There are a few questions where an answer has been accepted really quickly. In at least one case, the question got an answer after 20 minutes and had an accepted answer less than 30 minutes from being asked.

I'm all in favour of accepting answers. (I've accepted an answer in 10 of the 11 I've asked and haven't yet got to trying the various answers on the 11th, but will accept one when I have.) But, such quick turnarounds from asked to accepted don't seem a good thing to me. It will surely result in better answers not being accepted. Yes, that's inevitable as part of the SE design, but very quick acceptances make it more likely. They also may reduce the likelihood of a better answer being offered. Some may not bother to answer if the "prize" is already gone. Others, viewing the questions, might think that if an answer has been accepted, then the question has been dealt with and never get as far as seeing that the better answer in their head hasn't made it on to the site.

Thoughts?

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3 Answers

up vote 25 down vote accepted

Personally, I think it's a good idea to wait. Accepting answers gives the appearance that the question has been resolved.

"Got my answer! No more help required, thanks."

Right or wrong, that is the perception. So, by accepting an answer too quickly, you are depriving yourself of potentially better answers, more content for those who come after, and reputation from the activity you ended prematurely.

Just my opinion.

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On the other hand it says "I got what I wanted, now go spend your time on questions that aren't already answered." –  Caramdir Jul 30 '10 at 16:13
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@Caramdir: While I see your point, I think it presupposes that the Q&A are for me the poser of the question. They are, but they are also for those that google will bring in my wake long after I've moved on. –  vanden Jul 30 '10 at 18:25
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@Caramdir: On reflection, that didn't convey my full intent. Trying again. Prematurely marking accepted might discourage more answers that, even if not seen as valuable by the questioner, might well be seen as valuable by those who come later. Early acceptance seems to me to, on balance, diminish the chances of high value answerS. –  vanden Jul 30 '10 at 18:37
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Agreed. The particular bit of information required by the questioner is only rarely the only bit of information merited by the question. Other people will be lacking different pieces of information, and the most best kind answer is therefore the most complete one, not the first one which gives the questioner the ability to solve their problem. –  Kevin Vermeer Jul 30 '10 at 19:39
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@Caramdir: When answering questions, keep in mind that you're not actually talking primarily to the original author, but over their shoulder to a much larger audience. –  Robert Cartaino Jul 30 '10 at 23:52
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According to the official FAQ, guidelines for accepting answers are:

Guidelines

  • Don't hesitate to accept an answer that is well-written, suggests a good practice and works for you.
  • It is generally accepted that you should wait 24 to 48 hours to let a bunch of people have a chance to answer your question. A question with an accepted answer may deter people from looking at a question.
  • Make sure that besides working for you, the answer is really good practice. Sometimes after the answer gets accepted, another comes in, uncovering the fact that previous one was in fact a bad hack.

These all seem quite reasonable. Robert appears to have come up with #2 spontaneously!

Perhaps we should adjust the 24 to 48 hours guideline for the beta, but I think this should be our eventual goal. We could adjust it longer because we're seeding questions hoping to attract people who like to give answers, or shorter because we're seeding information to make this a valuable site. There are arguments for both sides, support one or another in the comments.

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A glance at Robert's profile might dispel the belief in spontaneity. –  vanden Jul 31 '10 at 0:25
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2 things: You can change your mind on the answer, and a good answer carries a bigger "prize" than the accepted one, since it will get lots of up votes, I think that the up-votes are an equivalent reward than the acceptance.

I would recommend accepting a correct answer when it appears. but going back to see if a better one was given every now and again.

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Disagree on both of your points. First, the 'prize' of the answer does not come from moving those pixels on my screen into a bigger number, it comes from the success of the questioner and other readers in solving their problems. With regard to your second point, few people (myself included) have the discipline and time to go back through questions and change the accepted answer. Additionally, this practice misrepresents the answer for a period of time between selecting the right one. –  Kevin Vermeer Jul 30 '10 at 19:40
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