There are those here who encourage users not to accept answers before waiting at least 24 hours. Most of the time it is presented as something that "we" recommend or encourage. Some even refer to it as our policy. Yet I can find no record of any such consensus (in fact I have found record only of dissent).

  • Is this the current policy of RPG.se?
  • If not, is it good practice or an informal recommendation?
  • Should we be encouraging users to wait 24 hours before accepting an answer?

Yes. Encouraging users to wait 24 hours before accepting an answer is good.

The Problems For Answerers

I am not primarily concerned about the effect on answerers, though I think those exist (fastest gun syndrome, discouraging answers after the accept).

The Problems For Askers

This is about teaching users - especially new users, who are pretty much the ones that do this - that the first answer isn't necessarily the best and they should stick around.

Because remember, we're mostly talking about noobs here. If SSD accepts an answer immediately, no one's going to sweat him about it, they would figure "OK obviously this question was one that needed a slam-dunk answer and he got it let's move on." The situation we're talking about is a brand new user who is excited, knows nothing about the site, happens across us, posts a question, and the second they get an answer they accept it - and, most likely (as in provably the most common case in the site analytics data), scuttle off never to be seen again. "Deep engagement" is by far the exception not the rule, a huge percentage of our site users have 10 or less rep.

New users are unclear on the concept. They aren't sure if it's one person who answered them or the community. They don't know if that person who answered knows what they're talking about or not. They got an answer and they're off! They feel lucky, many internet sites you post a question to and don't get an answer ever or for weeks.

So what we probably want to do with these folks is say "Hey - you may want to wait a day because you'll probably get multiple good answers and you probably need to think about them."

While it's technically true "well they can always accept a different answer" - that's a statement for experienced site users. Noobs don't know that they can, they may not even return after that first frenzy of clicks. Heck, frankly a new user who figured out to accept an answer is above the median in terms of being on the ball.

The Problem For Later Readers

And then also, you have the problem of answers with a bad/fast answer accepted but much better answers below. Sure they get upvotes, and you can bounty them, and blah blah blah. But again, that's experienced user inside baseball stuff. The next excited new 5e player is going to see a search result in Google, click through, see the thing with the green check, and scamper off themselves. Having poorer answers as the accepted answer does degrade the site's content.


You need to keep in mind the lightly engaged nature of real Internet users and encouraging folks to slow down a sec to think about the answers they're getting and engage a little more with the site is 100% net positive. I can't think of any down side except we have to spend effort writing comments saying "hey consider not accepting immediately", which is minor.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I haven't seen this perspective before, this is pretty reasonable. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Dec 12 '18 at 23:04

Yes. Encouraging users to wait 24 hours before accepting an answer is good.

It is not policy

At least it's not anywhere that is easy to find nor readily apparent when posting a question.

It is a good informal recommendation

  • Allows time for answers from other time zones as people are active at different times in the day.
  • Allows time for better researched or well thought out answers to be posted.
  • Allows time for comments and clarifications to be received and acted upon.
  • Lessens the incentive to publish a quick answer.
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    \$\begingroup\$ It seems in your first few bullets that you are assuming that having a selected answer dissuades other answers from coming in. Is there any evidence to that? Or am I misreading you? \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Dec 12 '18 at 15:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ It is also important to remember that OP can change their selected answer whenever they want. So if a better answer comes in they can easily select that instead. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Dec 12 '18 at 15:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Rubiksmoose Yes. Having an accepted answer dissuades other answers from coming in. I expect comparing answer posting timestamps with answer accepted timestamps would bear that out. An answer acceptable to the OP implies they are satisfied with it. Returning to evaluate other answers after that is diminishing returns and there is less motivation to do that. \$\endgroup\$ – GcL Dec 12 '18 at 15:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ Notably, an accepted answer removed questions from the Unanswered filter, which some people do use to find things that they can help. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Dec 12 '18 at 15:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Maybe I'm not fully aware of how the Unanswered filter works, but I've always understood that it gets removed from that filter when it has any answer with a positive score. Is that not correct? \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Dec 12 '18 at 16:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Rubiksmoose Having positively scored answers or an accepted answer will remove it from the filter. I suppose though that most of the time we’re talking about quickly-accepted answers that are already positively score though, point. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Dec 12 '18 at 16:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ I know that I personally tend to avoid providing an answer on an already answered question. Even as a long term user (Who knows better) I find it hard to get out of the mind set that green = best, so I think why provide an answer when it is going to get skipped over. \$\endgroup\$ – SeriousBri Dec 13 '18 at 12:20

It depends on the Question and on the Answer

I don't think this would be good as a hard and fast rule but I think it might be good as a recommendation on certain types of questions. The best way I can break that down is "hard" questions/answers and "soft" questions/answers.

