I can't seem to tell what the default sort order of answers is.

My guess from passing observations is the default for no accepted answers is "Oldest".

For answered questions it seems random.

For wikis it is "votes."

I thought it(which sorting order) might be purposely random to encourage voting on all answers.

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There are three ways of ordering answers:

  1. Votes. Highest voted appears first. Answers of equal votes are sorted randomly.
  2. Oldest. Answers appear in the order they were posted.
  3. Activity. Answers are ordered by when they were last edited. The most recently edited appearing first. For most of the time this is the opposite of Oldest.

The default view is "votes" and this is where the randomness comes in to encourage (or rather not discourage) voting.

Exception: The accepted answer appears always on top, unless it is answered by the questioner.

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  • Oops, I meant "purposely random" as in which way answers are ordered not ordering under each method. – surfasb Oct 27 '11 at 18:40
  • @surfasb - answers are never listed purely randomly. – ChrisF Oct 27 '11 at 18:42
  • @Scrooge: I'm not sure about this change. Yes, it encourage people to vote more equally, but now it requires one more action to find the best answer(assuming you are coming from Google) – Hoàng Long Dec 22 '11 at 5:05

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