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Currently, accepted answers are always pinned at the top of the list of answers, regardless whether you sort them by "Active", "Oldest" or "Votes". You can see this for example in Did William Shakespeare hide things in his writings?, which has five answers.[1] Last week, Stack Overflow stopped pinning accepted answers to the top of the list. This has also been announced on Meta SE: Unpinning the accepted answer from the top of the list of answers. This change has not been rolled out to the entire network. In the above Meta SE post, SO employee Nicolas Chabanovsky asks,

Would you like to have the accepted answer unpinned on your site?

Do you think this change would make sense on Literature Stack Exchange? The advantage of this change is that the sorting of the answers will be based on what the community thinks is the best answer rather than the question owner. We should also bear in mind that on Stack Overflow before the change, any answers, including accepted ones, could become outdated due to technological developments, so an outdated accepted answer would remain pinned at the top even after more up-to-date answers had been added and received more votes. On Literature SE, by contrast, answers don't become outdated by technological developments, so unpinning the accepted answer seems less urgent here.

[1] Here is a list of question with at least two answers, one of which has been accepted. The query is easy to adapt to filter questions with a higher number of answers.


Update 14.09.2021: Since Meta SE want to collect feedback by 19 September, I have turned this question into a survey by adding two answers that people can vote on.

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  • Worth taking a look at this old discussion; some of the points there might still be relevant to today.
    – Mithical Mod
    Sep 12 at 10:09
  • @Mithical "SE doesn't like making code changes for individual sites, and the accepted answer feature is, AFAIK, too deeply ingrained in the system to change it like this" - I absolutely agreed at the time, but this didn't age well :-) Some positive surprises coming out of SE lately.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Sep 12 at 10:46
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No, accepted answers should stay pinned

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Yes, let's unpin accepted answers

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This change makes more sense for Stack Overflow (and other sites about fields that change quickly) where accepted answers can eventually become obsolete or invalidated by new research. (I myself have written answers that were true at the time but since became obsolete).

It's a little less clear how often answers on a site like ours would become obsolete; after all, the texts of Mark Twain's books or William Shakespeare's plays don't change very often. I guess it is possible that some new research could be published and invalidate existing answers, but how often has that actually happened here?

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    Answers might not change over time here, but what about answers that were bad all along? Why should the questioner have the ability to choose which answer appears first? What use does it serve?
    – Alex
    Sep 19 at 23:38
  • @Alex What percent of accepted answers are fundamentally bad answers, though? Is that actually happening on a regular basis on our site? I've seen it happen on other sites (e.g. Stack Overflow answers that recommend demonstrably dangerous practices that the OP unwittingly accepts), but I'm not sure that it happens all that much here. If it is happening a lot, maybe there needs to be a broader discussion of that issue. Sep 20 at 4:19
  • @Alex Well, there is a well-known early answer skew that's almost impossible to overcome after an early answer gets a few upvotes. Late answers which are straightforwardly superior are will no longer be promoted to a visible position and may just lie buried under a heap of superior answers. Most importantly, with the current situation, both answers are shown at the top of the page. Doesn't make too much difference which comes first. Under the SO system, great later answers will remain buried at the bottom. Loads of our best posts risk being consigned to obscurity. Oct 10 at 17:15
  • @Araucaria-Nothereanymore. It could work the other way as well — the questioner accepts an answer and then never comes back. Meanwhile a much better answer can be posted, and eventually even outscore the original answer, but it will forever be stuck below the accepted answer.
    – Alex
    Oct 10 at 17:51
  • @Alex Where a bad answer has been overtaken by a far superior later answer, under the current system, this is little more than a minor aggravation. Readers aren't silly and can easily see that the second answer has a far higher score. Both answers are extremely prominent. When the situation is reversed, the outcome is far worse. The good answer may be buried under a slew of answers and effectively lost to most readers. It will result in a huge swathe of the best posts on the site being consigned to obscurity. This isn't a minor aggravation! It's tragic, and detrimental for the site! Oct 10 at 21:59
  • @Alex There are 497 questions on Lit where [the accepted answer is the highest voted]. There are 46 questions where the accepted answer was posted later than the highest voted one. In contrast there are only 33 answers where the highest-voted answer was posted later than the accepted answer. So a) the accepted answer feature's doing a useful job and .... Oct 10 at 23:35
  • @Alex ... b) the scenario you highlight - which is real but inherently less troublesome - is much less likely than the one originally highlighted (which is relatively more damaging for the site and for readers). Oct 10 at 23:37
  • @Araucaria-Nothereanymore. I agree that it is a problem that late answers sometimes have trouble making it to the top. I don't think that an appropriate solution to that problem is to give one person unilateral power to decide which answer is the best. The mere fact that there are 46 instances of an accepted answer being posted after the highest voted answer doesn't tell us that all of them, or even any of them, were actually the better answer. By contrast, in the 33 instances where the highest voted answer was posted after the accepted answer, every single one is by definition problematic.
    – Alex
    Oct 11 at 1:56
  • @Alex But they don't have the power to decide which answers are best! Readers aren't stupid, they can see which answer is highest voted. There is no measure to tell users which answer is best! What readers currently get is, in the 15% of cases where accepted answers are not also the highest voted answer, the accepted answer and the highest voted answer both appear prominently at the top of the page, where users can read them both and decide the relative merits for themselves. What they'll get in the future is just the highest-voted post. The other will often be buried. Bad all round. Oct 11 at 2:27
  • @Alex This isn't about massaging (or not) the egos of voters, it's about making good information prominently available to users :) Think about what users (hundreds of thousands of people) are going to lose here ... Oct 11 at 2:29
  • Being listed second is not prominent. Many people don’t scroll past the first answer at all. But if you do want to consider it prominent, then your concern should only be limited to cases where there are already multiple existing answers, which is far less frequent.
    – Alex
    Oct 11 at 2:29
  • @Alex It's a case of where do we have the most to lose. Oct 11 at 2:32
  • @Alex "By contrast, in the 33 instances where the highest voted answer was posted after the accepted answer, every single one is by definition problematic"<-- No, we can assume that for every case that you imagine isn't a problem from the 46, the same applies in reverse to the 33. There's loads of other issues. For example, there are those cases where a post is extremely witty, contains some interesting tangential info, is meme-like in its thrust. These posts rightly get lots of up-votes. However, they don't answer the Q! It's entertaining for users to read, but users need answers to the Q! Oct 11 at 2:42

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