This meta is prompted by the discussion in comments for a pretty old question. I was directed to another meta question with a similar (but not identical) purpose.

The voting patterns on that question indicate general acceptance of the idea that the presence or absence of a formally-accepted answer should not be a requirement for deciding whether a given question should be chosen as the target for a duplicate. However, I am seeking clarification as to group opinion on whether formal acceptance of an answer should nonetheless be considered as a positive marker of quality, to be considered as one factor of many, such that if two answers are otherwise similar (i.e. no major discrepancy in quality by other measures), the one with the formally-accepted answer is preferable.

I know that, in my own experience learning to use the site, I very quickly came to take note of the presence of a formal acceptance, which the site's mechanics seem to encourage by:

  • awarding points to the accepter,
  • bringing color emphasis to the accepted answer, and
  • coloring the vote count icons green for links to those questions on the sidebar (or in other automated question lists).

It certainly seems reasonable to reward even casual/new users who go through the effort to fully participate in the Q&A process by giving some weight to their acceptance when deciding which answer will be the duplicate target and is therefore more likely to get future traffic.

I recognize that many new users do not learn the entire process and don't formally accept good answers, instead announcing via comment or edits that the provided answer is correct. I don't contest the idea that for two questions A (with a weaker answer, formally accepted) and B (with a stronger answer, accepted by comment), B makes sense as the preferable target. But if both A and B have answers of approximately the same strength, doesn't A (the one with the formal acceptance) make a slightly better example after all?

  • I usually just mark the one with the better question/answer as the master and the one with the less good question/answer as the slave. – Valorum May 20 '19 at 16:13
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    @Valorum, this is the accepted policy. Note that my question is specific to cases where there is not a strong differentiation in quality between the two choices. – Otis May 20 '19 at 16:14
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    I think it verges on the impossible that both are of an identical quality, especially if one takes into account factors like the quality of writing. – Valorum May 20 '19 at 16:15
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    I also think it verges on the impossible that everyone would agree to a single framework for establishing quality. For example, I myself find the presence of the green checkmark to be wonderful for reducing the "noise" cited by TheLethalCarrot when reviewing answers. – Otis May 20 '19 at 16:21
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    @Otis There isn't a "single framework for establishing quality", quality is subjective, there are things most people would agree on though. The checkmark isn't really a quality factor though, more of a nice to have. – TheLethalCarrot May 20 '19 at 16:26
  • @TheLethalCarrot Agreed. Quality is subjective (though I think that we would both agree that the community can attempt to establish guidelines to help drive a common working definition). That's why I've posted this question -- to find out to what extent others find an accepted answer to be relevant in determining quality. – Otis May 20 '19 at 16:32
  • "Quality" is what you make of it. Just mark the one you think is best and there's a 99.99% chance that people will agree with you / not care. – Valorum May 20 '19 at 16:32
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    @TheLethalCarrot That's exactly what Otis was saying ...? – Rand al'Thor May 20 '19 at 16:54
  • @Randal'Thor I know but I was building off of that to extend it to the checkmark part of my comment. – TheLethalCarrot May 20 '19 at 17:07
  • You linked to that older question in your post here, indicating it's not the same, but then VTCed as a dupe yourself? I don't get it, but I'll help you to close the question. – Rand al'Thor Jun 20 '19 at 8:24
  • @Randal'Thor -- I know. However, on reading the other post a second time yesterday, it seemed like it really did cover much the same ground, especially in light of the limited discussion here and the overall lack of interest in this question. – Otis Jun 20 '19 at 12:58

It doesn't matter if the answer is formally or informally accepted, choose whichever is the better post as a whole. If the answers are of similar quality, check the questions, which is better? If the questions are of similar quality, check other answers: are there lots of low quality answers on one but not the other? Does one post have lots of "noise" answers/comments?

If it comes down to it, you've checked both posts thoroughly and they are of the same quality altogether, just VTC whichever way you want. Formal acceptance is not a quality factor, one might lean towards the one with the formally accepted answer as a "nice to have" but it by no means should be a factor in deciding which way to close.

In fact I bet it would be hard to find two posts where the quality level is the same throughout.

When it comes down to it and there is no difference in quality between the entirety of two posts pick whichever you want; we don’t need another measure in policy to decide which. Votes, the checkmark, age, etc. are all poor metrics we shouldn’t formally consider as policy when deciding the target.

  • Another point: If there are already 2+ dupe votes one way, and there's no good reason to dupe them the opposite way, then vote with the crowd. It's more efficient than trying to split hairs over minor differences in wording when both are roughly equal in quality. – Kevin May 25 '19 at 1:40

Barring the fact that I doubt you'd often find two threads with the same question quality and the same answer quality, I want to highlight that checkmarks are a terrible measurement of quality, because only OP can give them.

Sure, it's nice and proper to have that green tick, but at the end of the day... It's only up to OP. That's not a reflection of community consensus or any other "wide" quality measure... Only one person's.

If, and that's a big if, you find two threads with the same question quality and the same answer quality, either close in favor of the oldest one, or the one with the most upvotes. Upvotes, by definition, are more of a quality quantifier than ticks.

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    Age, like a checkmark, is a terrible suggestion for picking a dupe target. – TheLethalCarrot May 20 '19 at 16:21
  • @TheLethalCarrot if we go for the upvote part, those often come with age. – Jenayah May 20 '19 at 16:21
  • Well if something hits the HNQ and the older one doesn't then the newer one might have more upvotes but we all know the HNQ isn't the best judge of quality. Upvotes are a better closing metric but I don't think it should come into it. – TheLethalCarrot May 20 '19 at 16:22
  • Upvotes are a better measure than a green tick, but they're far less important than a well-written question/answer. And as I commented earlier, I find it deeply unlikely that you'll ever see two question/answer sets that are of identical quality – Valorum May 20 '19 at 16:34
  • @Valorum agreed, but this is only in the case that both QAs are of equivalent "quality". Meaning, almost never? – Jenayah May 20 '19 at 16:35
  • You're trying to apply an objective measure on top of a subjective measure. It's like building a house on sand. – Valorum May 20 '19 at 16:36
  • @Valorum hey, this is meta after all :-) – Jenayah May 20 '19 at 16:38

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