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My feature request (or anti-feature-request perhaps) is the following:
Let's stop displaying a user's accept rate.

For those of you who know "Fawlty Towers", the whole issue of a visible accept rate and our behavior towards it starts to feel like "Don't mention the war!".

We generally seem to agree that harassing a user about it is not appropriate and that our decision to answer a question should not depend on it, yet we display it in varying terrorist-threat-levels of color. Yes dear users, please don't pay any attention to the brightly orange colored percentage you see there. And whatever you do, don't bring it up.

But as long as you're displaying the accept rate, people will comment on it, criticize users for it and possibly reconsider answering because of it. And while I'm of the opinion that a low accept rate should not stop you from answering (we're here to make the internet better after all) and that the possible reputation gain (or lack thereof) should not factor in either, I can't blame users for considering it. It's in their face after all. And we're only people.

So let's take the issue off the table. Or at least partially. Information about a user's acceptance behavior can still always be gathered from the profile. But at least that would be less in-your-face.

"But it helps me to see if a user is a help vampire!"
I'm still wondering if those are of the sparkly variety as well, but I digress. So what? If the question is bad, downvote it. Evaluate a question on its individual value. There is no need to take a user's history into account. There might be a correlation between the quality of a question and a user's accept rate, but there doesn't have to be. And if there is, the bigger problem is the question's quality.

"Exactly! A user with a low accept rate might indicate there's a problem!"
I'm not arguing we should get rid of the accept-rate value within SO/SE. After all, this Q&A works based on up and downvotes, as well as the acceptance of an answer. But why not use it behind the scenes to (very occasionally) nudge the user with a statement like:

"You have received several answers to your questions, yet have not accepted an answer as correct or helpful in a while. You might want to evaluate them and where possible accept them as correct or helpful".

After all, in the various questions with regards to comments on low accept rates, if any comments are encouraged at all, then they are of this soft variety. So why not let the system take care of that?

I feel this would take the whole issue of accept rate off the table, while still providing the user with the information he might have missed or needs. (As a bonus, it would reduce the frequency with which the topic is brought up here on Meta) And those users who would ignore this information are most likely not convinced by a displayed percentage either.

share|improve this question
16  
I completely ignore the acceptrate. Maybe the are just allergic to green checkmarks. –  Toon Krijthe Jun 20 '12 at 18:50
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@Gamecat While I do take tick-allergies very serious, I hope you don't mind that I'm not editing that into my request. ;) –  Bart Jun 20 '12 at 18:51
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Generic comment about how users don't read anything (oh, and +1). –  jadarnel27 Jun 20 '12 at 18:52
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Bah you just beat me to this! meta.stackexchange.com/q/136954/154510 –  Matthew Read Jun 20 '12 at 18:56
28  
I agree - First they added the percentage to publicly "shame" a user. The, when comments were too rude, they allowed removing them with a single flag. These are contradictory features... –  Kobi Jun 20 '12 at 18:57
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@MatthewRead Ha, I'm going to take this as a "great minds think alike"... ;) –  Bart Jun 20 '12 at 19:00
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My post works equally well as an answer, so I've added it as such :P –  Matthew Read Jun 20 '12 at 19:02
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While I have not tagged this as a discussion, I would really appreciate it if those who downvoted stated their motivation. Make it a comment or an answer, I don't mind. If you have a convincing argument as to why it should be kept, I would love to hear it. I don't mind the downvotes at all, but would like to hear a voice for all sides. –  Bart Jun 20 '12 at 19:06
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I like seeing the accept rate, but there are too many users who are less than kind about it. This is why we can't have nice things... –  Dennis Jun 20 '12 at 19:28
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@jcolebrand Haha, don't worry. If you take a look at my participation history here on Meta, you'll realize I'm well aware of that. I just operate under the assumption that I might be wrong or could have missed a point. I therefore like to hear all voices. Not just of those who agree with me. –  Bart Jun 20 '12 at 19:56
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Unfortunately accept rate does affect if I answer, this is probably bad form on my part. But if someone has under 20% and I see a couple of their questions with correct unmarked answers it is unlikely I will give them an answer :( karma. Dont get me wrong, its easy to identify good users with low accept rates, like this guy: stackoverflow.com/users/262379/dinis-cruz ... Sorry I might not have read the no elephants sign... –  Jeremy Thompson Jun 21 '12 at 5:52
3  
I completely agree with the proposition. As it is, the only thing that it brings is unpleasant comments. The original purpose was to make people realize that they were supposed to mark questions as answered. I don't think that works. People who come to just ask questions without marking them answered will always be. But as it is, the answer rate is bringing the "social" part where it shouldn't be. Answer a question because it's a good question, and you know the answer. No matter who asked it. –  Gnoupi Aug 27 '12 at 15:14
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The obvious example would be silent prejudice against women, ethnic minorities (recognised by name or gravatar), or anyone considered "foreign". I say silent because SO does a good job on open abuse. But how many Iranian contributors would answer questions from someone with an Israeli name? You don't see the problems because there's no "improve your accept rate noob!" noise - that doesn't mean it isn't happening. Anonymity of posting would remove it completely, but it would take away the feeling of talking to a fellow human... I don't know if I'm +1 or -1 on this. –  Spacedman Jan 23 '13 at 18:05
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@Spacedman: Wait, what? You take accept rate all to seriously. –  user7116 Jan 23 '13 at 18:09

18 Answers 18

up vote 138 down vote accepted

Starting with the next build accept rate will no longer be shown.

