Occasionally I will find that a sub-optimal answer has been selected by the OP as the accepted answer, when a much better answer exists. Sometimes I feel responsible to down-vote the selected answer to offset this*, so future readers might get some idea that, while accepted, and not necessarily a bad answer, this may not be the best answer. This is most clear when the accepted answer has low or no up-votes and a better answer has several.

In some of those cases, the OP later unaccepts the inferior answer and accepts the better answer. I think that in this case (and probably others I'm not thinking about presently) it would be useful if this could reset the vote timer - allowing me to undo my down-vote (and maybe even up-vote) simply based on the fact that the accepted status has changed, without having to manually ninja-edit (or obvious-edit) the answer. In my opinion this is still something that has changed about the answer, even if the content hasn't changed.

It's easy enough to just edit the answer to reset vote timers, but then the whole anonymity thing goes out the window. And I usually screw up the ninja edit.

I get that I am no longer judging the answer on its own, but I think that the little checkmark attached to the answer becomes a part of the answer, as it can certainly influence how future readers perceive the answer. Especially those coming from other forums, like MSDN, where the best answer is often selected by moderators, not an OP who might not really be able to judge the best answer.

  • Is it OK if I badger you and tell you that you're doing it right? But why wouldn't you just leave it downvoted, since it wasn't edited or improved in any way? – Cody Gray Jul 25 '13 at 13:56
  • @CodyGray sure, I don't mind that kind of badgering. I was just trying to pre-empt any tangential rants about how I should be using my votes, which is not the point of this question at all. :-) – Aaron Bertrand Jul 25 '13 at 13:56
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    In my opinion, whether an answer is accepted or not has no bearing on whether it is good or bad. If you are really sure that another answer is better, you can add a comment to the accepted saying why. – Fiona - myaccessible.website Jul 25 '13 at 13:58
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    @CodyGray because, as I tried to explain, my down-vote was used to signal other users that the wrong answer was accepted, not to punish the author for a bad answer (since, like I said, these aren't necessarily bad answers). If they also improve it, that would also factor into my decision (but that would reset the timer so irrelevant). Again, I DO NOT WANT TO DISCUSS the voting motivations themselves. It just takes away from the issue. – Aaron Bertrand Jul 25 '13 at 13:58
  • @codingkiwi.com can you PLEASE read the italics in the question again? I don't really care if you disagree with the way I use my down-votes (and I often do comment as well). It's not what I want to discuss here, and I am free to down-vote whether I think the answer is bad or whether I think the answer might not be the most useful answer for others. I just wanted to add context for the feature request. – Aaron Bertrand Jul 25 '13 at 13:59
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    I don't think it does take away from the issue, personally. You're saying "this is how I do it", which is fine. But then you're saying "the site should be changed to help the way I do it", which does make the reason part of the discussion IMO. – Fiona - myaccessible.website Jul 25 '13 at 14:01
  • @codingwiki.com why? If accept/unaccept simply resets the voting timer, why does it matter WHY a vote existed or WHY a voter might later decide to change their vote? I'm merely asking for that status change to reset the timer. Period. – Aaron Bertrand Jul 25 '13 at 14:03
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    Because the fact that it was accepted / not accepted should not influence your own decision on good / bad, regardless of what the intention is to up or downvote based on that change – Fiona - myaccessible.website Jul 25 '13 at 14:05
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    @codingkiwi.com I think that you can focus on the feature requested here and give an opinion on why you think it's good or a bad feature without going into the voting pattern used by Aaron, which is effectively taking away of the issue presented – Lamak Jul 25 '13 at 14:06
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    I have no problem whatsoever with your down vote system. It's not what I would do but that is OK. I am referring to the feature request and saying I don't see why accept/unaccept is a significant enough event to reset the vote timer. – Fiona - myaccessible.website Jul 25 '13 at 14:08
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    @codingkiwi.com fair enough, but if you see your comments, this is the first one where you actually say something about reseting the vote timer at all – Lamak Jul 25 '13 at 14:10
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    It seems to me that the justification for this feature request is based on your unique voting preferences. I can't/won't tell you that what you're doing is right or wrong, but to try and put them "off limits" for discussion is counter-productive to having this feature request approved. If the team is going to take time to implement this, they're going to need a good reason. Right now, I don't see that reason. – Cody Gray Jul 25 '13 at 14:13
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    You are free to (down)vote for whatever reason you want. But you are not free to repeatedly change your vote for whatever reason you want. That's been stated here on Meta just as often. An exception was granted to allow people to change their vote in response to an edit, and that was well-justified based on a change in the content that might change your vote. You're asking for a similar exception to be made, but since the content isn't changed in your case, you need to provide an alternative justification. My point is that your voting patterns are essential to why we need this feature. – Cody Gray Jul 25 '13 at 14:21
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    Meta ... it's like the hipsters of StackOverflow. Don't expect answers or help, just ridicule and derision. – swasheck Jul 25 '13 at 14:36
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    Aaron, I don't think anybody is criticizing you personally. Of course you're free to vote how you want. But if you bring that out in the open as a justification for a change, have a thick enough skin to discuss it. Just don't forget that this is the internet, and you can't hear the tones of voice or see the facial expressions of your peers here; none of us think you're a bad person or really care what you do personally with your votes. We do, however, care passionately about this site and the policies that we want to encourage. – Joe Jul 25 '13 at 14:50

