As I write this, the entire 'unanswered' page is 'relieving letter' questions, two of them authored by 'Community'. Are there really so many distinct, non-duplicate, questions on this subject?

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    well relieving letter questions are generally officially on-topic. On the other hand, there was an attempt for canonical dupe-target which was hoped to cover most annoying repetitions of this theme: What is a relieving letter? What are the consequences of not having one? Maybe we need to expand this canon to cover some more... – gnat Aug 24 '14 at 15:45
  • I got that they are on-topic, I only wondered if some fraction of the 8 or so of them were dups of some others. Obviously, I can't VTC here. – user13659 Aug 24 '14 at 15:48
  • with rep over 15 you can flag to close, and this will work almost as good... give or take a risk of occasional decline if it happens that both 1) your dupe-guess is wrong and 2) it happens to get through to moderator before close voters resolve it into painless disputed :) – gnat Aug 24 '14 at 15:52
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    Since you brought this to meta, you could also edit this post and include some of the worst of the worst duplicates. That will get them more attention and direct the higher rep users to those examples. – jmort253 Aug 24 '14 at 18:01
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    @jmort253 that would be definitely safer. But flags wise, this reminded me that closes from under 3K contributed to large extent to two marshal badges I've got (one at MSE went almost without declines at all, another one, here, had pretty low rate of declines) – gnat Aug 24 '14 at 19:50
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    @gnat, the meta effect is a great tool lower rep users can use to draw attention to trouble spots. I think of this as voting via proxy. With your knowledge and experience with the meta effect, I think you could write a great faq-style post on how community members can use that to their advantage in terms of helping to keep the site clean and on-topic. – jmort253 Aug 24 '14 at 20:18
  • @jmort253 already drafted it at MSO "most powerful moderation tool is given at really modest rep 5..." :) – gnat Aug 24 '14 at 20:21

I'd never heard of relieving letters before the topic started showing up here. But that's westerner's bias, I think; in some parts of the world this is apparently a very big deal, such that people cannot legally start a new job without being able to produce these letters from prior employers. Think of it as a reference check with a really, really big stick attached (backed by law, even).

I took a quick look at the eight unanswered questions, and none jumped out as duplicates to me. I haven't read them closely; if you think there are duplicates there, please link to them here on this meta post so we can get input from people who are more experienced with this topic.

Stack Exchange supports what are called "long tail" questions, ones that are hard or obscure that might take a while to get answers. Naturally, such questions will hang out on the "unanswered" list. I suspect that we have relatively few users here who know this topic, and that's probably why the list is so skewed. If a question is unanswerable it should be closed, but if it's merely unanswered because the right person hasn't come along yet to answer it, that's not a problem.


If you're feeling overwhelmed by the "relieving letter" questions, you could apply the same solution I have: Adjust your interest filters to suppress anything tagged "relieving-letter" (or maybe "india").

I've done that with a number of tags which suggest that the question is going to be one I really can't respond usefully to, and it does help. The questions aren't hidden completely, but they're greyed out so you know you'll probably want to avoid them.

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    Good point on using tag filters to filter out unwanted content. I forget those are there, and I suspect others do as well. With that said, tag filters are best for people like you, who just don't really want to see the content as a member of the community who answers questions. But we'll still want to be sure that actual duplicates do in fact get closed as duplicates. The silent majority (all the people hitting our site from google searches) should be able to find their answer in one spot. – jmort253 Sep 2 '14 at 2:08
  • "The questions aren't hidden completely, but they're greyed out" - actually, depending on your per-user preferences, they can be hidden completely. From your user page click 'preferences'; the switch is then at the bottom. – AakashM Nov 18 '14 at 14:02
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    +1. In fact, we actually have a more specific relieving-letter tag. – Stephan Kolassa Dec 18 '14 at 15:19

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