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My understanding is that each SE site has at least some control over community bot bumping of questions. Assuming that's the case, should we limit the practice here?

The community bot is automated, and uses very generic criteria. At Arts & Crafts, virtually every question that is answerable gets an answer, usually quickly. There is also plenty of "archeology"; people digging up and responding on their own to old questions. So there seems to be little benefit.

The community bot appears to have been turned on here fairly recently. So far, every question it bumped was something that won't benefit from being bumped. In the process, recent questions get shuffled down the page, reducing their chance of getting noticed and answered. It also adds noise to sift through.

So community bot bumping seems counter-productive here. Should we turn it off?

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I discussed the ability to limit the community bot behaviour with other mods, and it seems likely (i.e. I have not heard otherwise) only community managers can adjust it.

As a small community, we already have the lowest amount of bumps possible, which is 1 per hour, but until a community bot bumped question disappears off the main page it won't bump another one (see here).

The information I received from other mods is that starting a discussion on meta, and giving it a status-review tag once the community reached a conclusion, may be enough to ask a community manager to change settings for bot bumping.

So let's use this thread to form such a conclusion.

I vote to disable it too, for now.


Some notes:

  • At this point the only way we as a community can influence the bot's behaviour is by downvoting.

    The Community user will bump non-negatively scored, open questions every hour that have at least one answer scoring 0 and none scoring more than that.

    As Glorfindel mentions in this post, "that means that a single vote on questions and/or answers can cause the community user not to bump it anymore".

    Of course, downvoting perfectly good questions simply to counteract the community bot's actions would be ridiculous, but I thought I'd mention this anyway, because I think we tend to be a little too cautious with our downvotes (which makes sense as the small community that we are).

  • Finally, here is a list of all the questions that can potentially be bumped.
    The preferred method to cope with undesired bumping is to write good answers to these :)

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  • Thanks. I don't think the 2nd paragraph applies to us. A recent visit here had 2 successive community bot Q's on the main page, and a 3rd was added before I left, so 3 successive Q's at or near the top were community bot. There are still 3 in a row showing on the main page from 10/11.
    – fixer1234
    Oct 26 at 16:29
  • One other thought: this site has an unfortunately low frequency of new questions (I worry that it may be too low to sustain the site). We sometimes go a few days with no new question. Community bot bumping even at the lowest rate of 1/hr far exceeds the rate of organic Q's and could potentially overwhelm the site.
    – fixer1234
    Oct 26 at 16:36
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The community bot wasn't "turned on" anywhere recently. What's likely happened is that you have a bundle of questions that all qualify but they're all bunched around the same time, so you'll see a handful and then there won't be any or many for a while.

I recently explained how the bot works on MSO:

First it checks the last activity date of open, non-deleted questions to see how recently Community has bumped the question (if ever). The question must be at least 30 days old and can not have been bumped (or otherwise modified) by Community in the last 120 days. This means that a question can only be bumped at most, three times per year.

From that, it selects the top 100 question by views that that meet the following requirements:

  • not recently active
  • not closed
  • not deleted
  • score of >=0
  • no accepted answer
  • is answered and the answer/s:
    • are not deleted
    • have a max score = 0 (meaning at least one answer must have a score of zero but no answers may have a score >0).

... and then it randomly selects the ones it's going to bump from these 100... In addition, there are other rules that are actually configurable per-site that control how many bumped posts may be on the front page at a time (not set for SO, since the front page moves so quickly) and how many can be bumped per hour (currently 4 on SO).

The settings here are the default - that is there's no value for the max on the front page at any time and it's 1 per hour.

I will quibble with one thing that Joachim said, though:

Finally, here is a list of all the questions that can potentially be bumped.

This is actually the wrong list - that's the list for "no answers" - and if you read my explanation, you'll realize that questions with no answers won't be bumped by Community - the Community bot doesn't care about questions with no answers - it wants people to look at questions with answers that have a score of 0.

To see the ones that Community will actually bump, you'd have to look at the "Unanswered" list (currently 32 items) and ignore any questions with 0 answers (currently 25 from Joachim's link) and only count the items that have at least one zero-score answer. That leaves the following as your "cohort" of eligible questions:

This question is "unanswered" but both answers have a score of -1 so it's ineligible for bumping currently. And this adds up - you have 32 questions on the "unanswered" list minus 25 questions on the "no answers" list and one question that has only negative-scoring answers (32-25-1 = 6).

So, as you can see - you only have six questions that can be bumped as of right now and it likely seems like the bot just got turned on due to three being bumped in the same day - but that's just because those three happen to be on the same schedule. But, as the chart shows, these have been bumped previously. In reality, there just aren't many eligible posts!

Which also means that y'all can easily do something about this!

Go look at those six questions and their answers - are any of the answers worthy of upvotes? Are any of the questions in need of closure? Can you improve answers or add a new answer that might lead to an upvoted or accepted answer? Any of these actions will make the questions ineligible for bumping. Yes, you can also downvote answers but I try not to get overly encouraging of that - the community is richer for good content.

While I'm willing to make it so there's a limit to how many can appear at the same time, that happens once every four months, so I don't really know whether that's the best solution. I've given you a list and explanations of how to address this - the Community bot is doing what it's supposed to do - draw attention to questions with answers that aren't known whether they're good or bad.

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  • Thanks for adding clarification. So it looks like the small number of candidates limits the scope of the issue. On A&C, this is still counter-productive and adds noise to the site. The fact that poor candidates for bumping get bumped multiple times adds to the problem. To your last sentence: there's a 3rd category besides good and bad, for which a zero score is appropriate. Voting on posts is pretty active on A&C, so the community does know whether the answers are good or bad or appropriately scored at 0. Bumping these, especially multiple times, just adds noise.
    – fixer1234
    Oct 27 at 17:51
  • 1
    I mean, how is the answer to crafts.stackexchange.com/questions/9013/… something that people can't judge - it's... the answer. If it's not sufficient, write a better one or improve it. It's not a difficult question. Also, "the community doesn't know"... well, maybe the community now doesn't - but "the community" isn't a fixed thing. It changes over time. Maybe someone new will join who will know in 4 months... so making these posts visible occasionally is still possibly valuable.
    – Catija StaffMod
    Oct 27 at 18:10

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