Long version of the question title: Why are users not being more actively guided to accept (or give feedback that will help lead to an accepted answer)?

This question relates to a previously articulated question on Meta: Why so few acceptances here?

Background: there appears to be a general consensus that the acceptance rate on this site is low; and that this is not the most desirable state of affairs. The query on this page is now:

Why are comments not written to the question authors, encouraging them to accept an answer, if a good one was written; or to say in a comment why none of the answers submitted so far are not suitable for acceptance?

In other words, folks, what do we want to do about the low acceptance rate? If the text in italics is not the best course of action, what is?

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    The other side of the same coin: meta.ell.stackexchange.com/questions/1307/…. I think we should keep in mind both sides of the "accepting an answer" issue. – Damkerng T. Oct 2 '16 at 19:34
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    In other words, folks, what do we want to do about the low acceptance rate? Nothing. Really, nothing. Accepting isn't something the OP should do, it's an extra gift, a remark, that some of them make. It's never particularly high in any SE. Sure, some of them don't know what acceptance is and would've accepted if they got a hold of this bizarre UI with lots of buttons, but acceptance rates would never be something to worry about. What really hurts, though, is premature acceptance. – M.A.R. Oct 2 '16 at 19:35
  • @ColleenV - If the site moderators are savvy at pulling up data, it would be great if they could share some data so we could see how the site's numbers stack up to others. I'm imagining there may be some ways of quantifying how acceptance rates compare, objectively... and maybe a few other things, too? There doesn't seem to be a lot of upvoting taking place here in general. Analogy: visit the priest's confessional for advice, one on one (~ELL), vs. attend a weekly support group meeting (stackexchange sites in general). What I mean is, where's the interaction? – J. Doe Oct 2 '16 at 20:45
  • @J.Doe I have been poking around the data explorer, but haven't found any queries yet that could really put things to rest and I haven't had time to create one. I think that your impression that there isn't a lot of voting going on is sound, but I think we have some extenuating circumstances. – ColleenV Oct 2 '16 at 20:50
  • @ColleenV - Well, here's a question. When users have tried to encourage those who ask questions to accept an answer, what has been the response? (I.e. did that help at all?) Also, do the moderators want everybody to step up to the plate, or is there a preference that such encouragement be left to the moderators to decide whether to provide or not? – J. Doe Oct 2 '16 at 21:00
  • The response in comments (not from the OP but from others) is usually to discourage the practice, with citations of (amongst others) Not so fast! (When should I accept my answer?) etc. – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica Oct 2 '16 at 21:46
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    @P.E.Dant - I wouldn't go so far as to say the practice is discouraged as a whole. (That said, though, I don't appreciate such "helpful" comments being posted five minutes after a new OP leaves a thank-you under a lone answer.) On the other hand, if an OP has several good answers but has not selected any for any of their questions, then such a helpful comment may be warranted. Want to eliminate the appearance of self-interest? Put that comment on a question where you haven't posted an answer. – J.R. Oct 3 '16 at 12:44
  • I'm trying to figure out whether the moderators have tried this approach, and if so what the results have been; and how much of the non-accepting is coming from questioners not understanding the way the site is designed, how much from them not understanding how to accept, etc. – J. Doe Oct 3 '16 at 14:27

Why are users not being actively guided to accept answers? My guess is because the community doesn't feel it's important. The Proposal: Encourage new users to accept the correct answer discussion is sitting at a score of -4 (2 for and 6 against).

As a community member, I have not encouraged anyone to accept an answer (although I have discouraged them from accepting too quickly), and as a moderator I don't feel that it is part of my responsibilities. As I said somewhere else, there are very few actual rules that must be enforced here; mostly there are community norms that vary pretty widely among SE sites. Around here most of the community doesn't seem to care all that much about accepted answers.

The help center says:

Accepting an answer is not meant to be a definitive and final statement indicating that the question has now been answered perfectly. It simply means that the author received an answer that worked for him or her personally. Not every user comes back to accept an answer, and of those who do, they might not change the accepted answer even if a newer, better answer comes along later.

If you look at the metrics for sites in public beta on Area 51, there is questions per day, percent questions answered, avid users, number of answers per question, and visits per day. Percentage of answers accepted doesn't seem to be an important metric. I have a question on Software Recommendations from 2014 that I still haven't accepted an answer for because it hasn't been answered to my satisfaction. If an author wants to leave their question open so that it has a chance to attract more answers, what's the harm in that?