We're still keeping track of it on the backend for various things, but the negative behavior its display encourages outweighs its benefits.

share|improve this answer
49  
Boy, am I glad that I can finally accept an answer. :) Great news. –  Bart Jan 22 '13 at 21:46
115  
Just to show that you can’t make everybody happy, I’m strongly opposed to this change. The accept rate display was useful, I definitely used it to determine whether to answer – not because I want the 15 rep but because I think the user doesn’t deserve having questions answered if they cannot even abide a simple rule. –  Konrad Rudolph Jan 23 '13 at 8:19
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@Konrad Rudolph I'm with you there. I should clarify for anyone seeing this that it's not really a strict "rule"... just a friendly and totally optional guideline to follow. That said, the fact that it is optional at all may have been its downfall - no matter what anybody says, 0% accept rate is going to make an asker look sloppy and ungrateful, so it may as well have been classified an "unspoken rule", which is probably what you meant. –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Jan 23 '13 at 8:29
24  
@KonradRudolph Eh, on the other hand, I'm not interested in SO as a tool for moral judgment. If people ask a question, I'll answer if I have time and find the question interesting. What they "deserve" doesn't really come into it, and I'd be suspicious of anyone who withholds information on that basis. –  jalf Jan 23 '13 at 10:00
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@jalf I don’t withhold anything, I just don’t see why I should expend effort for somebody who clearly doesn’t. –  Konrad Rudolph Jan 23 '13 at 10:03
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@KonradRudolph Because the excellent help you provide might help out far more users than this single OP asking the question. –  Bart Jan 23 '13 at 10:07
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@KonradRudolph then don't. Expend effort for your own sake: is it a fun, interesting question or not? Who cares about the OP? ;) –  jalf Jan 23 '13 at 10:07
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@Bart Nevertheless this will, first and foremost, help somebody who does not deserve that help. It rewards antisocial behaviour, I find that deeply unsatisfactory. [The accept rate is a bit like the Fizzbuzz test: it’s not sufficient to weed out undeserving people, but somebody who fails even this simple test is immediately out.] –  Konrad Rudolph Jan 23 '13 at 10:16
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Well, at the very least I would like to see my Accept Rate somewhere on my profile and not have to go look at all my questions and do the maths. Preferably in big numbers and using the color-coding scheme already established. –  Al E. Jan 23 '13 at 13:49
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@SethJ So you're saying that a visible accept rate in some cases stopped you from contributing good content? Problem solved then. ;) (Talk about putting words into someone's mouth... :p ) –  Bart Jan 23 '13 at 16:18
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Choosing an answer is not analogous to a "Thank You". If the answer does not help it should not be chosen. "Thank You's" are superfluous and distracting. –  user7116 Jan 23 '13 at 18:26
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I agree with @SethJ that low accept rates are a characteristic of relatively thankless behaviour. Not that an accept is a "thank you", but that I personally use accept rate as a way for me to quickly weed out perpetual question gets useful answer and OP doesn't see fit to accept...ever. I'm sure a query for <10% accept rate and >4 questions against the database would demonstrate the point I'm trying to make. –  hbdgaf Jan 24 '13 at 1:01
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@KonradRudolph the intent was to replace accept rate alone with a broader "citizenship" rating which reflected many dimensions of positive behavior, do you vote, do you flag, do you ask and answer in some reasonable ratio, etc. I don't know if this will get lost since I am not around to advocate for it, but it is the right thing to do. –  Jeff Atwood Jan 26 '13 at 17:46
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@LightnessRacesinOrbit, right. Implication: if you haven't so decided, then don't "draw straws". –  msh210 Jan 27 '13 at 7:20
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For those who prefer not to answer questions of those users with low accept rates, I think one thing to consider is that you are not only punishing them, but other users who could have benefited from your answer. If it was a good question, that means there are others, possible good members of the SO community, who have the same question, who could have benefited from your knowledge. –  Brett McCann Feb 12 '13 at 21:29
up vote 217 down vote
+200

Alternate request:

Show the accept-rate to the owner of the question only, and only on question user-cards. That way they get a gentle reminder that they're rewarded for ticking the box, and nobody else has to see it.

And move that public metric to their profile


As pointed out below by bluefeet, this would probably help contribute to the Summer of Love ;-)

share|improve this answer
41  
I like this suggestion. –  Robert Harvey Jun 20 '12 at 19:07
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I like this, but the problem (to me) is that they've left the accept rate visible to all, saying a better solution is needed before removing it. IMO the public accept rate needs to die, immediately, regardless of what else they decide to do. No more dithering about other solutions, that should be a separate concern. Again, just IMO :P –  Matthew Read Jun 20 '12 at 19:19
    
Yes, hence "only show it to the OP" because "that drives up the accept rate" but "don't show it to the public" because "it's not a good metric". Which part are we disagreeing on Matthew? –  jcolebrand Jun 20 '12 at 19:20
    
I don't think we're disagreeing, I just want this to be a "separate request" rather than an "alternate request". I don't want the devs to see this feature request and dither about alternatives instead of whacking the public accept rate ASAP. (Not that I get to determine what they or you do, but I hope you get what I mean.) –  Matthew Read Jun 20 '12 at 19:25
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I see what you're getting at. I just see the process as "let me offer another solution instead of yours but keep the discussion inline" rather than "let me open a whole other Q and you go over there and vote on it" on account of the whole discussion thing. But I agree, the devs should consider this a contrasting feature implementation request from the one asked above, yes? –  jcolebrand Jun 20 '12 at 19:26
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They can show it to mods, or mods + 20k users, without showing everyone. The 20k users are supposed to be helping new users and shaping the community properly anyways. –  jcolebrand Jun 20 '12 at 19:27
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This is actually an interesting option. As long as the rate is gone from public view, I have no objection to having it visible to each user personally. –  Bart Jun 20 '12 at 20:05
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I've got no problem with this as long as the tardy users are slapped with a wet fish when their accept rate drops too low. Nobody likes the fix your accept rate comments, but we also don't like lazy leeches who don't do the right thing on the site. –  slugster Jun 21 '12 at 7:18
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Being the Summer of Love this definitely should be removed to decrease the level of snarkiness in the comments. –  bluefeet Jul 24 '12 at 21:15

I prefer seeing the accept rate.

