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There's been a change on Stack Overflow: Accepted answers are no longer pinned to the top of the list of answers. They ran a test on Stack Overflow, and the results of that are mentioned in this post. Some main things to note were that unpinning accepted answers for a while on Stack Overflow led to more copy-pastes from the highest voted answers, and to more votes to the highest voted answers as well.

There currently is a post out on Meta Stack Exchange asking for feedback, and suggesting discussing a potential change with the community. From that post:

Currently we are planning to move forward with one of two scenarios, based on your feedback:

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

So, this site will have a choice: Keep accepted answers pinned to the top, or let them be unpinned.

What do you think it should be, and what are your reasons for saying it should be that way?


NOTE: The Meta Stack Exchange post asks to give feedback before September 19th, so I hope you can all have your answers and voting ready around September 17th. That leaves some time for me to post the actual feedback to the MSE post.

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

I am inclined to think that we should keep the accepted answer on top:

1. Users being used to this SE rule, it won't bother them.

  • downside #1 : upvotes pile up more quickly on 'bad' answers (especially if question hits the HNQ and brings many people who discover the said stack but ignore its specific rules)
  • downside #2 : better answers are nor upvoted according to their quality but rather to their position (that's why SE modified some while ago the ranking and added a random place to answers with the same vote count)

2. Each stack can manage this according to its own specific particularities:

  • unpin the accepted answer if it doesn't fit the rules and regulation of the said stack (and let vote count take over from there?).
  • moderators can add a warning in case the answer is too old and posted before rules evolved

So, I think that what we could manage makes that the benefit outweighs the risk. We just need to agree on specific and identifiable areas and particular points before summoning Mjölnir. If the answer doesn't fit our requirements, accepted or not: hammered. Otherwise, let it be like SE has been for over a decade or so...

Many stacks have 'local rules and usages', not all of them. There should be a way to guide newcomers with a warning message explaining what makes this stack different (when it is). We already do that many times when leaving comments on Q or A or closing questions. This would be just another friendly weapon.

TL;DR: 1. keep accepted answer on top -> 2. assess the answer against our criteria and recommendations -> 3. need to apply our specific rule? -> 3. [ ✓ ] [ ⨯ ]

NOTE #1: To clarify from comments: as all answers have to be pinned/unpinned, I feel like we keep it pinned, and if the (any) answer doesn't fit our criteria, we leave a message/comment. In a perfect world, we could of course manage on a answer-by-answer basis...

NOTE #2: @scohe001's query helped me check whether pinned answers were 'better' than the most-voted one. FWIW, I've sometimes outscored the accepted answer, and it was easier for me to better understand OP's choice and the author of the answer. I've also been on the other side.

I have to say that it didn't bother me that much that our answers were so "close to be different". I've re-read carefully many answers and picked these three as I was involved and could be more unbiased: 1 2 3. I still think both answers deserve their reward. Therefore, that won't modify what I think and the heart of my answer.

