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I've noticed that quite a few questions are only up for an hour or two before they get flagged as answered. Take for instance the recent :

The question had been up for maybe 2 hrs, and my answer had been up for about an hour, and suddenly, they've declared it to be the right answer. I admit, I've cooked a lot of pasta, so was working mostly off of probability of what likely could've been wrong, but I have no idea if that was really wrong. Normally, you have to go and test these things.

Now, it's one thing on ServerFault or StackExchange, where we can make a few changes to a config file or source file, test it, and declare a correct answer right away ... but with cooking, you might have to try a few different things before you can find the 'best' answer for your needs.

So, the question is -- should there be some sort of a lag period between when the question is asked, and when an answer can be accepted?

(okay, there's the possibility that they were rinsing their pasta, and so knew right away that my response held what they were doing wrong, without their needing to test, but I've seen lots of other ones that are flagged as answered almost immediately that don't seem to be that sort of a situation)

5

As a matter of fact, this was a high-visibility issue on MSO:

Discourage questions being marked as answered within an hour or so of being posted

The problem was even worse on Stack Overflow; there were many cases were people were accepting answers within minutes or even seconds after the first answer came in! So many members successfully lobbied for a "cool-down period", which the team set at 15 minutes.

Perhaps 15 minutes isn't entirely appropriate for this site. We have neither the critical mass nor the "testability" that the original Trilogy sites have. Even the open-ended poll questions don't pick up 50 answers in 20 minutes. In many cases, it may take days or weeks to actually verify a claim (which is why I haven't accepted the answer to one of my questions yet...)

On the other hand, we do have to be a little careful; sometimes, an answer is obviously correct, and we don't want to be so restrictive so as to discourage people from accepting any answers. Quick-and-dirty answers are still valuable here, even if they're a little... less valuable than they would be on Stack Overflow.

It's definitely a different kind of community, I don't think we need to worry so much about hit-and-run questions (yet), where if we make people wait too long to accept then they'll just pack up and leave. Because we're so new, most (most) people here are a little more committed and thoughtful than that. So we can probably do with an answer window that's higher than 15 minutes.

Related to this is whether accepted answers actually matter as much here. I'm not sure if I agree with the premise, but it is something to think about: Many if not most questions will have more than one objective and correct answer, which is different from the situation on a technical site. So it may not even be that important to try to coax people into accepting answers.

If it's possible for the team to change the window (I assume it is), then perhaps 1 hour would be more reasonable than 15 minutes, given the type of content we're expecting here and the current rate of new questions/answers.

Or do you think that's still not enough?

  • (Note that there's no guarantee that the team would actually do this - it's just a possibility) – Aaronut Jul 21 '10 at 21:07
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I'd be careful about setting time limits regarding how quickly people can accept an answer. I don't know about this site, but StackOverflow seems to get a lot of people who come, ask a question, and disappear forever. It's hard enough to get those people to accept an answer at all, adding an arbitrary time limit wouldn't help.

As another option, we could use one of those fancy pop-ups (like the ones when you try to vote on comments too fast), and have it say Are you sure you want to accept an answer this soon? It's generally a good idea to wait a couple hours/days to see if a better answer comes in.

  • I like the idea of the warning message, but I don't know that not accepting an answer is necesarily a bad thing. (it'll hang around on the 'unanswered' list for a while, but if something gets voted up, it'll automatically get accepted ... can't remember what all of the rules are for automatic acceptance, though) – Joe Jul 22 '10 at 0:12
  • This presupposes that we want those people to accept answers. There are several examples of these hit-and-runners accepting horrible answers. A lot of people think that the green checkmark is the be-all and end-all of a Q&A site; most of the time, though, the votes tell you more than the checkmark ever could. The SO/SE team agrees; that's why they instituted the current (15-minute) time limit. I'd much rather see better answers accepted than see more answers accepted. – Aaronut Jul 22 '10 at 0:35
  • @Aaronaught, I hadn't thought of that, you're probably right. Adding a warning should help in any case though, since new people will sometimes assume that they're supposed to accept an answer quickly, and having a warning like this will make it obvious that they're allowed to wait. – Brendan Long Jul 22 '10 at 3:40
  • 2
    Is it possible to have the highest-voted answer become the accepted answer (green check mark assigned) after a certain period - say, two weeks? – JustRightMenus Jul 22 '10 at 14:02
  • @JustRightMenus, I think moderators are allowed to accept an answer for someone after a certain amount of time. – Brendan Long Jul 22 '10 at 23:49
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In contrast to aaronaught, I accept answers quite early to my questions. When I see the community voting an answer way up compared to other answers, I take the community sentiment as the truth.

