I'm looking at the questions proposed during the Area 51 process:

  • My supervisor thinks that all If statements should include else statements. Do you agree?
  • What are common mistakes in Software Development?
  • Tabs vs. Spaces: What is the one proper indentation character for everything, in every situation, ever?
  • What programming language should I teach to my 4 year old son?
  • What was the turning point of your programming career?

None of these have an answer that should be accepted. The questions are interesting, and the answers would also be informative if the answer was well written and explained why the answerer thinks his method or idea is better. But I can't really see being able to accept an answer to any of these questions.

So, if I ask a question, how do I decide if or how to accept an answer? There is no right or wrong answer and just because it works for me doesn't mean I should be floating that answer to the top - unless I'm overlooking something, the questions that are on topic here are very subjective. On Stack Overflow, there are often multiple right solutions to a problem. Here, we have a problem with an infinite number of solutions, none of which are arguably better or worse than any others.


I am inclined to agree based on these examples. The questions are very subjective and the answers equally so. – Nathan Taylor Sep 1 '10 at 19:35
But should we not encourage less subjective questions? – Tobiasopdenbrouw Sep 1 '10 at 19:41
@Tobiasopdenbrouw - The questions I quoted were right from the Area 51 proposal. Since they (and the level of subjectiveness they have) are on-topic and acceptable, I don't think you can at this phase go and say "no, we don't want things this subjective." – Thomas Owens Sep 1 '10 at 19:54

I think, that we should remove approving of answers completely from this site, and it would be good and reasonable distinction from stackoverflow.

Answers to subjective questions are not just right or wrong, less or more complete, so votes should be enough and make more sense.

This is my first choice, but I'm not sure how technically feasible it is. Such a capability would allow for a number of review-centric and subjective stack exchanges. – Thomas Owens Sep 1 '10 at 20:37
I have not realised, how much technical control on site stackexchange owners will provide for area51 nestling sites, but the task itself seems trivial. – Max Sep 1 '10 at 20:43
By doing that, where do we draw the distinction between chat and the actual community. It seems artificial and forum-esque; the complete opposite of what Stack Exchange is intended for. That being said, I think the premise of this community is fundamentally flawed. – Nathan Taylor Sep 2 '10 at 16:01
@Nathan - I think the site will work if we restrict questions to those that affect us in our professional life. So questions about careers, office furniture, computer equipment, books, blogs etc. are all OK. Questions about favourite cartoons, jokes etc are borderline, but as proved on SO popular. – ChrisF Sep 4 '10 at 11:43
Yeah except that all the popular responses to this question have nothing to do with the question. Not exactly a useful concept... – hplbsh Jan 15 '11 at 5:25
This answer actually applies to MOST of the Stack Exchange sites. The original idea behind accepting an answer on Stack Overflow was that you picked the answer that worked for you - the solution that YOU chose for the problem that led you to ask the question. The same concept just doesn't exist here; and there are many other sites where this is the case. A good example is English Language Learners - where the OP is by definition the WORST possible person to judge which answer is "the right one". I would like to see the concept of acceptance removed from MOST sites. – David Wallace Jun 9 at 4:31

As I mentioned on another meta when discussing acceptance rate all acceptance really means is

This answer helped me the most.

Therefore @Fishtoaster's option of:

Pick whatever answer the asker likes most based on whatever criteria he/she feels like (humor/accuracy/whatever-they-agree-with).

is what you should do.

If the OP feels that none of the answers really "help" then they shouldn't be forced to accept one.

why acceptance? are votes not enough? If questions are subjective, why should we grant asker with some additional instrument and moreover name it 'accepting'. – Max Sep 1 '10 at 20:36
+1 took the words right out of my mouth – Pops Sep 2 '10 at 3:25
@Max, an accepted answer is a way for the question asker to specify that a certain answer is his favorite. It does not reflect the community's opinion. Even if a question is subjective, the asker is still entitled to his/her own favorite answer, and is able to grant a few extra points based on that. Although I think that since subjective questions are open-ended, and so after accepting an answer another one may be posted that may appeal even more to the asker, the asker should revisit his own question from time to time to make sure the accepted answer still reflects his favorite. – Allon Guralnek Sep 2 '10 at 12:23
My only problem with accepting an answer is that it floats it to the top of the answer list. If it didn't, it would work here. However, I don't think that any subjective answer should ever be floated above another subjective answer. – Thomas Owens Sep 4 '10 at 10:52

I think the accept rate should at least be hidden, so that people don't need to accept more answers to improve it.


A few options would be:

  • Always pick the highest-voted answer. This relies on the asker either keeping this up to date as new answers get voted up, or just picking the highest voted after N days from the asking.
  • Never accept an answer and just rely on upvotes for rep.
  • Pick whatever answer the asker likes most based on whatever criteria he/she feels like (humor/accuracy/whatever-they-agree-with).
  • [Edit add:] Always accept Fishtoaster's answers because they are, by definition, the best.
I'm personally leaning toward two or three. Either never accept an answer and let the best answer change over time (since I would suspect many people, including random visitors, sort by most up votes first) as people weigh in or pick whatever the asker thinks is best based on provided evidence (although I would hope that the asker revisits old questions from time to time to make sure the accepted answer is "the best" in his/her mind). – Thomas Owens Sep 1 '10 at 19:41
Is there any way to enforce no accepted answer, though? – Fishtoaster Sep 1 '10 at 19:45
Use CSS to hide the check mark to accept an answer might be a possibility. People might still find ways to send the request to the server, but it would be more difficult. Not sure of the system allows you to turn off features. – Thomas Owens Sep 1 '10 at 19:48
+1 just for suggestion 4. – Richard Gadsden Sep 9 '10 at 14:55

An alternative approach is that the accepted answer should be an answer created by the OP to summarize their thoughts on the other answers.

This approach is probably most suited to survey type questions.


You probably could pick an answer to accept for this one:

  • What programming language should I teach to my 4 year old son?

and possibly this one

  • My supervisor thinks that all If statements should include else statements. Do you agree?

Although the second example is a yes/no question, there might be an argument that is more convincing than the others.

I disagree that you should accept an answer for either of those. My thinking is that there is no "right answer" - no answer works better than any other answer. Teaching your 4 year old COBOL is just as right as teaching your 4 year old Java or Python or C. There are just options, with reasons behind them. The same goes for the second - there are reasons for and against, and some are more right than others, but no singular answer that answers the question in all cases. TO BE CONTINUED – Thomas Owens Sep 3 '10 at 13:22
I don't think an answer should be floated to the top in either case. Accepting an answer not only gives the answerer +15 rep, but it also floats the answer to the top. I think for all of the questions here, we should just be sorting them based on how many people agree with the sentiments of the answerer, not based on who the asker agrees with. – Thomas Owens Sep 3 '10 at 13:23

This is strongly related to this question I asked on meta.stacko where it was a huge no-no that there should be no Accept button.


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