Being a good SO citizen includes contributing to those who attempt to help.

Not everyone with a low accept rate is a Bad Citizen. People who pay too much attention to it, or don't bother investigating to see why the poster's accept rate might be low, also fall down.

Potential answerers who use the accept rate as a reason not to assist at all are also missing the point. I think the majority of consistent answerers wouldn't use that as the sole reason to move on to the next question. It might alter the amount of effort put in to an answer, and I'm not sure that's bad.

Removing it might solve that problem, but I'd rather encourage people to become better SO citizens over the long term, balanced against the risk that someone with a low accept rate won't come back.

Edit; minor clarification from my comments:

I believe allowing users to avoid playing the "SO game" diminishes what SO is--my opinion.

I use the accept rate as a cue to look at their questions; perhaps they can be improved if they're not being answered, perhaps they're OT, who knows. I use it as a way to see if a user might be struggling to use SO in the way I believe it's meant to be used.

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So how can we balance that and keep a metric that has usefulness? Mods like having an instant glance of "this is a low-rep user who doesn't accept, and has a lot of questions, they need more guidance on how to use the network" and accept-rate is one of those metrics. –  jcolebrand Jun 20 '12 at 19:15
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@jcolebrand I'm not sure. Maybe make it visible to higher-rep users who are (in theory!) more responsible and won't use it as a big stick? –  Dave Newton Jun 20 '12 at 19:17
    
In what situation is it appropriate to make a judgment based solely on the accept rate? If you're supposed to go through the user's profile and evaluate them (which I disagree with as well), then how is the accept rate useful? It's just a shortcut to treating people poorly. –  Matthew Read Jun 20 '12 at 19:20
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I didn't say it was a sole metric of usefulness, only a guiding number to show further insight into a user's practice. Removing it from the usercard and showing it on the user profile to mods and self makes sense. –  jcolebrand Jun 20 '12 at 19:21
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@MatthewRead I never said it was; I believe I said the opposite. I think letting users not play the "SO game" diminishes what SO is--my opinion. I use the accept rate as a cue to look at their questions; perhaps they can be improved if they're not being answered, perhaps they're OT, who knows. I use it as a way to see if a user might be struggling to use SO in the way I believe it's meant to be used. –  Dave Newton Jun 20 '12 at 19:23
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Comparing the number of people I've seen abusing others over the accept rate to those taking it as an opportunity to help, the former wins handily. The accept rate is a bright, colorful and in-your-face; people will make judgments based solely on it. I don't believe the benefits are worth the costs. –  Matthew Read Jun 20 '12 at 19:42
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@MatthewRead Define "abuse". I don't have an issue with people being reminded that SO is a collaborative effort and that askers, in addition to asking quality question, should reward those who attempt to help. Downvoting based on a low accept rate? That's abuse, and I don't know how you'd have evidence of that. What metrics are you using to quantify abuse, and what's your definition? –  Dave Newton Jun 20 '12 at 19:48
    
I'm not talking about system abuse, I'm referring to harassing people. It can't be quanitified any more than your answer can, and if you aren't familiar with users being harassed over this, then I honestly don't think you're qualified to answer the question. Sorry :(. I don't have an issue with gentle and appropriate reminders in general, either -- but that's not what generally happens. –  Matthew Read Jun 20 '12 at 19:59
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I am not at all arguing against "the game". My suggestion for a gentile reminder behind the scenes should illustrate that. I just think there is a significant difference between such a reminder and a public notice which essentially states "Here people, look at this, he's not playing the game!!" –  Bart Jun 20 '12 at 20:00
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@MatthewRead (a) I don't have to be qualified by your standards to answer the question, (b) I've answered what, a thousand or two questions and have enough rep to have seen most behavior on SO anyway, and (c) you didn't address what you mean by "abuse", what "gentle" means, etc. I've rarely seen anything so out-of-line I've felt moved to comment on it-YMMV. Questioning my "qualifications", or assuming there are any, is a canard. –  Dave Newton Jun 20 '12 at 21:33
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"That's solidly douche territory" - Name calling, really? That's what we're doing now? –  jadarnel27 Jun 21 '12 at 5:11
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Fortunately (and equally unfortunately) you're one of the few people that use the metric for it's designed purpose. The problem we're facing is nasty comments based completely on that value and people that could answer questions moving on to something where an answer promises 215 instead of 200 reputation points as the ultimate prize. I have no problem with the 'moving on' part, I do take issue with pressure to do things that might not be in the best interest of future visitors and needless work placed on moderators. –  Tim Post Jun 27 '12 at 17:02
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@TimPost Yeah, I recognize I'm likely in the minority :/ –  Dave Newton Jun 27 '12 at 17:30
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I'm with you, @DaveNewton. I can't believe this is even a question. I'm so disappointed with this decision. Someone who never (or rarely) accepts an answer is discourteous. It's not about points. It's about saying "thank you". –  Seth J Jan 23 '13 at 14:07
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@TimPost, if people are being nasty, punish them. Dock points from their profiles or suspend them. But don't remove a feature that helps others know if they are providing aid to someone who really doesn't care and isn't courteous. –  Seth J Jan 23 '13 at 14:09

I agree: Remove the accept rate from the user card. No user should ever see another's accept rate.

