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Moderators accepting answers on user's behalf after a certain time period

I'd like to request two things

  1. Moderator ability to accept an answer for a question after
    • enough time has passed after asking
    • a sufficiently low asker karma
  2. A flag for moderator attention to accept an answer
    • it should only be available once the time limit has been reached and the asker's karma is below the threshold.
    • a flagging user could potentially include some sort of documentation that the answer solves the question posed, reducing the work for the moderator. Perhaps there could even be a karma reward for moderator approval of the documentation.


User Alan has a reputation of 1. He's posted a question that user Brian has put time into crafting a thoughtful answer. Six months later the question has no answer and Alan still has a reputation of 1.

A moderator should be able to accept the answer on behalf of Alan after making sure that the answer is actually valid--ensuring that Brian receives some eventual reward for his work.

The numbers for how much time has passed and how much karma would 'lock out' a moderator are nonobvious--the optimal value or values for each would require testing or a community survey. Nevertheless, this would patch up a hole with the answer-posting incentive system.

I personally feel disinclined to answer questions posted by people with low karma because I've seen my share of questions with a perfectly valid answer and no accept--as the asker has long stopped using the site. Generally such users have < 100 karma. Very often they just have 1.

On the researching-side, I've also seen questions asked by such users that are quite good but have no answer. I can't help but wonder whether someone with the answer couldn't be bothered to post because of the lower expected karma for answering.

  • 4
    This has been marked as an exact duplicate of this question from 2009. As it's been two years, and the most upvoted comment of the most upvoted answer is "Let's check back in on this discussion when drive-by askers build up a huge library of unanswered questions with no mechanism for acceptance... Eventually there will need to be some kind of cleanup process.", I feel that this question is relevant. There are 450k+ unanswered questions on SO now vs 33k+ (see other post) – Eric Hu Dec 8 '11 at 5:03
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    Why does there need to be a cleanup process, what is the harm? Six months later the question has no answer and Alan still has a reputation of 1, if the answer looks good, then click that up-vote button. If you are concerned, you can go review older questions and up-vote good answers. If you have a really good rational about this is needed, then go add an to linked question. – Zoredache Dec 8 '11 at 7:34
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    It has not been two years, since the same question comes up time and time again. See for example the "Linked" section of that two year old question. – sth Dec 8 '11 at 10:36

Accepting an answer is meant to indicate only "this solved my problem". If the user who asked the question is AWOL, then there's no way to determine if the given answer solved their problem.

If an answer is good, it should garner upvotes regardless of whether the question asker is around. You should be rewarding people who give good answers to questions with your upvotes, you don't need a moderator to step in with any special answer-accepting powers.

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  • I would say that an AWOL user with sufficiently low karma has a high probability of not returning after some time. Whether it's one year, six months, or something else. I can and do upvote good answers, but this doesn't change the fact that the answerer can expect to gain more karma by spending the same time answering a question posted by a more-vested user. – Eric Hu Dec 8 '11 at 4:59
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    @Eric:So then spend your time answering questions by "more-vested" users... If you don't think you'll get any upvotes or a check mark by answering the question, then don't answer it. Every answer you write you take a chance. I have plenty of answers out there that just sit there with 0 votes and no check. Oh well. At least you'll help future visitors to that question. After all, this is about helping people, is it not? – animuson Dec 8 '11 at 6:23
  • @animuson Yes, this site is about helping people. My purpose in posting this question isn't to get points on my 0 vote answers, it's to improve the usability of the site. Game mechanics drive behavior on SO, separating it from forums and email lists. Providing a bigger incentive for users to answer old questions meaningfully would help them, the askers and future visitors. – Eric Hu Dec 8 '11 at 7:37
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    @Eric: If people like the answer they will upvote it and you will get rep from that, making the missing +15 from the accept not so relevant. If people don't like the answer and don't upvote it there is really no ground for anybody to decide that this answer should be accepted. – sth Dec 8 '11 at 10:41

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