And attempting to give examples:

We had a question recently that was "Does an attack roll need to tie the AC or be above the AC to hit" (paraphrased). I would call this a "hard" question. The answer is going to be a rule citation, with page number and maybe a bit of explanatory commentary. Beyond that, it's difficult to improve the answer. So I think waiting 24 hours in this case is just more likely to cause the asker to forget to accept any answer.

A soft question is one where there may not be one exactly true answer, or it requires extensive research to gather all the info, or it can be answered in multiple different ways. I think balance questions and lore questions are often like this. If we are asked to evaluate how balanced a feat is, we often compare to other feats and multiple answers may approach from multiple angles. Waiting for a few choices and accepting the clearest one that addresses the askers concerns is good in this case.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Not that I disagree with you necessarily, but I think it is important to remember that OP can change their selected answer whenever they want. So if a better answer comes in they can easily select that instead. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Dec 12 '18 at 15:28

No, we shouldn't encourage people to wait before accepting.

We don't have a policy at the moment, and I don't think we need one, but I also don't think we should be encouraging people to wait.

The case for encouraging people to wait is generally what Grosscol pointed out: an assertion that it leaves time for more answers to arrive. There is also an assertion that an accepted checkmark discourages people from following up with other, better answers.

However, I don't think this position is helpful. It doesn't solve any problems and it makes problems we do have worse. It even makes problems that it is trying to fix worse!

Let's walk through some of those problems.

One of the goals here is we want people to post all the awesome answers, right? The fact of the matter is people can post answers anytime, even after an accepted answer gets posted. If someone has an answer they can post that is better than the accepted answer or all the other answers, we want them to post it.

The idea behind this “don't accept yet!” is that someone might be discouraged by the accept mark already being handed out. But, screw that. The accept mark can be changed by the querent. I want a culture where people think “I can do better than these answers” and post anyway, and we benefit. I think this whole “but don't accept, because you might discourage these answers!” feeds into an idea that questions with an accepted answer are “done” and not an open invitation to continue competing with better answers, which means... encouraging people to wait creates a culture where people don't provide all the awesome answers they could. It is antithetical to a culture that sees the accept mark as an ongoing challenge.

Another goal is we want the querent to sample several things before they go with a course of action, right? Well, see, if they stick around, they can do that. If they don't stick around, well, a different problem we have is that people might be only here for a while and never wind up accepting an answer before they leave — we are enlarging that problem by telling these short stayers “no, don't give us your accept signal! Don't tell us this thing was actually a good solution to your problem!”. Really though, we want that signal, and it's not uncommon that people lament it not being given out. If the person isn't merely a short stayer and sticks around for longer, they can go ahead and change their accepted answer to newer answers arriving.

Let me tally things up in a list. Does encouraging people to wait 24 hours...

  • ... improve getting all the awesome answers? No, because it is part and parcel with a culture where accepted answers make a question be “done” and not worth bothering to answer anymore. Instead, I want a culture where questions are never “done”, where far better answers are still welcome and a viable challenge for the accepted answer mark, where the accepted answer can still change — but the idea of having to wait is predicated on the idea that this can't happen.
  • ... give us better signalling? No, because we're just telling short-stayers not to tell us an answer is perfectly good. Long-stayers can change the checkmark, leaving it to wait isn't necessary for that.

What I'd rather see is this:

Since the accept mark can be changed anytime, we don't fuss over it being given out early. The OP can also change it later, including the next day or the next week.

This requires no action on our part, other than simply not asking them to wait to accept.

Rebuttal to Grosscol

I want to respond to some points directly that Grosscol said:

[Asking them to wait:]

  • Allows time for answers from other time zones as people are active at different times in the day.
  • Allows time for better researched or well thought out answers to be posted.
  • Allows time for comments and clarifications to be received and acted upon.

They have time to do this anyway.

[Asking them to wait:]

  • Lessens the incentive to publish a quick answer.

Actually, asking people to wait increases the incentive to publish a quick answer.

First, the actual incentive to publish a quick answer () is based on post score: the first posted answer gets the most votes and the most visibility, and generally the sooner you arrive the better.

If no answer is accepted (as asking them to wait would basically do) then this remains in full effect.

However, accepting an answer early on helps address the fastest gun. If the top-voted answer is accepted, still no effect. If a different answer is accepted early, we give more visibility to a lesser-voted answer, rewarding a later-arriving answer with visibility and votes. That's good!

Second, asking them to wait 24 answers is part of a viewpoint that answers after one gets accepted don't matter. The viewpoint that we must wait 24 hours, therefore, sees answering within the first 24 hours as critical because otherwise you might as well not bother.

Contrary, the viewpoint where we can answer anytime to compete for the accepted answer mark is a viewpoint that is happy to see answers arrive a whole week or month later. People are still encouraged to reply early because of the fastest gun, but it is still OK to take time and answer later because answers after the first 24 hours (and after the accept mark gets handed down) still count and are still in the running to be the “best” answer (as chosen by the checkmark).


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