I'm seeing a trend, but perhaps others won't agree.

Most questions benefit from multiple answers.

Here's an example.

My proposal, which perhaps needs to go to the main meta site, is that cooking should allow multiple acceptance. That's right, if the OP thinks that three people have contributed useful responses, the OP should be able to accept-em-all.

Another option is for us to largely ignore the accept button on this site. What I really don't want to start seeing is 'acceptance ratio harassment' spreading here from stackoverflow.

  • What's acceptance ratio harassment?
    – hobodave
    Commented Jul 14, 2010 at 22:32
  • @hobodave: there are a subset of users on SO who post scores of questions without ever bothering to accept an answer (or up-vote, or respond to comments...) - they tend to catch some flack after a bit. The term specifically refers to users who have a low "accept rate" (a number displayed next to their name once they've posted more than three questions signifying the percentage of their questions with accepted answers). Personally, I don't consider it a problem.
    – Shog9
    Commented Jul 14, 2010 at 22:42
  • 1
    Ah hmm. That has annoyed me on SO. I think I've actually taken part in some harassment. :-)
    – hobodave
    Commented Jul 15, 2010 at 14:10
  • I am with @hobodave
    – Vivi
    Commented Jul 18, 2010 at 11:03

4 Answers 4


If "accept" still means "this is the answer that answered my question", then I don't see a problem with the way it works today. Plenty of questions on other sites with multiple, helpful answers and only one accepted - just because the OP found one answer particularly helpful doesn't mean others won't find other answers useful.

I do think the "compile portions of disparate answers into a single, comprehensive answer" strategy should be encouraged though: I suspect many questions will find themselves collecting multiple valid answers, with each pertaining to a very specific scenario - getting someone to come along and make sense of all these would be nice to see...

  • Good idea, but the idea of simply combining other people's work and making a few stylistic changes always makes me feel like a plagiarist, if not a jerk. How can we make people feel comfortable doing this? Perhaps even more importantly, how do we deal with the inevitable resentment from people who had their answers co-opted?
    – Aaronut
    Commented Jul 14, 2010 at 22:45
  • @Aaronaught: tell 'em to grow up? It has to become a cultural thing, or it'll never work out - you'll get people trying to stake out "territory" on questions, and complaining if someone else mentions the same thing. I'm not talking about blind copy/paste here, but the sort of editing job that only someone who actually understands the topic could perform: IMHO, the key aspects of a good composite answer is the same as that of a good answer period: accurate, easy to read and understand, provides something not found in any single previous answer.
    – Shog9
    Commented Jul 14, 2010 at 23:07
  • I guess, although I don't think it'll be that easy in practice. I wish we had some way to "merge" answers where the original posters still get most of the credit. Even if by "assembling" the answers you produce something that's greater than the sum of its parts - you're still sort of adding noise to the equation, especially if the asker is long gone and doesn't accept the consolidated answer. I'm not against the principle at all, I'm just not sure how well this particular "implementation" of it will work in practice...
    – Aaronut
    Commented Jul 14, 2010 at 23:25
  • @Aar the irony here is that this is what the official definition of CW is about -- a bunch of people collaboratively editing. But what fun would it be if most of the questions were CW? If people get a vote or two when they post their answer, and then someone else gets a vote or two for editorial combination, I don't see any cause for grumpiness.
    – bmargulies
    Commented Jul 14, 2010 at 23:39
  • @bmargulies: I wonder if timing is also a factor. I mean, if a question hasn't seen any new activity for 2 weeks and somebody decides to consolidate the answers, that seems like a good thing. But if they do it 20 minutes after the question is started while it's still "hot", that seems kind of cheap.
    – Aaronut
    Commented Jul 15, 2010 at 1:50

Having now had a little experience with the site here, (and almost none with SO), I find the acceptance idea to be less compelling here.

I've been going through peoples old questions and giving better answers than their 'accepted' ones.

Is this sensible? I don't know if it will benefit my reputation here, but a lot of the 'accepted' answers for 1 answer questions are, frankly, shoddy work. Either uninformed, or lazy writing or some combination. Assuming that they will be searched and found in the future, the answers should be better than they currently are.

That said, the nature of these questions and answers are very different than "Is there an O(n log n) solution to Y problem?"

