Let's stop displaying a user's accept rate
This feature request is simple: Remove the accept rate from the user card. No user should ever see another's accept rate.
The rationale is also simple: There are no positives to showing the accept rate, and many negatives. I've gone into more detail below.
First let me address the only real positive I've seen claimed about the accept rate:
[I]ntroducing accept rates heavily increased the amount of accepted answers in the system. Which in turn helps close loops and motivate the community.
- You can't measure motivation. But at a user level, I've never seem anything but discouragement happening because of the accept rate display.
- It seems to me that a lot of answers get accepted prematurely and, specifically due to this feature, for no reason other than to increase the accept rate. That basically makes the acceptance mark unhelpful and inaccurate, and certainly the fact that the number of accepts increased doesn't mean anything except that shaming people works.
Another quote from that post:
[Accept rate] is a one-dimentional metric that does not really give me enough information about how upstanding a user is in the community. It is used frequently to bully users and leaves a horrible taste.
I fail to see how the benefit is worth the horribleness.
And it is horrible; I reject the claim some have made that having a low accept rate displayed is not a form of punishment and shaming. To quote a comment made on an answer to another question:
Accept rate isn't to shame people, but to allow answerers to concentrate more time on those people who engage more in the site – Casebash May 10 '10 at 5:32
The purpose is irrelevant. What are the actual effects of labelling someone as "not worth your time"?
- Users make comments intended to shame those with low accept rates.
- Users make polite comments intended to gently remind a user to accept, which may still cause the user shame. You've probably noticed that people can get awkward when you tell them they've got food in their teeth or something. Now imagine that everyone in the room heard you tell them (equivalent of publicly posting a comment). It would be perfectly natural to be embarrassed in such a situation.
- Users who notice or are told that other users refuse to spend time on their questions due to the accept rate are likely to feel rejection and/or shame and/or any number of other negative emotions.
There may be the rare case where a user is genuinely glad to be reminded if they had intended to accept an answer and forgotten. In all other cases, the emotional effect is negative. (You may argue that this is desired, but I am not making any claim about that yet so it's irrelevant.)
Given this negative effect, let's enumerate what it causes in turn:
- It discourages people from asking about difficult problems that are less likely to be solved. Stack Exchange is about expertise. Expert questions should be encouraged.
- It punishes people who have in fact asked expert questions that haven't yet been adequately answered. Not only with feeling rejected or whatever, but in not getting further answers.
- As a result of the previous two, it pushes away experts who want to do more than answer, or want to participate in a site where they and other experts could do more than answer.
- It pushes away people who want to participate in a site where people are treated with respect indiscriminately.
- It aids and encourages rep whores. Yes, everyone is free to participate as they wish, including playing the rep game. But we should encourage excellent and constructive behavior, not just acceptable behavior. Encouraging people to give all the attention to the easy-rep questions doesn't make this the valuable site for real development issues that we want it to be.
- It pushes away new users who weren't aware of the feature until they received a nasty welcome.
- Users who see negative comments think they're acceptable.
Now yes, there are users who just come to leech solutions and don't care to accept answers that they should. Should they be punished for having a low accept rate? Some points:
- Their questions may still be useful to others if answered.
- It's easier to use a throwaway account each time than get engaged in the site; the punishment may be ineffective.
- Have you seen how many people continually post crap without learning their lesson, even if their questions go unanswered? Again, the punishment is ineffective.
- You'll always have people like me who will answer a decent question if they can regardless of who asked it, why they asked it, or whether they've accepted previous answers. The punishment is ineffective.
- If the punishment's ineffective, the only point in executing it is vindictiveness. I don't want to participate in a site that promotes vindictive behavior.
- How can it be valid to ignore questions but invalid to ignore answers (not accept them)? This behavior seems inherently hypocritical to me. We don't stamp "ignores questions from low accept rate users" on user cards, why should we be stamping "low accept rate" on user cards either? Questions require effort and have value too, not just answers. Ignoring a question due to an external factor harms the site.
Yes, we should always encourage people to leave polite and constructive comments. But no matter how we encourage good behavior or discourage bad behavior, these comments will always be made if the accept rate is displayed. When it comes to the accept rate, there's a simple and effective option to reduce abuse. Get rid of it. The downsides are prominent and the upside is questionable as to its existence and entirely dubious as to its ethics. I certainly feel that the benefits of removing it greatly outweigh the benefits we purportedly get from it.
Some examples of how useless the accept rate is:
Mentioning the accept rate is considered so unconstructive that mods will delete such comments and so prevalent that flagging them auto-deletes them
Skipping questions from users with a low accept rate is discouraged
The rate gives no indication of why it is what it is:
- "There are occasions where accepting isn't practical".
- Some users accept answers solely to increase their rate
- "[A]ccepting answers is not required" (unless you want people to treat you with respect and answer your question, apparently)