First off, this is my first feature request. I have not found a similar feature request so please bear with me if this is a duplicate or incorrect place to post it.

I have noticed that whenever posting questions on Stack Overflow the most views are coming when the question does not have answers yet. My guess is that this is due to that most (usually low rep users) want to have the best change of getting their answer accepted as the correct answer in order to get more reputation. But this means that whenever an answer is posted on a "normal" question, the likeliness of getting a better answer decreases rapidly for every "incorrect" answer made.

For instance: You post a question on how you could do "(4 + 4) / 2" and get "4" as result. The first answer by person A is "Why do (4 + 4) / 2 and not just 2 + 2".
When person B (with a potential much better answer) browses the list of questions this question is now switched from RED to GREEN/WHITE, thus when person B browses the list he doesn't notice the question as easy due to that his brain is (unconsciously?) set to answering RED questions. I think this might also have a psychological explanation due to the colors use (RED is more "attractive" to the brain then "GREEN/WHITE" I believe), but I don't know that for sure.

Of course one could argue that this is what voting is for, but this is not seen on the question list page and therefore irrelevant.

My suggestion for this would be to add a "not-accepted answer" functionality. This functionality can only be used when a question does not have an accepted answer. This "not-accepted" function should not give any negative reputation.

When an answer is made to a question, it should still change to GREEN/WHITE. BUT, when the questioner set the question to "not-accepted" it should change back to RED (still stating 1 answer is made).

When another answer is posted the question should again change to GREEN/WHITE, and so on. When one of the answers is chosen as the correct answer that answers the question, the other answers that have the status "not-accepted" should be reset. There is no use for showing an answer was not accepted when the correct answer is chosen.

What do you think of my feature request? Do you agree or disagree? Why?

  • 3
    (With such a long post: could the title summarize it somehow better? There's certainly no need to add "tags" in the title.)
    – Arjan
    Commented Feb 3, 2011 at 12:29
  • 2
    Came up before meta.stackexchange.com/questions/73665/… So apparently there's a need for such a feature. However, it's pretty much too late to introduce it.
    – mario
    Commented Feb 3, 2011 at 12:34
  • @Arjan title change. Sorry for the long post... just wanted to be clear. @Mario why do you think that? Commented Feb 3, 2011 at 13:08
  • 1
    (Paul, your @Mario has not notified Mario — but mine just did. See How do comment @replies work? I still haven't read the post, but the title still gives me no clue. But: that might just be me, of course!)
    – Arjan
    Commented Feb 3, 2011 at 14:12

6 Answers 6


I think the idea has potential, though can't the effect be achieved simply by showing as "red" those questions without up-voted answers?

  • I don't think so. E.g. this question: bit.ly/eUOHca . The answer is incorrect for my question yet the question is "GREEN/WHITE". Commented Feb 3, 2011 at 13:15
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    @Paul, that question just confirms what I said. Its only answer has no up-votes, so I'm saying that it can automatically be displayed as "red", as you suggested, instead of needing another "not an answer" button.
    – David Tang
    Commented Feb 3, 2011 at 13:17
  • sorry, I missunderstood you. My bad. Yes, you are correct. Commented Feb 3, 2011 at 13:18
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    +1 so simple it could work...however, would this just result in blind up voting to remove "bad things" e.g. red... Commented Feb 3, 2011 at 13:39
  • @Davidsleeps If you mean to bring your own question into the light: Yeah... but that doesn't change much from where we are today. Right? Commented Feb 3, 2011 at 14:47

Paul your suggestion is something that is useful for solving the problem you present. However I don't think this problem is very common. For the following reasons:

  1. Each question starts at the top and has equal view time.
  2. The unanswered list gives specific attention to questions that haven't had at least one up voted answer. So it will stay on that list until at least two people agree on an answer.
  3. Questions that are now "Green" still get some attention. Example: I am looking at this question even though it had 4 answers when I clicked on it.
  4. If you have a question that doesn't have a good answer yet, even though at least 1 was up voted, then use a bounty to bring it back into the bright lights.
  • 1
    as well as Sam Saffron's work in trying to have more relevant Questions appearing to interested users through "interesting tags" Commented Feb 3, 2011 at 13:35
  • You have some strong and good (yet ironic) points there. Thumbs up! Commented Feb 3, 2011 at 13:40
  • 1
    +1 for Bounty...if it matters that much, put some rep on the line Commented Feb 3, 2011 at 13:47

I don't disagree with your proposal, but can you explain why the current methods of getting better answers are insufficient?

  • If an answer is not accepted, the question's number of answers shows up without the yellow highlighting, even though the box is green. So there's already a mechanism to alert users that no answer is accepted.
  • Bumping the question always brings it back to the front page, and if current answers aren't meeting your needs then it should be obvious to you that your question isn't as clear as it could be, so an edit or update would be in order
  • A bounty placed on the question is the explicit "no good answer yet" flag
  • Commenting on the existing answers as to why they don't meet your needs often brings better answers.

The last point is an important one. You propose the reason you aren't getting the right answer is because someone has already posted a bad answer. However, it could easily be that the way you framed your question, any future visitors are going to see the answer and assume it's correct based on your question and lack of response to the answer. If someone has posted a wrong answer, you need to make it abundantly clear in the question and as comments to the answer why it doesn't meet your needs. Otherwise it doesn't matter how you flag the answer - others will come along, see that it's correct, and move on without adding their own insight.

