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It seems that Stack Overflow is getting a change and is no longer going to pin the accepted answer at the top and will now default to sorting by post score alone. In the post announcing this they posted a question asking how this should apply to other sites. Below are the choices being given and I was wondering how others thought we should tackle this.

Unpinning the accepted answer from the top of the list of answers

Unpin the accepted answer on all SE sites by default and pin it back on a few sites that ask us to do so.

Keep the accepted answer pinned on all SE sites by default and unpin it on a few sites that ask us to do so.

Here are some stats about what questions would be impacted on our site. This comes from a query I got from another meta site question.

We have 9 questions with an accepted answer having a negative score and another answer with a higher score. [Ref: Query]

We have 186 questions with an answer that has a score at least 3 higher than the accepted answer. [Ref: Query]

We have 239 questions with an answer that has a higher score than the accepted answer. [Ref: Query]

We currently have 5133 questions with accepted answers [Ref: Query], and 8503 questions with answers. [Ref: Query]

Update:

It appears we are going to need to make a request if we want this to happen on our site.

Start a meta discussion on your per-site meta.

When the discussion is completed and the community agrees to change the default behaviour (agrees to unpin the accepted answer), please ask one of the site moderators to add the status-review tag to the question. It will generate a ticket and let CMs know that we need to adjust the site setting for your site.

We would appreciate it if you add the outcome of the discussion to the accepted answer in this question. This will allow all of us to see the full picture.

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  • 2
    The 186 questions with an answer 3+ that's accepted are contained within the 239 questions? Leaving us with about 250 affected posts?
    – fredsbend Mod
    Sep 11 at 16:04
  • @fredsbend Yes, those are contained within that bracket. I included those breakdowns as well as I felt it was useful to get a grasp of now many questions where the vote gap wasn't a single vote or two. So as of right now only 239 questions would have the accepted answer not be the top and of that 186 the gap would be at least 3 votes and 9 of the accepted answer would be negative. This is not counting any answers that may shift from time to time as they have the same score as the accepted answer.
    – Joe W
    Sep 11 at 19:08
  • I've asked for related data from SE, if it exists. meta.stackexchange.com/q/369888/803868
    – fredsbend Mod
    Sep 15 at 18:40
  • Let's just stay with the status quo! Sep 21 at 23:13
  • 2
    @user1271772 If that is how you fell you should add an answer explaining why so others can vote to show if they support it or not.
    – Joe W
    Sep 21 at 23:19
  • @JoeW But I'm afraid of getting downvotes. Sep 21 at 23:20
  • @user1271772 Downvotes don't impact you on meta
    – Joe W
    Sep 21 at 23:21
  • @JoeW They don't affect rep but they still impact you. Sep 21 at 23:22
  • @fredsbend It looks like this is up to each site, is there enough traffic on this question for a decision to be made about what we want to do?
    – Joe W
    Sep 30 at 21:59
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Initially, I did not write an answer for this question, because I just don't know!

I can't predict whether this behaviour will help or not. I appreciate that it helped against some metrics on Stack Overflow, but we are very different to Stack Overflow.

I did a spot check of the questions in the second query [and I want to give a deep bow to the OP for providing these!]

As you might expect, a few the OP accepted an answer that matched their priors, despite a better argued answer being available. [The change would help in these cases.]

For most of them, the accepted answer was, in IMO, acceptable. But the higher voted answer was better. [The change wouldn't help in these cases.]

This question was interesting to me: Did Valerie Jarrett say she wanted "America to be a more Islamic country"?, I thought the accepted answer was better than the highest voted one. The highest voted was more fun - it has a sense of Gotcha!, but it isn't as strong. (e.g. How do we know the font is Calibri and not an older, similar looking font?)

I also worry that an old question with upvoted answers might get a NEW answer - perhaps with new evidence - which the OP recognises as better. Before this rule change, accepting it would give it the prominence it needs to slowly gather votes. Now, it will likely remain buried. [The change wouldn't help in these cases.]

But weighing this up, is this new change an overall positive or negative?

I just don't know.

So, I didn't write an answer...

... and then I realised this is probably the most common position, and having a "shrug" answer might give people a chance to register that they too don't know.

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  • My thought is for the most part this would be a good change even if there are a few cases where it might not be the best.
    – Joe W
    Sep 15 at 16:23
  • The point about old better answers I think is a major one. Almost enough for me to favor an opposition position.
    – fredsbend Mod
    Sep 15 at 17:05
  • I also worry that this discussion is fixated on a false premise. That is to say, the belief that a large majority of readers only read the top answer.
    – fredsbend Mod
    Sep 15 at 17:06
  • As an aside, I'm not impressed with any of the answers in the linked post. In fact, I felt I had to delete one for being unsourced!
    – fredsbend Mod
    Sep 15 at 18:09
  • 1
    Regarding answers actually read, I've asked SE for help. meta.stackexchange.com/q/369888/803868
    – fredsbend Mod
    Sep 15 at 18:41
  • @fredsbend I think on some sites it is the case of only reading the first answer though I can't say if that is true here.
    – Joe W
    Sep 15 at 19:57
  • @JoeW If you haven't already seen it, here's my take meta.stackexchange.com/a/369983/223820
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 25 at 20:11
  • @Mari-LouA Should post that as an answer here as well
    – Joe W
    Sep 25 at 20:47
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I will partly quote Oddthinking answer because I disagree with part of their conclusion. Oddthinking wrote:

As you might expect, a few the OP accepted an answer that matched their priors, despite a better argued answer being available. [The change would help in these cases.]

