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There appears to be some leeway in the interpretation of an acceptance tick mark.

Best answer:

The tooltip of an accepted answer states: "The question owner accepted this as the best answer...".

About - Stack Overflow states that "The best answers show up first so that they are always easy to find." And since accepted answers show up first (regardless of the vote count), one would tie Accepted=Best.

Most of the statements that I have seen support the concept “Accepted=Best” (as a nice example, this accepted answer), and leave the “It worked” concept for the upvote.

Good answer:

About - Stack Overflow states that "Accepting doesn't mean it's the best answer, it just means that it worked for the person who asked" (which would formally imply that the system should allow for multiple tick marks, but this is a separate discussion).

Is there an official position on this?

There are some related posts, but I did not find in there the answer to my question.

  • As with voting; which to accept is left up to the discretion of the acceptor – Richard Tingle Nov 14 '13 at 10:57
  • The system does not allow for anything else, that is clear. I was asking about a possible official stand about it that would act as a guidance for the discretion of the acceptor. – sancho.s Reinstate Monica Nov 14 '13 at 11:27
  • I just found this question, which did not show up as Related on the right (now it will be Linked). – sancho.s Reinstate Monica Nov 17 '13 at 19:58
11

An accepted answer is the one that the question poster has decided helped them most. Best answer for them.

That's it. No other criteria.


As far as the community is concerned, an accepted answer may not be a good answer, the best answer or even answer the question (the choice to accept and why is left to the determination of the question poster). Of course, it is bad that such answers be chosen as accepted, but that's people for you.

That such answers may get accepted is why the community can upvote answers that have not been accepted - so they rise to the top.

  • 1
    Just a clarification: answers most upvoted that have not been accepted rise, but not to the top (they stay below accepted answers). – sancho.s Reinstate Monica Nov 17 '13 at 18:41
  • @sancho.s - Yeah. We had discussed changing this, but it isn't clear what would make a good threshold. – Oded Nov 17 '13 at 18:42
  • The lists of pros and cons are both clearly not empty. Toss the coin, Homer´s way? – sancho.s Reinstate Monica Nov 17 '13 at 18:49
  • @sancho.s - It isn't that straight forward. We do get stuck on such discussions on occasion... – Oded Nov 17 '13 at 18:51
9

There is no rule or official stance. In my opinion, you should accept the answer that either solved the problem, got you as close as possible, helped you the most, etc.

The best answers show up first so that they are always easy to find.

The above phrase should not be construed as "accepted answers show up first, and only accepted answers are best." I think this is describing the entire sorting algorithm: If a question doesn't have an accepted answer, the default sorting is by votes, with the highest-voted answer first - and those are "best" in that case. If there is an accepted answer, it sorts first, but then the remainder are sorted by votes. (With one exception: if the asker answered their own question, and accepted that, it will not sort above any answers with higher votes.)

Remember that the check-mark serves two purposes: (1) it acts as a reward to the person who best answered the question, and (2) it serves as a flag post for other users that this was the answer you chose (and, implicitly, that you implemented whatever solution it proposed).

Of course, the asker doesn't always choose the best answer (I've seen many accepted answers with a negative score), but ultimately that's at the asker's discretion. The check-mark is just one flag post; up-votes and down-votes are often more valuable because they represent a larger and more representative segment of the community.

I will advise you to not accept answers too early. I know that you only have to wait 15 minutes before you can click the check-mark, but in a lot of cases, those first couple of answers you get may not be the best answers you could potentially get. Accepting an answer too early may actually prevent you from getting better answers, because, even though you can later change your check-mark, questions with accepted answers tend to not draw any further answers (unless the accepted answer is really bad). Also keep in mind that answerers who later lose the check-mark may feel offended that you took it away. Especially when they do it 4+ times, as just happened to me. So don't feel rushed into accepting an answer quickly, and if you get bullied into accepting, please flag it.

  • Your phrasing near the end somehow reads as if you yourself were offended too. Were you? I mean, I wouldn't expect you would be, not over such a trifling thing. I think at least on one occasion when I experienced the same I simply attributed that to the asker's attempts to accept more than one answer simultaneously until they realised they couldn't (or just gave up). Could be the same in your case. I.e. to me, a 126 rep (at this point) user could easily be still unaware that only one answer may be accepted. – Andriy M Nov 15 '13 at 10:38
  • @AndriyM I wasn't offended, just annoyed. – Aaron Bertrand Nov 15 '13 at 12:28
2

The best answer is the answer the person who asked the question found most helpful.

Case in point, I asked a question about Visual Studio, the accepted answer only has 11 votes, but I found it more helpful than the one with 59 votes, so I choose it, even though there are comments suggesting I should change my decision.

  • 1
    I leave comments like that occasionally too. They aren't necessarily meant for you to change your decision, just additional evidence to other readers that people felt the answer you chose was not the best answer (even if it was best for you). Comments are particularly important when an answer which may have been optimal at the time is no longer optimal, yet because of history it has been accepted and has hundreds of up-votes. It's tough to offset that by voting alone. Example. – Aaron Bertrand Nov 17 '13 at 22:09

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