I asked a question about turkey burgers, and I'm not going to wait till next weekend when i cook them again to accept the answer.

I also think it's too early to say what an appropriate accept lag time is. I appreciate the discussion and think it's important to address these issues, but I don't think it's a huge concern at the moment.

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    If the question is asking for information, clarification, etc., that's a reasonable way to choose an answer to accept. In general, though an accepted answer means that the answer worked for you, so if there's any way at all for you to test answers, you should wait and vote for the one that actually solved your problem - even if it's the lowest-voted answer on the page. – Aaronut Jul 21 '10 at 23:35
  • @Aaronaught I actually think this is a bit silly. I'm not going to test all the answers. Every now and then there are some that need testing but usually it's not too hard to tell if an answer is preferable. You know, you can (and I have) go back and accept a different answer if a better one comes along? If I feel an answer is acceptable I'll accept it. – Ryan Elkins Jul 22 '10 at 3:40
  • @Ryan: If your question describes a problem, there's no sense in asking it unless you're going to actually attempt one of the answers. Otherwise, like I said, fine, accept the answer that appears most reasonable - but give people time to respond, we don't have 50,000 people visiting the site daily yet. Even on Stack Overflow, where we do have that volume, most of the more "seasoned" users wait at least a day before accepting any answers. – Aaronut Jul 22 '10 at 13:59
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There are questions that are so simple that an answer can be accepted after few minutes. If I ask what other uses a pizza stone can have, I don't think I should wait 2 hours to accept an answer, when I already got 5 replies in 10 minutes.

That is also what happens on SO; if I make a simple question (simple for who answers), and I get many answers in few minutes, I can accept an answer after 5 minutes.

  • I'm not even sure that question should have had a right answer ... any of the ones asking about possible uses ... there could be an number of uses, and the first 5 answers might just be a small window into the total possibilities. – Joe Jul 22 '10 at 0:16
  • I agree with @Joe here - you seem to be talking about poll questions, and those arguably shouldn't have accepted answers (in Community Wiki mode, it has no effect anyway except to bump that answer up above the rest; no reputation is given). Do you have an example of a "real" question that is so basic and obvious that an answer could and should be accepted in 5 minutes? (And, if so, are we sure that it's appropriate for this site?) – Aaronut Jul 22 '10 at 0:37
  • what benefit do you get by accepting an answer in 5 minutes rather than waiting to see the full gamut of responses? The only benefit is if you are a hit'n'runner who won't come back to accept an answer. I'd say, relax, wait and see what the community can come up with over time and make you decision then. – Sam Holder Jul 22 '10 at 7:35
  • @Aaronaught: I am referring to normal questions. If you want an example of easy question, I think that a question about corn flour asking what the term refers to is simply enough to get enough replies in few time. I don't see anything against easy questions; if there is something written, point me to the right direction. My point is that It doesn't make sense to wait 2 hours, when I got 10 replies in 10 minutes, and they are all saying the same thing with different things. – kiamlaluno Jul 22 '10 at 22:01
  • Just to be clear: I am not against putting a limit to avoid answers are accepted too fast. I only think that this limit should consider different factors. – kiamlaluno Jul 22 '10 at 22:05
  • What you say is true, but again seems to presuppose that you have to sit around waiting for 2 hours because you're not going to come back to the site. Kick back, have a beer or two, come back tomorrow, and accept the answer then; why's it so important to accept early? It doesn't even show up in your accept rate until it's been open for 2 days. – Aaronut Jul 22 '10 at 23:54
  • @Aaronaught: I usually do not accept an answer too quickly, and I agree that accepting an answer too early is not always a good idea. Accepting an answer too quickly seems to give the message "I got the answer I wanted; do not reply anymore" to who reads the answer. If the limit is introduced to avoid somebody "plays" with the system, then I think it's not enough. There are questions that seem asked just to vote, or get votes. – kiamlaluno Jul 23 '10 at 0:29
  • "they are all saying the same thing with different things" should be read as "they are all saying the same thing with different words.". – kiamlaluno Jul 23 '10 at 0:48

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