I agree.

For most of them, the accepted answer was, in IMO, acceptable. But the higher voted answer was better. [The change wouldn't help in these cases.]

I disagree, the change would help here. If OP accepted an answer I think it is fair to assume that the question is settled for OP. The reason this question is still valuable is because a new person might stumble on the same question and we want to present the best answer for that new person. The community voted which answer is best, OP voted among them with slightly higher vote count but was still outvoted. Hence for someone who is not OP the community is fairly clear that the accepted answer is not the most useful one but one of the other ones. This other one is the one most likely to be useful for the new person. So in this case the change would help.

This gives the global conclusion that this is a good change for the site and should be adopted.

-1

I urge readers to vote to pin the accepted answer at the top of the page. This feature does a lot of silent good work whilst the very few annoying instances where an OP picks a (seemingly) obviously wrong answer are very scarce, however memorable these are (as shown by the 9 negative answers cited in the Original Question).

Despite the terms voting and upvoted, there is a severe problem in terms of how democratic the voting system is. Early posts get voted on a lot, later posts much, much less so. Around 48+ hours after a question is first posted, the number of views by active voting members drops off significantly.

Pinning the accepted answer allows relatively 'late'-arriving but excellent and helpful answers to be recognised and pinned to the top of the page where they currently benefit readers. Without this feature some of the best and most helpful information on the site will languish unseen underneath a list of earlier mediocre answer posts. This current system still retains the benefit of having the highest-voted answer directly beneath the selected one. The new one will see many existing good posts vanish into obscurity.

Another benefit of the current system is that the Original Poster is the only member who is routinely alerted to new answers, especially those that arrive weeks, months or years after the question is originally posted. Because of this, they are in by far the best position to curate their own question page, and, if appropriate, accept a late answer. Certainly, the slew of voters on the original few answers will not be notified and will not get the chance to vote anew on the full range of answers.

Lastly, the current system affords some respect and agency to people who ask questions on the site. Whilst there are always vaguely annoying members in every aspect of the daily life of every SE site, we don't allow this to destroy or make us abandon useful and helpful features of the site. Where the odd muddle-headed OP might select the wrong answer, this is rarely anything more than an annoyance, and a rare one. In contrast if we in essence lose the selected answer feature, users will lose the benefit of many excellent posts and the helpful information that they provide. The vast majority of people asking questions here are sensible adults fully capable of making appropriate decisions regarding selected answers.

Some SE sites, for instance SO, get thousands and thousands of views by active voting members. So, for example, the highest voted answer on SO has over 33,000 votes. On these sites a very high number of votes over a quite sustained period may be the best indicator of the accuracy and helpfulness of an answer. Here, however, this is not the case.

The voting system on Skeptics is a GOOD THING. However, it is not perfect for many reasons, including those detailed above. The 'accepted answer' feature helps provide checks and balances within the system. In particular it defends against the unintended and unwelcome tyranny of the early upvoted answer. Just like a healthy democracy, where second chambers and the separation of the legislature, the judiciary and the police provide safety in the form of checks and balances, the same is true of the accepted answer feature in its current form. Vote to keep it!


These are my thought's. This post is adapted from my answer on English Language and Usage:

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  • Why should we be looking at a post that talks about answer stats for another site instead of using the stats provided in the question? Also as a side note anyone who visits this site on a regular basis is alerted to a new answer on a post when it gets bumped to the top of the front page when a new answer is added.
    – Joe W
    Oct 9 at 1:51
  • @JoeW Very sorry, I thought I'd converted all the points to apply to Skpetics (Hmm, including that one. Shouldn't do this stuff late at night!) Let me set that straight.
    – Araucaria
    Oct 9 at 2:04
  • @JoeW Is that better now? [Btw, I'll revisit tomorrow and try to give some results for how often accepted answers are earlier or later than the highest scoring one when these are different.]
    – Araucaria
    Oct 9 at 2:04
  • @JoeW "anyone who visits this site on a regular basis is alerted to a new answer on a post when it gets bumped to the top of the front page when a new answer is added" <-- Well, a) that depends on how your view is ordered (activity,new answers, votes etc), and whether you view the 'hot questions' list or the 'new questions' list. But more importantly, b) such viewing doesn't keep those posts highly viewed for any sustained length of time. So many posts have some kind of activity that those Qs get shunted rapidly down the list and off the first page.
    – Araucaria
    Oct 9 at 2:27
  • I am not sure why anyone who frequents this site would keep it on anything other than activity or new answers as those are the only ones that really show you new things. Not to mention that we don't get a lot of traffic so a new answer (or edited answer) isn't going to fall off the front page very quickly.
    – Joe W
    Oct 10 at 22:49
  • @JoeW there's no setting for new answers, is there? Just new Qs
    – Araucaria
    Oct 10 at 23:15
  • Active -> Any question that has been posted, has been edited, has a new answer posted or an answer edited. This is also the default view for all users which means they will see all questions that have a new or edited answer on them.
    – Joe W
    Oct 11 at 12:19

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