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Every so often I see questions with good or even clearly correct answers that go unaccepted because the questioner is a new user who hasn't quite grokked the mechanics of the site. They'll leave a comment or another answer that says something like "thanks so-and-so, that totally fixed my problem" so that the intent is clear but the check mark is missing. Usually, I'll just upvote that answer and move on (I figure karma happens, and all that).

Well today that happened to me, which was no big deal, but I left a polite, no-pressure, comment letting him know that an accepted answer would bump up both user's reputations. It wasn't a rude or catty comment, and I didn't think twice about it at the time, but now it feels a little bit tacky.

So was it crass of me to prod the guy to formally accept my answer? Or am I doing him a favor by pointing out how the site works, so that he can participate more fully which will presumably help him get better answers in the future?

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For a similar reason I proposed meta.stackexchange.com/questions/8692/…, as I will admit it annoys me. –  Ian Elliott Aug 5 '09 at 4:11
    
@Ian - nice stats! you've obviously put more thought into this than I have, although in my particular case an "auto-accept" wouldn't help. The first answer got the votes; my (evidently) more useful/correct answer got no votes, and it's a fairly simple sql question that's unlikely to have much of a long tail. –  Matt Aug 5 '09 at 4:49
    
If you think it is crass, you could just delete your comment. –  devinb Aug 5 '09 at 12:33
    
I also don't like the need for those "begging" comments - see also meta.stackexchange.com/questions/79347/… –  Heiko Rupp Feb 15 '11 at 11:58
    
I remove all my answers who arent accepted but clearly -the-accepted-answer. Its an SO problem not a user problem. –  stefan Mar 12 '11 at 3:15
    
It does tell them to consider accepting if they upvote an answer on an "open" question. It may work where they can vote, but they still don't understand everything about the site. Maybe a little automatic prompt in unaccepted questions for all users? –  Annonomus Penguin Aug 9 '13 at 17:59

5 Answers 5

up vote 13 down vote accepted

It bugs me, too. However, I generally find it easier on my conscience to comment when someone else is the obvious winner (it is more often the case, anyway). When doing so, I try to point out the silhouetted checkmark and the benefit of checking it. This way it doesn't seem like I am being greedy.

In the end, only you can say if you were being 'greedy', but I am sure we all are by virtue of trying to get the fastest answer in, etc. So, greedy?, maybe, crass? no - you were very actually very polite.

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I agree about other people's answers - I have no problem up-voting them and I've left the very occasional "+1 since OP didn't accept" comment in the more clear-cut cases. But I'll probably think twice before commenting on my own answer if it ever happens again. –  Matt Aug 5 '09 at 5:01
    
I read your comment. It was well made. It is just easier if it is someone else, and they might remember your good will, too. –  akf Aug 5 '09 at 5:30

A gentle push seems reasonable for the newcomers to the site.

They might not at first get the mechanics of having to click that tick for the answer that helps with their problem. So really there isn't a harm if you're tact and polite about it.

Just delete the comment after they've ticked and it's all cool, Yolanda.

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Good idea - it didn't even occur to me to delete my comment (I don't think I've ever actually done that). –  Matt Aug 5 '09 at 5:02

I agree that there are probably a good number of people that are new to StackOverflow and have created questions that go 'unanswered' because they don't know how to accept an answer.

On the other hand, it probably feels weird telling the asker to accept an answer because you might feel like you are being selfish, just trying to get rep.

I think that it is right to prod them to accept an answer, but I think more should be done to get an accepted answer.

How about after 1 or two answers with at least 1 upvote have been posted, a message similar to migrated messages appears for the new user saying that they can accept and answer by clicking on the checkbox.

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It's odd that a person needs to be prompted, because if super user is anything to go by, when your reputation is low, your profile page and the question page itself prompts you to accept an answer after a few days.

That said, a comment, even if it doesn't say "please choose an answer" is more likely to draw the user back (through the responses popup). A good phrasing for a comment to the question would be, "did any of these suggestions help you?"

Aside: I recently answered a question that asked how one would find that one point is close to an other point with approximately: "by using the pythagorean theorem (linked to wikipedia), and you don't need to use square-root if you square your threshold value," and was surprised to learn the person did not pick my answer or anything like it, and even commented that they weren't familiar with the theorem. So, you can't expect everyone to agree with you.

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I realize that not everyone is as engaged with the site as some of us, so I'm not too worried about the rep, I was just curious how others respond in that situation. And I definitely don't expect everyone to agree with me, even if I think my answer is better (that almost never happens, though). But in this particular case, the OP literally replied "yeah that did it! thanks," and so on, so I'm pretty sure I helped him. ;-) –  Matt Aug 5 '09 at 5:27

I don't think there's anything wrong with it. Having an answer marked accepted supports more than your rep; it indicates to future users that the answer resolved the issue, which is important. No reason to come across as pushy or anything, of course.

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