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Some users trying to build up their reputation answer a question and then add instructions to new users on how to accept their answer, either in the answer itself or in a comment. While I don't think this is malicious in any way, I do think it sends the wrong message to new users and pressures them to accept answers too quickly. On one hand, I think that such instructions have no place in an answer, but on the other it does give a clue to future readers that the acceptance of the answer may not have been too well-considered.

I have seen this from more than one user, so this is just the most recent example and I'm not trying to call-out anyone in particular: Have you ever been to London? Have you ever gone to London?

So, what is the appropriate response? Should I ignore it? Edit the instructions out of the answers but ignore the comments? By the time I manage to post a link to Not so fast! (When should I accept my answer?) the newer user has already accepted the answer that they've been encouraged to.

I'm not sure why it bugs me so much. I realize that the person asking the question is capable of making their own decisions and that other than a small reputation boost for the answerer, accepting a question isn't that big of a deal in the overall scheme of things. I think maybe it's because the guidance is not only counter to the consensus (wait a bit to see all the answers before accepting) but that it's also self-serving.

  • It bugs me too...I'm gonna go get an insect repellent... – M.A.R. ಠ_ಠ Jun 8 '15 at 14:00
  • On the more serious side, we tend to ask new users not to forget to accept answer at chem.SE, but considering really fast acceptances from language learners which also made the mayor disappointed, I highly discourage asking-for-answer-accept comments. If I encounter those on ELL, I try to ask the commentator (nicely) to avoid putting those comments in the future. – M.A.R. ಠ_ಠ Jun 8 '15 at 14:09
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    I just came here to ask the same question. I know why it bugs me: a new user may not have had the time to browse through meta and everything in the help centre and this type of soliciting for acceptance of a first answer given (done by the person who answered) is not just tacky, but misleading for the OP (in regard to SE policies) and it's unfair to the OP because the answerer takes advantage of the information asymmetry. – Lucky Jun 8 '15 at 14:47
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    @M.A.Ramezani It is helpful to educate askers about accepting answers, but it's also perfectly OK to not accept an answer for some questions. I have a couple of outstanding questions on other sites where I've gotten a decent answer, but I think that there is the possibility of a more comprehensive answer. I upvote the answers, but I don't accept so that the question might continue to attract other answers. I see it as leaving a tiny bounty on questions that don't merit a real bounty. – ColleenV Jun 8 '15 at 15:24
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    Also don't want to encourage another confusion some people have when asking questions at StackExchange: that they should be visibly agreeing with an answer because the writer took the time to answer. That's not helpful. It's only helpful to visibly agree with answers that they were able to understand and helped answer their question. – Dan Getz Jun 8 '15 at 17:53
  • In some cases it is obvious that it such comments are motivated by the desire to increase reputation, but in any case adding a comment pointing to relevant help center policy should be enough. If it is repetative behavior that is another matter. – user3169 Jun 8 '15 at 23:01
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    As a related matter, I have been an avid SE user for years, but have never quite understood the accepted answer system. Since the OP may not be the best person to judge the correct answer, I believe that the answer with the most up-votes should be "accepted". This would encourage voting and discourage not answering after an answer is "accepted". And the kind of problem in this question would go away. But I realize it is a base function of SE so it won't change. – user3169 Jun 8 '15 at 23:02
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    @user3169 I always viewed accepting an answer as a small privilege for the asker that could be used as a way to keep the question active until they've found an answer that "speaks" to them or as a way to indicate that even though an answer isn't the most complete/correct according to the community, it was helpful to them. How many up-votes is the threshold for the question to be "answered"? How much time should a question sit to allow everyone interested in it to answer and vote before it becomes "answered"? Only the OP knows if their question was answered to their satisfaction. – ColleenV Jun 8 '15 at 23:20
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    @user3169: My preferred system would be that marking a question accepted would give it the equivalent of one and a half upvotes extra in the sort order, so that an accepted answer would always sort above another answer with even up to one vote more, but below answers with two or more votes over its own score. This would balance "asker knows best" with the real possibility that the community knows best; it's also conveniently exactly the same ratio to a normal upvote as the rep gain from the two actions. – Nathan Tuggy Jun 8 '15 at 23:28
  • @ColleenV As for the time limit for deciding an "accepted" answer, SE staff could pull data as to the average time when answers drop off. My guess maybe 2-3 days, though it might vary by community. This also would eliminate the issue of having questions with no accepted answer (not a problem to understand the best answer, but no deserved reputation for that answer either). – user3169 Jun 8 '15 at 23:58
  • @NathanTuggy I like your idea (assuming half upvotes could be supported). Maybe two votes would be better. – user3169 Jun 9 '15 at 0:02
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    I don't agree that the answer with the most up-votes should be "accepted". Many times this is not the best answer. @user3169 – user6951 Jun 9 '15 at 0:28
  • I suspect Stackoverflow was the first site in this network and the site that the whole q&a thing was designed for, and it makes a lot of sense there. Someone asks a question about how to get a program to work, they try the solutions offered in various answers, and when they find one that really enables them to solve their problem, they mark it accepted. The asker is, in fact, the best judge of the "right" answer because he's the one who had a problem that he couldn't solve, and he's the one who can say, Yes, the problem is now solved. He knows it's solved because he runs the program and ... – Jay Jun 9 '15 at 13:26
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    ... now it works. This would be equally true on a site where people ask questions about, say, car repair, or anything where you can test whether the answer given in fact solves your problem. It is not so true on a site about language, where there is no empirical test to determine that the answer is, in fact, correct. The same would be true on a site about history or economics, etc. – Jay Jun 9 '15 at 13:29
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    @Jay I strongly disagree that the only questions that askers can know they've received a good answer to are ones that the answer can be tested. What if the most correct answer according to the community doesn't explain the answer in a way I can understand, but the second runner up I understood immediately? There is much more to a good answer than consensus on correctness, especially in language. I think that trying to replace "accepted" with "best" is not a good idea. I actually prefer a system where there can be a difference between highly-rated and what was useful to the asker. – ColleenV Jun 9 '15 at 15:29
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I think it should definitely be discouraged. Stack exchange is a gamification of an open classroom. It's nice to have a sense of progression while answering questions, but helping people who want to learn English should be everyone's number 1 priority, not earning imaginary internet points.

