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When a user posts his first question in which his accept rate appears, if the accept rate is zero (i.e. the user has not accepted any answers), the system should generate a single comment under his posted question that reads as follows:

Please consider accepting answers to some of your questions. You can do this by clicking the checkmark next to the correct answer for each question. -- Community ♦

This has a number of benefits:

  1. It automatically teaches the user how the system works.
  2. It eliminates the long trail of negative comments that accompany such questions.
  3. It eliminates me having to type it every time. :)

Here's an example of the current situation: Critical sections better in thread or main program?. A perfectly blunt, opaque comment that has broad agreement with the community, but says nothing about what "accept rate" means, or how to correct it (the comment was also flagged as offensive).

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7  
Let me get this straight: you want to use a computer to check on whether a group of binary conditions are met, and if so, display a boilerplate message, all so you don't have to? Unreal! –  Pops Feb 16 '11 at 21:40
    
I'm not particularly fond of this because it'll take 3 full days before the System will actually detect a 0% rate from when the 4th question gets asked, and so it can be very... detached. –  Grace Note Feb 16 '11 at 21:40
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@Grace: Then the comment can appear on the fifth question, or whichever one gets an immediate 0% rate displayed at posting time. –  Robert Harvey Feb 16 '11 at 21:41
    
#2 seems very significant, but your example text fails #1 because it is not really educative nor encouraging. If, then use a template with links: You should [accept answers to some of your past questions](http://meta.stackexchange.com/q/5234/153998). Not only will this show your appreciation for the people that spent their own time to help you, but it will improve your accept rate and the chances that they will answer any future questions you may have –  mario Feb 16 '11 at 21:43
    
Given 3 days? It may well be the 7th question by the time the system gets to it, or later. I'm also not a fan of automated messages, but that's not really a valid argument for me to use against this feature. –  Grace Note Feb 16 '11 at 21:44
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@Mario: That's a bit complicated, but thanks for the verbiage suggestion. My main goal is to to point them in the right direction, with a bit of finesse. For the record, my verbiage works about 75% of the time; i.e. the user's accept rate does indeed improve. –  Robert Harvey Feb 16 '11 at 21:45
    
@Robert: Your question seems foremost about automation. Not sure if it is necessary, but it's an idea I can get behind. I'm not saying you have to make the text as lengthy. But at the very least have it include an howto link. meta.stackexchange.com/q/5234/153998 explains the topic better than a two liner ever could. –  mario Feb 16 '11 at 21:48
    
@mario: Yes, the link is a good idea. –  Robert Harvey Feb 16 '11 at 21:49
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Here's a potential extra consideration there: on some sites (such as Programmers.SE) the accept rate doesn't matter and auto-encouraging answer acceptance would be misleading. –  Anna Lear Feb 16 '11 at 21:50
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+1 @Anna. This should be one of those things that is controlled on a site-by-site basis. –  Pops Feb 16 '11 at 21:52
    
@Robert: I like your verbiage, but I'd add a "Please" in the very beginning. Maybe mario's link could be behind [consider accepting answers]. –  Hendrik Vogt Feb 16 '11 at 21:52
4  
An interesting side effect is that the comment will come from "Community" which I rather like. –  dmckee Feb 16 '11 at 21:54
    
Just to clarify the bounty message. I'd prefer that this be a notification in the user's inbox rather than a comment. –  Bill the Lizard Jun 27 '12 at 14:29
1  
@BilltheLizard I'd prefer a UI element like the "vote on questions too" ect notifications, but an inbox notification works too. Definitely not a comment, those show to more than the user, which is unnecessary. –  Ben Brocka Jun 27 '12 at 15:49
    
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3 Answers

In case I am bad at conveying sarcasm through text, and/or other people's sarcasm detectors are broken (regarding my comment on the question), I support this idea. I propose modifying the message a bit, though. Something like this should be added:

"From this point onward, the percentage of questions you have accepted answers for will be displayed under your name on your questions."

Maybe even include a link to the FAQ on accept rate. That'll provide some incentive to actually do as the comment asks.

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This amounts to making the system bully a new user on your behalf.

Just because a question is asked doesn't mean an answer has been found or posted that satisfies the thirst or fixes the problem of the person asking.

The system already nudges them into accepting an answer:

Have you considered accepting an answer or starting a bounty for this question?

Also, if you're typing those comments out over and over again, consider a better method. One such as dropping in pre-written text from a note or browser clippings.

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3  
Your position is inconsistent. If you believe this is a bad solution, then using browser clippings makes no sense. In addition, I reserve the comment only for those users with no questions accepted at all. I don't bother users with a low accept rate that is above zero. The wording in the message is hardly bullying; it is carefully crafted to be a friendly, gentle nudge. –  Robert Harvey Feb 16 '11 at 22:36
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There's a clear difference when commenting as a user or moderator and hiding behind the shadow of "community" where the consensus isn't all there. If you want to personally badger someone about their accept rate, do so. Don't fob it off to the system to handle your dirty work. @rob –  random Feb 16 '11 at 23:54
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Surely the innocuous comment I offer is better than the beating some people get from the community members' comments (point #2 in my question). This is actually my primary concern. A lot of unnecessary noise is generated by these comments, and I think a preemptive comment would shut those down. –  Robert Harvey Feb 17 '11 at 0:29
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I disagree here. A one-time, neutrally-phrased message from a robot only for users who have not demonstrated that even know what the acceptance feature is seems rather less like bulling than the stead dribble of these things that come from the user base right now. –  dmckee Feb 17 '11 at 2:12
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The suggestion already appears on their profile page. Throwing another message just harps on a point. How many more messages do they need? @dmc –  random Feb 17 '11 at 2:35
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I agree with this proposal. I dislike accept rate badgering and most of my SO browsing is done on the mobile site, where the accept rate doesn't even show up (alas, you can't flag badgering comments from there either).

The only time I mention accepting an answer (and the only time I consider it appropriate to personally comment about it) is when a new user comments "thanks, that worked" on my answer without accepting it. Even then, I wouldn't do it until some time has elapsed.

Lets give new users the benefit of the doubt and assume the following:

  • A 0% accept rate means they may not know how to accept a question, in which case the comment is useful.
  • There may well be a message on the profile page, but new users may not visit this very often if at all, so again, the comment is useful.
  • A low, but non-zero accept rate means that the user does know how to accept answers but has chosen not to. In this case the comment is not generated so we are not "making the system bully a new user on your behalf"

I can't see a drawback. A friendly, "official" reminder with a canonical link has to be better than five upvoted comments refusing to answer unless the questioner accepts some answer, any answer on their previous questions. The former is nothing more than a system pop-up or reminder, the latter is personal and negative.

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