I was over reading Meta Stack Overflow and came across an admittedly old post called Slow Down Selfish Users where the OP takes users who don't choose answers frequently enough to task for being "selfish" users. He asserts that by asking (and perhaps answering?) more questions than you accept answers for asked questions makes you a selfish user who is only interested in increasing your own rep while not giving back to the community by awarding people by selecting answers to your questions.

Is this how people truly feel about the Stack?

I do go through my questions and choose answers, but I admit it's few and far between that I sit down and concentrate on this task (when I choose an answer I read every answer and check out every link provided, so it's not a breezy task). My accept rate is around 57% right now -- is this considered poor participation? It seems like users on MSO have mixed feelings on whether or not just asking questions and not choosing answers is a contribution to the community or not. I definitely ask questions more frequently than I choose answers, but I eventually do choose answers to my questions.

  • Is there an expected period of time within which an answer to a question should be selected?
  • Is it poor form to ask more questions than to answer more questions? In my case, Harry Potter is my only fandom (well, okay, I dabble LOTR and Star Wars) and I have no control over when someone else posts a Harry Potter question, and I think it would be really bad form to post my own questions just to have something to answer. But I don't want to be thought of negatively because of this.
  • Is there an answer acceptance rate that is considered to demonstrate a user is committed to the community, such as 50%, 80%, or 96%, etc.?

It's been three years since that original MSO post was made -- I'm wondering if expectations have changed when it comes to judging committed participation on the site.

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    I am always offended that you don't choose my answers as the accepted ones... Commented Sep 15, 2012 at 16:57
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    @JackBNimble -- My portrait of Moaning Myrtle for you didn't make up for this? It was a rare toilet shot. Commented Sep 15, 2012 at 19:25
  • For what it's worth, my experience on Stack Overflow and other sites has led me to adopt a 2-day rule for accepting answers: I'll usually wait for 2 days after asking a question, then I review the answers, and if (and only if) I feel that one clearly answers the question, I'll accept it then. That time period seems to strike a balance between allowing people to get their answers in and not waiting so long you forget about the question ;-)
    – David Z
    Commented Sep 28, 2012 at 6:38
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    @DavidZaslavsky SO has a much quicker turn-around time, though. After two days on SO your question won't be anywhere close to the first couple of pages of questions and therefore isn't likely to see any new answers. Here, on the other hand, questions are asked a lot less frequently so there's a longer period where they're going to be seen and potentially get new answers. Commented Oct 7, 2012 at 23:00
  • Not to mention the number of incredibly lazy programmers on SO who are only interested in having their work done for them which has led to a greater stigma being attached to having a low acceptance rate (because it generally indicates the asker falls into the aforementioned category). Commented Oct 7, 2012 at 23:04
  • Well, honestly 2 days is probably too long for SO - at its current level of activity, the appropriate time might be an hour! It's mostly less active sites that I get my 2-day guideline from.
    – David Z
    Commented Oct 7, 2012 at 23:10
  • I don't think that a raw percentage in itself is meaningful. My only question on the SF&F site is a story identification question -- I +1'ed the lone answer, but didn't accept it, since I'm certain I've never read the book that was proposed as the one I'm (vaguely) remembering. Thus, my unchosen answer rate is 100%, but it's not due to "not bothering to accept answers". Commented May 16, 2015 at 11:06
  • No. No, you're not.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Oct 11, 2015 at 10:17

3 Answers 3


I personally don't think that you are a selfish user. Though to me by not accepting an answer (after a reasonable amount of time) it acts almost as an unwritten refutation of the available answers to the question. With you being a well respected member of the community here, it bears a little weight when (seemingly) good answers are not accepted on your questions.

I don't ask too many questions on here but I only don't accept an answer if I personally feel that a correct answer hasn't been given. This recent question of mine for instance (IMO) doesn't contain any answers that the community can agree on, so it remains un-accepted.

Ahem...this question of yours however has only one answer(yes it's mine) that has twenty community up votes and is a direct quote from source material. Since you haven't accepted it I have to assume that you don't agree with it. As I was saying earlier, you are a respected member of this community that is also our resident Harry Potter aficionado so when you don't accept an answer it throws doubt on it for members of the community. ("If the answer is right, then why wasn't it accepted?")

