Ended up here from a new question being duped to this one.
I welcome the idea to get questions marked as "answered" and have question authors indicate which answer helped them the most.
However it must be via the question author.
As defined in the Help Center, an accepted answer is specifically:
Accepting an answer is not meant to be a definitive and final
statement indicating that the question has now been answered
perfectly. It simply means that the author received an answer that
worked for him or her personally
So an accepted answer:
- Does not mean it is the best answer
- Does not mean it will help others even with the same or similar
question, as users have a vast array of code and approach
differences between each other
- Is only a feature for the question author and only signifies a
specific answer helped them above other answers
- Has no bearing at all on how the community in general perceives an
accepted or other answers in a question. The accepted answer may
have (e.g.) a score of 3, and another answer in the same question
upvoted to a score of 20.
So users other than the question author can only mark what they think is the best answer based on the question and answer text and which answer directly answered the question. This would not necessarily be the answer which specifically helped the question author the most.
Only the question author knows which answer was the best answer which helped them. And this is the entire purpose of an accepted answer.
If we allow anyone other than question author to mark as "accepted" then we have literally changed to meaning and purpose of "accepted answer" - and that is a new proposal altogether and not one which should be hidden as an unintentional side-effect of a different proposal (as with this one here).
So no, we cannot let anyone other than the question author accept an answer, not even moderators.
If you want to clean up unanswered questions, you need an idea and feature-request where either:
You somehow get the question author to come back and accept.
Bearing in mind users may well forget which answer helped them the most and just accept the highest upvoted one.
More "rewards" to entice them back may get answers accepted just to earn the reward.
Neither option necessarily means question author will accept the one which "helped them the most", so all we'd do is "clean up" and not show genuine accepted answers.
Users other than the question author resolves this without marking an answer as "accepted".
Such as (just an example I'm not suggesting we do this):
Do not label a question as "unanswered" which:
- Is older than X months
- And has X total answers
- And has X answers with a net score greater than Y
So for example a question:
- Is 8 months old
- Has 3 answers
- Has 2 answers with a net score greater than 5
This is not perfect, and has issues, it's just an example idea of a way we can clean up old "unanswered" questions which are arguably answered in some sense (have decent and upvoted answers).
That said, we do risk losing out on users potentially going through "unanswered" questions and providing an even better answer than the current ones.
The above algorithms could be tweaked to fix that, but it might just be the case that we cannot do anything about questions being "unanswered" for a long time or indefinitely.
Either way, it needs a new angle than allowing moderators (or anyone) to accept answers on the question author's behalf.