Regular “Let's deal with unanswered questions” chat meetings?

Joseph Wright suggested in chat that we arrange to meet regularly in chat to discuss unanswered questions. He said:

How does this idea sound: we agree a regular (once a month) slot to discuss unanswered questions here on chat? Something like "First Wednesday in the month, 1900-2100 GMT is the 'unanswered question' session on chat"

How does this sound?

• Well, I'm going to say 'yes'. Time and day of the month suggested seem reasonable? – Joseph Wright Jul 16 '11 at 15:52
• The idea is great, Wednesday is bad for me. – lockstep Jul 16 '11 at 16:31
• I like the idea, but maybe we can make it so that the exact time slot varies from month to month. That way more people have a chance to participate. – Caramdir Jul 16 '11 at 16:35
• I agree about changing the time so that those of us in North America can participate more easily. Especially for a weekday, the middle of the afternoon our time isn't likely to be very convenient. – Alan Munn Jul 16 '11 at 18:21
• I wondered about a weekend day, but was not sure what the feeling would be. How about a three timeslot cycle, something like 0600-0800, 1300-1500, 2000-2200 GMT, to repeat over three months? – Joseph Wright Jul 16 '11 at 18:30
• I suggest we continue the 'set up' discussion in chat, then I will post an 'answer' with a draft time/date plan once one is agreed. The mods can then use the 'banner' to remind people about it. – Joseph Wright Jul 16 '11 at 19:08

A place to note down how this would work.

Date/time

• First Sunday of each month
• Cycle of three time slots:

• 0900-1100 GMT
• 1400-1600 GMT
• 2100-2300 GMT

Approach

The moderator-adjustable banner would be set ~48 h before to state that a 'unanswered question session' was scheduled on chat.

At the start of the session, someone (first person involved?) would pick some pages from the unanswered list: "This month, let's focus on pages 4, 15 and 20 from the unanswered list." Alternatively, we could pick some of the tags from the unanswered list: "Let's look at all of the {macro} questions that need answering."

Participants can then discuss questions that might want closing, etc., quickly without the questions being forgotten.

More experienced users might then set (small) bounties on questions which seem answerable but for which no quick fix turns up.

• I suggest moving the sessions one hour earlier during the Daily Saving Time months, so that it is not into very late night in continental Europe. Please, upvote this comment if you agree. – yo' Apr 14 '12 at 22:13
• As opposed to the above suggestion, if you prefer the sessions to remain in the current time 21-23 GMT, you can upvote this one. – yo' Apr 14 '12 at 22:14

I wasn't able to make the first session (and will be unlikely to make others if they are to be held on Sundays), but I think that there's still a way to enable people like myself to be part of the process.

One part of the "dealing with unanswered questions" process is sifting out the "should be closed" questions from those worth spending some time on. This is something that is easier in a crowd: by myself, I might worry that I'd misunderstood the question, but if I can check and ask people in real-time, then I'd be more confident. What little I saw of the activity suggested that there was a fair bit of this going on in the session.

To help those, like myself, who weren't there, maybe a "summary sheet" could be published of those questions that were considered with a "status": "closed" and "answered" being two of the obvious ones, and "probably should be closed" or "looks like it might be interesting" being also useful (though snappier wording could be chosen!).

I'd also recommend that those who were there reflect a bit on which bits worked and which didn't. Speaking from my vast experience (ie none), I'd conjecture that the process didn't actually speed up the answering of questions, but that it was most effective in sorting out those questions that should be answered, and in getting answers validated. If I'm right, then a couple of modifications could be in order: a list of those questions to be considered could be published beforehand (as Joseph suggests) so that people can have a glance through first, and (as I suggest) a list of "things done" published afterwards so that others can look through and vote accordingly.

Anyway, well done to those that took part, and I hope that this continues!

• I think a list of "Questions deserving of answers" should be compiled so that those of us who couldn't make the chat can still help out... – Seamus Aug 8 '11 at 9:52
• @Seamus: We answered several questions yesterday. I think there were only two nice questions that we came across but couldn't immediately answer: tex.stackexchange.com/questions/24961/… and tex.stackexchange.com/questions/24889/appendix-with-own-toc. – Caramdir Aug 8 '11 at 16:34
• For closing questions: Many of them gathered enough close votes yesterday (or were mod force-closed). You can look through the list of recent close votes in the 10k tools, but be aware that we were sometimes a bit too quick to press the close button (and any discussion afterwards happened in the chat, not the comments). I might go through the chat log latter today any compile a list of leftover bits. – Caramdir Aug 8 '11 at 16:38
• I posted the leftover close candidates (the one where nobody disagreed) in the chat: chat.stackexchange.com/transcript/message/1566073#1566073 – Caramdir Aug 8 '11 at 18:48

The first Unanswered Questions Chat was held August 7. We started out with 252 unanswered questions, and ended up with approximately 223 by the time people quit.

All in all, I would say it was a success.

Thanks to everyone who helped.