I just joined MathSE and it's beautiful here, except for the fact that some unregistered users ask a question and never come back. Most of the time these questions are trivial, though they still consume answerers' (valuable) time which never gets rewarded. I thought it was okay until I saw someone's profile with the following statistics: active $1$ year $7$ Months, $0$ Answers , $72$ Questions, $0$ accept votes. Yes, I agree that the answers are up-voted in this case but is it really okay to never accept any answers?
15$\begingroup$ Perhaps you can leave a comment in one of his/her questions and state that "Accepting an answer" is a form of gratitude. While the person is free not to accept any answers, it is possible that he/she simply does not know about "accept" functionality. So, notifying the user would be a first step. $\endgroup$– PrismNov 9, 2014 at 5:39
3$\begingroup$ @Prism $\mathbb R$eally I knew about this functionality before joining SE! $\endgroup$– Aditya HaseNov 9, 2014 at 5:42
2$\begingroup$ Perhaps because you have visited other threads in Math.SE and have browsed the website more frequently? It is totally conceivable to me that a person comes to Math.SE and asks a question, gets answers and leaves. And then repeats for 72 times. So they could just be unaware of the fact that one can accept answers. $\endgroup$– PrismNov 9, 2014 at 5:49
3$\begingroup$ We even have a comment template which can be simply copied and used in a comment to let the user know about possibility to accept answers. $\endgroup$– Martin SleziakNov 9, 2014 at 9:04
3$\begingroup$ You say "they still consume answerers' (valuable) time", but this isn't true. No question can consume the time of anyone who doesn't want to answer it. If valuable time is being wasted, the responsibility should be on the person who had the last and best chance to avoid that, which is the person who answered the question. But that person decides for themselves what to do with their time, and it is presumptuous of you to tell that person they are wasting their time. $\endgroup$– MJDNov 11, 2014 at 23:03
7$\begingroup$ Regarding @Prism’s comment, I note that I actually have encountered a few people who appeared to be genuinely unaware of the possibility of accepting answers and seemed to be grateful to learn. $\endgroup$– Brian M. ScottNov 18, 2014 at 20:33
2$\begingroup$ Never blame commission when omission is a reasonable possibility... $\endgroup$– copper.hatNov 18, 2014 at 21:01
2$\begingroup$ There's a big difference between an unregistered user who asks one or two questions and never comes back and someone who asks roughly a dozen questions a month and doesn't accept any answers. Not much you can do about the former, but quite a lot you can do about the latter. $\endgroup$– user156970Nov 19, 2014 at 22:19
No, it's not OK to post 72 questions, get useful answers, and not accept any of them. I would hope some moderator would take this user aside and explain a few things about how this site works best.
It is okay to not accept any answers if they haven't really clarified what you were trying to solve. You're under no obligation to give people participation points. If the answers lead you to understanding the problem, you should always accept. In this particular case I think the fact that they have asked 72 questions implies they have gotten useful answers or else why would they come back, and thus they should be accepting more answers. I suggest you send them a message
Regardless of the gratitude argument, accepting answers makes the sites questions easier to sift through. When there are questions that don't have accepted answers, people are more inclined to use their time to peruse the question and answers. If then they have wasted their time due to there being one or more perfectly acceptable answers, that is a loss to the site. That user could have been reading over another question which needed attention. Therefore, more users get to more questions and hopefully add helpful answers.
Of course there are question with answer that some people will be interested in reading even with or without accepted answers, but I am not speaking of those question that speak to someone's interest or speciality since they aren't wasting their time in that sense.
I think this question can be interpreted in two ways.
Is it morally acceptable/ethical/polite/whatever to rarely accept answers?
The other is
Do the rules allow people to rarely accept answers?
The answer to the second question is 'yes, people are not forced to accept answers' and moderators shouldn't be able -with the current rules - to punish them if they choose not to accept answers.
My answer to the first question is 'no, it's not acceptable'. Surely when the number of answered questions isn't small, there must be some instances in which the asker can pinpoint an answer which helped him more than all others. The acceptance feature exists precisely for this occasions. Users aren't obligated to accept. You're not obligated to thank someone who holds the door for you either, but you most likely do.
Martin linked linked the following template.
