valuable points in there. But, as Tetsujin already mentioned, it might be easier to discuss them if they are posted as new questions here on Meta.AD.
    – nohillside Mod
    Jun 8, 2023 at 17:52
  • Re 3 & 4: questions can always be reopened if the need arises to do so, by flagging for mod attention or voting to reopen.
    – nohillside Mod
    Jun 8, 2023 at 17:53
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    Thanks @nohillside and Tetsujin. It did occur to me that this added in complexity. But I decided to go ahead and post it as these additional points suggest that Tetsujin's original question may really a piece of a larger wholistic conundrum of various kinds of "useless" questions... I'd be happy to spin them off or add each to an existing question, especially if targeted solutions are more tractable. It can be hard balancing seeing the forest vs seeing the trees sometimes, and maybe my focus wasn't quite right here.
    – Randall
    Jun 8, 2023 at 22:18

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