I may have misinterpreted the purpose of the close question status, so I welcome all comments about consequences that I haven't considered.

Context: As a TeX user with limited experience, I am not able to contribute to a vast variety of questions... yet. To maximize my chances, I like to use the sites features to sort questions e.g. "newest" AND "unanswered" AND a only those with a specific tag. I am sure this is exactly the reason why these filters are available.

Problem: I constantly stumble across questions that have no answer, but the conversation evident in the comments clearly demonstrate a resolution satisfactory to the user. There may not be an answer to accept or to upvote, and frequently, even if there is an answer, the user may have obtained their answer and left, never to accept the posted answer.

Question: Shouldn't these questions be voted to closed to prevent long lists of "unanswered" questions from wasting everyone else's time as we go searching for ways to be of help? A closed question seems no less discoverable by an external search engine as people are troubleshooting their problems, so whats the point of leaving these questions open? Is there a demerit to the reputation of anyone contributing (past, present, or future) to the question that then becomes closed? Since this site provides such great recognition tools in the review menu to draw attention to the flagged post, cleanup in identifying for the purpose of closing these questions could be left to the people this really bothers.

Similar question allready on meta: How to end the "unanswered" status of really solved questions in the comments My question is more to figure out what the consequences are that prevent people from voting to close and keep a tidier site.

  • 3
    If you think that a question is solved by comment(s) you should leave a note to one of the commentators there and ask him/her/them to answer the question finally. If there's no reaction, it's still ok to answer it, referring to the comments -- or perhaps, there's another (better?) solution?
    – user31729
    Commented May 19, 2015 at 6:43
  • 1
    More can be found here : meta.tex.stackexchange.com/a/3811/3235
    – percusse
    Commented May 19, 2015 at 9:01
  • 4
    I usually vote for closing questions that are answered in comments when the solution is “updating the software” or if the issue was simply an input error (for instance a missing backslash or a wrong command name). If the solution involves something more, prompting one of the commenters to answer is better.
    – egreg
    Commented May 19, 2015 at 10:33
  • If the question was answered, it is answerable and should be answered. In some cases, that can be done by marking it as a duplicate.
    – Johannes_B
    Commented May 19, 2015 at 10:53

1 Answer 1


There are different types of questions answered in comments.

The perhaps most common ones are those where the issue is a package or distribution version problem or a simple input error (mistyped or inexistent command), which are solved with a software update or by fixing the input.

In my opinion, such questions should be closed as off-topic, because they aren't likely to help future readers. Maybe the “version problem” issues need a closer look, because a few cases are somewhat subtler than just “update your TeX distribution“: however, these will quite certainly already have a full answer.

In case the issue requires some more than updating or fixing a typing mistake, the best policy is to prompt one of the commenters to provide an answer. Such questions will show up during the monthly “Answer the unanswered” session, so either the commenter is prompted again or a CW answer can be written.

Note that sometimes the solution in comments is recognized by the OP without pinging the relevant commenter or the ping hasn't been acknowledged. Pinging again is the best strategy. Sometimes the OP doesn't even add a comment, but a reader thinks the question should be answered anyway: pinging is the right way.

  • 1
    Am I missing something? As I alluded to in my question, the re-iteration of the following statement surprises me: such questions should be closed as off-topic, because they aren't likely to help future readers... Closing the question does not remove, strip searchable keywords etc., and I have yet to use a search engine that didn't continue to return duplicate and closed questions in results. So I guess the simpler question is what is the consequence to closing a question? Personally, I see nothing but benefit to cleaning up the unanswered questions making the archive more accessible.
    – EngBIRD
    Commented May 21, 2015 at 3:27
  • @EngBIRD Closed questions are not automatically removed, unless they are downvoted, as far as I know.
    – egreg
    Commented May 21, 2015 at 8:23

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