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I have thought about ways to encourage people to accept answers on SO (and other sites). I am not certain the best possible way. I would like to encourage feedback as to what you think. Here are a few ideas I am thinking of.

What if we leverage a point/voting system:

  1. If you drop below a certain acceptance percentage, you cannot post any additional questions. This could be remedied by:

    • going to questions and accepting answers to improve acceptance rate
    • user must answer 5 questions with at least 2 up votes per question
  2. Users can "suppress" other users. Meaning, I can choose to not see questions by specific users or users who fall below a certain threshold on their acceptance rate.

I think the idea is to encourage participation. But how can we do that with those who are simply one timers looking for answers and not willing to contribute?

UPDATED: Maybe there could be highlighted background for a user who falls below a certain accept rate. In addition, I am thinking that in the case there was no accepted answer, the user can indicate that there was no acceptable answer and put a comment of a certain number of characters minimum as to why there was no accepted answer.

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See also, Sor questions in user profile by "Unaccepted" or "Date accepted", which I suggested as a more "subtle" way of getting users to accept answers whilst making it easier for them to find questions they haven't accepted an answer on at the same time. –  Andy E Aug 23 '10 at 21:15
    
I don't think subtle works. There needs to be penalties for some users. Some want to use the system to their benefit, but don't care to contribute back. It's the contributions back (even if it is rewarding the best answer) that makes sites like this work. –  Chuck Burgess Aug 23 '10 at 21:22
    
Very similar to: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/55879/… –  Mark Byers Aug 23 '10 at 22:02
    
If there is no accepted answer, then trust the community votes. 15 rep is just 15 rep ;) –  Marcelo Dec 8 '11 at 13:41
    
    
I'm less sure about this one @casperOne, it's not really related to the display of the accept rate... it just presupposes that acceptance is an important part of SE (not that I particularly like the suggestion). –  ben is uǝq backwards Jan 23 '13 at 16:20
    
@benisuǝqbackwards This is one of the ones I was unsure of stamping with a declined. That said, I've removed the declined status, but accept-rate as a tag is gone too, no reason for it to be here. –  casperOne Jan 23 '13 at 16:21

5 Answers 5

if you drop below a certain acceptance percentage, you cannot post any additional questions.

So if i happen to post some questions no-one can answer i'm locked out? Meh.

Meaning, I can choose to not see questions by specific users or users who fall below a certain threshold on their acceptance rate.

Same here.

Nearly all users use the accept-features where applicable after an explanatory comment so i don't see the big problem. If those and the reminders in the profile page are not enough there is probably nothing that can be done without locking unlucky well-intentioned users out.

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There can be the option to mark the question as "No Acceptable Answers" so long as there is an explanation left. This would not count against the user as an "Unaccepted" answer. –  Chuck Burgess Aug 23 '10 at 23:03
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@cdb: Inventing a third state for questions just for this (imo not so big) problem? I don't think thats a approach. –  Georg Fritzsche Aug 23 '10 at 23:04
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Questions without at least one answer aren't considered "eligible", i.e., they do not affect the accept rate. (If you hover over a questioner's accept rate, the tooltip will read "this user has accepted X of Y eligible questions".) –  lockstep Dec 8 '11 at 12:09

First off, on the concept of ignoring or suppressing users:

Ignoring/Suppressing

This is my answer from "Add The Ability To Ignore Users", but I'll quote Marc's answer (much shorter)

  • if an individual post offends you: flag that post
  • it the mere existence of another user offends you: grow up

Ignoring problem users is a toxic feature that makes the experience better for some users at the expense of the entire community. And that feature dicussion was about ignoring particular users who were abrasive and offensive. That is at least a valid reason to want to ignore. As I'll get to later, "low accept rate" is not a valid statistic to draw conclusions from.

Punishing For Acceptance Rate

Please read this answer. It is absolutely comprehensive.

I'll give you some highlights.

All of these things put together indicate that looking at someone's acceptance rate does not tell you why they have that rate. So changing your behaviour based on it would be inappropriate.

