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The accepted answer always appears at the top of the list, regardless of sort order. This can be misleading if the question author accepted an invalid solution and a better solution was proposed later, and eventually got more votes. I have seen somewhat obscure questions where the accepted answer has a negative score and the next answer has 10 or more up-votes.

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There's a similar question about this. –  Tim Stone Sep 19 '10 at 23:17
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Not always. Not if the asker accepts their own answer. -------- Additionally, votes can be misleading too. Sometimes incorrect answers get the most votes. –  Peter Ajtai Sep 20 '10 at 0:07

2 Answers 2

"Accepted" and "correct" are two thoroughly different and disparate concepts, and complaints about the sort order invariably revolve around some misunderstanding of this difference.

Acceptance of an answer simply indicates that it solved the problem for whoever asked the question. You can't override this because it is entirely the decision of the original author. He owns the question, he decides which answer he found the most useful. There's nothing more to it than that.

There's even a badge for answers that score significantly more than the accepted answer. It's an indication that these discrepancies are expected to happen, and there's nothing wrong or unusual about it.

On the other hand, the voters are frequently wrong as well. I've seen many an incorrect solution (as in woefully incorrect; does not compile incorrect) voted up ridiculously many times. The "override" of accepted answers gives the questioner the opportunity to say, "Hey, I don't know what all of these people were smoking, but that answer right there is not the right one." It makes no sense to take this away, no matter what the votes look like, because that's the whole point of the system.

Highly-voted answers will appear directly below the accepted answer, there for everyone to see. If subsequent readers are too lazy or have attention spans that are too short to read any further down than the accepted answer, that's their problem.

Ultimately there's no way for the system to ever reliably determine which answer is truly "correct" - if there were, we wouldn't need accepts or voting at all. Therefore, the only time that voting should "override" answer acceptance is when it already does, i.e. when the answer was submitted by the same person who asked the question. In this one exceptional case, the default sorting rule is ignored because even though the questioner can reliably say that [his own] answer solved the problem, there is no guarantee that, as written, the answer was communicated effectively enough to be understood by another person. The normal answer/accept social contract between two members makes no sense when there's only one member involved.

Bottom line is that the status quo is fine here. We don't need any complicated systems for overriding the accepted answer, however annoying a few bad accepts may be. If you're a reader as opposed to a questioner or answerer, then make a habit of scrolling down to at least the second answer, and then you won't have to worry about this problem.

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"Problem" and "question" are two thoroughly different and disparate concepts, and rationales about the judgment of the author invariably revolve around some misunderstanding of this difference. Your premise makes the assumption that the problem the author had matches the question they asked, when in many cases one is a very small subset of the other. –  Sparr Sep 20 '10 at 5:11
    
PS: since when does pressing enter in a comment save it? –  Sparr Sep 20 '10 at 5:11
    
@Sparr: re PS: see this question - meta.stackexchange.com/questions/63644/… –  Piskvor Sep 20 '10 at 8:24
    
@Sparr: Fine, then replace the phrase "solved the problem" with "answered the question" or "addressed the concern." Quibbling over semantics doesn't change the essential premise here, which is that the accepted answer is the one deemed most helpful by the author of the question. –  Aarobot Sep 20 '10 at 14:19
    
@Aarobot yes, but unless I am mistaken the purpose of these sites is to catalog answers that are helpful to other people, not just the author. If I ask how to get to the top of Mt Everest, and I accept the answer "use a teleporter" because I have one, that does not make that answer helpful to the next thousand people who want useful answers to the same question. –  Sparr Oct 25 '10 at 20:50
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No, @Sparr, it doesn't, and those people who don't find the teleporter suggestion helpful because they don't own teleporters will simply scroll down to the next answer, which is the highest-voted one. –  Aarobot Oct 25 '10 at 20:58
    
@Aarobot - You seem to be conflating sort order with "correctness" rather than usefulness. I'd like it to be a preference. –  Ian Tegebo Sep 12 '13 at 16:43
    
@IanTegebo: I'm perfectly clear on those. The whole point of my answer is that very many others (yourself included, it seems) aren't so clear. To make it clear: "Correctness" isn't something we measure at all. "Usefulness" is something we measure, subjectively, through a combination of regular votes (which denote other people agreeing) and the accept vote (which is the only non-anonymous vote and denotes that it actually solved somebody's problem). There is no other metric, therefore no such preference can exist. –  Aarobot Sep 13 '13 at 0:14
    
@Aarobot I don't think we're talking about the same notion of "preference". For instance, I meant "preference" in the sense that I'd like the sort order to be user configurable as a preference. Clearly, the site could sort by number of votes, possibly pushing the accepted answer further down the page. I'm finding that I would prefer that most of the time. –  Ian Tegebo Sep 13 '13 at 1:59
    
@IanTegebo: That's nice, but the site isn't designed exclusively for you, and you haven't identified a use case. The sorting works as it is currently intended to work. –  Aarobot Sep 13 '13 at 2:21
    
@Aarobot This is not a feature-request question, this is a discussion. In fact, it appears to be a discussion on a site dedicated to making it more useful to users. Here you have users saying that would like something that would make the site more useful to them, and your tone becomes condescending. –  Ian Tegebo Sep 13 '13 at 2:35
    
@IanTegebo: I'm a user too, and so are all of the people who upvoted my answer. You've made all of 5 posts. Why is it always the people who've barely used the site who think they know exactly how it ought to work? –  Aarobot Sep 14 '13 at 0:53
    
@Aarobot You assume that number of posts equates to "use"; I've read vastly more than I've written. The issue of sort order with respect to accepted answer is directly related to reading. –  Ian Tegebo Sep 14 '13 at 2:47
    
@IanTegebo: Everybody here has read vastly more than they've written. You're really not helping your case. This isn't a genuine usability feature that everybody needs, this is you and a tiny handful of other people being pedantic and anal-retentive about being inconvenienced for approximately one microsecond. There are many, many more important things the dev team could be working on. –  Aarobot Sep 14 '13 at 12:13

I mention a couple of cases in a similar question I recently asked. I'll restate the main case here.

When an accepted answer is "outdated", and there exist highly voted answers that are more recent, then a vote-based sort order appears more useful (at least in my experience). Some heuristic would probably be useful in defining "outdated", giving the community enough time to decide whether unaccepted answers are really useful "enough".

The question mentions those cases where the accepted answer has a negative vote, I think that's another case where sorting lower on the page makes sense.

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