Sometimes I see questions asked by super-low-rep users, even reputation-1, which have one (or more) reasonable answers with some upvotes - but no answer is accepted, and the OP doesn't make any comments or indicate they have reason not to accept; they just disappear, possibly forever. This is generally a bit annoying, but my problem is with the case in which it is not immediately clear that the answer is the right one, or that it helped/would help the OP - seeing how s/he has not accepted it; it might make other people doubt its validity when they shouldn't (in my opinion).

So, ok, I upvote it. Now it has, say, 2 instead of 1 upvotes. That still doesn't quite resolve things.

What should I/we do in these cases, as a non-moderator, non-answer-provider, but relatively high-reputation user?

Note: I mean what should I do now, not what possible solutions could there be to this issue involving changes to the system etc.

  • 1
    We're judging contents, not users. So if you find that posts useful, simply upvote, if not downvote as usual. Mar 26, 2017 at 15:20
  • @πάνταῥεῖ: It's implied in my questionn the answer merits an upvote (or at least, not a downvote) - but how does that help it get accepted? Ok, you know what - let me make my question a bit clearer.
    – einpoklum
    Mar 26, 2017 at 15:22
  • It's completely on behalf on the OP to accept an answer or not. Also an accept mark is the least sign of usefulness of an answer. Mar 26, 2017 at 15:23
  • 11
    The short answer is "nothing"; accepting an answer (or not) is completely voluntary. I'm sure this has a comprehensive answer... somewhere. See if this is answers your question: Ways to encourage users to 'Accept' answers. Is it a dupe? Mar 26, 2017 at 15:24
  • @πάνταῥεῖ : see my edit. I'm worried about validity rather than usefulness. Also, it's completely up to the OP - if s/he actually considers it. What if OP was in a car crash and now has amnesia?
    – einpoklum
    Mar 26, 2017 at 15:25
  • @RobertCartaino: Related, but not a dupe, because I'm talking about a situation in which it is likely the user will simply not notice any encouragement, since s/he isn't active on SE network any more.
    – einpoklum
    Mar 26, 2017 at 15:26
  • 1
    "What if OP was in a car crash and now has amnesia?" There's nothing you can do about that, so what? Mar 26, 2017 at 15:26
  • @πάνταῥεῖ: About the amnesia no, about the question for which it is not clear whether the answer is valid, maybe there is. (Or maybe there isn't, that's why I asked.)
    – einpoklum
    Mar 26, 2017 at 15:27
  • 2
    @einpoklum You can leave an appropriate comment, if you think that makes the situation better. Mar 26, 2017 at 15:27
  • see also: Force Accepted Answers on Questions by Inactive Users
    – gnat
    Mar 26, 2017 at 17:18

3 Answers 3


Currently, such cases are handled on the SE, that then leave also the community leaves the post. Maybe their OP once comes back, it is possible even after years.

Just as curiosity, I wrote a query on the data SE, which lists the questions which have the longest accept time, you can test it here.

As you can see, the record holder accepted an answer to his question after 8.5 years on the SO!

Alternatively, you can find similar questions with an accepted answer for them, and then initate their closure as dupe. You need at least 3k for that.

If you have the same problem, then you can write a new question, working on it and on the answers together with the community. In theory it is possible, but in practice it is unlikely, that your question would be closed as dupe of an abandoned one.

After you can finally accept an answer for that, you can initiate a dupe closure to the original, abandoned question.

These require a lot of work, maybe cleanup tasks like this should be easier in my opinion.

In my opinion, a mechanism what provides a differentiation between the long, unsolved problems, and the abandoned questions, would be surely useful, unfortunately the SE doesn't seem to share this opinion.

I think, at least a mechanism what enables some takeover of the abandoned questions, either by the community, or by induvidual users, would be also useful and needed.

