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Is it appropriate to comment on people's accept rate?

It has begun! https://serverfault.com/questions/58780/ - a commenter has chastised an OP for having a low acceptance rate (even though the OPs status does not qualify them for having their acceptance rate on the question).

How should we deal with people who chastise others for low acceptance? Especially given that there are plenty of reasons for non-acceptance of answers...

Is this an OK practice?

  • Meta discussions belong on meta, not in question comments. Of course, new users don't read meta so... we reap what we sow. – Craig Gidney Aug 26 '09 at 4:24
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    Now I've gone and opened the flood gates. The original poster of the comment has now gone and flooded the comment with feedback about my comment. Perhaps I shouldn't have said anything at all, because the OP does not need, nor want, to see the resulting discussion. – Mark Henderson Aug 26 '09 at 4:28
  • Can I undoooo? I'll flag it for mod attention and ask them to clean it up... – Mark Henderson Aug 26 '09 at 4:36
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    I usually call out the person and call BS. It is funny how much time people waste telling others to upvote and they have no intention of answering the question. I think this metric is useless and has negative effect. – tim May 11 '10 at 17:54

I have only been directed to this thread this morning. Before reading this I had no idea what "acceptance rate" meant - I had assumed that StackOverflow was telling me how many of my answers had been accepted by others, I had no idea it meant how many questions I had accepted answers to.

So when someone asked "Why the low acceptance rate" on one of my questions I had no idea what they were talking about. If they had not done so I would still be in the dark.

But there is a really simply solution!

When someone starts to ask a new question, if their acceptance rate is below X% have the website show a red warning message above the Title input which states

Warning: You have accepted answers to only Y% of your questions, this may deter people from offering answers.

Mock up

  • FYI, solutions to a similar effect are already being discussed here. – Bart Jul 31 '12 at 11:48
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    It's also important to note that you should only ever accept answers that work for you, no matter how much people prod at you to get the average rate up. – Donal Fellows Jul 31 '12 at 21:13

As the comment originator and others have observed, the difference between a friendly suggestion and a rude beratement is simply tone. If someone can't be civil, you flag it. We don't need extended discussion on every possible comment subject matter.

For example, in this case, Izzy's comment was civil and okay:

You really should accept an answer for previous questions you've asked. -- Izzy

Phrased rudely, it's not okay (flag it):

Hey noob, why don't you accept some answers for once? -- JerkMan


Is this an OK practice?

I wouldn't recommend it outside of severe cases. But since you didn't leave the comment, I don't think you should waste any thought on it.

How should we deal with people who chastise others for low acceptance?

If it really bothers you, then flag it...

  • Shog, I am not sure its even OK for severe cases: stackoverflow.com/questions/1332120/… .... – waffles Aug 26 '09 at 4:00
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    Ah, yes... The CW thing. Problem is, it takes more effort to explain why you should flag rather than asking people to CW their posts than it does to just explain why a post should be CW in the first place... so you're kinda fighting an up-hill battle there. FWIW, i flagged the post. – Shog9 Aug 26 '09 at 4:04
  • When that happens, nobody wins :( – Mark Henderson Aug 26 '09 at 4:05
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    I suspect the same thing will happen for accept rates: in most cases, someone will answer regardless, so being rude just closes ears. I do think that, for new users, a friendly reminder to accept past answers (assuming they were indeed helpful) isn't terribly wrong. – Shog9 Aug 26 '09 at 4:06
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    @Shog, I was actually referring to shores very poor track record on SO (22 percent acceptance, almost no votes and TONS of questions with 0 answers) - The comment that "damn it, time to answer some questions and accept some answers" may end up causing more trouble than its worth. – waffles Aug 26 '09 at 4:07
  • Where's that comment? I see what you mean about shore... still not sure what a good solution is in those cases, though increasing the down-vote penalty might be a start. Gotta expect that it'll draw out some.... "heated discussion" if the trend continues though. – Shog9 Aug 26 '09 at 4:13
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    :) That comment is in my head, I just could not bring myself to typing it .... – waffles Aug 26 '09 at 4:15

It was not a chastisement, but a suggestion. Personally I think you've read way too much into my original response.

