Community manager Nicholas Chabanovsky has posted this on Meta Stack Exchange:

Unpinning the accepted answer from the top of the list of answers.

On Stack Overflow, apparently, answers are now by default sorted by score, with the accepted answer appearing wherever its score places it, instead of being pinned to the top.

The linked question asks whether we would like to have the same behaviour on our site, or stick with the old way of having the accepted answer appear at the top of the list regardless of its score (or, I guess, something else entirely).

What are your thoughts on this?

This question is about the main site, Ask Ubuntu. For the same question with regard to meta, see my other question.

  • 1
    Why the confusion? "(or, I guess, something else entirely)" Sep 8 at 18:31
  • 2
    @RandomPerson I can only imagine two possibilities, but I am not so arrogant as to think my imagination has covered everything :)
    – Zanna Mod
    Sep 9 at 4:57
  • Here is (another) perfect example of why this is bad idea (from the SO change). I just noticed this today, since the OP finally accepted my answer, but someone posted a wrong answer a month ago that somehow got 2 votes (perhaps during "late answer" review) and is now the top answer by sorting. Low "viewer" questions (like WSL) are often easily susceptible to just a few votes pushing the wrong thing to the top. Sep 9 at 20:17

Accepts are a way to indicate what worked best for the OP or which answer they personally liked. Sometimes the OP's choice isn't the best one - after all, many people ask questions because they don't know much about the topic, so they can't necessarily be expected to be a good judge. Also, sometimes better answers are posted later after the OP has stopped interacting with the question or no longer has the ability to test solutions.

The score of a post gives a more reliable indication of its quality, as potentially more (and possibly more knowledgeable) people are involved in determining it.

Therefore, I think we should have the accepted answer sort according to score, rather than being pinned to the top.

For anyone interested, here's an SEDE query for posts where the accepted answer is outscored by another answer (according to this, on Ask Ubuntu there are around 9000 such posts).

  • 2
    Nice explanation. It would be nice if you can mention few examples of questions where there are better answer than compared to the accepted one. Sep 8 at 18:33
  • 2
    @RandomPerson see my edit - seems better than individual examples
    – Zanna Mod
    Sep 9 at 5:19

Obsolete Answer Flag

In many cases the answer with the most upvotes is simply the one that has been here longest. Often these high vote answers are totally obsolete and no longer work.

It was much easier to get votes in the old days, when Ask Ubuntu was new and unique. Answers did not need to be very good to get lots of upvotes.

There should be an obsolete flag so that users can flag these old and obsolete answers to drop them from the top of the list. A flagged answer does not need to be totally removed, just dropped to the bottom of the page where it won't hurt anyone. It should probably take a vote of five flags to demote an answer.

Closing a duplicate question and then linking an old question with 20 obsolete answers wastes the users time and does not give users much confidence in Ask Ubuntu.

Some people talk about historical value of these answers but people come here to get help making their Ubuntu work, not history lessons.

Lets keep Ask Ubuntu relevant and up to date.

  • 3
    "Closing a duplicate question and then linking an old question with 20 obsolete answers wastes the users time and does not give users much confidence in Ask Ubuntu." -- Hear, hear! And this applies to all of Stack Exchange. Sep 9 at 4:33
  • 3
    +1, although this isn't on the table in this particular round of changes, it's good to keep it on the radar - also it's relevant to NotTheDr01ds' argument' - I'll be sure to mention it when I post feedback from our site on Nicholas' post.
    – Zanna Mod
    Sep 9 at 4:58
  • 3
    This is an excellent point and is a +1 by me. A drawback, however, is that this would introduce another queue in the review queues, and I don't think that we currently have the number of active reviewers needed for this. I would like to make clear that I'm not against this suggestion, I'm just mentioning a potential problem. Sep 9 at 15:10
  • 1
    @BeastOfCaerbannog I guess this will only be a problem for the first few months when this new flag gets launched (if it gets launched). I guess a new review queue named Obsolete Answers would be created. Once the review queue gets cleared, then new posts will be rarely added in the queue as answers don't become obsolete so soon. But anyway, I am just assuming things, so I could be 100% wrong. [Let's assume that the 14-day invalidation rule doesn't exist for this review queue😅.] Sep 9 at 18:07
  • This seems like a very good idea, but posting it here, as an answer to an unrelated question makes it sure to be ignored. This isn't something that can be done by the AU community, it would require SE developers to add new functionality, so this really should be posted as a feature request on Meta Stack Exchange where it can get the attention it deserves.
    – terdon
    Sep 11 at 12:02
  • 1
    @terdon I don't think this is an unrelated question. Also, please check these links: meta.askubuntu.com/a/19732 and meta.askubuntu.com/posts/comments/42909 Sep 11 at 18:22
  • 1
    @terdon: Both question and answer are about unpinning obsolete answers from the top of the list. I am advocating sorting answers by value rather points or acceptance. I think acceptance should be at the top at least until it becomes obsolete. Sep 12 at 8:12

Neither system is perfect. The problem with vote totals deciding the "best answer" (by sort order, at least) is that they are momentum that is hard to overcome in the event that things change. And with the age of some questions (on most of the Stack sites), a new answer can come along that makes much more sense today than the top voted answer of yesteryear. I've seen this happen multiple times in my relatively short time answering on Stack sites.

The ability of the OP to change the accepted answer based on new information is useful, and allows the new information to automatically get to the top, regardless of how many votes the old, outdated (often even now wrong) answer might have. Without this, the momentum is for readers to continue to read the highest voted answer, and often even upvote it again since it might seem to work for them.

Sure, it's a lot of "power" to give the OP, but someone needs to have the ability to "pin" an answer, IMHO, and who better than the person who asked it originally?

Vote totals, which are difficult to change after months or years, aren't always the best metric for the "best answer" -- Especially on older questions.

  • 4
    Very good point, and I have seen a few accepts change, but I feel it rarely happens. Also, just pinning the accepted answer doesn't seem like the best way to address the problem of accumulating obsolete answers at the top - I'd prefer a new feature like C.S.Cameron proposes here to deal more effectively with that.
    – Zanna Mod
    Sep 9 at 5:02
  • 1
    @Zanna Absolutely agree that an Obsolete Flag would be better, but in lieu of that, all we have is the current "Accepted Answer" pin. So I'd personally prefer to see it kept in place. I say that as a relatively new poster who has provided updated answers to older questions, and then had it changed to the Accepted answer. I'm not one who (like some I've seen) resort to putting something obnoxious like a Heading1 at the beginning saying "2021 Answer", so I tend to rely on the good sense of the OP (when they are still around) to pick the new answer. Sep 9 at 19:42
  • "is that they are momentum that is hard to overcome in the event that things change" this answer of mine would like to disagree
    – Braiam
  • @Braiam I'm confused - it looks like that answer agrees with my point. The top answer (now pinned, but also accepted) has 1395 votes (currently). Yours has 76. Even if the OP were to accept your answer as correct, it would still be buried beneath 4 other answers (and about 15 page scrolls) for the years it would likely take it to achieve another 1000+ votes. yesterday

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