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I find that I'm irrationally irritated by people asking lots of questions and who have a low accept rate.

What's the best way of encouraging questioners to accept answers? I've tried leaving a comment pointing out the low accept rate and this has worked once, but I don't know if it's the best solution.

Is this something I (or we) should even be worrying about, and how are other SE sites dealing with this?

3

Comment is fine and common response. It is enough for people who are not often on site or not yet acquainted with how things work here.

As for others just balance for yourself if you feel interested and motivated enough to answer questions from such person.

Also note that it's not uncommon even for high-rep people to have low accept rate, if they raise complex questions that keep hovering without good answers.

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    I don't subscribe to this "my questions are SO AWESOMELY HARD nobody can answer them" philosophy. If you are a high rep user with a really low accept rate, you're doing it wrong. Definitively. (anything at or around 70% is generally fine..) – Jeff Atwood Mar 21 '11 at 22:02
  • @Jeff Atwood for contextual example some WordPress questions take new WordPress version for a good answer, new version takes months. It's not because expert folk ask complex questions on purpose, but more about ratio of their complex question to low number of questions they ask. My personal impression is that SE sites (in general) have too strong knee-jerk reaction for low accept rate cultivated. – Rarst Mar 21 '11 at 22:10
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    @Jeff Atwood Is there a guide teaching me how to do it better? I ask a question only when I’m really stuck. My current accept rate is really bad, but I don’t know how to improve it without marking an answer just for my stats. That feels wrong. – fuxia Mar 22 '11 at 1:31
  • @toscho if you're asking questions so amazingly incredibly difficult that nobody on the entire internet can answer them, ever, for now and always.. well.. I still maintain you're doing it wrong. :) – Jeff Atwood Mar 22 '11 at 2:54
  • @Jeff Atwood: Really? Try to answer this one: wordpress.stackexchange.com/questions/12611/… – kaiser Mar 22 '11 at 23:17
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    @Jeff Atwood I didn't know we had entire internet hanging around on WPSE... :) – Rarst Mar 22 '11 at 23:45
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    @toscho - In that particular linked question, it's my observation that the issue discussed is specific to one of your servers, how can anyone else realistically provide an answer there? Sure they can say, have you tried A or B, do you have plugins enabled(etc..), but it's only going to be basic troubleshooting tips, and you strike me as the kind of guy who knows the basic steps in troubleshooting WordPress installations(eg. disable plugins, switch theme, etc). The question can only be answered relative to your own input and invesigation into the problem(because it's specific to your setup). – t31os Apr 2 '11 at 12:48
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    @t31os I didn’t expect a concrete answer. I’ll mark the first hint as »answer« that leads me to find an own solution. – fuxia Apr 2 '11 at 14:18
  • Just out of curiosity: might @toscho's question linked above be too specific for WPSE, which would perhaps explain why @Jeff Atwood says that he's "doing it wrong"? – Chip Bennett Jun 16 '11 at 15:15
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    @Chip Bennett my personal opinion on that question is that it is more of "too complex to get good answers" than "too specific". – Rarst Jun 16 '11 at 15:29
  • @Rarst I'm still learning all of those sorts of designations. :) In either case, though, the conclusion would be the same? – Chip Bennett Jun 16 '11 at 15:34
  • @Chip Bennett ehm, which conclusion? That question is fine as for me. – Rarst Jun 16 '11 at 16:15
  • @Rarst: well, if the question is dependent upon @toscho's specific server environment and configuration, then I think it would be too specific. (I'm speaking theoretically, of course; I've not studied the question in any great detail.) – Chip Bennett Jun 16 '11 at 16:24
  • @Chip Bennett from my understanding it was not definitively established that issue is server-specific or caused by server configuration. – Rarst Jun 16 '11 at 16:32
  • @Rarst: like I said, I'm speaking theoretically; the main question is: if the question were established to be server-specific, would it be out of the usual WPSE scope? – Chip Bennett Jun 16 '11 at 16:36
2

I've run into this too and I think it's very frustrating. You put time and effort into making a good answer, and then the OP just vanishes without leaving any comments or accepting any of the answers people have posted.

Here are some ideas on how to improve the situation. Obviously they need discussion and refinement, but it's a starting point:

  • Communicate more clearly to new users when they register and ask their first few questions. Make it clear that accepting answers is an integral part of the process and something they should be doing.
  • When a question has at least one upvoted answer that hasn't been accepted after 3 or 4 days, send a nag email to the OP. Let them know that there are N upvoted answers and that they're expected to accept one if it solves their problem.
  • Show a warning on questions where the asker has low accept rate. This would warn people that their answer might be ignored, and also encourage users with a low accept rate to start accepting questions.
  • If a user has asked ~4 questions without accepting an answer to any of them, then the system should prevent the user from asking new questions until they accept answers on at least ~2 of them.
  • Give moderators the ability to mark an answer as accepted on questions that have been abandoned. Maybe setup a process where users can submit questions for review.
  • Give moderators the ability to mark a question as "abandoned," which would remove some reputation points from the asker. If the asker gets 2 questions marked abandoned, they'd be prevented from asking any new questions until they accept answers to the abandoned questions.
  • Give a badge to users who answer a question with ~4+ upvotes on an abandoned question.
  • Add a private messaging component, so that users can send the asker a note reminding them that they should accept good answers. This would probably be more effective than automated nag emails. Users should get an e-mail notifying them when they have a new message. And of course this would also have added benefits outside the scope of this issue.
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    I like the idea of preventing users with a certain percentage accept rate, who have asked a certain minimum number of questions, from asking further questions until accepting answers to existing questions. This limit should probably be fairly conservative; perhaps a minimum of 10 questions*, and a *minimum accept rate of 30%? Also, the "abandoned question" flag is a good idea, too, though I would tie the flag to questions with a certain minimum number of answers. – Chip Bennett Jul 9 '11 at 18:49
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    While I can relate to the frustration (quick search shows I have something over 500 unaccepted answers hovering around) I strongly feel that strong-arming users into accepting answers is not worth the trouble. For me the positive outcome of an answer are new things I learned myself and benefit whole community will receive from it. The accepts/points are just score, kept for fun and gamification. The point of the site (and network) is not to manufacture points, it is to manufacture knowledge of supreme quality. Points are just for fun. – Rarst Jul 9 '11 at 18:52
  • Rarst, I agree that the main point of the site is building a knowledgebase and points are just for fun, but the frustration from having your efforts ignored takes away from the fun, which discourages people from participating. I'm not saying we need to start going on witchhunts or anything, but I do think the rate of abandoned questions is unacceptably high, and there are some ways we could improved the system to better handle it. – Ian Dunn Jul 9 '11 at 19:24
  • I don't think the point of the question (or Ian Dunn's answer) is about points awarded to the person who provided the accepted answer, but rather about preventing the purpose of the site from being diluted by voluminous questions that remain perpetually unanswered. If certain particular users fail to adhere to the MO of the site by accepting correct answers, then they should not be allowed to keep asking questions for which they will continue not to accept correct answers. At some point, it is acceptable to say "play by our rules, or don't play". – Chip Bennett Jul 9 '11 at 23:25

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