I think this would be a neutral-to-positive change for us.
(answer format and a lot of content taken from doppelgreener, here, and reworded to be specific to this site)
The accepted answer exists to signal something specific: “this is the solution that I went with, that worked for me.” It originated on Stack Overflow because only one person is in the position to confirm that the code they were given compiled & fixed their issue.
SFF.SE inherited that behaviour simply because we inherited the same Q&A code, regardless of whether that feature solves specific issues for us or not. We don't have code to compile; we have questions about characters and plot, stories to identify, etc. This meta gives us an opportunity to consider from a blank slate: which option actually makes sense in the scope of Sci-Fi and Fantasy Q&A?
On SFF.SE specifically, I think the most helpful thing is to not pin the accepted solution, and just let the highest voted answer float to the top always.
Even though we have some exception (more of that later), it's often the case that our most popular answers are the best fit for the rest of the community. It's all too easy for the answer to be accepted, but have a much better answer appear later on, or rise in popularity later on. That's not to say there aren't exceptions, in that case people seemed to like the Gif, but it wasn't enough to sway the OP.
There are 2455 (as of Sept 5th( affected answer, out of the total of 37,398 accepted answers. Thats some 6%.
Without going through the whole list, it's hard to know how many exceptions there are, but I'd wager the lowest quality yet highly upvoted answers are some of the shortest/easiest to skip as you scroll though.
Stack Overflow's arguments against pinning the first answer generally apply to us too.
Please unpin the accepted answer from the top (on Meta SO) made a case against several commonly provided reasons for pinning the accepted answer under the heading “The argument against unpinning”. They generally apply here too.
I'll mainly compare against rules & social questions, which are the biggest two categories we see on our site.
[Reason to keep it pinned:] The accepted answer actually works for one person
[Counter-argument:] But the Stack Overflow answers are not ultimately there for that one person. They are there for the countless visitors who come later. Ninety-nine percent of the time that I upvote a non-accepted answer, I am also signifying that it solved my problem or at least helped me get one step closer to solving it.
The counter-argument, which is in favour of not pinning, mostly applies here.
For story-identification questions, the highest-scored answer will be whichever the community recommends as the most correct answer with the most effective explanation as to why that correctly identified the story. While whatever the querent accepted is what they remember being correct. There're only 174, and in the top few most of the more highly upvoted answers are still good answers.
For history-of, they are often a bit of a mixed bag/mess. Thankfully only 62 questions will be affected. I'd strongly suggest we should address the nature of these question at a later date to figure out the best way to curate these.
[Reason to keep it pinned:] The accepted answer is tested (*)
[Counter-argument:] It is true that many people will upvote answers without testing them. However, if a highly voted answer contains a mistake, it will start collecting comments saying so. If that mistake is not corrected, other people start adding answers that are correct. The voting system starts moving those correct answers to the top. This seems fair to me.
The counter-argument, which is in favour of not pinning, applies here.
In general, all answers are expected to be backed up by citations whether they be from the work being asked about or supplementary information. Meanwhile, the highest voted is the one filtered through community knowledge and experience that gets vetted as effective. (In bad cases, as merely an answer that seems to have truthiness, but that's when we'll start nagging someone to back their answer up.) The accepted answer status doesn't really add anything to this—we should always present what the community's vetting.
Maybe an answer found one specific approach solved their specific situation, but again, what we're upvoting is what we'd recommend generally.
[Reason to keep it pinned:] The accepted answer solves the actual problem described in the question (*)
[Counter-argument:] Fine, but when I use Stack Overflow I don't care if my problem is exactly the same in every detail as the OP. Sometimes the OP uses a title that leads search engines and thousands of future visitors to expect a different answer than the one that solved the OP's problem (example). There is no need to keep those kind of answers on top anymore. If I want to find them I can scroll down.
The counter-argument, which is in favour of not pinning, applies here.
In general, we're recommending that the most upvoted answer will solve peoples' problems, an we can filter that through our own knowledge or experience.
I'm beginning to repeat myself already and I'm only three points in, so I'll move on from this section.
Summary: not pinning the accepted answer means we present the one the community recommends, and that's good.
Pinning the accepted answer isn't a value-add. We don't have code to compile. It's valuable to indicate what worked for the querent personally, but anytime the accepted answer and the highest-voted answer are out of sync, it's almost certainly more worthwhile to present the community's overall recommended solution.
This way, readers are given, as a priority, the general case the community would recommend.
In cases the highest voted answer and accepted answer are different, The specific case that worked for the querent is not necessarily the most helpful to present to readers—it's just the specific case that worked for one person. We should prefer presenting the option the community generally preferred overall first.
Tangentially: Pinning a non-top answer is sometimes a valuable feature, but the accepted answer serves that purpose poorly
One of the things the accepted answer does for us is resolve situations where the top answer is, somehow, actually not the most advisable one: maybe HNQ caused us trouble; maybe that answer's obsolete and a new or better one has arisen. There's value in being able to pin an answer that isn't the top-rated one. However, I'd raise the question:
- Why do we provide the power to pin that answer to exclusively one user (where even the mods can't override it) on a site where the userbase curates everything? That one user might not even be here anymore.
- Why do we conflate a “this is the answer you should look at” pin with the “this is the answer the OP went with” marker? Why should that user be expected to switch the marker with answers they didn't go with? Isn't this overloading the pin to do multiple jobs?
- When this situation occurs, doesn't that mean the Stack should be rethinking the way it handles votes (especially in light of obsolescence)? Isn't this a prompt to the Stack to rethink how it handles the impact of HNQ, or Fastest Gun in the West, or other related voting problems?
I think that in a world the accepted answer is no longer being pinned by default, we're either unaffected or better off in the majority of cases, and in the rest, the Stack should finally look to implementing a feature for pinning a recommended answer that's finally controlled by the community, not just by the post author.
Because of the overlap, much of the text above is verbatim from DG's answer, but they provide a lot of wisdom here. My initial concerns about story-identification and history-of have been put to rest, except where it's highlighted separate issues.
Let me know if there are any comments, criticisms or corrections from the community - this is not policy, and I'd like to know how people react to the above knowledge.