My rationale is that there are no positives to showing the accept rate, and many negatives. I've gone into more detail below.


First let me address the only real positive I've seen claimed about the accept rate:

[I]ntroducing accept rates heavily increased the amount of accepted answers in the system. Which in turn helps close loops and motivate the community.

  • You can't measure motivation. But at a user level, I've never seem anything but discouragement happening because of the accept rate display.
  • It seems to me that a lot of answers get accepted prematurely and, specifically due to this feature, for no reason other than to increase the accept rate. That basically makes the acceptance mark unhelpful and inaccurate, and certainly the fact that the number of accepts increased doesn't mean anything except that shaming people works.

Another quote from that post:

[Accept rate] is a one-dimentional metric that does not really give me enough information about how upstanding a user is in the community. It is used frequently to bully users and leaves a horrible taste.

I fail to see how the benefit is worth the horribleness.

And it is horrible; I reject the claim some have made that having a low accept rate displayed is not a form of punishment and shaming. To quote a comment made on an answer to another question:

Accept rate isn't to shame people, but to allow answerers to concentrate more time on those people who engage more in the site – Casebash May 10 '10 at 5:32

The purpose is irrelevant. What are the actual effects of labelling someone as "not worth your time"?

  1. Users make comments intended to shame those with low accept rates.
  2. Users make polite comments intended to gently remind a user to accept, which may still cause the user shame. You've probably noticed that people can get awkward when you tell them they've got food in their teeth or something. Now imagine that everyone in the room heard you tell them (equivalent of publicly posting a comment). It would be perfectly natural to be embarrassed in such a situation.
  3. Users who notice or are told that other users refuse to spend time on their questions due to the accept rate are likely to feel rejection and/or shame and/or any number of other negative emotions.

There may be the rare case where a user is genuinely glad to be reminded if they had intended to accept an answer and forgotten. In all other cases, the emotional effect is negative. (You may argue that this is desired, but I am not making any claim about that yet so it's irrelevant.)

Given this negative effect, let's enumerate what it causes in turn:

  1. It discourages people from asking about difficult problems that are less likely to be solved. Stack Exchange is about expertise. Expert questions should be encouraged.
  2. It punishes people who have in fact asked expert questions that haven't yet been adequately answered. Not only with feeling rejected or whatever, but in not getting further answers.
  3. As a result of the previous two, it pushes away experts who want to do more than answer, or want to participate in a site where they and other experts could do more than answer.
  4. It pushes away people who want to participate in a site where people are treated with respect indiscriminately.
  5. It aids and encourages rep whores. Yes, everyone is free to participate as they wish, including playing the rep game. But we should encourage excellent and constructive behavior, not just acceptable behavior. Encouraging people to give all the attention to the easy-rep questions doesn't make this the valuable site for real development issues that we want it to be.
  6. It pushes away new users who weren't aware of the feature until they received a nasty welcome.
  7. Users who see negative comments think they're acceptable.

Now yes, there are users who just come to leech solutions and don't care to accept answers that they should. Should they be punished for having a low accept rate? Some points:

  1. Their questions may still be useful to others if answered.
  2. It's easier to use a throwaway account each time than get engaged in the site; the punishment may be ineffective.
  3. Have you seen how many people continually post crap without learning their lesson, even if their questions go unanswered? Again, the punishment is ineffective.
  4. You'll always have people like me who will answer a decent question if they can regardless of who asked it, why they asked it, or whether they've accepted previous answers. The punishment is ineffective.
  5. If the punishment's ineffective, the only point in executing it is vindictiveness. I don't want to participate in a site that promotes vindictive behavior.
  6. How can it be valid to ignore questions but invalid to ignore answers (not accept them)? This behavior seems inherently hypocritical to me. We don't stamp "ignores questions from low accept rate users" on user cards, why should we be stamping "low accept rate" on user cards either? Questions require effort and have value too, not just answers. Ignoring a question due to an external factor harms the site.

Yes, we should always encourage people to leave polite and constructive comments. But no matter how we encourage good behavior or discourage bad behavior, these comments will always be made if the accept rate is displayed. When it comes to the accept rate, there's a simple and effective option to reduce abuse. Get rid of it. The downsides are prominent and the upside is questionable as to its existence and entirely dubious as to its ethics. I certainly feel that the benefits of removing it greatly outweigh the benefits we purportedly get from it.


Some examples of how useless the accept rate is:

share|improve this answer
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+1 Absolutely excellent answer. I would almost feel bad for being there first. But hey, now each upvote will get you twice the rep. :p –  Bart Jun 20 '12 at 21:01
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Hi Matt, if we remove the accept rate because it might encourage some negative commentary, then could this not lead to other things we should get rid of because there's the possibility of negative commentary. For instance, I downvoted someone and they called me a bad name. Does this mean we should get rid of downvotes too? I realize that's kind of an extreme example... One way new users on SO learn about SO is through commenting, and this includes how to accept answers. My concern is that legitimate accepts could drop as well as a result of user ignorance as to how the system works. –  jmort253 Jun 21 '12 at 6:37
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@jmort well, we had talked about replacing the "accept rate" with a more generalized "citizenship metric" which included other important stuff like how often they vote, whether they answer questions as well as ask, post on meta ever, etc etc etc. Not sure when/if that'll ever get done under the new regime, but it needs to happen. The problem is not the number, but that the number is a bit too narrow at the moment. –  Jeff Atwood Jun 21 '12 at 7:19
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@JeffAtwood Would this metric still be publicly visible? A broader metric might certainly cut down on the targeted single-value-only comments we experience now. But should even such a metric be publicly visible? –  Bart Jun 21 '12 at 7:44
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@bart sure why not? I think at a glance knowing if someone is a reasonably responsible citizen of a particular society is kind of a useful thing. –  Jeff Atwood Jun 21 '12 at 7:50
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@JeffAtwood - How would you propose keeping the accept rate from dropping as a result? I realize many SO users can be a little overzealous in their dealings with users with low accept rates. But it is a reminder to many that they need to go back and finish what they started by asking the question. –  jmort253 Jun 21 '12 at 7:52
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@JeffAtwood What doesn't click with me though is the desired effect of it. Say we have a broader metric visible to others. What should I do, or how should my behavior change if I stumble upon someone who is not acting responsibly. Other than the edits I already make or the guidance I already attempt to provide based on the actual content (the question) I see. –  Bart Jun 21 '12 at 7:53
1  
@JeffAtwood - This also seems a bit counter-intuitive with the goals of visibility. Almost every user action is visible. This was evident during the elections where several nominees were "outed" for having rude comments or displaying undesirable behaviors. A "citizenship metric" doesn't tell us as a community specifically how we can help the user specifically improve his/her citizenship metric and the behaviors that caused it to be low. –  jmort253 Jun 21 '12 at 7:55
    
@jmort253 Commenting with a downvote an "exposing" yourself is optional; displaying the accept rate is not. They're not comparable. If they were, I would point out that downvoting is massively useful, and the accept rate not. My argument is that the costs are not worth it, not that we should remove everything that has a potential cost. –  Matthew Read Jun 21 '12 at 14:42
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@MatthewRead - If we did eliminate the accept rate, do you think it would be acceptable for SE to display more information and notifications to the users to "teach" them how to accept answers, since the community wouldn't be doing this job anymore? The cost of eliminating accept rate is that a googler may encounter more questions with no clear indication of what solved the op's problem. –  jmort253 Jun 21 '12 at 14:58
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@jmort253 Certainly. –  Matthew Read Jun 21 '12 at 17:50
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I don't know if it's just me, but the idea of a "citizenship metric" and determining a numerical value for identifying a good user just rubs me the wrong way. I can understand how it may be necessary or useful, but it just leaves me with a bad feeling in my mouth. –  Yawus Jun 27 '12 at 16:14
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@Matthew Read I was thinking about some sort of a radar chart with different user metrics on each axis, such as accept rate and voting, but I'm not sure if such a graphic would really help and not just be noise. –  Yawus Jun 27 '12 at 17:00
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@bytebuster I disagree that you can tell the quality of an asker by rep alone. We have a couple of habitually problematic users on our tags that are a never-ending source of frustration. Yet they have managed to amass significant rep that literally betrays the type of user they are, and in a lot of cases, the experience you'll have if you get involved with their question. I know to stay away from them by name only, not by reputation or accept rate. –  Aaron Bertrand Jun 30 '12 at 13:41
1  
The concept of a rep whore is ridiculous. A whore is considered undesirable because they are breaking a law, and doing something many consider unsafe and socially damaging, for monetary reward. There is no money here. Badges and reputation and the like are merely ways to make this fun. It's using game theory in a way that's proven effective, over and over again. People who try to get badges, or points, are doing exactly what the system is designed to do. Not illegal. Not for money. Not unsavory, unless you consider helping other people with their work for free to be a bad thing. –  Nate Jan 27 '13 at 0:54

Before reading this I had no idea what "acceptance rate" meant - I had assumed that Stack Overflow was telling me how many of my answers had been accepted by others; I had no idea it meant how many questions I had accepted answers to.

So when someone asked "Why the low acceptance rate" on one of my questions I had no idea what they were talking about. If they had not done so I would still be in the dark.

But there is a really simply solution!

When someone starts to ask a new question, if their acceptance rate is below X% have the website show a red warning message above the Title input which states:

Warning: You have accepted answers to only Y% of your questions, this may deter people from offering answers.

Mock up

share|improve this answer
4  
My wording would be different. But still I largely agree (which most likely will not surprise you ;) ) –  Bart Jul 31 '12 at 18:59
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I had no idea what you meant when you chastised me, Bart, but I am glad you did it :) –  Peter Morris Jul 31 '12 at 19:09
    
When I chastised you? What did I do? :D –  Bart Jul 31 '12 at 19:15
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What I really like about this answer is that it takes the issue offline and gives a gentle nudge to the asker automatically. I'd also like to see notices added to the asker's inbox when the rate gets low enough. –  Chris Gerken Aug 27 '12 at 17:50
1  
This is the wrong place to put a reminder like this. When someone has a question, you're trying to take them off track of what they were doing (and asking them to do another kind of activity) by this kind of reminder in this specific location. –  bobobobo Aug 29 '12 at 15:45
1  
I disagree, you should remind them in places they go to perform frequent tasks such as asking questions / answering questions, etc –  Peter Morris Aug 29 '12 at 19:09
    
So does this keep the public acceptance rate display around or get rid of it? –  Asad Dec 28 '12 at 15:09

I have always found the accept rate display to be stupid, useless and prone to causing noise and fighting instead of promoting better questions and answers.

There are people who go around following people with low accept rates and commenting things like "Go accept answers or I won't answer your question" and other garbage.