Finally, accepted questions raise the quality of the site as a whole for anyone who researches a particular question and lands in one of your very well thought and formatted questions. If they find that you haven't accepted an answer, it lays doubt in their minds about its genuineness, and they may leave the site not completely satisfied with the result. By branding an answer "accepted", you are providing them with peace of mind that even the person asking the question thinks that it is the correct answer.

All in all accepting answers to your questions isn't really about giving the rep, it is about assuring the community that an answer is correct. (Bear in mind that AFAIK you can un-accept and change which answer you accept at any time).

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    I agree with most of what you're saying here, with one minor caveat: acceptance isn't a 1:1 facsimile for correctness. Most of the time it works out that way (especially on mostly empirically verifiable topics like SciFi and Fantasy), but the acceptance of an answer indicates that answer helped the asker the most, not that the answer is necessarily correct. After all, if the asker knows for certain which answer is correct, he or she wouldn't have asked the question.
    – user366
    Commented Sep 16, 2012 at 6:32
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    Nevertheless, substituting correctness for helpfulness, I think your point still stands: if no answer has been accepted, I would want to know—either as a visitor or an answerer—what's lacking from the existing answers that prevents the asker from accepting one. At a certain point, either a bounty or an edit to the question seems warranted.
    – user366
    Commented Sep 16, 2012 at 6:33
  • All good points, which is why I asked the question. I really wanted to get feedback. So the reason I haven't chosen your answer is because I haven't gone back to review it yet, which, obviously, I need to do :) Commented Sep 16, 2012 at 19:53

I know one of our own moderators has said that he has what I'd call a low acceptance rate (I believe it was under 60%).

Many of us (and this includes me) prefer to wait to pick an answer so there's time for a lot of people to provide answers. Some of us live at the keyboard and can answer every question as it is posted, and some don't get by here more than once every few days. (And, depending on what I'm doing, I can fit in either of those categories, so I know both points of view.)

Often jumping in to pick an answer immediately can lead to discouraging other people from providing good answers or could mean picking the "now" answer rather than the best answer.

The problem with that is that once we decide to wait and not pick an answer immediately, we may not return immediately to pick an answer for a while.

I would call someone selfish if they ask questions and never evaluate the answers or if their actions show all they care about is gaining as much rep as possible.

If you ask a question, you get 5 points per vote, instead of 10 votes per point, and, as many of us have noticed in chat, questions rarely get the kind of votes answers get. It's much more difficult to gain rep through questions than answers, so when you ask a question that gives people a chance to provide good answers, you're helping those who post answers more than you're helping yourself.

As for a recommended time range for deciding on answers, I don't know if there is one, but I think it's better to leave a question without a selected answer than to pick an answer that isn't that good.

But, as someone who has been on this board just a while longer than you, and has seen your behavior over almost a year, I would say the mere fact that you're asking that question is a good indication you do not fit in that category.

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    That's exactly the reason I wait to pick answers -- it frustrates me when a question is posted, one person answers within minutes, and that answer is accepted right away. I like to give people a chance to answer (granted, waiting months to pick answers is probably overly generous). Maybe I'll try and pick answers within a month, instead of letting it go for a crazy length of time. There does come a time when picking answers for like 100 questions or whatever becomes tedious to the max. :) Commented Sep 15, 2012 at 19:35
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    I almost always accept answers, but that's because I have no life :) - usually a well-detailed answer pops up quickly. For example, this question had an answer within an hour and I accepted it later that day, but that's because it was a very thorough, complete answer. Other answers I may wait a little longer to accept, but if there is a thorough, complete answer right away that answers every part of the question I asked, I don't have a problem accepting it then.
    – The Fallen
    Commented Sep 17, 2012 at 3:16

I don't consider this particularly selfish. Without actually going to the trouble to look it up, other forms of rep have to far outweigh the +15 you get for selecting an answer. I'll get 150-200 rep for an answer, not getting that last 5% doesn't really hurt my feelings. Perhaps they've lost their password or moved on. Or something's come up. It's no big deal.

  • Thanks for your answer! What I meant, though, was me awarding other players by selecting answers they've made to my questions. I tend to delay choosing answers and wanted to know if this was considered bad form. :) Commented Sep 15, 2012 at 19:46
  • I do not think it bad form. Now, if you're stingy with the upvotes on answers, that's another thing entirely.
    – John O
    Commented Sep 15, 2012 at 20:02
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    I hope they haven't lost their password, considering you use an OpenID to sign in. That would suck.
    – The Fallen
    Commented Sep 17, 2012 at 3:12

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