Unclutter EL&U before quality drowns
It is my conviction that the site's health would benefit greatly by removing those very questions that plague the first two or three pages. As soon as an unanswered question is put on hold, deemed off-topic and the questioner/OP to all intents and purposes has disappeared—a recent phenomenon which I have noted to my great annoyance—then that question should automatically go into "quarantine", i.e. the "unanswered" page; no ifs and buts.
An exception should be made for questions which are accidental duplicates. Often a new poster will pose a duplicate question which is worded quite differently from the "original". As I understand it, Stack Exchange welcomes and loves duplicate questions:
One thing I want to be clear about, though, is that duplication is not necessarily bad. Quite the contrary — some duplication is desirable. There’s often benefit to having multiple subtle variants of a question around, as people tend to ask and search using completely different words, and the better our coverage, the better odds people can find the answer they’re looking for. And isn’t that, really, the whole point of this exercise?
As I’ve mentioned probably ad nauseam at this point, people have the uncanniest knack of asking multiple, nearly identical questions with almost zero words in common.
The above snippet was quoted in this meta post below (Oct 29 2010).
By having closed-but-not-deleted duplicates, we have several completely different wordings pointing to the same question. For one, that increases our visibility in Google search results. Most importantly though, it helps prevent more dupes from being posted in the future.
So an exception must be made for duplicates, I would even argue that visitors might even visit the dupe question and find them useful.
Furthermore, after one week of inactivity the off-topic, POB, unclear, and general reference questions which have not received any answers, and have not been reopened, should be automatically deleted. No ifs, ands or buts. I don't care how many comments a question may have generated, a closed question is useless if there is no answer. If the OP is present he or she will try to resuscitate the question, he or she will care enough to ask how to improve it, to inquire why it is closed. He or she will do some minimal research. That is a good enough indication that the user is genuinely interested and genuinely wants an answer. A user who should be nurtured, who might become a valuable contributor in the foreseeable future.
My last observation concerns unregistered users to the site. To my consternation I have noted there seems to an increase of unregistered users on the site, a great number of these "first time posters" disappear within the first hour or two never to return. Very often their questions are the very ones which users on EL&U complain most about. They are the FTPs who don't even look up a word in a dictionary before asking a question on spelling: Real Estate or Real-Estate? Moreover that unregistered user vanished after one hour, the user did not reply to any of the comments left by members. That user behaved like a mosquito. A small question bite, and then buzzed off.
Another more recent example is this: Fulfil vs. Fulfill That is a question which should go to the unanswered queue. If the OP wants to reopen his/her question then they go through the normal channels.
And while those two questions along with a multitude of similar ones are still visible on the front page, the good questions sink in a sludge of banality.
Why are those two questions (on September 14) still visible on the first fifty questions page? Why are those questions, along with dozen of others, cluttering the site? Put them in "quarantine". If the OPs return, the questions remain. If after a week they haven't intervened or made any edits etc., delete the lot.
That's my little rant over
Are "answers" in comments responsible for newcomers leaving the site after one hour?
I think, in part, they are. The number of newcomers who post a question to then disappear without trace is also due to receiving decent "answers" in comments. As these unregistered FTP tend to be non-native speakers, I believe, they are unaware of how the Q&A system works. Whereas users who have 100 rep will already be familiar with the Stack exchange model.
I'd like all of us to pay particular attention to newcomers who have seemingly vanished. Are there comments which could be misconstrued as answers? I would also strongly suggest to refrain from leaving such comments, especially to users who have 1 rep. They should be better informed that comments are often wild guesses which may or not be the answer they are looking for.
The "Hit&Run" users (updated)
Here is yet another unanswered off-topic question posed by a "hit&run" or "first time poster". An unregistered user who will not return, comment, edit or participate under the same username again. As this appears to be somewhat a pattern, I'm thinking is there a way to check their IP addresses to see if any are repeating offenders?