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Exactly. And when I see users come to Meta with a statement like "I have accepted some answers because I felt pressured", I feel there is something wrong. –  Bart Jun 20 '12 at 18:52
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Some people have no life –  Toon Krijthe Jun 20 '12 at 18:53
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And then there are people that see who made a meta post and downvote it because of that. Savages. I have my own crew of haters, but not nearly as many as you have accrued. Also, good to see you around again, been keeping quiet or oppressed? –  jcolebrand Jun 20 '12 at 19:17
    
I know I personally have answered questions where I have seen people respond in the same/similar way. And in some cases be the first and only one to respond. –  James Williams Jul 31 '12 at 7:00
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I'm going to start making noise about this after the holidays. We seem to have arrived at a consensus, so we really need an official answer on if it is, or is not going away. I feel that displaying it is a tacit endorsement of the problematic behavior it creates, and I really hope we get rid of it soon. We should be encouraging people to find questions to answer based on their knowledge and abilities, not the probability of an acceptance bonus. –  Tim Post Dec 24 '12 at 5:31

The accept rate is a proxy for a person's ability to ask good questions and encourage good answers. With a large enough statistical sample, I think it's a valid proxy. If someone asks 100 questions, and accepts only 5 answers, the odds are that there's a problem.

People providing answers on Stack Overflow are volunteers. I don't get paid for it, and neither do most of you. (Yes, yes...SO has employees. Don't get sidetracked.) A volunteer's time is a valuable and limited commodity, and anything that ignores this basic premise is doomed to failure from a psychological standpoint.

There's certainly a valid case to be made that small samples lead to skewed results. If you're a new user with only 2 questions and 1 accepted, that leaves you with a 50% accept rate. Perhaps a red/green metric with a minimum threshold of asked/unanswered questions before it can go red is a better option than a displayed percentage.

In the end, though, people will apply a metric whether you provide them one or not. Whether it's accept rate, overall reputation, or upvotes/downvotes on a question, many people will anchor their evaluations on something before determining whether to read a question in-depth. You won't be able to remove this basic instinct; at best, you will shift it to some other discriminator.

I'll upvote any sensible suggestion for improving a proxy metric, but I simply can't agree with anything that ignores basic sociology or psychology. Removing the accept rate just moves the cheese; it doesn't get you out of the trap.

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The accept rate is a bad, one-dimensional proxy and I don't see any evidence whatsoever that it's a net positive, and even if so, whether the costs are worth it. (Some of the costs being qualitative, of course.) –  Matthew Read Jun 20 '12 at 19:38
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Regarding your third paragraph, accept rate is not calculated until the user has four or more qualifying questions: questions more than three days old, which have an answer posted. –  Josh Caswell Jun 27 '12 at 17:50
    
@matt see my comment on Kevin's accepted answer here –  Jeff Atwood Jan 26 '13 at 17:49

I was going to propose this, then I ran out of time, so I'm glad to see it's been proposed and generally welcomed. In the context of an otherwise fine question, a comment such as this:

You really need to work on your accept rate. Go accept some answers on your other questions if you want an answer for this one

... is little more than a stain. Additionally, 'accept rate proding' (aka bullying, aka nagging) is one of the largest sources of comment flags we receive. They are either just noise, or obsolete noise when the person does as asked. Sometimes, people accept answers that didn't really help them just to try to comply. That's unfortunate. Displaying it,at least in my opinion seems like a tacit endorsement of the problematic behavior it encourages. That's also unfortunate.

I would like to see the actual calculated metric vanish almost entirely. People can still take a glance at your profile and see how many questions you've accepted answers on, but doing so would probably take more effort than just answering the current question to begin with. I don't see anything wrong with showing it to the question author only if it's consistently low.

Anyway, as Bill dropped a 100 rep bounty on this, I'm going to chime in and say that moderators would not be at all displeased if that metric went away.

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You could make a black cloud about it –  bobobobo Aug 29 '12 at 15:47
    
@bobobobo You really think that programmers need more 'clouds'? Seriously? What is that I don't even. –  Tim Post Aug 29 '12 at 16:05
    
It's just a suggestion to say, you know, if you're going to go as far as to get mad at a user for not strictly obeying site rules, you may as well draw a black cloud on his screen –  bobobobo Aug 29 '12 at 17:49

About the only context in which the accept rate is marginally useful is when it is at 0%: in the overwhelming majority of cases it tells you that the poster is not aware of the purpose of the check mark outline next to the answers, and may benefit from a brief explanation. Once the user accepts an answer for the first time, mentioning the accept rate is almost certainly counterproductive.

However, the absence of the "Scholar" badge already tells you that the user does not know how to accept answers, so displaying the accept rate is redundant.

Moreover, the process of making the user aware of the "accept" feature could be automated with a gentle reminder to consider accepting an answer, if this is the behavior the sites would like to promote. A very gentle reminder can be sent only once to users without the "Scholar" badge, and only if they have at least one answer with the score of at least two that has not been accepted for three or more days.

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The reminder seems to be already there, since the first question I posted on Stack (never done before, I am more a SharePoint Overflow user) was greeted with a nice "Remember you can mark this answer" when I upvoted the just posted answer before marking it (upvote first if it seems usefull, check if it resolve the problem and then mark). Are you implying displaying it every time untill the user start to accept answers? I would say... go for it. –  SPArchaeologist Dec 24 '12 at 11:22

I think accept rate shouldn't have anything to do with whether a user answers a question or not. You're talking about 15 reputation, while upvotes from a good question can easily exceed that.

So since it shouldn't have an effect on whether a user answers a question or not, why not just take it away then? What's the point in having a statistic in front of the user that says hey, don't answer this, move on? I don't think it's a good idea to put a sign post on otherwise good questions that says don't bother.

