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I have often come upon questions where the asker never bothered accepting what is obviously a correct answer. "Obviously" can mean (aside from my own judgment):

  • The answer is a clear leader in up-votes (again, combined with my judgment that it is a correct one)

  • The answer is the only one (and again appears correct)

  • The answer (or Q) is commented on by OP indicating it helped.

If the user is still active on SO, what helps sometimes is to post a comment on the question mentioning you can/should accept the answer. For my own answers, this technique worked ~30-50% of the time.

However, if the user is a zombie (showed up >1 month ago, asked one or few answers, and was not on the site for >1 month since), this would obviously not work.

To ameliorate this situation, I would propose allowing users whose rep > threshold to "accept" answers from other peoples questions. This would be limited to:

  • questions from zombie users as defined above (e.g. total active time on site <= 30% of time since last visit, or however you want to define).

  • questions from non-zombie users with very low accept rates (this may require higher threshold).

In either case,

  • neither the OP nor "guest acceptor" gains 2 points for accepting.

  • the OP should have the right to choose a different accepted answer at any time, and get 2 points rep when that happens.

  • If you accept your own answer, you obviously don't get 15rep for acceptance.

I think if implemented to the above specs, it should provide enough of a barrier to misuse while serving the goal of the site (allow arriving at the best possible answer).

P.S. This was obviously triggered by some of my own answers but once I realized the situation I observed it numerously with questions I was merely browsing.

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related?: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/3669/… –  Troggy Oct 20 '09 at 18:23
I just got spanked for duping this. Why is this being brushed aside? –  Sky Sanders Apr 11 '10 at 18:58

3 Answers 3

If the OP doesn't accept it, then it's meaningless. Other users can already indicate that they like a given answer simply by up-voting it!

This sort of thing gets suggested a lot, and it always boils down to the same thing: a misunderstanding as to what "Accepted" really means. So here's the truth: the "Accepted" answer is the one the OP liked most. Nothing more, nothing else.

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I disagree for 2 reasons. First, this problem is mostly manifest on "dead" questions with few views, few or usually no votes and OP long gone. So, if someone comes searching to the SO with the same question, SO being Joel's goal of a compendum of all wisdom of programming, and sees the Q with 3 zero-voted asnwers, they would not know which one to use. –  Lemurik Oct 20 '09 at 17:50
@Lemurik: so up-vote an answer then! If you can't get anyone to up-vote your answer, then why on earth would you expect someone to accept it?! –  Shog9 Oct 20 '09 at 18:28
"accepted" may have INTENDED to mean what you said it meant. However it may mean something completely different to Joe Average User who looks at a question after googling it. –  DVK Oct 21 '09 at 15:26
DVK, look, i'm not talking about intent - i'm talking about how it actually works. Joe Average User can think the checkmark means This Answer Was Blessed By The Pope, and it doesn't change the facts: the "Accepted" answer is the answer the OP chooses to "Accept". It may not be entirely obvious, but it absolutely is just that simple - and all these suggestions to let other users or moderators or some complicated set of automated rules choose the "Accepted" answer, all they do is add complexity and further reduce the chance that Joe Average User will ever really understand what it means. –  Shog9 Oct 21 '09 at 15:47
@Shog9, The real problem here is not about points and other stuff. When i look at unanswered question i find out that some of them are just questions of people who registered once and then are gone, or they even doesn't exist anymore. Now this means that the real "Unanswered questions" count is totally unreliable. Also if users, like me, try to go back and answer to some almost lost questions, he face the fact that some questions has been already answered. –  Jefffrey Mar 7 '11 at 11:15
@Charlie: this isn't really connected to the presence or absence of an "accepted" answer. As stated on the "unanswered" page (right under the big count of questions), "unanswered" means "questions with no upvoted answers" - so really, all that's necessary is for someone - anyone - to recognize that an answer solves the problem and give it an up-vote, and it'll no longer appear in the list. See also: Why does the “Unanswered Questions” tab show questions that have answers? –  Shog9 Mar 7 '11 at 16:52
+1 for "OP liked most", as only OP would know that. –  Cees Timmerman May 11 at 8:51

Only the OP knows whether the answer solved their problem or not. As such it makes no sense for anyone but the OP to accept an answer to their question. The community weighs in with it's collective insight via voting so there is no need to have an accepted answer from the community's point of view -- it's already expressed in votes. I don't think anything needs to change in this regard.

Additionally, you are tying acceptance privileges to reputation which is meaningless when it comes to knowing whether any particular answer is the absolute best answer to any particular question. If anything it ought to be votes that determines the accepted answer, but then again, that already happens from the community's perspective.

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I have to agree here. At first, I thought, well, we could always add a feature that would allow us to suggest the post we think he should accept. And then I realized that that was kind of the whole point of an up vote. :-S –  Mike Hofer Oct 20 '09 at 21:54
Yet the site requires clear questions. You imply that the question is not clear enough to answer. –  Cees Timmerman May 11 at 8:47

I think the best option is to let the moderators accept (with some kind of mechanism to avoid bad things happening), as per this link. As you can see it's not a popular position.

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You seem to be developing some sort of persecution complex... –  Shog9 Oct 20 '09 at 17:32
I'm getting to know when I'm going to take the hits. –  Lance Roberts Oct 20 '09 at 17:55
And I don't care near enough about this issue to take any. –  Lance Roberts Oct 20 '09 at 17:56
What is with the community wiki misuse? Just make a comment. You seem to do this a lot lately. –  Troggy Oct 20 '09 at 18:26
Yeah... I don't get it. If you don't care about the issue, then why should we listen to your suggestion? –  Shog9 Oct 20 '09 at 18:35
I understand why Lance did it and it's very simple. Because people have an annoying habit of destroying your reputation (and thus editing abilities) just because you suggest something they disagree with on Meta. See this Q as an example :) –  DVK Oct 20 '09 at 18:50
I wasn't mostly echoing someone else's suggestion that was relevant to the question. While I think it's an idea with potential, I'm not really hung up on it. –  Lance Roberts Oct 20 '09 at 19:01
@DVK: you've lost - at most - 6 points so far. If the suggestion wasn't worth 6 meta points to you, then why suggest it? Any time you post something here, you've gotta accept that it may not be popular... If you know, in advance, that it's gonna be a net loss for you, then why would you even bother suggesting it?! –  Shog9 Oct 20 '09 at 19:02
@DVK: Lance is a front page meta user. Even if I downvoted every answer and every question he has ever asked, he would not loose anything but a couple hundred rep that could be recovered in 2 days. Please see: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/21080/… –  Troggy Oct 20 '09 at 19:06
While I don't think it's misuse, I think Troggy is right that I should have just made it a comment. –  Lance Roberts Oct 20 '09 at 19:21
@Shog9 - I don't care if what I post is popular or not. I care that you choose a very destructive method of showing your disagreement with the idea (destructive not in that person loses points, but that a person looses incentive to suggest things unless, like Lance, they have too many points to worry about losing them). And THEN you complain when people try to avoid said destruction. –  DVK Oct 21 '09 at 15:23
Unlike UV, you don't lose the ability to post new suggestions if you run out of points. So the rep on MSO only matters as sort of a way to keep score. Sure, you could post CW suggestions all day long, and they could be good suggestions and it wouldn't matter that you didn't get worthless "points" for them. But when I see a suggestion - whether i agree with it or not - and I see that the author is willing to stand behind it with their "score", it tells me that they're just a little bit more invested in the site than someone who doesn't. And so i'll put a bit more effort into responding. –  Shog9 Oct 21 '09 at 15:59

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