One HUGE difference here as I think about this is it's highly likely that the questioner may be totally unable to validate the correctness of an answer given. That's very different from programming, where essentially our compilers/interpreters validate the correctness of an answer.

I may know exactly why your hollandaise breaks, or your ragu is bad, but that doesn't mean you will be able to fix it based on my advice.

I'm less sure about solutions -- I can think of some possibilities -- abolishing correctness, or just giving a 'correctness' bonus to the highest rated comment, in effect crowd-sourcing the 'correct answer', or possibly 'correct answer' is voted on so that everyone can choose their own correct answer and keep it different from the ratings. Here is where my lack of knowledge of SO hurts -- I'm not sure what analogous situations have come up already elsewhere.

Another possibility is to encourage people to 'try out' answers before accepting, and then you could always mail them periodically to come back and accept. This could be a sort of community solution to the opportunities / problems the software presents.


I wouldn't read too much into what "acceptance" means on any particular answer. That is, it ought not be interpreted as the community's (or anyone else's ,for that matter) blessing that a particular answer is in any way the definitive answer or even the best answer. It's simply a way for the OP to indicate which answer was most helpful to him/her and award a little reputational sugar.

As far as allowing for "multiple accepted answers," that's not really necessary since everyone, the OP included, can always up-vote that is helpful, thus awarding reputation to the contributor and helping the answer stand out as more qualified with the higher number of votes it receives.

The "accepted" checkmark is just a way to indicate the answer that the OP found most helpful. Upvotes are used to indicate which answers the community believes are the best.


It's in the interest of the asker to keep the question open for some amount of time, lest people think there's nothing to add. It is beneficial for the site if people contribute regardless of the status, particularly if they can add new/better info. It seems important that, so latecomers won't waste their time, considerable effort will have to be made in directing new questioners to threads which already covered their topic. Otherwise, each question will float as a little bubble, periodically expiring and then getting repeated by a basically identical question. This is obviously not ideal.

  • With respect to your last point, once your reputation is 500 or higher, you can vote to close as a duplicate. We've been starting to get better at closing off-topic questions, but desperately need more people to close duplicates. Most of the time, it's actually extremely obvious when you're looking at a dupe, because there will be an identical-sounding question in the "related" sidebar. Even if your rep is lower than 500, you can still add a comment pointing to the dupe, and others will (hopefully) vote to close.
    – Aaronut
    Commented Jul 28, 2010 at 16:11
  • @Aaronut: You just commented on a dupe and missed that it was a dupe. ;) (the alcohol reduction one)
    – hobodave
    Commented Jul 28, 2010 at 17:40
  • Thanks. The hierarchical privileges is motivating and a bit exciting, but it's also opaque. Maybe a page listing the 'levels' and corresponding privileges would be helpful so people knew what kinds of actions were possible and when.
    – Ocaasi
    Commented Jul 28, 2010 at 17:41
  • @hobodave: I added my close vote. Although I admit missing it, you should know that I also use the moderation tools ("close" tab) to see which questions already have close votes, so I would have picked it up eventually. :) Everybody who has 2k rep should learn how to use those tools; even if you're not a hardcore "closer", many of the links are very valuable for weeding out spam, troublesome users, tag abuse, and other problems brewing.
    – Aaronut
    Commented Jul 28, 2010 at 18:57
  • Ocaasi: Check the bottom of the official FAQ. Much of the content is incomplete as we are still deciding scope, but the rep limits are there.
    – Aaronut
    Commented Jul 28, 2010 at 19:00
  • @Aaronut: WT... I never noticed that "tools" link up top. Perhaps we should have a meta topic summarizing the lesser known SE features that people may be ignorant of?
    – hobodave
    Commented Jul 28, 2010 at 19:35
  • @hobodave: The thing is, that list is massive, branching out into several sub-topics. I'm not sure what to do about this; historically, the team has always used the meta site for documentation, and that works great for the trilogy, but it's hard to copy all the content over to other meta sites, and it's a bit awkward to link cooks to a programming site. This is probably something that should be discussed with the team... if it hasn't already.
    – Aaronut
    Commented Jul 28, 2010 at 20:13
  • @Aaronut: Yea it is massive. I bookmarked it. I'll get around to reading it this week.
    – hobodave
    Commented Jul 28, 2010 at 20:15

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