After you ask a question here, if you get an acceptable answer, you should "accept" the answer by clicking the check mark ✓ next to it. This scores points for you and for the person who answered your question. You can find out more about accepting answers here: How do I accept an answer?, Why should we accept answers?.
I choose not to use it because of the word 'should' which may be perceived as entailing rule-wise obligation, which isn't the case.
Instead I use the following which simply forwards the reader to informative aspects of answer acceptance. (I frequently replace the first sentence with "I see you're a new user", when it is appropriate).
You have a low answer-acceptance rate. Please read about accepting answers here and here.
You have a low answer-acceptance rate. Please read about accepting answers [here](https://math.stackexchange.com/help/accepted-answer) and [here](https://meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/5234/how-does-accepting-an-answer-work/5235#5235).
The reader can then decide for himself whether to accept answers or not and similarly I can then decide whether to hold back answers or not. In the past I've rewarded users who, after being told about answer acceptance, accepted answers to their previous questions, by giving a full answer.
I would even like to see the answer acceptance rate back and restrictions imposed on users who have a low acceptance rate. Those rare cases of users who genuinely can't choose what answers to accept in a large number of questions, for whatever reason, can be dealt with (I mean forgiven by) the moderators.
Seventy-two questions without any accepted answers? Guess I'm not answering any of your questions....
Being serious, accepting answers shows gratitude for the answerer that helped the person asking the question the most. If people don't accept answers, the answerers may be discouraged from answering because they think that their efforts will be for naught. They do not have any sign that the person asking the question has even read their answers. Accepting answers essentially tells answerers, "I have read your answer, and I have found it to be the most useful. Thank you for your answer."
I also hope that you have been upvoting/downvoting as well, as this also provides feedback for answerers.
2$\begingroup$ @Integrator Oh la la! You need to start voting! For if you don't vote nor accept answers, how would answerers know if you had even read their answers? $\endgroup$ Nov 9, 2014 at 9:04
11$\begingroup$ It's not about me. $\endgroup$ Nov 9, 2014 at 9:07
5$\begingroup$ @JChau FYI, Integrator has not asked a single question, but has provided many high-quality answers. $\endgroup$– apnortonNov 9, 2014 at 15:30
$\begingroup$ @anorton I had to read the question again to realize that. $\endgroup$ Nov 10, 2014 at 2:37
No, it's not okay, except under very special circumstances.
These are the special circumstances I can think of, in rough order of likelihood:
- You ask a lot of questions but get no answers at all to any of them.
- You ask a lot of questions but get only one answer on each question. The one answer gets more than two upvotes each time, so you're not worried about giving the extra 15 points, plus you worry someone might come along with a better answer and you'd look rude if you unaccepted the answer you originally accepted.
- You ask a lot of questions and get more than one answer but all the answers casually invoke advanced and/or esoteric concepts beyond your comprehension.
- You get locked out of your account (e.g., forget the password) before you've had chance to think about which answer is best.
I seriously doubt any of these apply to the fellow who's asked more than 70 questions in the past few months.
Yes, it is okay to not accept answers. Acceptance is a form of vote: this site has upvotes, downvotes, accept-votes, close-votes, delete-votes, etc (availability depends on reputation). Some users choose to not use some or all of categories of votes: e.g., never downvote, or never accept, or never vote at all. They are free to do so.
35$\begingroup$ They are free to do so on any individual question, of course. But I see it as impolite, in general, to never accept answers, because accepting answers is a key part of the way the site is meant to operate. $\endgroup$ Nov 9, 2014 at 13:24
17$\begingroup$ We used to have a stat called "percent accepted," which the elders of the site felt wise to remove. That said, if I have been burned by a user who takes my answer happily and does not accept (and some have even thanked me in a comment without accepting), I will out that user in comments to subsequent questions. "Hey, why have you asked 40 questions and have accepted no answers? If the answers here are so bad, why are you still here?" I have done this. It may seem petty, but as Carl says, this site depends on the decency of its users. $\endgroup$ Nov 9, 2014 at 15:40
7$\begingroup$ @Carl Mummert Arguably, up/down voting is more important to the way the site operates than accepting. Yet, we don't go around posting templated comments "you haven't voted in the last month, what's up with that?" $\endgroup$– user147263Nov 9, 2014 at 16:14