It can be frustrating to revisit a question you answered with 10+ votes, and see that months later the original poster hasn't chosen an answer. I feel people will do this not because they're new to Stack Exchange, but because they visit once to ask a question then lose interest and don't stay around long enough to choose an answer. The solution to this problem isn't to gesture suggestively to the Accept button, it's to show the poster that we're a helpful community that will always be here to help them improve. We're a social species, we'll help people who help us first, and that means a lot of selfless thinking from answer givers.

  • I tend to value the community up-votes and comments more than the acceptance of my answer (although it is nice when my answer helps the asker). I personally would much rather see 10 up votes and no acceptance than the inverse. What do you think would be an appropriate way to discourage it? I don't want to be to harsh, because I don't think the folks doing it feel like they're doing something shady. – ColleenV Jun 14 '15 at 1:34
  • Finding a good way to discourage it is difficult. Ideally, we would have full control over how Stack Exchange works and we could let answerers nominate their comments for a community vote, to accept the answer if it's clear the original poster isn't going to. We don't have that kind of access, so I think our best solutions is to edit the comments, removing the text asking for the OP to accept their answer, and leave a comment politely explaining that they shouldn't pressure the OP. Maybe we could even link them to this page if the community decides we want this policy to happen. – Mark Jun 15 '15 at 9:26
  • The only thing I disagree with is the idea that every question must have an accepted answer. I understand wanting all the loose ends tied up, but sometimes questions don't get answers that completely satisfy. I would be a little pissed if someone decided for me that I should accept an answer to softwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/13810/4677 – ColleenV Jun 15 '15 at 12:28
  • What if we gave the OP the option to deny the community from voting for an answer? What I'm imagining is "Bob answers Alice's question. Bob receives a lot of votes, but after a month Alice still hasn't accepted an answer. Bob thinks Alice has lost interest in the question, so submits a request for the community to judge whether or not his answer should be accepted. However before it appears on anyone's review queue, Alice gets a message saying that Bob intends to call a community vote on his answer. Alice then gets the choice to Permit his request, Deny his request, or Accept his answer." – Mark Jun 15 '15 at 12:59
  • That way if Alice is still interested in the question but doesn't think she's got a good enough answer yet, she can block the community vote. However, if Alice has genuinely stopped caring, Bob can force a community veto so future google searchers who find the question will know that even though the poster didn't accept the answer, at least 5 trusted users considered it a good response. – Mark Jun 15 '15 at 13:03
  • I suppose that could work, but to what end? Does it really matter if a question has no accepted answer? I believe moderators can force an acceptance in some cases, but I think it's exceedingly rare that they do. The community usually settles on the best answer, and the answers can be sorted by votes, so I'm still not sure we need to take the decision out of the hands of the asker. – ColleenV Jun 15 '15 at 13:11

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