*This one doesn't have a link because I haven't yet written a tirade about it. But hopefully it should be self-explanatory

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Good points regarding ignoring - SO is centered on questions and answers, not single users. –  Georg Fritzsche Aug 23 '10 at 23:06
    
There are some flaws in the thinking here. If this site is about generating content and not about the users, then why does it need users? Well written but obscure questions could still benefit from the "no accepted answers and here's why" option. Ignoring users should be acceptable. If something is flagged as offensive by me doesn't necessarily make it offensive to others. It's not about offense. If I feel someone is abusing my generosity to help them, maybe I don't want to help them any more. Hiding them from my feed would be completely acceptable. Why not? –  Chuck Burgess Aug 23 '10 at 23:09
    
@cdburgess All of your questions are answered in the various links I provided. Specifically the answer regarding "Ignoring Users" –  devinb Aug 24 '10 at 11:37

If you don't like answering questions from users with low accept rates, then don't. What are your priorities? Do you want to help people solve problems and learn new things, or is your goal to gain as much reputation as quickly as possible? I understand that the reputation system makes it more worthwhile for people to answer questions, but I don't see it as the ultimate purpose of the site.

Yes, it's painful to post a great answer to a question and have it be abandoned, but would it have been better for the question to never have been asked, because the user didn't accept other answers? If they don't accept answers, then people won't answer their questions, the mechanism works as intended. In the end, the person doing the asking is the one who will get hurt. Not you, not me, nor anyone else on StackOverflow.

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Actually, I would equate an unaccepted answer to a forum post where someone says, "Oh never mind. I figured it out." but never posts the results. The idea is not to help the one individual, but the community as a whole. If the user never accepts the answer, it is hard to tell what solved the users problem. The solution with the most up votes does not necessarily mean it's the best answer. So I am speaking from the perspective of the community, not the individual. When an answer is not accepted, it is still "unanswered" in my opinion. You made my point. It's not about individuals. –  Chuck Burgess Aug 23 '10 at 21:39
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if you post a great answer, someone will see it -- even if the OP doesn't! And certainly google will see it, and anyone searching for that information.. –  Jeff Atwood Aug 23 '10 at 22:00
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@cdburgess: The accepted answer isn't necessarily the best solution either. Sometimes they accept some ugly hack that just happens to work for their specific data, but in general is a very bad idea. –  Mark Byers Aug 23 '10 at 22:00
    
@cdburgess - Other visitors to a question can judge for themselves which answers are the most helpful. Even if the specific question isn't "answered" (by your standards), the answers can help point others in the right direction, just like they did for the OP. –  derekerdmann Aug 23 '10 at 22:23
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Then why have the accept feature at all? –  Chuck Burgess Aug 23 '10 at 23:44

I quite like how Yahoo's Q&A site handles this. If an answer hasn't been chosen as the best / correct then the community can vote to choose the best answer.

There is a given time frame to do this at the end the answer with the most votes is chosen as the most suitable.

The other thing that could be included with this is allowing for anyone to vote to close the question during this period.

Anyone in the community is just as worthy, if not more of deciding the best answer, especially if it has been asked by someone who regularly posts questions but doesn't accept answers.

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This would be a great solution! The user can still get the reputation points so they are not hung out to dry, and the community will not suffer from having questions without solutions. While it's not really the "solution", at least it will carry some weight. –  Chuck Burgess Aug 23 '10 at 23:05
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That idea has been shot down quite a few times; people tend to conflate "highest voted answer" with "accepted answer". The community can choose the "best answer" -- by upvoting it a lot. The highest voted answer is the answer the community feels is best. The accepted answer is the answer the asker feels is best. There's no reason to let the community pick the accepted answer -- we already had our say –  Michael Mrozek Aug 23 '10 at 23:33

I find the accepted answer to be a valuable feature. Often the accepted answer is what I've sought for when I've had a similar problem and I don't think banning users from posting question is a viable solution. Why force them to go somewhere else. I would however still like encouragement to accept answers, since that does provide value to all others with similar problems. Take the debate of whether or not to delete greetings and salutations from questions. One of the arguments to do so is to make it quicker to scan. Compare that to not have to scan every single answer if nothing is accepted.

So if we keep in mind that content (questions and answers alike) and the ability to find the content sought for as quickly as possible is the aim of the game then a way to encourage could be to allow posting new questions, allow for answers to the question but disallow OP with a low acceptance rate to read the answers for a day or two or until the acceptance rate is up over a given limit. The latter can usually be achieved in minutes.

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