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  • I'm not sure if I understand your answer correctly, but it seems to be written from the assumption that the site can unpin specific selected answers, while keeping others pinned. That's not correct: As a site, we can either choose for a site-wide setting that pins all accepted answers, or one that unpins all accepted answers. It can't be configured per answer.
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Sep 18 at 9:45
  • yeah, seemed ambiguous when re-read with your glasses, I clarified
    – OldPadawan
    Sep 18 at 10:18
  • Thanks, that makes more sense! One addition to the message/comment thing: You can (probably should) still flag such posts as 'not an answer' then in addition to the comment. While they won't enter the low quality posts queue, moderators can still delete them so it's important to flag :)
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Sep 18 at 10:29
  • The downsides you mentioned seem to just be generally against ordering by votes. It doesn't in any way attempt to answer whether, how or why one random individual, who is, arguably by definition, NOT an expert, can do better than this (if they were an expert, they wouldn't have needed to ask the question, although some exceptions may apply, like self-answers, but acceptance isn't pinned there in any case). "let it be like SE has been for over a decade or so" - sounds like we're getting awfully close to the appeal to tradition fallacy.
    – NotThatGuy
    Sep 23 at 22:02
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    @NotThatGuy: to answer your points : 1. "The downsides you mentioned seem to just be generally against ordering by votes." - that's why they're downsides :) 2. "It doesn't in any way attempt to answer whether [...]" - one bunch of random strangers upvoting an answer isn't the insurance that they're more right than this random individual stranger accepting the most helpful answer to his problem. I've seen highly upvoted answers (good or bad) not ticked because they were not helping OP. ...1/2
    – OldPadawan
    Sep 24 at 5:34
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    2/2 -- keeping pinned answer on top and most upvoted answer just below helps having two POV close to each other and be easily compared. That won't happen if accepted answer slides at the bottom for instance. 3. When new stuff don't really improve (IMO) things, keep old stuff until you find a real improvement. There's never been any good (again, only my experience) in changing just to make a change. Sometimes, it just open Pandora's box...
    – OldPadawan
    Sep 24 at 5:37
  • "one bunch of random strangers upvoting an answer isn't the insurance that they're more right than this random individual stranger accepting the most helpful answer to his problem" - I would argue that it stops being OP's problem once they've gotten an acceptable answer. At that point the Q&A exists purely for future value. All context that OP only knows, that isn't represented in the question, that may make them more qualified to judge the best answer than anyone else reading the question, stops mattering. Then you just have n random people versus 1 random person, which the former wins.
    – NotThatGuy
    Sep 24 at 14:49
  • It's not just making a change for the sake of making one. I feel that the logical argument in favour of unpinning is much stronger, and any argument I've seen for pinning doesn't really seem to stand up to scrutiny (or they seem to be striving for some goal other than showing people what would be of the greatest real-world value to them). But of course this is highly subjective. The more objective case for unpinning is the data presented with the announcement. It's specific to SO, which isn't ideal, but it's really the only data we have at the moment, so we shouldn't be quick to disregard it.
    – NotThatGuy
    Sep 24 at 14:49
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    This has now been implemented by the team as the official resolution.
    – gparyani
    Sep 29 at 11:28
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Unpin ALL the accepted answers!!

In my experience with the site, I’ve seen non-top-voted answers accepted by askers for one main reason:

  • They fit the asker’s perception best (the answer is telling them what they want to hear).

In general, someone is asking a question here because they don’t know how to handle an interpersonal situation. This may sound a bit harsh, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assert that they then also don’t know which solution should be shown on top.

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    Interesting. I wonder how many people accept answers because it's what they want to hear vs. how many people use the accepted answer to mean 'this solved my problem' (in which case, haven a 'proven' solution on top may not be too bad).
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Sep 11 at 9:44
  • if people accepted an answer, isn't it also because the pros and cons given by the answerer touched them more than others and helped them make their mind up?
    – OldPadawan
    Sep 24 at 8:04
  • @Tinkeringbell If someone decides to go with a specific solution in a specific situation, that still doesn't mean it's the best solution in that situation, much less that it's the best solution in similar situations, not to mention that it might not even actually have worked (if I were to e.g. ask about how to reach out to an old friend, I'll probably accept the answer that makes the most sense to me, and end up going with that one, but that doesn't mean my friend actually replied). 1/2
    – NotThatGuy
    Sep 24 at 15:06
  • Votes are some combination of "I like the way this sounds", "I tried this in the past and it worked for me", "I would respond positively if someone uses this approach on me" and "I'm a licensed expert and I approve of this". It's unfortunate, but probably largely unavoidable, that votes is the only signal we have for all of those. But still, with sufficiently many votes, one would expect to get a reasonable combination of all of those. If the difference between accepted and top-voted is big enough, one would also expect the top-voted answer to be more reliable. 2/2
    – NotThatGuy
    Sep 24 at 15:06
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I'm personally leaning marginally to keeping accepted answers pinned to the top. I've personally experienced some great benefits from being able to 'pin' answers to the top. That doesn't mean I don't realize there are downsides, but I think keeping answers pinned outweighs those.


