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When to accept an answer for someone

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Daniel Shub
Daniel Shub on 28 Jun 2012
Answered: Jan on 7 Mar 2017
TMW has now given many of us the power to accept answers for other people, but haven't provided any guidance as to when we should we do it (other than that we have to wait for 7 days). As uncle Ben said "with great power comes great responsibility." Should we be accepting our own answers? Maybe we should add a vote to accept "policy"?

Answers (7)

Thomas on 28 Jun 2012
Edited: Thomas on 28 Jun 2012
How about
Do not accept your own answer
1. The author has thanked you replied that the problem has been solved but the author has not accepted your answer 'and' you have multiple up votes 'and'
2. yours is the only answer received
In case of multiple answers received please let one of the other (hopefully unbiased) editors accept the answer, probably based on the number of 'up votes'
Matt J
Matt J on 24 Feb 2017
3. You are answering your own question ?

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Daniel Shub
Daniel Shub on 28 Jun 2012
Edited: Daniel Shub on 28 Jun 2012
I disagree with Thomas. I think we should never accept our own answers. I also think we should be vigilant about accepting answers for other people. If we accept answers for each other, then their will not be too many cases where you feel like you need to accept your own answer.
I think that you should flag questions/answers that you think should be accepted and then get a confirmation from someone else.
James Tursa
James Tursa on 24 Feb 2017
IMO, you should not be able to pump up anything related to your own points or stats by voting for or accepting your own answers. Even if you don't get the points, there is still an incentive for abuse by skewing the answers accepted stats.

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Walter Roberson
Walter Roberson on 28 Jun 2012
Out of all of the changes, this is the one that gives me the greatest pause. My first reaction is that such a facility should seldom be used, and that it should be one of the high-reputation privs rather than just about the first non-trivial priv.
I tend to think of it as being very much a "janitor" function, for use by the few that go around spending time just cleaning up. I do that, but I don't think many others do.
I think the problem being addressed is that approximately 60% of all Questions get Answered by never get Accepted. That is a quite large number, and honestly there is no way I have time by myself to Accept all those, so perhaps it does need to be something that a fair number of people can do. But still I am concerned.
I see a lot of Questions that dry out rather than getting definitively solved. People posting (good) requests for clarification and not getting any response. Now there are certainly cases where an Answer is good enough for the expressed Question, but in my experience a large number of Questions are muddled, and that even when Questions seem to be well expressed that there is very often some ambiguity in the details (though it might take someone familiar with that field to spot it.) The questions that have enough information to answer completely are usually ones that can be answered by reference to a specific FAQ section.
I suspect 500 reputation is too low to establish a history of dealing well with the kind of ambiguity that is present in those many questions.
A few days ago I was musing about this situation a bit, and I was thinking that perhaps the most appropriate would be an "expired" or "inactive" status. I would have to think more about what properties such a status would have. Not usually auto-delete, as sometimes some good discussion gets generated before the matter gets put aside.
  1 Comment
Wendy Fullam
Wendy Fullam on 9 Apr 2013
I'm part of the internal team for Answers at MathWorks. I'd encourage the acceptance of each others' answers, after 7 days, to add value to the question and answer set for future visitors.
A primary benefit of the "Accept" feature is to provide an indication of value to future site visitors who have the same (or similar) question. Answers receives upwards of 14,000 visitors every day. When these visitors find a question without an "accepted" answer, their perception may be that no value can be extracted. This may lead to them asking a similar, possibly duplicate question - which might waste the time of major contributors. For this reason, accepting each others' Answers could, in effect, save you time. It also adds a large indication of quality to our Answer database.
We are exploring other methods to encourage the OP to accept an Answer. (Expanded notifications may potentially help here.) Conversely, contributors with high reputation have proven their ability to provide quality content - which is why we also believe they can recognize quality content, in the absence of the participation of the OP.
This is why I say, go ahead! Accept each others' answers if you think they were the best Answer provided. The 7 day delay was established because, at that point, the chance of the OP returning is fairly low. You'll be adding additional value to the Answers world, and helping to grow each others' reputation score.

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Jan on 25 Feb 2017
I suggest to disable self-accepting completely.
One exception: In own questions, accepting own answers is useful, when the OP has found a solution or if the question is thought as a tutorial or FAQ.
It is enough, when the contributors with > 2000 or > 3000 points can accept the answers of others. This will might be a drawback in rare situations, but it can get a severe problem, if one or more users start a massive self-accepting. Seeing the green check mark on an answer has a great attraction. The more time and energy has been spent to write an answer, the more frustrating is the impression to be ignored. In general all answers are given with the opinion, that they are good enough for beeing accepted. But authors of answers are not necessarily unbiased enough to decide this. Currently 94 members have the power to use this feature and in the past they have done this with greate care. But this need not be case in the future, and this would destroy the accepted status as strong indicator for an answer, which is good and solve the asked question.

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Kye Taylor
Kye Taylor on 28 Jun 2012
Such functionality should not have been implemented, IMO.

Matt J
Matt J on 24 Feb 2017
Edited: Matt J on 24 Feb 2017
Maybe we should add a vote to accept "policy"?
This is the solution that I would advocate. Let the answer be accepted if/when it receives a sufficient number of upvotes (which as usual cannot be given by the person supplying the answer).
Personally, I think that the answer acceptance system as a whole is expandable, and that the ranking of any answer in a thread should be determined entirely by upvotes. The value of an answer marked as accepted is an illusion. Nobody ever knows definitively if an answer is right except maybe for the simplest of "how to" questions. It's not uncommon for an OP to select a less than best answer.
Matt J
Matt J on 27 Feb 2017
If the "I'm done" is attached to a specific Answer then what you propose becomes like the current Accept except that it does not move the selected answer to the top and (under your proposal) the poster would be barred from voting for other Answers later, which they currently are not.
No, they wouldn't be barred from voting for other Answers, just from awarding the same Answer more than 2 points. In what I envision, an "I'm done" would be like an upvote in all respects except that it would also provide a visual flag on the Answer that the OP liked.
It is like the current system, except the OP's vote doesn't carry any more influence than anybody else's.
That does happen now to some extent. On the other hand, not everyone is doing homework, and not everyone who does homework is just looking for a fast solution.
There will always be a distribution of cases, but I don't think those people really suffer under what I propose. They still get to reward the Answer they liked and, with the "I'm done" flag, others in the forum would still know whether the OP's vote is up for grabs.

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Jan on 7 Mar 2017
Another point: Users should not get the power to remove flags on their own questions or comments.

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