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I ask a question, and in true Stack Exchange style I get a short and to the point answer that is great within 30 seconds in some cases. However, should I mark that answer as accepted, or wait for more answers in case there is a better (more thorough, perhaps) answer?

If so, how long should I wait?

  • 2
    Isn't there a 15 minute grace period for accepting answers? – Kevin Brown Feb 15 '15 at 6:00
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    If your question can be answered in 30 seconds then there is a serious problem with it... – user230564 Feb 15 '15 at 18:02
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    @AndréDaniel: While being answerable in 30 seconds often goes hand in hand with a serious problem, I would not say that every question that can be answered in less than 30 seconds has a serious problem. If an expert on the topic sees the question immediately after posting and neither the question nor the answer are long, this may happen with good questions. – Wrzlprmft Feb 15 '15 at 18:31
  • @Wrzlprmft a question answerable in 30 seconds means a serious lack of research effort... – user230564 Feb 15 '15 at 20:02
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    @AndréDaniel: It is a strong indicator, but nothing more. I would say that a decent proportion of my answers require less than 30 seconds of brain time and no research whatsoever – because, well, I am an expert on certain aspects and can have some special knowledge readily available that isn’t easily searchable on the Internet, but not because the questions lack research effort. The only thing that takes a significant amount of time is writing down the answer. – Wrzlprmft Feb 15 '15 at 20:26
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Just because you've received a good answer doesn't mean you've received the best answer. If you're asking asking about code, someone might be able to write better code. If you're asking about a proof, someone might provide a more elegant proof. If you're asking about a workaround, someone might be able to devise a more efficient workaround. And if you're asking about a language like English or Italian, someone might provide a better way to say something.

Moreover, the SE community is a global community. Depending on what time of day you post your question, a good portion of the regulars in that community might be asleep for the next four hours or so.

I suppose it depends on the nature of the question, but I often recommend waiting at least a day before accepting an answer.

I've seen at least one case where someone asked a question and got a quick answer that was promptly accepted just a few minutes later. However, the answer was a bad one. It accumlated several downvotes over the next couple of days. Sadly, the O.P. never logged on again, so that person seems to have gone on their merry way with bad advice.

There are good reasons to leave a question open for a day or so, even if you get a helpful answer right away. Some may be more likely to look at a question if it's still "unresolved." You might be more likely to get a few more answers (and perhaps one of these will be even better than that initial answer). Also, it gives others in the community time to weigh in, perhaps with a vote or a useful comment.

I realize that accepted answers can change if someone gives a better answer later on. But there's something about that green checkmark that seems to say, "Okay, I've got my issue resolved – there's no need to investigate here." I just don't see the need to rush things so quickly when so many others might be willing to mull over your problem and give feedback as the possible solutions unfold.

I also think that accepting answers in a matter of minutes instead of hours might contribute to a culture where users race to give quick answers as opposed to taking the time to compose thorough answers. I imagine it would be discouraging to spend a half hour solving someone else's problem, only to realize they've already accepted an answer before you were done composing yours – and the question isn't even an hour old yet.

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It depends

It shouldn't matter if an answer is posted quickly or after a couple of years, if it answers your question and solves the problem then you should accept after the 5-15 minute grace period expires. This way it saves other people's time as they won't need to read/troubleshoot/answer a question that has already been solved.

In some situations you will see OK answers that are a little rushed. In those circumstances adding a comment requesting for more details, references, code examples, is perfectly acceptable.

In other cases you might like a quick answer or two and think "that addresses my question but it's not the best and/or doesn't 100% suit my situation". In those cases I tend to leave a comment saying "Thanks, if no-one else provides a better answer in the next day/week/month I will accept" or "Thanks I was expecting more along these lines, could you please address that in your answer".

General rule of thumb is:

a) wait 5-15 minutes (depending on complexity) to give everyone who's read your question a go at answering, and
b) if it answers your question, solves your problem, you've tested it, it works as expected/desired and covers everything and you don't have further concerns (without making it a chameleon question) then accept.

I have seen some people wait a day or two to reach a wider audience as they know not many people visit questions that have already been marked with a correct answer. Another reason to delay marking an answer correctly is the circumstance where its a controversial issue and you would like to see the community's voting consensus.

You get the drift on how it really does depend.


I think the whole debacle about Accept Rates being hidden from Stack Exchange was primarily not to force people to accept (and risk no-one helping them in the future) and conversely to encourage the best answers to be marked correct.

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    Thanks, if no-one else provides a better answer in the next day I will accept. – Shelvacu Feb 15 '15 at 10:40

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