Unpinning accepted answers on Stack Overflow is part of a project focusing on outdated answers. I think for this site, outdated answers aren't really a big problem (yet?). Yes, this site has plenty of questions/answers that were written before the citation expectations were put into place, but unpinning an accepted answer there isn't going to magically make better, backed up content float to the top. It's been agreed upon to not delete all those answers either, so I don't think unpinning answers is going to help anything there.

Accepting an answer is supposed to mean 'this worked for me'. I think answers that truly worked for someone else could deserve a bit of extra highlighting. Especially if they're not the crowd favorite. One problem with a site as subjective as IPS is that the votes from others, especially HNQ, can skew things a lot. This site has had plenty of struggles with answer quality, because users ignore cultural context, because users are distracted and start giving their opinion on tangential details... And then the votes start pouring in, and they're all 'agreeing', especially if there is a 'popular opinion' or the answer just fits their own cultural biases better. I think it's good to give askers just that tiny bit of control over their own posts, give them the ability to say 'but this was truly helpful to me', because seeing the votes so skewed to something that isn't even helpful to you creates a very 'helpless' feeling.

I've personally experienced most of that when this question of mine reached HNQ. It did so with an answer that totally disregarded the part where what I was asking for was a normal thing to do in a Dutch context. That answer is now deleted for not answering the question and disregarding the cultural context, but it still has a higher score than the accepted answer at this point. Even while it totally wasn't helpful to me. I was glad I could override that by accepting something that was helpful while the answer was still up and outscoring other answers. While at the time I hadn't had a chance to put the answer to practice, it did make me realize what I had done wrong and how I could do better next time, which made it infinitely more helpful than the one everyone on HNQ seemed to 'like'.


Sure, sometimes a bad answer gets accepted. And yes, that's very annoying, but that's mostly because accepting an answer impedes clean-ups: Accepted answers can't go in the low quality answers queue (they will be removed from it if they're already in it) and it will block the Roomba from cleaning up a closed question in 9 days. But, those can be fixed: Moderators can still clean up those answers if they don't meet the citation expectations, we can manually clean up the questions that can't be Roomba'd, and with the ability to also remove questions from HNQ, we can avoid showing questions with 'bad answers' to the entire network.

All in all, I think for this site, the positives of being able to pin an accepted answer to the top of the list outweighs the downsides. To me, the ability to say 'this was most helpful to me' and to overrule the crowd favorite, to overrule voting that's possibly biased by cultural differences or popular opinions seem more important for a good quality site than always having the top scoring answer at the top.

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As a visitor I generally tend to read answers from most popular to least and take vague notice of the accepted mark. It's to be noted I'm often reading them all anyway, though.

A popular answer doesn't automatically make an answer better or good, so does OP opinion on the problem, but the significance of the score representing a crowd of people is to me higher than the favorite election of a single person, that may often react early and not with the full range of answers. I'd consider it's a tie breaker, because an asker might be more expert on a matter, but not much more.

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This

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

Because why would anyone ever want otherwise?

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    I was hoping for a more substantial argument/reasoning, like something explaining why having accepted answers pinned is 'bad' or 'good' for a site like IPS. Also, does this mean you want to stick with unpinned (the potential default) or ask SE to pin things again? :D
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Sep 8 at 17:49
  • I legitimately cannot think of any reason why pinning it is 'good' for any site. Thus, while I agree someone should have the option (because some people liked Clippy), there should be a sane default.
    – Sarov
    Sep 8 at 17:54
  • ...Actually that'd be an interesting option, though possibly technically very hard - make it a per-user-setting instead of a per-site-setting.
    – Sarov
    Sep 8 at 17:55
  • It turned out to be decided in the opposite way: pinning was decided to be the default and sites can opt for unpinning if three's really a clear consensus that this is what the community wants. Sorry! Oct 4 at 0:43

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