Sometimes you get the feeling that people visit threads, read the question, quickly scan the top voted answer, and then just throw another vote onto the pile. "Yeah, that's it", they seem to think.

But it can be really annoying when the top voted "answer" to your question is not the solution to the problem. Adding a comment isn't always enough - especially if the comment gets folded away.

Since it's at the top of the stack, it's likely to get pushed up further by drive-by-voters. Which is really irritating.

Perhaps the OP should be allowed to downvote any answer in a question he has posted back to 0, regardless of how many upvotes it gets.

Yet another example

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    +2 for the first part -1 for the resetting. – Brad Gilbert Aug 14 '09 at 16:08
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    Too much power for one user. – Brad Gilbert Aug 14 '09 at 16:08
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    +1 for the germ of a good idea – ChrisF Mar 20 '10 at 18:40
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    I just wish it would germinate – bobobobo Mar 20 '10 at 21:29
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    On the just added "yet another example" you have asked for better, not given any of your own requirements (to actually measure against), and then argued with the answerers when they guessed at your requirements and didn't guess correctly. This does not seem productive. – Gnome Mar 20 '10 at 23:29
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    Read the whole thread. The +5 answer is wrong because he doesn't say to use an extern. He simply goes "use a namespace", which isn't a good answer. It just isn't. I think 3 of the answers posted after him do a much better job of suggesting wrapping externs in a namespace. But the top voted answer is flippant and useless. – bobobobo Mar 21 '10 at 21:53
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    Its since been edited, but if you look to the history of Klaim's answer the original +5 voted text was exactly this: A better way would be to put your objects in a namespace. – bobobobo Mar 21 '10 at 21:56

10 Answers 10


Perhaps as well as having an "accepted" answer the OP should have the ability to say "this is not an accepted answer". Display a red cross instead of a green tick - but don't change the votes.

You'd probably want to scrub the flag - and notify the OP - when the post was edited though, otherwise a post which was once wrong but has been corrected would still be marked as non-accepted.

I guess the latter part of this is all part of the wider notification discussion, but I do quite like the idea of a visual clue for "I've tried this, it didn't help me."

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    +1: I like the big red X idea. – gnostradamus Aug 14 '09 at 16:18
  • Yah, you would have both views present on the question. The community suggestion and the OP's opinion/acceptance. – Troggy Aug 14 '09 at 16:27
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    I don't know about a big red x, but a red x nonetheless. – devinb Aug 14 '09 at 16:48
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    There really needs to be some 'Notifications' improvements. We have 250,000 questions, and no way to reliably track the ones we are interested in. – Tyler Carter Aug 14 '09 at 16:48
  • Maybe something as expressive as Pesto's suggestion for finding the search meta.stackexchange.com/questions/13538/… – Troggy Aug 14 '09 at 16:57
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    +1 I like this better than a weighted downvote. – squillman Aug 14 '09 at 17:12
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    I think giving an OP more power to downvote or scarlet X an answer is a really bad idea. It will discourage people from making an effort to provide a quality answer to complex questions posed by less than seasoned questioners for fear of being X'd out of ignorance. Let the community judge the quality of an answer. They are more qualified than the guy who needed an answer. Comments are good for "Didn't work for me!" – Sky Sanders Mar 21 '10 at 22:06
  • @code poet X can cost 2 rep, to help deter overuse – bobobobo Aug 14 '10 at 14:42
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    I don't like this idea. Accepting simply says that answer helped the OP solve the issue. Many times, one of the other answers solves my problem or adds additional information not in the accepted answer. To me this is akin to deleting all other answers once the OP accepts one. – ThinkingStiff Jan 20 '12 at 21:04
  • +1 Red 'X' answers should also be put at the bottom of the "answer list", after the new, 0-score, non-red-X answers. – asteri Dec 21 '12 at 14:22
  • I'm not a fan of this idea in the hands of new users, but it might be useful for established community members. Perhaps for new(ish) users it could be a suggested "X" that would need moderator approval, while established users could just mark it without need for approval? (Note that in either case it would still need to be the OP doing the marking.) (Also, I'm against having this X change the question ordering in any case.) – Kyle Strand May 1 '13 at 14:28


The OP is sometimes severely clueless and short sighted, and may reset to zero answers that think a bit more outside the box, or give general rules that, if followed, would make the problem disappear altogether. It would be frustrating to let one user multiply by zero all the votes for an answer.

Also, on all the occasions where I started to ask something on SO, the question already existed, and I stopped. I don't want the author of that existing question to have super powers, because I refrained from posting a duplicate to keep the site clean, so I'd like the voting of answers to that existing question to be democratic.

In conclusion: No.


Bad idea.

The reason OP is posting is because OP either:

  1. doesn't know the solution to the problem and very often
  2. doesn't understand the problem.

I often see the wrong answer accepted and the/an correct answer ignored. Further punishing effort to answer a question by downvotes/X by clueless OP will drive down participation.