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  • @ColleenV - Have the moderators have tried the approach described in italics in the question (after a suitable interval)? Perhaps the answer is no. But if it has been tried, what have the results been? I wonder how much of the non-accepting is coming from questioners not understanding the way the site is designed, how much from them not understanding how to accept, etc. – J. Doe Oct 4 '16 at 14:08
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    @J.Doe - Are you postulating that a comment from a moderator might somehow prompt the OP to action – at least, more so than a comment from an active member? If the OP doesn't already know how the site works, I'm not sure a little diamond after the username will have much effect. – J.R. Oct 4 '16 at 15:12
  • @J.Doe I am don't understand why you think the mods would encourage users to accept answers, when the community seems to be against it. The proposal was made before I was a moderator, but if I were a moderator at the time, I think it would have been wrong to ignore the negative score. – ColleenV Oct 4 '16 at 16:15
  • @ColleenV - I take it the answer is no ("Have the moderators have tried the approach described in italics in the question"). Any objection to non-moderators giving it a try, to see what the results would be? – J. Doe Oct 4 '16 at 16:46
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    @J.Doe As long as you aren't pressuring users to accept too soon, and you aren't promoting your own answer (I think there's another discussion around here about that) I think the community is OK with it. You might even inspire some folks to do the same thing. It is much more sustainable if it comes from the community instead a few moderators. – ColleenV Oct 4 '16 at 17:02

What do we want to do about the low acceptance rate?

This idea came from a comment written by @ColleenV:

Everyone can pitch in; probably best not to do it for one's own answer, though.

I propose, on questions where I have not written an answer, to write a comment to the OP, that says:

Please see: What should I do when someone answers my question?

Would it be best to wait at least 48 hours before posting such a comment?

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    I think 48 hours is way too short, especially considering we have an international community. Personally, I wouldn't look at time at all. I would look at how many answers there are and whether the answers are up-voted, and possibly whether the author left any comments indicating they liked a particular answer. Accepting an answer too soon can suppress future answers. – ColleenV Oct 8 '16 at 16:49
  • I added a search to meta.ell.stackexchange.com/a/3249/9161 that may help find questions where the author might need to be reminded about accepting an answer. I chose high view counts and multiple answers as an indicator instead of a particular age of the question to try to filter out questions that just haven't gotten an answer worth accepting yet. – ColleenV Oct 8 '16 at 17:03
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    I don't think it would hurt to wait a week or so in the common case. Not everyone looks at the site every day, and it can take some time for answers to be posted, and for people to vote and comment on those answers. – snailplane Oct 9 '16 at 14:55

Why are comments not written to the question authors, encouraging them to accept an answer, if a good one was written; or to say in a comment why none of the answers submitted so far are not suitable for acceptance?

As for your first question, the answer is because a better one might come along, or a comparable answer may come along which answers the question from the point of view of another type of English, and accepting an answer discourages new answers.

As to your second question: that is micromanaging the site/users too much and it really doesn't matter if the user accepts the best answer, or even the correct answer, only that they accept one that proved useful. So, each questioner may have a definition of "suitable for acceptance" than you do, even if you think the accepted answer is poor or even wrong.

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  • Re your first paragraph: what I see happening very often is nothing at all. I thought that if the OP is not happy with the existing answers, he should say so, and consider improving the question, right? But I rarely see that happening. Re your second paragraph, it looks like what I meant with the word suitable was misunderstood. I meant: if an OP finds the existing answers unsuitable, but doesn't say so, shouldn't other users write comments to encourage him to speak up? Maybe I should replace unsuitable with unsatisfactory -- maybe that would be more clearly a subjective term. – J. Doe Oct 10 '16 at 9:12

I think 48 hours is way too short, especially considering we have an international community. [...]
by @Colleen

48 hours is way too long. I rarely see anyone post a new answer beyond the 24 hour time mark. UNLESS that question hits the Hot Network Questions collider, and attracts more than three answers, then it makes a lot of sense for the OP to wait. Now, how often does that happen with your average ELL question? Someone give me the statistics!

ELL core community members need to UPVOTE more questions and good answers. And users need to do some bloody research before posting their "What does [WORD/ EXPRESSION] mean? questions.

I received a very good answer to one of two questions, which I posted yesterday. I had no hesitation in accepting it within minutes. It was the "right" answer. And users saw that my question had been accepted, so they were probably curious to read the post. I think if I had left it unaccepted, the answer would not have received the six upvotes it did.

My only regret is that the question appears to have fallen off the radar / disappeared from the spotlight.

My other question, which by the way was researched, attracted three answers, two of which have each attracted 2 upvotes. I am 100% certain I will not get any new answers. But... maybe after this piece on meta, someone will take up the gauntlet. No, I won't add the link, find it yourself.

As to spotlights, radars, and bounties. Why hasn't anyone come forward to answer the bounty question?

Simple present for speaking about the future the way natives do

Eight upvotes, one good (but) off topic answer, and nothing else. Why? 50 rep, and if the answer is great I will set up another bounty of 100. The question is not mine, and I would love to post a complete answer, but I'm not competent enough.