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So, if you have to display accept rate, just put it in a user's profile screen, where you have to do quite a bit of click through to find this number out.

enter image description here

Should this be public information? Arguments go for and against. If it is public information, then only people who really care about accept rate can find this information at a glance, instead of having to really troll through the user's previous posts to find the answer to this question.

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I meant, since it's useless, it should be removed –  bobobobo Aug 27 '12 at 20:13
    
I agree. My comment was not meant to invalidate your answer. I think however that we should not merely move it to another place, but make it completely publicly invisible. Perhaps visible to the user only. –  Bart Aug 27 '12 at 22:08
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It's not about points. It's about saying "thank you". –  Seth J Jan 23 '13 at 14:11

Stack Exchange is a feedback loop and there is a difference of opinion as to the entry point. The varying communities would be a fascinating study in group dynamics.

The topic at hand:

There is one theory that views the charity of the says that if we're nice, we'll attract more quality answerers and we'll perpetually be an ever-growing group of experts motivated by simply helping a peer in need. In this theory, acceptance rate is perceived as ammunition to attack a user and should be removed.

There is an alternate theory that views the shared community values as the entry point. This one says that the extant experts are all too often left unrewarded for their volunteer efforts. In this theory, "work on acceptance rate" as an example of coaching a user on how to be a "productive" member of a community. If you want to be a member of the community, there is an initial grace period, but eventually you need to accept and espouse the community's values.

I lean slightly toward the latter, honestly. I am not an expert. I am not a power user. I am here to learn and I understand that the folks here are not indebted to me to answer my question. As such, I wear my acceptance rate with pride because it shows how much I value this community. That is how I understand Acceptance Rate. It is a metric that demonstrates the community's value to me.

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@Bart Agreed. That's the mod's job ... to pull the badgers into a room and remind of the ethic/value. –  swasheck Jul 24 '12 at 21:31
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They are busy enough however. Take visible accept-rate off the table (don't destroy it. Let the system keep it behind the scenes and handle it) and you'll have less noise to deal with. Surely there will be those who might look at the OP's history and still comment accordingly, but the number will be (I think significantly) lower. –  Bart Jul 24 '12 at 21:33
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As I said. I can only argue from my perspective as one of the Gammas. I am proud of my accept rate because I believe it shows that I am truly invested in the community and willing to demonstrate how much I value the community. Other perspectives may vary. –  swasheck Jul 24 '12 at 21:34
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That's fair enough. And I'm sure you're an excellent user with appropriate behavior. But the number of accept-rate-badgers (I like that word actually) I flag into oblivion in the time I spend on this site is significant enough not to ignore and outweighs the upside of a visible accept-rate IMHO. –  Bart Jul 24 '12 at 21:36
    
@swasheck, I am fine with your point: it would seem that the system can help if it make people value the answer we all give. But the point is that if you are more inclined to answer question than asking, you may find yourself with a very low score when your few questions don't find a real answer. As you say, I like to pay back the effor, so I upvote helpfull info even if they don't fix my problem or answer my question. But as it is now the system is forcing me to accept those answer (or hope no one upvotes them). –  SPArchaeologist Dec 24 '12 at 11:12
    
@swasheck also please see my answer somewhere on this question. I hope my point is clear, and I am really interested in knowing what you think about it - you seem to be more oriented to the "score should be looked at" point of view, so I would like to hear your opinion on the problem. –  SPArchaeologist Dec 24 '12 at 11:14

Further to the answer by jcolebrand :

Show the accept-rate to the owner of the question only, and only on question user-cards. That way they get a gentle reminder that they're rewarded for ticking the box, and nobody else has to see it.

And move that public metric to their profile

An automated peroidic prompt when the answer accept rate falls below a given threshold.

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I think it is a good motivation for users to reward and identify correctness in answers, but would prefer to instead see:

'8 unaccepted questions' as opposed to '74% acceptance rate'

this would inherently remind users they have a finite number of questions they can go back and review to accept/bounty, and may encourage others to view those 8 questions (assuming that number is a link, which I believe it should be regardless of the phrasing)

so rather than a percent which I view as a grade (out of 100%) , it should have more of an informative todo list for the user.

74% unaccepted doesn't mean much if you've only asked 4 questions (other than incorrect math)

100 unaccepted questions is a lot even if you've asked 1000 questions here...

I hope this makes sense to someone else!

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That is all fine and well, but then just show it to the user. Make them aware of it. Why show it to anyone else? There is no need for that and it leads to all sorts of trouble. I don't have any problem with any metric being shown to the users themselves. –  Bart Dec 31 '12 at 9:57
    
@Bart but I feel like not showing it publicly can allow a user to never accept any questions, and that seems counter-productive to me. Publicly showing the stats - sure it can be embarrasing - but it is sort of a necessary evil. People should accept their answers if they were given correct advise (IMO) –  d-_-b Dec 31 '12 at 14:06
    
I completely agree with that. I don't think anyone should badger someone based on their acceptance rate, unless they see the user had thanked them for the correct answer. I see what you mean about how it leads to bullying for acceptance, but at the same time I think it leads to more good than bad. It is important to follow up on questions that you asked when other people took time to help you. Plus, it helps others quickly see what the correct answer is. To your point, I do usually just look for the highest # of votes even if it is not the accepted answer. –  d-_-b Dec 31 '12 at 14:28

The problem here is the actual accept rate, not the display of the accept rate. If people asking questions cared enough and were courteous to their fellow users, they would accept answers. It's not about points. It's about saying "thank you".