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    It's not really your response to be honest, yours was just the example that I found. I was more concerned about the "what if" someone really lays into an op about it... – Mark Henderson Aug 26 '09 at 4:39
  • I hope I haven't offended you, that wasn't my intention by the way. I've flagged and asked for a mod to clean up the thread, because if I delete my own comment yours won't make sense to a passer-by... – Mark Henderson Aug 26 '09 at 4:41
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    I am mildly offended about it to be honest. And of course, the cronyism/nepotism of Meta follows-through once again. – Izzy Aug 26 '09 at 4:42
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    Haha well if there's any nepotism on MSO it's certainly not in my favour - believe you me. It's been seriously censored now but there was quite the heated debate on here yesterday and I most definitely was not on the popular side. – Mark Henderson Aug 26 '09 at 4:45
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    By the way, I apologise for offending you in any way - it was not my intention at all. – Mark Henderson Aug 26 '09 at 4:49
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    Maybe it surprises you, Izzy, but this is the place where the rules are discussed. If you have complains, join the club! Be aware, we do not refund your fee... – Ladybug Killer Aug 26 '09 at 8:04
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    Every suggestion is an implicit chastisement of the way someone is doing something. Yours was not particularly offensive, but the question is whether or not the practice should be continued. – devinb Aug 26 '09 at 13:28

When the user upvotes an answer they get a notice about accepting an answer. Personally I think that's sufficient.

I'm not sure you can fully attribute that comment to the approval rate change but it is obviously a concern. For the sake of completeness I'll quote the comment in question before it disappears:

You really should accept an answer for previous questions you've asked. – Izzy 40 mins ago

The comment was left on the user's third question.

I'm not sure the comment was necessary or justified but I don't think it's overly harsh either. Until we see a problem I don't think we should be jumping the gun.

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    Thank you. The original response-comment to my comment was taken out of all proportion. Making a suggestion is now something that the frequenters of the hallowed halls of Meta are prepared to jump all over? Great attitude – Izzy Aug 26 '09 at 4:41
  • Yes, Izzy, you're doomed! We're searching human sacrifices to worship or Unpredictable God! – Ladybug Killer Aug 26 '09 at 7:52

Users not accepting answers, is an issue that I believe Jeff and co. are attempting to address. However, I do not believe this makes it appropriate for people to encourage them in this manner. Things that may seems like gentle suggestions to an experience user can come off as pushy and/or condescending to a new user. The SO system has been designed and refined in many ways to encourage user's to accept answer; let the system handle it. If you find a comment (or question/answer) offensive, you are welcome and encouraged to flag it for a moderator. In time a moderator will see the notification and address the situation, if they feel it appropriate.

While I wouldn't expect any of these to happen in this case, others systems in place for dealing with inappropriate behavior include, if a user gets flagged too many times, they will be docked 100 points, warnings from Jeff and co., the penalty box and perhaps banishment if deemed necessary.

Additionally, in defense of the asker here (and note I suspect I wouldn't know a single answer on SF), only two answers to one of their three questions has any upvotes; so this person is certainly no where near the worst offender, if an offender at all of not accepting answers when they should.

  • It was a suggestion, and I never once mentioned batting average, or accept rate. If I'd have included "you may get more answers to your questions if...<insert rest of comment" would that have been more acceptable? I suspect maintaining a presence on Meta would actually have been the only way to make my original comment acceptable. – Izzy Aug 26 '09 at 4:45
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    @Izzy: well, you're here... You've got the same right to voice an opinion as anyone else, so... go ahead and do that. If you actually bothered to read the answers here you'd see little or no support for starting arguments in question comments, so i'm not sure why you're acting as though Meta is out to get you. – Shog9 Aug 26 '09 at 5:02
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    Fair comment - that's not how I feel although I'm aware that's how I'm projecting myself right now. There is however, in my personal opinion, something of the "old boys club" about Meta which has a knock-on effect on SF and SO. Some of those Meta regulars come across as totalitarian and authoritarian on SF and SO, feeling their participation in Meta somehow makes them/their opinion more valid – Izzy Aug 26 '09 at 5:11
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    I really resent being called old. But anyway, feel free to join the club! – Treb Aug 26 '09 at 8:43

I think the answer is that age-old wisdom "it depends".

If someone has a low acceptance rate, then I'd be looking at their questions and seeing whether it's typical of them, or whether it's more about the questions they're asking (ie, they ask questions that aren't getting good answers).


I'm getting increasingly disturbed by 'acceptance blackmail,' defined as relatively rude or brusque comments attached to questions from users who have a low acceptance rate. I am ready to start flagging them abusive. I have no problem with polite remarks to the effect that it would help the smooth functioning of the site, but the 'or I won't answer your question' tone bugs me.

Would it help some people calm down if there was a feature wherein the community could vote to accept an answer if the OP failed to do so over some period of time?


I think the accept rate is a useless, meaningless number and has negative effects. The behavior is encouraged by getting points for accepting an answer. Any other "suggestion" is just as likely to be interpreted poorly or taken poorly.

It is hilarious to me that the people who point out to OPs that they should accept answers defend it by saying that they won't waste their time or spend time on posters who don't accept answers. That is nonsense. At most the OP has the ability to give 25 points. The rest of SO users number in the of thousands (10ks?). Why are they worried about just one person?

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