Further, even with your proposed solution the number of answers would still be greater than 0, which is just as much an in-your-face flag about the answered status of the question as the red/green box. Those people that ignore green boxed questions are likely to ignore questions without a 0. Keep in mind that 10% of the population of males has some form of colorblindness, and the red/green boxes are practically the same anyway, so the white/yellow highlighted number is a more visible indication of the answered status for a significant number of those visiting the site.


I think the definition that a question is answered isn't that it has answers, but that an answer has at least 1 upvote. Well, I think that is what determines which questions appear in the "Unanswered" list...

Another point is that unless the question is blindingly simple, most users will wait for a number of answers before accepting any of them.

Another point is that when people come along because they also have that question, e.g. for the benefit of the user browsing, not for an answerer looking for rep, they might decide that there could be a better answer or upvote others.

Another point is that there are badges for answers that get more votes than the accepted answer, so most people providing good answers to questions, are not looking for easy reputation, but looking to provide an answer to a question they have taken interest in.

From having used the system for a while now, I really feel that the voting is what is making these sites so effective. I'm not sure changing anything will have a big impact on more than a very small minority of users after quick reputation. In the long run, if a person who can answer a question because of the actual question, not just that it has no answers, they will provide a good answer for the benefit of future users.

I may have been a bit confused, but isn't that also the role of questions which have an accepted answer (using Stack Overflow as an example) having the yellow text for the answer count. Answerers who see that the text isn't yellow likely realise that no answer has been accepted?

Edit 2
I just figured I'd put that into here. You'd probably want a reputation threshold for providing such a button because it surely would be abused by people who may never actually accept an answer. The reputation threshold should at least keep users who have an idea for using it correctly, but again, it may well be used to take focus from new questions that require attention instead of older questions which may well have good answers but for which the OP is off track...

  • OP was asking about the color-coding of the number-of-answers box, which has nothing to do with the "unanswered" list.
    – Pops
    Commented Feb 3, 2011 at 13:17
  • I understand, but it sounds like the "Unaswered List" is something that already exists which provides the functionality he is after...e.g. a list of Questions that may well have answers but which are not yet answered... Commented Feb 3, 2011 at 13:20
  • I still think that the majority of answerers will be looking at a question because of it's title or text etc and not because of its answer or vote count... Commented Feb 3, 2011 at 13:21
  • if i'm still on the wrong track, happy to remove my answer Commented Feb 3, 2011 at 13:21
  • @Davidsleeps I think you missunderstood me. My goal is to better show which questions are still have no answers. Due to the colors of the amount of answers box, people tend to focus more on the red once due to the hight change of their answer being accepted. Usually this goes for those users with low rep. Those are often also those that don't follow up on their answers, unlike experienced users. You notice that when posting an comment to that answer which will never get answered. This is my experience anyways. I agree to your 4th, but that is irrelevant to my feature-request. Commented Feb 3, 2011 at 13:25
  • @Davidsleeps I think your answer is valuable and yes I partly agree with the unanswered list. Which is good. But I know from my own experience that the amount of answers (sometimes drastically) reduces when one or several answers have come in. Its not a mathes of IF, but WHEN the question gets more answers. Commented Feb 3, 2011 at 13:30
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    OK, I understand now, and I can see why the button would be needed...really, perhaps providing the button requires a certain rep count...would that help to your proposal...otherwise, a lot of the questions where the OP never does selet an answer will perhaps take focus away from new questions... Commented Feb 3, 2011 at 13:31
  • @Davidsleeps, yes that is a good idea. Commented Feb 3, 2011 at 13:37

The idea is not a bad idea per-se but:

  • Until there is at least one up-vote to the answers, the box won't turn green (I think??)
  • In my experience a good question, no matter how quick the first person answers, always gets many answers (including good/better ones)
  • This would motivate bad behavior almost for sure, since, as you say, it may be true that a question will get attention if unanswered, so, people will be encouraged to do so even if it IS a good answer.
  • Also, it sometimes takes some up-votes to realize a question is correct, since you are asking the question (because you DON'T know something), you sometimes aren't the most qualified at the moment (in a very recent question).
  • Finally, in the worst-case scenario, a quick bad answer was randomly up-voted and took attention from your question, you can always edit and improve your question. This will bring it to the screen of many, many smart people, and if this doesn't do it, a bounty probably will, and if it doesn't, maybe you should reconsider the question.

So I would say, no, I don't think it is a good idea, maybe in priciple, yes, but not in practice.

  • 2
    The box turns green when there is an answer regardless of votes.
    – jzd
    Commented Feb 3, 2011 at 13:11
  • Faily good comments. To answer them: 1) No, I dont think so.. havn't checked. 2) Correct, but some questions that are a bit more tricky get easaly overseen. 3) One could set a requirement and/or a badge to it. More then X % of post with Y % threshold of not-accepted give negative rep. 4) Very true 5) True. Commented Feb 3, 2011 at 13:12
  • @Paul 1) sorry, edited 2) Well that IMO comes from a huge variety of factors you wouldn't directly solve with this, and again, IMO, this mainly comes from not properly detailed enough questions. 3) I think the negative rep is good point.
    – Trufa
    Commented Feb 3, 2011 at 13:28

Actually if a answer is not accepted for a question, it means that there is no accepted answer for that question. There is no need to explicitly mentioning the obvious.

However, personally I have seen lot of hits for questions which do not have accepted answers rather than the no answers at all.

  • I don't agree. Several answers could be the correct answers but only one is chosen due to e.g. its examples or the way it has been written. But this feature is not there to highlight correct answers, its to highlight that the answer made does not answer the question and thus brings more attention in the question lists. Commented Feb 3, 2011 at 13:13

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