First, this is an extremely rare scenario. Accepted answers changed after 5 minutes account for something like 3% of all accepted answers. Reduced to those that have down-votes, and we're talking a hair over 0.3% on Stack Overflow, a total of about 12K answers, 3K of which are already deleted.

Beyond that, there have been some interesting suggestions for handling cases of incorrect or unpopular accepted answers, but encouraging people to cast down-votes they don't actually believe are warranted strikes me as actively counter-productive.

Finally, there are perfectly-good work arounds:

  • The owner of the answer can delete it once it's no longer accepted. If it's really that bad, this is a good way to shed down-votes.

  • The voter can edit the answer, thus unlocking his vote. If you edit it to improve it to where you no longer feel your downvote is justified... That's even better.

  • Is there an opposite of "Reversal"? :) – Joe Jul 25 '13 at 16:36
  • Populist maybe? – Shog9 Jul 25 '13 at 16:37
  • Populist requires the accepted answer to have a score of 10 or more, sadly. – Joe Jul 25 '13 at 16:39
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    I disagree that this is ridiculously obscure. Are you making that assumption merely because nobody else has bothered to bring this scenario to meta? I can assure you that in my circles there are multiple people who make the same types of decisions (most are just completely put off from venturing here). – Aaron Bertrand Jul 25 '13 at 16:40
  • Next, yes, the owner of the answer can delete their answer. If they care enough to. They may still think it's a fantastic answer. Also, since +1 / -4 still nets them positive rep, it's actually not in their best interests to delete it. – Aaron Bertrand Jul 25 '13 at 16:41
  • Finally, sure, I could edit the answer and improve it. Unless that changes their idea. Again, these are not bad answers, these are answers that suggest one way to accomplish something that is inferior to other ways. I can't edit their answer that says "use a cursor" and change it to say "use window functions." At the same time, I want to make sure that other people understand that for the specific scenario a cursor will work but is not the best. Others suggest relying on comments for that, but I get extremely mixed messages about comments, and it seems to hinge mostly on convenience. – Aaron Bertrand Jul 25 '13 at 16:42
  • Ridiculously obscure because accept votes just aren't changed that often, @aaron. Reduce that number by those where the previously accepted answer had down-votes and you're adding complexity to an already non-intuitive restriction for very, very little gain. – Shog9 Jul 25 '13 at 16:43
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    Ok, ninja-edit it is. Thanks! – Aaron Bertrand Jul 25 '13 at 16:44
  • I disagreed with the tone of your answer. I edited it to make it less inflammatory. Now we'll see if I edit again later if I can upvote. – swasheck Jul 25 '13 at 16:44
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    Wait, you're saying you wouldn't down-vote an inferior answer if it wasn't accepted, @Aaron? That's... Unfortunate. I would hope you would at least leave a comment to warn folks away from using it then. – Shog9 Jul 25 '13 at 16:51
  • I use comments all the time to warn people about possible inefficiencies, caveats etc. that people should be aware of. Again, inferior to me doesn't mean bad - it still solves the problem, but perhaps in not the most efficient way or in certain cases with peculiar side effects. When you add a checkmark to that question, that strengthens my feelings about it. – Aaron Bertrand Jul 25 '13 at 16:54
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    I am very liberal with down-votes of bad answers. I don't believe that I need to waste down-votes on every single answer that is not the best answer on the page, and that is what I mean by inferior. – Aaron Bertrand Jul 25 '13 at 16:55
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    So if it was just the top-voted answer, you'd down-vote it then too, right? Or no, because even though it's at the top it doesn't have a checkmark? Should we be unlocking votes when an answer drops in rank? This is a more common scenario... – Shog9 Jul 25 '13 at 16:56
  • Yes, of course. Most of the cases I'm talking about, the OP accepted the answer, perhaps not realizing it wasn't the best answer. It typically doesn't have a lot of up-votes - because the rest of the community doesn't agree that it's a good answer, and perhaps it's not bad enough to down-vote. The checkmark changes things - that involves a judgment that is not necessarily made by a person who can be the best judge of quality (but other readers might not understand that), while votes from the community can encompass a much more well-rounded opinion of the answer. – Aaron Bertrand Jul 25 '13 at 16:59
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    I up-voted Jack's FR in April. However you've also status-declined that one. shrug – Aaron Bertrand Jul 25 '13 at 17:02