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  • You've been around SE long enough to know how the system works, and you have enough proficiency to recognize a good answer when you see one. I think Colleen's guidance is more directed to the newer SE user who is content to accept the first answer that comes their way, even if the question has only been active for 20 minutes. I'm saddened when very marginal answers are accepted within minutes after they are posted. 48 hours may be a bit extreme, but 12-24 would be a good general rule, I think. – J.R. Oct 9 '16 at 10:17
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    Why the rush though? Questions aren't like microwave popcorn where if you let them go too long you have to evacuate the building :) The harm of accepting an answer too soon is quite tangible and the harm of letting a question go a week without an accepted answer is not so obvious, especially when we have a dearth of votes on some questions. I'd like to see more time not to get more answers, but to get more votes so that the question's author can feel more comfortable accepting one. – ColleenV Oct 9 '16 at 10:28
  • @ColleenV There is no rush, I agree, but 48 hours is unnecessary. Users who accept the first answer, should be left alone if the answer is "correct". If the answer is wrong that should be the incentive for other users to post the "correct" answer, and /or downvote the wrong answer. The OP (if they are still hanging around) will read the newer answers, and then decide whether to change their mind and accept a newer and stronger answer. (cont'd) – Mari-Lou A Oct 9 '16 at 11:20
  • @J.R. (cont'd) I don't see this accepting or not accepting business to be the main problem, it's the low views, the low number of votes that concern me the most. And too many questions that show zero research. – Mari-Lou A Oct 9 '16 at 11:20
  • If your concern is low views and low votes, accepting an answer quickly only exacerbates the problem because it takes the question out of the "unanswered" list. I think I'm not understanding something. – ColleenV Oct 9 '16 at 11:25
  • The low counts and the low number of votes are happening today, it has nothing to do with the low acceptance rate of answers. If more than two answers were posted, and more answers and questions were upvoted the newest page and the active pages would look more interesting or inviting. I never look at the unanswered question page, I'm interested in reading the answers. But that's me. – Mari-Lou A Oct 9 '16 at 11:37
  • @ColleenV today which question is attracting the most views? The one that has eleven upvotes, because it's human nature to be curious about something that looks good. – Mari-Lou A Oct 9 '16 at 11:38
  • When I was a new SE user, the unanswered questions tab is where I went to start participating and trying to earn reputation. When I look in the "First Post" review queue, it's rare that first post answers are on questions with accepted answers. I wish I were better at writing queries, so I could collect some data on how many answers and votes happen after acceptance relative to before acceptance. I still have a headache so I'm not at my smartest, but I'm just not understanding why it's important that someone accept an answer quickly. – ColleenV Oct 9 '16 at 11:49
  • @ColleenV I said: I don't see this accepting or not accepting business to be the main problem* The low counts, upvotes etc. are not influenced by the low acceptance rate in my opinion. Visit a page where ten questions have three or four upvotes, and have three or four answers, doesn't it want to make a visitor read these posts? – Mari-Lou A Oct 9 '16 at 11:55
  • I understand that you are more concerned about voting I'm just not understanding what you believe the benefit is to pushing a user to accept an answer within 48 hours. – ColleenV Oct 9 '16 at 12:09
  • @ColleenV and I don't understand why waiting almost three days should be positively encouraged. It's not as if they're going to have any more answers coming in, unless their question hits HNQ – Mari-Lou A Oct 9 '16 at 12:11
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    Why accepting too fast is a problem is discussed in detail here: meta.ell.stackexchange.com/q/1307/9161 I'm not criticizing - I'm trying to understand your perspective. You seem invested in trying to get folks to accept their answers quickly and I just don't see it as a big deal so I feel like I'm missing something that could change my mind. – ColleenV Oct 9 '16 at 12:24
  • Where did you get the idea I'm pushing users to accept answers? From the first line, what about the rest of my answer? I even placed in bold the comment that says "it's not such a big deal", thank you for reminding me about that expression BTW, I wish I had said it. Are you saying I should have waited 48 hours before accepting Robusto's answer? No, I don't think so. Good! :) – Mari-Lou A Oct 9 '16 at 12:54
  • I'm more interested in the bounty, seems to have fallen flat on its face, again. I am so glad I didn't offer 250 rep. – Mari-Lou A Oct 9 '16 at 12:58
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    Oh, I think I see where we're getting crossed. I think 48 hours is too short a period to post a comment to encourage someone to accept an answer. I have no problem with someone accepting an answer to their question as soon as they feel like they've gotten one that satisfies them. Sometimes I do encourage new users to wait, but usually only when they've accepted the first answer and it was within a couple of hours after they asked. – ColleenV Oct 9 '16 at 13:12

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