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Just a percentage doesn't give enough information.

You've got several profiles on stack exchange:

Starter: Low reputation (1 - 250)
Quiz host: Reputation by asking questions (user has 429 question, 5 answers)
"Expert": Reputation by answering questions (me: 6 questions, 116 anwsers )

The trouble with a percentages is that "60%" doesn't say how many questions are not accepted (and there are good reasons not to accept).

If I give a answer to a question and the user is a starter, i don't mind that no answer is accepted. (person is new to the site)

The issue

However, when the asking user has a decent amount of reputation (1500+), I do mind that no answer is accepted.
The user has 429 questions, 5 answers and an accept-rate of 54%.
That's ~197 questions without an accepted answer

I mind because I feel, I "deserve" an accepted-answer (and +15 rep)


The accept-rate takes into account the type of user and/or the number of questions-without-an-accepted-answer. Becoming a calculated "accept-rank" number.


Or that the "misbehaving" user should get a penalty:
Only +2 rep for question-upvotes until the accept-rate is improved.

Or.. get +6 rep for question-upvotes if you've got an acceptable accept-rate.

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You can hover over the 60% to get the full picture. –  mmyers Jun 8 '10 at 22:31
If you have any indication the user won't accept your answer and that's really important to you, you can skip answering and move on to a "better" question. I frequently take a pass (but usually for other reasons) on new questions I view (SO has so many) which I could answer. –  Gnome Jun 8 '10 at 22:34
@mmyers Thanks for the tip, but i'd rather see -197 in the badge and the percentage in the tooltip. –  Bob Fanger Jun 8 '10 at 22:38
A rep bonus for having an "acceptable" accept-rate (which is questionable in itself) would only encourage deleting questions without answers, accepting answers that don't really solve the problem, or posting more questions for the sole purpose of accepting answers. None of these three are desirable. (Yes, these apply to displaying the accept-rate too, but I think that's an acceptable tradeoff – people don't seem to be motivated by it nearly as much as they would by rep.) –  Gnome Jun 8 '10 at 22:58
What on earth are you talking about? Please add some links so those of us who haven't been keeping up with the developments from the last 6 hours can catch up. :) What are these profiles Starter/Quiz Host/Expert? –  Ether Jun 8 '10 at 23:02
@The_Cat I agree, making the incentive to great will introduce probs. The "problem" lies in the percentage notation. I've got 83% AR because of 1 question. The ideal indicator should show "Quiz host + low accept-rate, beware" –  Bob Fanger Jun 8 '10 at 23:14
@Ether I needed a way to differentiate between "low rep", "rep by questions" and "rep by answers" and came up with these analogies. (Expert in quotes because it sounded too positive without them) –  Bob Fanger Jun 8 '10 at 23:21
@Bob: oh ok, it sounded like you were referring to something external... –  Ether Jun 9 '10 at 0:04
(-1) for the reasons in my answer. –  devinb Jun 9 '10 at 8:56
You don't "deserve" anything. –  tim Jun 10 '10 at 1:07
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3 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Similar things have been suggested before:

All of these questions have a common theme. Some user or users are asking questions, then not accepting the answer. Sometimes the complainant will note that the community has clearly chosen the best answer with their upvotes. Sometimes the complainant will simply note that the user has done this before and that it is obvious that they are doing it on purpose.

First of all, every post has two measures of success: Upvotes and Checkmark. They are actually completely separate.

Getting the checkmark simply means that the OP decided that the post fulfilled their needs best. No one else gets to decide this one, because it is strictly a measure of "did this post directly help/solve the issue for the asker."

Getting an upvote means that the people who are reading the post, (most of which are not currently experiencing the same technical problem) think that it is good or sound advice. This is where the vast bulk of reputation will be accrued.

How does it affect the individuals or the community when the OP does not accept answers?

  • Individual:

It is annoying to feel that you created a perfect answer, you put your time and effort into this question and you did not get the checkmark. As noted above, this doesn't necessarily mean that the OP isn't paying attention, it's possible that your answer wasn't what they were looking for (I.E. "Don't Do It." as an answer to "How Do I...?"). This creates a negative experience for the individual user. The user has a few options for recourse.

  1. Bring it to Meta. Suggest punishing the user for asking questions.
  2. Continue as you were, attempting to help people as much as possible, disregarding your own reputation sometimes.
  3. Ignore that user and any other users who have low acceptance rate.

Option 2 and 3 seem the most reasonable to me, in fact 2 is probably the best because it still allows you to get reputation from the other people viewing the questions.
Additionally, if the OP does not "accept" an answer, then the highest voted answer will remain at the top, so if your answer is the "best" and you feel that you deserve the checkmark, at least it will remain at the top of the list, which means it is more likely to gain upvotes than the other answers.

  • Community

How to "unaccepted" posts affect the community? They really truly don't. That's a short and glib summary to the much longer answer of "they sort of do."

It could be argued that it presents a problem, in that someone who google/bing searches an issue, cannot be certain that the highest upvoted response necessarily fixed the issue without that checkmark being there. However, people tend not to understand the difference between "highest voted" and "marked as correct", and pedestrian question viewers will often just upvote the checkmarked or highest voted answer, regardless of it's correctness.


So ultimately, it does not affect the community very much, because the information is still there. And that is what StackOverflow is about. It is not about reputation, it is not about the individuals, it is about the sharing of knowledge, and creating one place where all your technical questions can be answered. If you created a solid answer to a good question, then you have benefited the community. If that user created a solid question that was interesting and allowed you and others to create good answers, then that person has also benefited the community.

Post Summary

This person is contributing good questions to the community. I'm not going to punish them for that.

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You can ask 10 questions on a very specific topic, and get no valid answer. Why would you accept something wrong, then? Why would you get a penalty for the fact that you haven't managed to get an actual answer to your questions? You already have a "punishment", you still have your problems, and no solution.

If you have such an issue with your answers not being accepted, then don't answer someone likely to not accept, according to your description.

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Sure if the answers aren't any good, don't accept them. But if you asked 197 questions(46%) without accepting an answer you're too picky. –  Bob Fanger Jun 8 '10 at 22:45
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You can always ask more questions, even if you already know the answer to them!

By doing that you will be able to:

  • Increase your accept rate
  • Gain reputation
  • Make the website better

Win, win, win

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