First off, I disagree with the suggestion; I think the accept status and the vote are two entirely different things. SO has never considered them related in any way, and as such the accept/nonaccept should not be related to the vote locking.

Second, I'm going to discuss that which should not be discussed, because I think the only argument you could make for unlocking is specifically that your strategy is the appropriate strategy in these cases, and thus must be a part of any answer. I don't think it's evil or bad or whatever, and don't really care what you personally do; but if this is a suggestion for changing site policy, it is relevant and must be open for discussion.

I think that most of the time, comments are indeed the correct way to handle your communication of whether an answer that is accepted is better/not better than another answer. Voting and accepted answers should be two entirely different things. The answer might be accepted because it's better for the question poster, even if it's not better in general. Either way, if the accepted answer is a good answer, it should be upvoted; if it is a bad answer, it should be downvoted; and if it is neither, then leave it alone. Indicate you like another answer better by upvoting that answer, not by downvoting an answer you do not like as much.

I'd also say that it feels like hubris to decide you are the arbiter of which answer is right, to the point of attempting to influence other posters beyond normal voting. That's why we have voting, after all.

Upvote good answers and they will rise to the top. If an accepted answer is not as good, and shows up at the top, that's okay; the next answer down will be your good/better answer, and future readers will see it as well. If they don't, it is their fault for not reading thoroughly.

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    You just expressed in a much clearer way exactly what I was trying to get at with my comments. Thank you. – Fiona - myaccessible.website Jul 25 '13 at 14:50
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    You expressed in the comments what I was feeling as well, which undoubtedly had some positive effect on my post, so thank you :) – Joe Jul 25 '13 at 14:52
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    I do this in cases where I know there is a better answer than the accepted one, and the OP may know that too, but chose to ignore advice in better answers / comments. In some of these cases I don't feel that relying on up-voting other answers that appear "below the fold" is enough, and often comments are completely ignored (especially when there has been extensive discussion), and these are second-class citizens anyway. YMMV. – Aaron Bertrand Jul 25 '13 at 15:00
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    know is a rather strong statement. If the OP did know the other answer was better, but accepted the first answer, perhaps that was on purpose. Voting to change that is not any better. – Joe Jul 25 '13 at 15:20
  • @Joe sorry, but in some cases the OP's judgement of what is best can be very easily proven to not be what's best for the majority. – Aaron Bertrand Jul 25 '13 at 15:21
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    Then the votes will show that. Accept is solely showing the OP's opinion on the answer that was most helpful to the OP. What gives you the right to tell the OP what he/she should choose? – Joe Jul 25 '13 at 15:22
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    @AaronBertrand, in which case it'd be shown by number of votes. You don't have to sabotage the accepted answer to show that, surely. – Old Checkmark Jul 25 '13 at 15:22
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    The OP's choice of accepted answer does not indicate the best answer and should not be read that way. If the answer was a bad answer, then downvote anyway. If it was a good answer, then upvote or leave it alone - it's helpful to other readers. The existence of a better answer is not sufficient reason to downvote an otherwise fine answer. Voting totals will show which is more helpful according to the community. – Joe Jul 25 '13 at 15:26
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    The OP's choice of accepted answer does not indicate the best answer - you know that. Can you say with any authority that all users know that? I certainly can't. – Aaron Bertrand Jul 25 '13 at 15:32
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    @AaronBertrand, again: if it is also a good answer, then what harm is done? A user who does not take the time to learn how the site works (and therefore gets little sympathy from me in any event) uses a good answer instead of a great answer to guide their code. What harm was done? None whatsoever. Their C++ program takes 0.002ms instead of 0.001ms to compile. Life goes on. – Joe Jul 25 '13 at 15:36
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    If it's not a good answer, then downvote it anyway. If it's a good answer, then upvote it anyway and don't worry if it's not the best answer. The answer is either helpful or it's not. – Joe Jul 25 '13 at 15:46
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    You haven't addressed the crux of the issue: if it's a good answer (even if not 'the best'), why is this a problem? – Joe Jul 25 '13 at 16:09
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    If it's not a good answer, then downvote it and happily leave your downvote. I don't see the problem here. – Joe Jul 25 '13 at 16:31
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    @Joe an answer that isn't best isn't necessarily bad. I feel like we're splitting hairs here about something that is completely subjective - I down-vote bad answers, not answers I'm indifferent about. When a checkmark is attached, my threshold changes, and when the checkmark is removed, it changes again. It's as simple as that. – Aaron Bertrand Jul 25 '13 at 16:37
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    Is it a good answer, or a bad one? Good != best. A good answer still solves the problem and could be useful for later users. This obsession over "one best answer" is too Highlanderish for my taste. – Joe Jul 25 '13 at 16:38