Bad Idea®

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    Assume I give you 1) and 2). Fine. 2) isn't always true, but it sometimes definitely is. An unhelpful answer is a bad answer. Either its right and unclear (which makes it worthless to the OP), or it just plain sucks. Either way the OP should have the ability to bury it, until someone comes along and re-hashes that same answer in more detail or just plain better. – bobobobo Mar 21 '10 at 21:51
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    @bobobobo - let the community at large that is not emotionally involved be the judge of the quality of the answer. As a group the community is better qualified to judge the suitability of an answer than the user who did not have an answer to begin with. OP can up-down vote just like everyone else AND can mark an answer accepted AND can leave a comment saying what an idiot the answerer is. You assert that more power to potentially abuse people who make an effort to answer is needed? – Sky Sanders Mar 21 '10 at 22:01
  • Your whole line of reasonning is that the "community at large" of question askers is on average "clueless", then you rely on the same people to judge the quality of answers. Bad Answer (R), to quote you. – Kheldar Dec 21 '12 at 10:03
  • @Kheldar you are incorrectly quoting me which leads me to believe that you don't understand what i said and basing your criticism on that misunderstanding. – Sky Sanders Dec 21 '12 at 10:33
  • It is possible I misunderstand you, but this reflects, maybe, that you weren't clear enough? Removed the downvote since answer's been edited. – Kheldar Dec 21 '12 at 12:44

The OP gets to accept an answer. That's huge. And that's enough.

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    But not useful if there is no answer they want to accept – squillman Aug 14 '09 at 16:37
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    Sure it is - if there's no answer that they're willing to accept, then they can just not accept any answer. They can also down-vote, comment, clarify or increase the specificity their question... – Shog9 Aug 14 '09 at 17:03
  • Yeah, they can downvote or just not accept. But that doesn't give anyone else any indicator that it's not a workable answer to the OP. Comments and clarifications I'll concede with the caveat that comments are often greatly misused/misplaced. I like Jon's idea more than a weighted downvote now. – squillman Aug 14 '09 at 17:11
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    YOU OWN THE QUESTION - YOU CAN EDIT IT AT ANY TIME There's really no substitute for good ol' fashioned communication. With words... – Shog9 Aug 14 '09 at 17:49
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    @Shog9 +10 POINTS FOR BOLDFACE ALL-CAPS – bobobobo Jun 9 '12 at 17:40

I like the weighted downvote idea, but the "reset to 0" could be horribly abused. You would need a lot of check and balances for the implementation.

  • Agreed. The second idea is no good, but the weighted downvote might work. – Troggy Aug 14 '09 at 16:17

Usually if the Top answer gets many votes, it's a sign that the question is not good worded. I then take the time to clarify the question, adding a Edit: The question may have been a bit unclear. My question is about cooking food for a hamster in the Microwave, so Ed's answer is unfortunately not the solution I'm looking for.

The Edit: usually ensures visibility.

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    "not good worded" Oh, the irony. – Lightness Races in Orbit Jan 10 '12 at 19:32
  • @LightnessRacesinOrbit I expect you meant "shouldn't it be 'the question is not well worded' rather than 'the question is not good worded'", to help Michael Stum improve his post? – Kheldar Dec 21 '12 at 12:47
  • @Kheldar: Michael can deduce where the problem is from my comment text (deliberately indirect though it is), and deduce that there is a problem from the fact that seven people upvoted it. ;) I leave fixing the problem as an exercise to the OP. – Lightness Races in Orbit Dec 21 '12 at 19:38
  • One of those upvoters happens to be me ;) – Kheldar Dec 24 '12 at 18:36

Whilst I understand and sympathise... NO.

It is not anyone's job to "undo" other people's right to vote. You are not voting for a final score; you are voting for a relative movement of plus or minus one. Assigning new meaning to a final tally score of 0 completely breaks all that.


Something that could be nice would be a sign "this question doesn't have yet an answer that I can accept", to help differentiate between:

  • questions where the user is too lazy to accept the answer that solved his problem,
  • or questions where the user abandonned the question itself (left SO to go visit New Zealand, forgot his account altogether, was abducted by aliens or something),
  • and questions where you have been regularly checking, but there just is no solution.

I'm thinking of combining the visual cue idea of Jon Skeet's with the need for some active act from the user to avoid question-abandon.

  • There is a thing which serves just the purpose you seek: it's the bounty system – 410 gone Dec 21 '12 at 11:19

I tend to agree... I've always felt that the question belongs to the OP and the answers belong to those who post them. If the OP's question is still unresolved and the community is rallying around an answer like "have you tried jQuery", the OP does not really have the ability to do anything other than add a single down-vote and a comment. Sure, they could edit their POST and say, no Johny, jQuery does not work for me as I'm dealing with server side code.

Jon's idea of the visual notification, maybe a red X or something to suggest the post didn't resolve the problem would work well. However, if a post gets modified the visual clue should disappear as the edit may have corrected the issue. At this time the OP should see that the answer was modified in the recent activity feed.


How about ability to set temporary "that didn't help" mark that would only prevent question from being sorted to top by votes for a day or two, but won't limit it in any other way and would eventually be removed automatically? Kind of reverse of bounty's "protection".

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