Etiquette for selecting answers,
I’m kind of curious what kinds of criteria other people go through when selecting the correct answer to their questions. Here’s what I consider when selecting the answer to my question:
- Is the answer objective? It’s easy to pick out biased answers. Usually they involve a statement along the lines of “x sucks, you should ALWAYS use y.”
- Do other members seem to support the answer? Has it gotten a significant number of +1 posts or has it been voted up a number of times?
- Is the answer the most thorough? Does it have an example?
With that said, there are a couple of BAD reasons to choose an answer in my opinion:
- The answer is what you want to hear. My biggest pet peeve is when somebody asks what ostensibly appears to be a valid question, but is really just a thinly veiled attempt to get someone to agree with them. Thus, the question usually ends up showing a certain bias. And guess which answer gets selected? The one that confirms that bias.
- Nobody posted a better answer. If you don’t see a good enough answer, don’t select one.
I’m sure there are a few things I’m leaving out, plus some of what I’ve said may be arguable. What is everyone else’s take on this?
Here are some guidelines:
- Does it answer your question precisely?: The selected answer should answer your exact question correctly, and not some tangent topic created from your question.
- Do others agree?: Make sure at least some other stack overflow users agree with you. You don’t need to select the highest voted up answer, but try to avoid selecting an answer that has net down votes just because you agree with it. You may be wrong in that case.
- Don’t settle: Don’t select an answer just because it is the best one available. Only select an answer if it answers your question.
- Don’t pick too quickly: Try not to select an answer minutes after posting it. Sometimes a better answer will come hours later, and you might miss out on it if you select your answer too fast. The other problem with this is that other stack overflow users will see the accepted answer, only read that one and not the others, and vote it up. You will have an inflated vote answer for possibly not the best answer.
- If multiple people answered only part of the answer, comment on each and ask them to expand it including @username’s answer. Upvote each of the partial answers and finally accept the complete answer once someone posts the answer completely. The person adding to their answer should give credit to the person they borrowed ideas from. It is better to modify someone’s post with a small missing detail and accept it, then to accept a partial answer. If someone posts a summary answer, even if they contributed no new information, and if it answers your question completely, then you should accept it.
- Changing accepted answers later: It is a good idea to review your responses tab on your profile page. Sometimes people will post an answer even know you have already accepted an answer. The new answer might be far superior than the one you accepted.
- Examples and code: A good answer often has an example and code in the answer. But sometimes the answer is purely theoretical. If you have a practical question, hold out for a more practical answer that has examples and code.
- First answer vs similar subsequent: You should not select the first answer just because it was the first to have a major point. Instead select the most correct.
- First answer vs exact subsequent: If 2 answers are identical accept the oldest.
- Periodically review your unanswered questions: If you don’t religiously watch your Responses tab in your profile, you should periodically review your unaccepted answers and look to see if there is an accepted answer candidate.
- Subjective questions: In my opinion, questions tagged with subjective should not be able to be accepted. I think it is better not to accept an answer if your question is subjective. By the very definition of subjective, there is no best answer anyway.
Contribution of ideas in this answer: Myself, @DannySmurf, @Sergio Acosta, @Zooba, @jjnguy, @Daniel Auger, @Jason Baker, @kristof
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The answers provided above are only to be used to guide the learning process. The questions above are open-ended questions, meaning that many answers are not fixed as above. I hope this article can be useful, Thank you