Unlocking votes after a post gets edited makes sense because the modification might make voters feel differently about the post.

On the other hand, unlocking votes when an answer gets accepted/unaccepted doesn't make sense because the content of the post/answer has not changed. The asker simply changed his mind about the answer.

  • Right, and I explained in my question exactly why I down-vote accepted-but-not-best answers: to signal to other users that, while accepted, this is not the best answer. I often comment as well, but I don't think SE wants comments to be the primary indicator of such things. That signpost is no longer necessary if the OP changes their accepted answer to a better one. – Aaron Bertrand Jul 25 '13 at 14:38
  • I know what you mean. I just think that the vote unlocking should not be modified to cater for such unconventional use of downvotes. – Old Checkmark Jul 25 '13 at 14:41
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    Do you find it "unconventional" just because you don't do it? I think it's a very useful way (in addition to transient comments) to signify to others that, while the OP may have found this useful, they may not. Just because the bulk of the comment thread above is from people who don't agree that I'm using my votes correctly doesn't mean there aren't a whole bunch of people who do the exact same thing I do. – Aaron Bertrand Jul 25 '13 at 14:44
  • You specifically said in your question, "*You may disagree with my use of a down-vote in this scenario, but that is my right and it is not what I am intending to discuss here, so please don't badger me about "doing it wrong."". But now you want to discuss your use of downvote? – Old Checkmark Jul 25 '13 at 14:48
  • I am perfectly fine discussing it, I just don't want to be told "you're wrong" and I didn't intend for the subjective motivations behind my votes to become the main point of conversation. I failed. – Aaron Bertrand Jul 25 '13 at 14:54
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    "I just don't want to be told "you're wrong"" -- No one ever does when they are wrong. – GEOCHET Jul 25 '13 at 15:09
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    I'm using "unconventional" as a euphemism actually, and I'm sorry that the choice of word misled you (I used that adjective because you seemed pretty averse to people telling you that you're wrong, according to how you worded your question). I think any kind of voting that is mostly influenced by factors unrelated to the merit of an answer judged by itself is wrong. The fact that a whole bunch of people do it doesn't make it any more correct. And the system shouldn't be modified to cater to such voting behavior. – Old Checkmark Jul 25 '13 at 15:12
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    I'm judging the answer and the checkmark next to it, which certainly has some influence on how other readers might perceive the answer. – Aaron Bertrand Jul 25 '13 at 15:15

You may disagree with my use of a down-vote in this scenario, but that is my right and it is not what I am intending to discuss here, so please don't badger me about "doing it wrong."

But you are doing it wrong. You are abusing the voting system and you are here asking for the site to be changed to accommodate your abuse.

I think you vastly misunderstand the difference in a 'right' and an 'ability'. The voting buttons next to an answer ask you to vote on whether or not the answer is helpful or not. An answer does not become useful or lose that status because the OP 'accepts it'. You do have an ability to abuse the voting system since the system trusts you by default, but that does not make it right or your right.

The voting system should stay as-is.

Captured for posterity:

I can vote based on your avatar and the fact that I don't like cats. Just because you think that's wrong doesn't make it wrong. It's subjective for a reason. – Aaron Bertrand

Yes. As I said, you can abuse the system. That does not make it right or just.

Your edit:

I get that I am no longer judging the answer on its own, but I think that the little checkmark attached to the answer becomes a part of the answer, as it can certainly influence how future readers perceive the answer. Especially those coming from other forums, like MSDN, where the best answer is often selected by moderators, not an OP who might not really be able to judge the best answer.

Then that would an acceptable use for a comment, not a vote. That is what comments are there for. Then you can actually explain why an answer is bad and that people should not follow the advice or code.

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