Consider this answer, which currently stands at -5 (+1/-6) and is the accepted answer. Many of the comments are confused about why the answer was accepted. As it stands, two other answers (+7 and +4) are listed below the (rather long) accepted answer). The question itself is at +3/-3, so it isn't exactly our top-voted question.

What (if anything) should we do about this situation?

N.B.: I have a dog in this fight as my own answer is the top voted one.

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    As mentioned below Jack has asked about changing the site's behavior in this situation on meta.SO. Consider upvoting that question if you think it's important. – Noah May 1 '13 at 23:15

I don't really see a contradiction.

The voting system can act someone independently of answer acceptance. The criteria for an OP accepting an answer can be completely arbitrary. In the SO world, it would typically be the solution OP went with, regardless of whether it is the best solution all-around. On BH, perhaps an OP will accept an answer that resonates with their belief system, or an answer that was the most convincing to them, or perhaps the longest or most thorough answer.

So, yes, the community may find an answer to do a poor job of answering the question, while the OP may quite like the answer. I see no reason to suppress this imbalance. The downvotes make it clear that the community does not collectively support the answer, so I don't believe it negatively impacts the site's reputation. Perhaps, as has been mentioned elsewhere, the ordering of answers should be more weighted to votes over acceptance, but I suppose that is a different question.

  • Unlike SO (and other sites were the asker has a unique view of their own problem), I think the accepted answer carries very little information for our site. Good questions are questions that are applicable to many people besides the asker. There's also evidence the OP was not asking in good faith (though how we can measure that in general is not clear.). Jack wrote up a great case for answer ordering: Can we exempt downvoted accepted answers from getting the top spot? – Jon Ericson Apr 30 '13 at 17:15
  • Yes, that's what I was trying to get at, though you've phrased it much better than I did. – Ray Apr 30 '13 at 17:51

Replace the question.

Barring a change to the way accepted answers are displayed, I think the best solution is to:

  1. Re-ask the question.
  2. Close this question as a duplicate of the new question.
  3. Merge all answers into the new question.

This will require someone who is a neutral party to ask the question and decide whether or not to accept any answer. Some of the comments will also need to be deleted as they will be obsolete.

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    I'm uncomfortable with doing this for some reason. I don't want us to do nothing either though. – Jack Douglas Apr 29 '13 at 21:39
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    @Jack: To be honest, I'd much rather the way accepted answers are displayed be changed. – Jon Ericson Apr 29 '13 at 21:53
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    I have to agree with Jack. It feels like we're hijacking the original question and running roughshod over the asker. I agree, though, that it's poor policy to keep a highly DV'd answer at the top simply because it's the accepted one, especially on an site like this where answers can be lengthy (and polemic). I'm not sure what other options are available, though. VtD? – Soldarnal Apr 29 '13 at 22:38
  • @Soldarnal: Do you mean delete the answer? I believe, but haven't tried yet, an accepted answer can't be deleted. – Jon Ericson Apr 29 '13 at 23:00
  • @JonEricson Yes, I meant delete the answer. I've added my vote to Monica's on the answer in question. – Soldarnal Apr 30 '13 at 4:28
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Delete the entire question.

I've done some Googling around and this question is quite common in the wild. Yahoo Answers has several. The answers are the usual mix of rants, confused comments, agreement with other answers, and the occasional gem. There must be dozens of decent explanations on all sorts of websites, including a wonderful table on Wikipedia. Finally, ss Caleb noted:

Variants of this question have also been asked here and here on C.SE.

Our question is in search results if you use fairly specific search terms. So in the grand scheme of things, it's not a big deal that our top answer is what it is because not many people will actually see it.

Of course, it means the question isn't terribly valuable either.

  • @GoneQuiet: At this point, I'm thinking through the alternatives. Under the current system, a tag-team of users could effectively hijack a site by asking, answering, and accepting long and wrong answers. But the damage is contained to individual questions. Deletion is one tool we have to address that strategy. (But it's a very blunt tool.) – Jon Ericson Apr 30 '13 at 17:39

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