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At the moment the answer seems to be not really. It's not appropriate to comment on the accept-rate and there have been various suggestions ranging from moving it to the profile page to displaying it only to the user and removing it entirely.

If acceptance is not important to Stack Exchange then the above questioners are correct, the accept-rate should just be removed and consigned to the annals of history (it does not necessarily follow that if acceptance is important that they are wrong). Having said that, the incidence of accepted answers has started dropping, a lot more rapidly than in the past:

Year Quarter Accepted Not Accepted Accept Rate 
---- ------- -------- ------------ ----------- 
2008 3       14406    3693         79.6%       
2008 4       29316    10409        73.8%       
2009 1       40640    13641        74.87%      
2009 2       55109    20866        72.54%      
2009 3       71370    27464        72.21%      
2009 4       82408    30724        72.84%      
2010 1       104009   38091        73.19%      
2010 2       112286   44839        71.46%      
2010 3       130766   52886        71.2%       
2010 4       142350   58440        70.89%      
2011 1       182457   77480        70.19%      
2011 2       199631   87173        69.61%      
2011 3       206190   91454        69.27%      
2011 4       208593   90520        69.74%      
2012 1       242649   111889       68.44%      
2012 2       247153   121580       67.03%      
2012 3       247080   130932       65.36%      
2012 4       233874   139374       62.66%      
2013 1       25351    22308        53.19%   

These stats are for open questions only as for obvious reasons a closed question may not necessarily get an appropriate answer (or any).

Is acceptance an important concept to the Stack Exchange model? Would Stack Exchange have "done just fine without it" and does it matter that it's happening less and less?

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I am genuinely curious and would rather this didn't descend into a conversation about how the accept-rate is "worthless, meaningless metric and it should be taken out back and shot". – ben is uǝq backwards Jan 14 '13 at 21:31
But.... mah reps! – mikeTheLiar Jan 14 '13 at 21:33
It really boils down to - does it matter to the community if the question OP thinks an answer was best, or not? – Oded Jan 14 '13 at 21:36
No, they're not @WesleyMurch, but it's indicative of what seems to be the prevailing attitude (or I may be reading it wrong). – ben is uǝq backwards Jan 14 '13 at 21:36
do your stats take closed questions into account? When question is closed, it looses an option to get more answers, which increases the risk of not getting one OP would accept (for closed question with 0 answers that risk is apparently 100%, unless it's reopened) – gnat Jan 14 '13 at 21:43
That's a succinct way of putting @oded, yes. If that's all it's there for. It's not just to the community though; there's all the passers-by as well. – ben is uǝq backwards Jan 14 '13 at 21:43
No @gnat, I purposely excluded all closed questions for that reason. – ben is uǝq backwards Jan 14 '13 at 21:44
@benisuǝqbackwards I think this looks worth noting explicitly in your question – gnat Jan 14 '13 at 21:45
There is another aspect of accepted answers: it drives the top users to go beyond 200 reputation points. After 200 points from answer and question upvotes, all you have to go for is bounties and accepted answer bonuses. It does drive users to provide the best quality answers. – Martijn Pieters Jan 14 '13 at 21:51
How many people does that actually affect though @Martijn? – ben is uǝq backwards Jan 14 '13 at 21:54
@benisuǝqbackwards: More than you'd think. +15 is a nice rep increase for anyone. Moreover, how many questions does this affect? Take the top 50 of last year, see how many questions they answered in total. That is going to be a large percentage, and this top 50 is really motivated about accepted answers. – Martijn Pieters Jan 14 '13 at 21:54
@benisuǝqbackwards Me :D – Doorknob Jan 14 '13 at 21:57
I'm not sure how clear the trend is, as it can take a while before an answer is accepted. For 2013 especially, the numbers will surely go up if we just wait a month or so after the quarter closes. – Bo Persson Jan 14 '13 at 21:57
For the 2013 you're definitely right @BoPersson. You can take up to the end Q3 2012 though, which is enough to display a marked trend. – ben is uǝq backwards Jan 14 '13 at 22:00
Older questions are much more likely to have been accepted, since it's rare for people to unaccept an answer to an old question without accepting a different one - whereas it's not uncommon to see people going over old, unaccepted questions to improve their accept rate after being bugged by the accept rate police. Taking that into consideration and also looking at 2008 Q3 as an outlier due to a small(er) sample size, I think the acceptance rates haven't changed significantly over the years. – NullUserException อ_อ Jan 14 '13 at 23:12
up vote 15 down vote accepted

As I see it acceptance serves two main purposes:

  1. It shows which answer helped the questioner the most.
  2. It show that the problem is solved to the questioners satisfaction.

(which as I read this back are really two different ways of stating the same thing).

Anyway, moving on. When a question has an accepted answer it offers two main benefits:

  1. Someone coming along later knows that there is a probable solution to their problem.
  2. People who want to answer questions can ignore those with accepted answers.

The first of these is really important. It stops people posting "Did you solve this?" type comments (or even worse, answers) or duplicate questions as they think that the problem hasn't been solved and they can't see another way of getting the question onto the home page again. Hopefully it means that they can actually solve the problem or, at the very least, get a step or two closer to solving it.

The second is also useful in that it helps direct people to answer those problems that are still unsolved.

As to how we encourage people to accept answers to their question - I don't know.

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Your description of the first point is an interesting way of looking at it. You're saying that an additional use is to help keep the site clean and less "forum like". It turn SE into a proper Q&A. A question must have an answer therefore there must be a way of indicating which answer it is. – ben is uǝq backwards Jan 14 '13 at 21:52
@benisuǝqbackwards - yes. In part, it stops questions descending into discussions. If you notice a lot of other forums seem to have adopted the idea of "accepting" answers now. – ChrisF Jan 14 '13 at 21:54

The main purpose of having an answer accepted is so that the asker can indicate "this worked for me." It replaces the [SOLVED] tags that you tend to see in the titles of forum posts. On problem-solving sites like Stack Overflow and the other trilogy sites, I'd say this is important, because it's very useful for someone coming across the question later to see at a glance whether there is a solution that is known to work for at least one person. And as the person who is experiencing the problem, the asker of the question is in a privileged position to decide whether a solution is valid: they can just try it and see whether it works.

But on sites which entertain more conceptual questions, like... well, probably the majority of SE 2.0 sites, I don't think accepting answers is all that important. Answers on those sites are often just as hard to verify as they are to come up with in the first place, so the asker of the question doesn't have any special expertise that would allow them to judge whether any particular answer is correct or not. In that case, acceptance is little more than a "super-upvote."

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As someone who frequently navigated to SE sites via google prior to my participation (as well as now), the "Accept" stamp is quite useful.

It means you have to look for two things when researching a technical question:

  1. Is the question the same question?
  2. What is the accepted answer?

Sometimes you don't even need #1 and you can jump straight to the accepted answer.

Is this failsafe? No, and obviously questions without "Accept" stamps can have answers which are relevant. Non-accepted answers are useful too.

But man oh man is it nice to be able to quickly parse google results of StackExchange sites rather than forums/email mailing lists (partially) because of this feature...

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