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Sometimes I read a question that has an accepted answer, and I feel I won't add any value if I answer.

Should one wait to accept an answer in order not to discourage a potentially better answer?

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migrated from stackoverflow.com Aug 28 '09 at 17:49

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48  
I thought about adding an answer, but I noticed you already accepted one. It's too bad - I had a truly marvelous answer to this question which this margin is too narrow to contain. –  Kyle Cronin Feb 4 '09 at 23:01
    
I find it interesting that people still vote on answers that have been accepted--not that I mind (I've gained a fair amount of rep that way). –  BoltBait Feb 4 '09 at 23:03
    
You can add another answer, if it's better, I can accept it :) –  jmfsg Feb 6 '09 at 0:05
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yeah, actually I had originally asked it on SO, and asked it here again before migration existed... a little problem with time being linear sadly –  jmfsg Aug 29 '09 at 20:57
    
Even though there's a legitimate reason for both copies to exist, one of them ought to be closed. +1 for linear time though (but isn't it cubic?) –  Andrew Grimm Feb 19 '10 at 12:16

15 Answers 15

up vote 32 down vote accepted

Accepting an answer discourages further answers. A few answers may trickle in after, but many (most?) members care a lot about reputation, so they won't answer anything that's old or that has an accepted answer.

That's why I usually don't accept an answer unless it nails the question. In other words, if, after a day or two, I still have only a collection of partially correct answers, I don't just accept the one that is "least wrong."

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Ironically, I received my first "Necromancer" badge for this answer, which I posted long after the accepted answer was marked as "accepted." –  erickson Aug 23 '09 at 17:30
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I would have agreed with you, apart from the dates of some of the other answers to this quesion! –  Ian Ringrose Feb 21 '12 at 15:29

I do believe that it discourages more answers. That's why I typically wait for a while before awarding a check mark on a question, unless the answer was spot on exactly what I needed (such as in "how do I..." questions). After giving it a day or two, then I will tend to revisit questions and award check marks to the best answers.

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2  
+1 That's what I'd decided to do too, before reading this thread. –  Tom Bushell Jul 2 '09 at 17:03
    
-1 because it's exactly the same as the accepted answer here, except where you accept an incomplete answer and erickson doesn't. –  djechlin May 5 at 15:15

I answer if I feel I have something to add, regardless of whether a previous one has been accepted or not.

The accepted answer does make you wonder whether the person asking the question is still reading though.

I guess you can use this question to find out.

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Stack exchange will notify you if there is any activity on questions you've asked in the past. I always go and look at them if someone does this, it might be a better answer, or it might be more insight into the answer. –  leeand00 Oct 27 '09 at 12:35

I usually read questions I might know the answer to. If I like the "accepted" answer and think it covers it, I'll just uptick the answer. Otherwise I'll leave my own - if not for the original asker then for someone who might find it via google down the road.

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That's the proposed good behavior! Analyze questions and answers without considering the rep system - as they don't have any vote counts. Only unicorns can always act like this, tho. –  Cawas Mar 31 '10 at 18:28

I would only add another answer for a question with an accepted answer if:

  • the accepted answer is wrong
  • the accepted answer is flawed
  • there is a good alternative to the accepted answer that is not yet covered

And in the first cases, you'd want to add a comment as well.. (and downvotes!)

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If the answer is flawed, isn't it best to edit it to remove the flaw? –  philcolbourn May 8 '10 at 23:22
    
@philcolbourn: Who can do that? Not normal users. –  Adrian Pronk Aug 14 '10 at 9:40

Accepting an answer does discourage new answers. The system is even designed to look for unaccepted answers.

But I feel you should accept an answer when your problem is fixed. Whenever that is. Of course there are limits to when you think should accept.

If your problem is fixed, a better answer is either "do something else because of X" or the same as the accepted but more info on the issue.

And you can easily monitor new answers to your question from the envelope. So you should be able to see if anyone adds to your accepted question.

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From the questioner's point of view accepting an answer means "thanks to this answer I've solved my problem". So if that's the case then you as questioner should accept the relevant answer. You don't owe any future potential answerer's anything.

From the answerer's point of view it shows which questions we shouldn't waste our time answering as no one is going to be particularly interested in the answer. We can go off and search for questions no answers or no accepted answers and try there.

So yes accepting an answer will discourage more answers, but that (in my opinion) is a good thing. There's nothing stopping you adding a new answer if you think that there's something missing from the answers already there.

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While I agree that it in general discourages new answers, it definitely does still happen - and often in batches. For example, this question yesterday (which is over 6 months old and has an accepted answer), suddenly gained 3 new answers. Obviously somebody stumbled into it, thought it was interesting and added an answer. It jumped to the front page and 2 other people thought it was interesting and added an answer. These all fell into the 3rd bullet on Jeff's answer above.

If you're happy that your question is answered, set the green tick - but you may well find you get additional answers / comments / etc long into the future.

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Once the feature is implemented to allow questioners to subscribe to their questions, I think it will ensure that they continue to see new answers.

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Marking only one post as the accepted answer is not flexible, in my opinion. For a given question, there may be two or more different ways to achieve it, each possibly equally valid but just depending on the situation. I reckon using the MSDN forum style of "Helpful" answer is a much more flexible style.

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I would say so, as it implies the original person looking for an answer doesn't need it/won't check back. I'd only accept an answer that actually fixes the problem I've got.

After all, questions are supposed to be objective, rather than subjective. ("Why doesn't this work" vs. "What's the best way to fix this")

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+1 objective v subjective. But by voting this time, I have subjectively indicated that I liked a part of your answer - I didn't vote because it is the right answer (can there be an answer?) –  philcolbourn May 8 '10 at 23:43

I have an open question right now, and I decided to wait 48 hours before accepting one. Of the five answers I've gotten so far, two tempt me to accept them. If I'd accepted the first, the second answerer might have hesitated, but somehow I doubt it. The quality of the answer indicates a commitment to help, and they're gonna do that whether they are 'frist post' or not.

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It's more than possible for a questioner to choose a different answer as the accepted answer after the fact. Adding another answer certainly can't hurt.

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I think it does because I think I think like others. When I see an answered question I think that the odds of submitting an answer that gets accepted is low.

Initially I thought that an answered question was the end - I was ignorant that the Questioner could change their answer. Even though I know that the selected answer can be changed, I am reluctant to do better - I have seen selected answers that don't seem to be the best; and what looks to be a better answer has not been selected.

The reputation system encourages Q&A but it does not encourage the best answers.

One aspect of SO is the 'wiki' idea. How can this work with the current reputation system? What would drive me to make someone else's answer better?

I'd like to see some stats that would help us see what is going on so we can discuss this more objectively:

1. number of changes to selected answers
2. number of answers with higher votes than the selected answer
3. number of selected answers with negative votes
4. number of answers edited by others (not just typos and grammer)
5. number of selected answers edited by others

Perhaps these stats will help answer your question objectively.

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If the question has adequate existing answers, I upvote those. If I can provide a better answer than any of the existing answers (whether one of them has been accepted or not), I will add an answer. This might benefit the OP and should benefit the rest of the audience.

From a pure reputation perspective, a well-viewed answer can garner much more reputation from the general voting audience than it can from its question's author. So, if you think your new answer can get enough views from voting users, it can still make sense to add answers to questions that already have accepted answers.

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