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From my experience on the SE network so far, the intent of an SE network site is to provide a singular correct answer to each question. Basically, if someone has a question that's answered on an SE network, and they google it, they want the question to appear first so that person just needs to check the accepted answer for that question. This works fine for many of the SE sites: SO, SU, SF and many of the other sites get questions that have 1 answer that works for most people and maybe a few other answers that can be used if the popular vote answer does not work for whatever reason.

However, there are also a number of exchange sites that are based on an entirely different question logic:

  • Worldbuilding has a focus on basically crowdsourcing answers to open-ended questions with no cut & dry answer. They are less "this is the right answer" and more "this & this & this are consequences of the statement from the question", where each consequence can be found in a different answer and accepting 1 answer usually is not really an option because it means choosing the most correct answer from several correct answers.
  • Parenting allows people to get feedback on issues they encounter while parenting, which depending on the situation might not be the right answer to the next user to visit.
  • Code Review is similar to Worldbuilding in that there are usually multiple correct answers, but each answer has their own merit and brings a different nitpick to the code provided in the question.
  • Programming Puzzles & Code Golf is based on a competitive mentality where each answer is a separate contestant to the competition, complete with leaderboards, scoring rules and restrictions that can vary from "no loophole abuse" to "your code may not include the letter E". The main difference is that the "best" answer potentially can change days or even weeks later, when a new contestant tries their luck and beats the current leader.

There are other exchanges that have a similar issue: the basic way in which their field works and the tendency to have soft, open-ended questions where there can be more than 1 answer that's correct and most answers are equally correct. The SE paradigm started by the 3 original sites in this network where there is 1 acceptable, canonical answer and maybe a few backup methods just plain does not work for these exchanges, because they're based on an entirely different methodology.

I am NOT trying to say that these SE sites should be removed, closed or otherwise impeded though. These exchanges have their own right of existence, because they still have a purpose and a devoted audience. They also still have the main focus of the SE network in them: questions and answers, guided by a reputation and voting system to weed out the bad answers. However, they use their system in a different way: instead of "this answer/question has helped me, I shall upvote it", it's "this question/answer is intriguing and interesting to read, I shall upvote it". this is not a wrong way, it's just a different way. And they still help people: many of these SEs get traffic from outside the network from people trying to find answers to problems they have.

The main difference is that these softer SEs usually have a bigger focus on discussions instead of decisions. That is one of the places where the SE framework in my opinion starts to work AGAINST these softer exchanges: the SE framework focuses on getting a correct answer, with discussion being relegated to chatrooms with far fewer users, much downtime and a rep requirement. Moderators are encouraged to move discussions to these chat rooms, making it harder for people to remain interested in them because they can't consult the question that prompted the discussion as easily. Comment threads are moved to chatrooms, sometimes even before they're finished, often hiding astute remarks and observations that are part of these comments and can easily change the quality of the answer or question they're part of.

I think banning these SE sites is not really a good idea. They're popular, they're interesting and they fill a niche (for example: googling World building gives the SE site as the second page where users can place their own requests for comment, after Reddit which has an entirely different format). They need their own solution, but I'm not sure what that would be.

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  • Why do you think that questions on any SE site must only have one answer? An accepted answer is the answer that worked for the OP... that doesn't mean it works for other people, too. Many questions have answers that are higher voted than the accepted answer. – Catija Aug 20 '15 at 22:16
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The Granddaddy of them all - Stack Overflow - doesn't have the requirement that there's one (and only one) acceptable answer. There is no rule that states that the questioner must accept an answer. In fact all the green acceptance tick means is "this answer helped me the most". It can be awarded to any answer and that answer doesn't have to be the "best" answer.

To any problem, programming or not, there are potentially many solutions and the Q&A format of Stack Exchange is working just fine. The various answers compete for votes from the rest of the community and the one(s) that people think offer the best solution to the problem rise to the top.

The fact that the concept of accepting an answer is less meaningful on some sites isn't an issue - it just makes it more special when an answer is accepted.