  • 5
    Why is it useful and needed to enable takeover of abandoned questions? What would be the goal of that?
    – rene
    Mar 26, 2017 at 16:14
  • @rene The site could solve the problem. It could be registered that the problem is solved. The pipe is not only a "special 1.5x vote" of the op, it also indicates that it solved his problem, there is probably no more work needed to provide additional answers. It could make also easy to differentiate between an abandoned post, and a longstanding, unsolved problem. For example, the Fermat-theorem could have been a similar longstanding, unsolved problem on the mathoverflow. These could be the most interesting challenges of the sites.
    – peterh
    Mar 26, 2017 at 16:22
  • 2
    it also indicates that it solved his problem ... well, we don't know that, right? On top of being a bunch of arrogant, elitist vote maniacs we now also know that a problem is solved? That doesn't feel right. If we're going down that path then maybe abandon the whole accept concept but giving it in the hands of someone else then the OP is just wrong, if not immoral. If they have left or not doesn't change this.
    – rene
    Mar 26, 2017 at 16:30
  • 1
    @rene We don't know, but we know that this is what the OP says with his pipe vote. Your second sentence is incomprehensible for me. I think what is really immoral: asking for help, initiating a community work on a problem, encouraging others to work on that together, and then silently step away. This is immoral, the SE could handle it and I think it should, particularly that it would have fruitful side-effects (the longstanding, particularly interesting problems).
    – peterh
    Mar 26, 2017 at 16:37
  • 4
    Stack Exchange is a wiki-collaborated system so the question does not really belong to the author per se. There's nothing to "take over." Posts are peer vetted so the accepted answer is just one person's vote that has nothing to do with the answer being most correct or somehow completing the thread. Suggesting posts be restarted or duped because the author is no longer active is like saying Wikipedia entries should be removed if the original author moves on. Personally, I think the whole concept of an author-accepted answer is daft... and this thread illustrates exactly why. Mar 26, 2017 at 16:39
  • @RobertCartaino I suggested only closure as dupe, and not deletion, and even this only if a well done, similar question already exists. The difference is significant, because the closure of an abandoned question - as the dupe of a solved one - doesn't result content destruction, while it cleans up the site. Also I think that the accepts give maybe a help forum flavor to the SE, but somehow it should be indicated that a problem is solved. Maybe it shouldn't be solely the decision of the OP.
    – peterh
    Mar 26, 2017 at 16:56
  • What is a pipe vote? Mar 26, 2017 at 17:09
  • @MartinSmith Internally, in the SE system, the accepts are handled like special votes. The "pipe vote" is this special vote, with what the OP of a question accepts an answer.
    – peterh
    Mar 26, 2017 at 17:18
  • 1
    @peterh I was curious what a pipe vote meant too. No mention of a pipe vote in Meta Stack Exchange. The accepted answer is stored in the Posts database as a post ID (no "special voting" involved). The only reference I could find to a "pipe vote" in Google was in reference to folks picking their favorite DIY pipe projects or in political news about support for a proposed pipeline. Confused. Mar 26, 2017 at 17:55
  • @RobertCartaino Sorry, then I didn't formulated it well. I wasn't ever active on the diy, it is probably not my account :-) But, as you can see also in my query, I used the Votes table to identify the accept votes. The accept votes have VoteTypeId 1, but there are also around 15 other votetypes as well (including up, down, close, etc). I've thought on this. Yes, I can see a Posts.AcceptedAnswerId, too.
    – peterh
    Mar 26, 2017 at 18:12
  • 1
    @peterh That's cool. I didn't know there was any reference to the accepted answer in the voting table. My guess is that is used to account for the +15 rep the recipient earns. The author gets +2 rep for accepting an answer, but accepted answer itself is ultimately accounted for in the Posts table. Mar 26, 2017 at 19:54
  • @RobertCartaino I think it can happen because the "accepted-ness" and its details are the often asked records in the database, and getting this data through 2 consecutive joins are costly. I remember that the SE had multiple times significant obstacles to tune the db to fine performance. And SQL indexing in general isn't very strong if it has to index data from a different table. Although it is a redundancy in the database which can be the source of other problems.
    – peterh
    Mar 27, 2017 at 17:09
  • @RobertCartaino I think maybe the most advantage of the accept votes is that they help the answerers to focus their efforts to the yet unsolved problems.
    – peterh
    Mar 29, 2017 at 20:23

You must remember that the accept is used to mark an answer as the OP's best answer.

What if the OP didn't think that the answer isn't the best and after a while of inactivity or figuring out the solution himself, decides to abandon the question since it is now pretty useless to him. And often times, this means never returning back to the site to ask a question or going over the questions.

@peterh's answer is extremely accurate as users should proceed to upvote the answer if found useful. Please remember that the accept is based on the asker's opinion, not yours or anyone else's.

  • "What if OP didn't think etc." - certainly possible, but if OP wrote nothing, and did nothing else on SE, after asking the question, for a long time - it's unlikely.
    – einpoklum
    Mar 26, 2017 at 16:14
  • True but you really can't know what is in their minds really Mar 26, 2017 at 16:14
  • Also true, but - it's the same dilemma for question edits which sometime make assumptions about what OP "really" means.
    – einpoklum
    Mar 26, 2017 at 16:16
  • If assumptions must be made then the question is unclear and needs to be clarified by the OP Mar 27, 2017 at 11:18
  • In my opinion, it is quite normal that the accepted answer is nonsense, and instead a different one is okay. The pipe doesn't mean: "it is the correct answer", the pipe means: "OP says it is the correct answer". Maybe the OPs have generally more knowledge to decide it. But the truth can't be decided by votes. The votes can only indicate, how popular is a post. It correlates relatively well with the truth, but not always. This is the best what we have. Your votes transform the reality to your version.
    – peterh
    Mar 29, 2017 at 20:18

Upvoting the correct answer from your point of view is the correct way to deal that situation.

The accepted mark only indicate the OP solved his problem, while the most updated answer mark the answer the community judge the best.

Dealing it that way is perfect as it give two roles: - It give power to the community to judge an answer. - It give the final mark to the OP at the same time.

I seen other forum where the moderator can mark an answer when the OP don't come back. Most of the time it can lead to error, as other even often tell the answer don't work. It can lead to playing the point system as well as if you write a nice's answer and the OP don't comeback you got a chance to win those points. It bring situation where the first to answer got a chance to get the accepted mark.

In the end such scenario remove the trust you can have on an accepted answer usefulness.

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