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Is Changing the Accepted Answer Frowned Upon?

Recently it happened several times to me that after I accepted an answer that solved my problem I got other answers offering different and sometimes better solutions. Some author then urged me to accept his answer instead of the currently accepted one.

From my understanding it is the first working solution that I accept, giving the author reputation for his efforts. On the other hand I understand that for somebody else, having a similar question and reading the answers to mine, it should be the best answer to be accepted.

Since I am quite new to the stackexchange network but finding it very helpful the way it is, I now ask you for what is best practice to do in such cases: Accept the first working answer or accept the best answer given?

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marked as duplicate by Manishearth, kiamlaluno, jonsca, jadarnel27, Pops Jul 30 '12 at 19:24

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

2 Answers 2

You are allowed to change the accepted answer at any given time. You get to choose, so choose what satisfies your question best.

You could also see this in the larger context of what Stack Overflow is trying to achieve: answers to question that are useful to a wider audience, not just to you. In that light, you should accept the newer answer if it is an improvement over the previous one.

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There are two problems that I see frequently that affect this behavior.

  1. Answerers badgering users to accept their answer at or near the 15-minute time limit. Or just askers generally accepting the first answer that solves the problem. Accepting an answer too quickly does you a disservice on multiple levels; for one it draws attention away from your question since people will often ignore a question that already has an accepted answer. While the first answer may have solved your problem, you've already observed cases where a better answer might come along later. A better answer might come from someone in a different time zone, or worse, someone who put in a lot of time or effort in the answer without first putting in a placeholder nonsense answer to be the fastest gun.

  2. People pressuring askers to reconsider the accepted answer much later. Since the asker gets a notification for new answers even after they've accepted one, I think we as answerers need to be better about poking the asker multiple times. If they've long since solved the problem, additional prodding is just noise, and makes us look like rep grubbers.

Anyway I guess you can help avoid having to make these decisions by (a) not accepting answers too quickly. I'd say give a full business day to allow a chance for qualified answerers to reply, and (b) don't feel pressured to accept a better answer just because someone prods you to do so. Change it if you actually used the better answer and always keep in mind the feelings of the person who posted the answer you had previously deemed "the answer."

I'm sure my opinions will get me some down-votes here, and I'm ok with that.

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I agree with this. I'd like to comment a bit on point no. 1. Indeed it seems a bit lame to urge someone to accept your answer, but when I see an obviously new user who, upon receiving an answer, posts a comment saying "Thanks, that solved my problem.", I feel obliged to tell them that they should accept an answer if it solved their problem (I don't explicitly say accept my answer), both to teach them about how the site works, as well as prevent a situation where they only registered to post a single question and then you never seem them again. Hopefully that's acceptable behavior. –  Tudor Jul 8 '12 at 17:35
    
@Tudor yes, but I would let sufficient time lapse before doing so IMHO. Too often it's within 30 minutes of posting and that kind of rush only helps the accepted answer. –  Aaron Bertrand Jul 8 '12 at 18:48
    
That's exactly what I'm afraid of. In 30 minutes they might be long gone without accepting any answer. It happens. –  Tudor Jul 9 '12 at 10:12
    
There are tons of questions without accepted answers from users who don't disappear. There's not much you can do to force users to accept answers. I'd much rather see votes make the best answer stand out than mark a crappy FGITW answer as "the answer" based on your fear that the asker might not come back otherwise. –  Aaron Bertrand Jul 9 '12 at 11:09
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Good argument. I guess the community as a group is a better decider of what's useful in the long run. –  Tudor Jul 9 '12 at 11:55

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