Discussion isn't banned outright - it's extended discussion that's discouraged. There's enough space in comments and chat to discuss an answer and with editing it can be improved and extended as required (just as we're doing here). One of the key points about Stack Exchange is that answers aren't set in stone once they've been posted. They can (and indeed should) be improved as flaws etc. are pointed out, or new information comes to light.

Also, don't forget that answers don't necessarily have to address the whole question - especially on sites that allow broader, softer questions - they can just focus on one aspect leaving other aspects of the question to be addressed by other answers.

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  • I'm not just talking about "is there 1 answer that's acceptable?", but also about "Does this question merit doing more than just answering?" Many SE websites benefit much more from discussing the answers, which improves them, but there is not really a good way to discuss the answer because discussion is stifled quickly. – Nzall Aug 20 '15 at 20:36
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Perhaps the most exact SE, namely Mathematics, has multiple acceptable solutions, as there are multiple methods to solve a problem.

The most useful or elegant answers will float to the top through voting. The acceptance mark is a way to give the asker a way to say thank you to the most helpful answer.

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TL;DR;

Often is the case whereby it's better to have and not need, than to need and not have.

Not always, of course, but the accepted answer function is not causing any problems by being present and not used. While it may be very rare to be able to accept an Answer on some specific sites/tags, that does not mean that it will never be used.


Regarding your examples

Worldbuilding .. no cut & dry answer... are less "this is the right answer" and more "this & this & this are consequences of the statement from the question" ... it means choosing the most correct answer from several correct answers.

If that is what the Question author wants to base their "accept" mark on, then yes, but that is not the only reason to accept an Answer.
It just means choosing the Answer which the Question asker preferred. And this can be personal reasons and not necessarily anything to do about quality or being correct. They could choose a non-correct Answer if they wish, perhaps it made them laugh, or whatever reason.

Worldbuilding front page shows 8 accepted Answers.

Parenting.. Which depending on the situation might not be the right answer to the next user to visit.

Accepted Answers are not to represent what might be useful to others, it literally is just that the Question asker preferred that Answer for whatever reason.

Parenting front page shows 4 questions with accepted Answers.

Code Review.. usually multiple correct answers, but each answer has their own merit and brings a different nitpick to the code provided in the question.

This doesn't stop Question author choosing an Answer which helped them the most.

Code review front page shows 7 questions with accepted Answers.

Programming Puzzles & Code Golf .. The main difference is that the "best" answer potentially can change days or even weeks later, when a new contestant tries their luck and beats the current leader.

Question author can change their chosen accepted Answer. Also, Answers changing, even being improved, doesn't necessarily invalidate the Question asker's reasons to accept a particular Answer.

Programming Puzzles & Code Golf front page shows 1 question with an accepted Answer.


The problems you've highlighted above are present on most if not all sites - in that it can be tricky choosing which Answer to accept. But if there is no obvious one based on the Question author's preferences etc, then they can just not accept. It's not imperative to choose one.

SE is SE is Q&A

the SE framework focuses on getting a correct answer, with discussion being relegated to chatrooms with far fewer users, much downtime and a rep requirement. Moderators are encouraged to move discussions to these chat rooms, making it harder for people to remain interested in them because they can't consult the question that prompted the discussion as easily.

If a question needs extended discussion in comments then either:

  1. The question is not fit for the Stack Exchange Q&A format
  2. The commentors are not asking for the right verifications
  3. The question is unclear
  4. It's extended and should be in chat

I know this isn't always the case, but the problem is you want to discuss something, e.g. about a Parenting question or Answer, but this is not a discussion site. It is literally and always a Q&A site, where we get answers to our questions, not have discussions.
FWIW I do sympathise here, as will many others. Sometimes it would be nice to make it a forum on some questions :)

Maybe use the site's Meta to advertise/drive more people to chat where you can chew the fat as desired/required.


Stats

It would be useful to get stats to show "total accepted answers" on sites/tags you feel the function is pointless. It only takes a handful of accepted usages and we have a strong argument to keep the function.

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