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Can the idea of accepting answers just be removed? [trick not foolproof]

+ 2 like - 0 dislike

Can the idea of accepting answers be removed? This has been discussed on the blog, and the result was that we should just discourage people from using the checkmark (but how?), so we can just hide the checkmark from view, through CSS.                                                            

It is obviously not foolproof, of course, one can just inspect element, and change the CSS for themselves, but at least the option and the checkmark are not prominently displayed by default:                          

div.qa-a-selection {display:none;}  
div.qa-a-list-item-selected {
        background: #ffffff!important;
        border: 0px solid #ffffff;
        box-shadow: 0 0px 0px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0);

If you have any foolproof tricks, please post them as answers.    

asked Feb 26, 2014 in Feature Request by dimension10 (1,950 points) [ no revision ]
retagged Mar 9, 2014 by dimension10

2 Answers

+ 1 like - 1 dislike

It's useful to have a list of questions whose answers haven't been accepted. Sometimes I want to go solve other people's problems. To do this, people whose questions have been answered should be marked in some way. Accepting answers seems like the most obvious thing to do.

answered Feb 26, 2014 by Ryan Thorngren (1,495 points) [ no revision ]

The problem is, that the accepting answers feature only involves a single, unilateral, decision of the OP, and is not exactly a right cue, as has been observed on Physics.SE... Also, few OPs bother accepting answers in the first, place, rendering the idea useless.  

@dimension10: I agree with your comment, so perhaps have the check set by moderators, or by any user, based on consensus that the answer is correct? I added it as an answer to allow voting on the idea.

I trust research level physicists to be able to accept answers reliably.

I don't trust research level physicists to accept answers reliably, and you shouldn't either. For example, if Zamolodchikov came here and asked "can the RG flows ever be cyclic" and someone answers "no, because of the c-theorem", that could easily be politically upvoted and accepted, even though there are known exceptions in cases which must violate some aspect of the assumptions of the theorem, so the answer is just wrong.

Similarly, if Weinberg (one of the greatest physicists of all time) came and asked "Can there be an S-matrix which is not derived from a field theory at some appropriate scale?", he would strongly be tempted to accept the answer "no", which he has been pushing for 40 years, except that this answer is wrong, it is political.

Scientific politics exists, and answers need to be evaluted by a community. So an answer describing string theoretic models with S-matrices which do not come from any sort of field theory would be the correct one, and Weinberg, no matter how great, should not be able to unilaterally decide that the right answer is the one that he has been pushing.

These are not isolated examples, I could go on all day. It is extremely important to evaluate answers independently, and only accept them when there is overwhelming consensus on the correct answer, not when the original poster, who might have a poitical agenda (all academics do, it's not even a bad thing), decides to choose one point of view over another.

If answers are political or overstepping what is known, then you can point this out in the comments.

+ 0 like - 1 dislike

Perhaps have a checkmark that is set by moderators, when there is unquestioned consensus that the answer is complete and fully answers the question. You can do it like close/open votes, and keep the answer unchecked until the disputes are resolved, and if it is challenged, chat it out, and uncheck if there is a mistake (or if a more complete answer comes along). I agree that the implementation of "accepted answer" is not good, but it is good to have a canonical answer to objective questions, beyond "most highly upvoted", because the canonical answer might not be the most insightful, if the question missed a point, an another answer expanded on something different altogether, and got a lot of upvotes for this reason.

(after reading the comments below, I am convinced this is not a good idea. But I believe there should be a mechanism for "undisputed answer" checking, from Wikipedia experience, 95% of all things are undisputed, because there is no political pressure either way).

answered Mar 1, 2014 by Ron Maimon (7,495 points) [ revision history ]
edited Mar 2, 2014 by Ron Maimon
Most voted comments show all comments

If the moderators choose then what's the point of voting? And doesn't that give them too much power?

We don't need to have any feature like this if we don't want to allow people to accept the answers they prefer. I'm fine with that, but I'm not okay with your proposal.

@Ron Maimon: No, I disagree. This method you state is very dangerous. It is not a good idea to rely so much on the decision of a single moderator, and is also  going to "get power into the moderators' heads", which is dangerous, because this is somewhat the cause of most of the political problems with SE.       

It is better to let the entire community vote up and down answers. Upvoting of an answer that elaborates on something else which the question did not ask, because the question was not clear enough, is an incentive for the OP, or anyone else, to clarify his question.     

Ok, then not moderators. But sometimes everyone agrees the answer is correct, it is the undisputed answer to the question, and there is no reason to not indicate with a check. So perhaps allow any user to check the question, to uncheck the question, and if there is a pattern of check/uncheck, to uncheck the answer automatically until there is no more dispute?

While your suggestion is possible to implement through the admin panel of Q2A, if everyone agrees that the answer is undisputed, wouldn't it also be the most upvoted answer, unless the users do not want to vote for some reason ? 

Also, what if there is even a single person who disagrees that that answer is good? This is made worse by the fact that Q2A marks the accepted answer as "Best Answer", which is disputable. What if there are multiple correct answers? 

There will be so many situations in which the idea would fail, rendering it not completely useful, or even useful at all, as the idea wouldn't apply to most situations. 

And about the check-uncheck war, if the system automatically blocks users from check-unchecking, how will the system find out that the dispute is resolved? Can it understand the arguments? Will it search for phrases like "Ok, I agree.", which is pointless because users would write things like "I'm not going to say "Ok, I agree"", etc., just to cheat the system.

The only way would be to report the war to moderators, or experts, or administrators, or whatever. Such wars would probably be extremely common, and grow more and more common as the site grows, and would put a huge burden on the moderators.  

It is also dangerous to report the incident to moderators, because they will would probably also have their own biases.         

Hey, the color of the numbers of votes have just changed cool :-)

Most recent comments show all comments

Sometimes the most upvoted answer has a penetrating analysis that is not directly answering the question, and the correct answer is just "yes" or "no", which never gets a lot of upvotes. For example, if someone asks about whether nonrelativistic fields have to obey the spin/statistics theorem, the answer is "no", and the analysis which shows it is trivial. But there are all sorts of detailed analyses of the conditions under which nonrelativistic systems preserve spin/statistics (and analogous relations for fractional spin) and these can be upvoted higher, even if the answer to the question is still just "no" and the simplest answer is the best, and should be accepted.

I am personally think that concerning things like the spin statistics example there is nothing wrong with a standard canonical correct answer attracting less votes than posts attacking the issue from a deeper more advanced or more detallied point of view which more people highly appreciate.

What should by all means be avoided are things like this ...

But I think everybody on PhysicsOverflow should be knowledgable enough such that bad things like these example dont occur, even if the check mark would be there in some rep invariant form ...


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