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That's all fine and well, if it weren't for the very negative side-effects the display had. Such as there were: rude comments, random acceptance of answers to get the rate up (not because the answers were particularly good), forced acceptance of answers, etc. A visible accept rate had far too many negative side-effects. –  Bart Jan 23 '13 at 14:26
    
@Bart, there are ways to punish people who abuse the system. Don't break the system because of them. –  Seth J Jan 23 '13 at 14:28
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I don't think this decision will break the system at all. It will be just fine. –  Bart Jan 23 '13 at 14:33
    
I sort of agree with you...just not that the green check mark is a Thank You. –  user7116 Jan 23 '13 at 17:36
    
@sixlettervariables, to be clear, I don't need the checkmark. I just need to see that someone is going to get a checkmark for their effort to help the asker. –  Seth J Jan 23 '13 at 18:20
    
@SethJ: if and only if there is a correct answer present, right? –  user7116 Jan 23 '13 at 18:24

I have had a similar discussion recently on the meta site for the SharePoint Stack Exchange site: Acceptance Rate And Unanswered questions.

To resume my post, I was wondering what I should do with some of my old, unanswered questions. I have very few question (about five) so each one has a big impact on the total score. Yet, I still don't feel that I should be "forced" to accept an answer and give the impression a question is "resolved" only because the score felt to 25%.

Have a look at this question for example (yes, it is the same reference I gived on the other meta): Purpose of the <MAPPINGS> CAML element in a custom Choice Field definition. Valid, could be answerable, but yet... no one really knows or can give a solid evidence that the feature was dropped/don't work. I may even say that my question contanins more in-deepth information than the answer, and the information I found are pointing opposite directions.

Now, for a similar question I have the following choices:

  • Start a bounty, and probably lose it. It is pretty evident no one know this (except maybe Microsoft, and I'm not so sure...)
  • Delete the question because "it is not answerable" with our knowledge. This would mean destroy all the info that it may contain.
  • Chose the most voted answer as an aswer, even if it doesn't resolve the problem. I am fine with up-voting useful answer that can help other even if they don't actually answer the question, I am not so fine in marking them as answer while they didn't fix the problem.
  • Create a placeholder answer (like I did) to tell others what I have done for now, and then edit/delete it if something better is posted.

As you may see, I have gone for the last option. But this only gives the impression that that question is resolved, which in truth isn't.

I see at least two basic errors in the current system:

  • We are inclined to upvote useful answer. This means that if the answer is not a complete solution, but shows effort and helps, we will upvote it. This in turn make it a candidate answer for the accept rate calc script. Trad: I must not vote an answer that I won't accept, and hope that others don't do that too... Pretty lame, isn't it?
  • The score doesn't matter. No, it doesn't, but let's display it red, will ya? Please don't look at that 0%, but let's display it, OK? See it? Please ignore me... Sounds like Glados. The point is: if we see that score, we will make consideration on it. If we see that the poster never upvote an accept valid answer we will skip it. It is lame, but it is real.

So now what can we do? Let's think about it. The system should be there to remember people to accept answer, but as now is used by people to decide if they should ignore a question. So we need a way to still remember people they should accept valid answer, but at the same time make it less invasive, so that other people won't get distracted by it.

I belive that hidding it from the question can be a good start, as other suggested. I would actually go further. Make the score more visible based on the ammount of unmarked questions? That is, we have only two options there: if the score should be ignored, then please remove it - forever - and never talk about it again - give the user some message, some prompt but remove the score from the question. If otherwise it should be looked at, then make it more visible the more the user seems to ignore upvoting/marking. An user with four questions (and 9999 answers) and 2 of it unmarked is not the same of an user with 0 answer, 9999 question and 5000 of it unmarked.

(I noticed this question only now, and I hope this won't be seen as necroposting, but I felt I needed to add my point of view.)

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We have been through this before. The site owners need to make a policy because otherwise, we are going to keep flip-flopping between showing it and not showing it.

The problem is no one is going to be happy whichever way this goes AGAIN.

Do a search on META and you'll find hundreds of discussions on the Accept Rate.

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Is the last link you point to what you intended to point to? And I'm well aware of the significant amount of discussions on accept rate. –  Bart Jun 20 '12 at 21:28

Another way to answer this:

What is the steady state of displaying accept rate, but discouraging anyone else from commenting on it?

The steady state is this: New users with a low accept rate will probably fail to get as many good answers to their questions as people with higher accept rates, but won't really know why (because no one is telling them).

Which points bask to the question. Just get rid of the accept rate if it's considered bad form to say anything about it, or even take it into consideration as to whether or not to answer a question.

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The real, root problem is that the ratio of points granted for accepted vs. upvoted does not correspond to the value we place on them as a community.

The questions and answers belong to the community, over time, in a very real sense. And, the community votes - from disinterested third parties - are more meaningful than one vote from the questioner. Since having been chosen as the correct answer already imparts psychological karma, an accepted action should grant fewer votes to the answerer than an upvote.

Removing the visible accept rate hides the user's behavior and makes the community more anonymous. These are the exact kinds of community attributes that result in the worst behavior. E.g., driving in traffic; commenting on the Internet in general. Anonymity and lack of accountability foster bad behavior every time. Public shaming is a positive social force that keeps societies friendly. Witness the anonymity of large cities, lack of public / social repercussions for bad behavior and the results vs. small towns with cohesive social networks.

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Since the feature was removed from the Stack Exchange infrastructure about a year ago, I'm left wondering what value you thought your answer would give. It isn't my down-vote, but I confess to being sorely tempted. –  Jonathan Leffler Jan 12 at 2:41
    
@JonathanLeffler he's objecting to the decision, looks like a legit answer. Personally I don't agree with it, but still valid answer. :) –  Shadow Wizard Feb 3 at 15:24

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