Accepting an answer based on the reputation of its sender/poster

First of all, if this is already asked or mentioned somewhere in EE.SE Meta please forgive me, and notify me with the original link so that I can delete this.

This is one really strange and, sort of annoying thing that I noticed. Here's the thing:

A new question appears. And a member with lower reputation (can be either a new member with 1 rep or an active member with 50k rep. Doesn't matter.) puts the first answer to this question. The answer is technically correct and it sufficiently answers the OP's question. But the OP does not accept it. Then, a few minutes (or even hours) later, another member with higher reputation (i.e. higher than that of the member who put the first correct answer) puts exactly the same answer (maybe with only a few unrelated additions just to make their answer a little "different") and the OP accepts this answer, not the first one. Just because the new answer came from a high-rep member?

I really can't understand the motivation behind this. Maybe the OP wants to be sure about the 1st answer by seeing the same thing (in other words, verification) from a higher-rep member. What's the point of upvote/downvote system then? If the answer is technically wrong or needs some additions/corrections then the comment section can be used for that purpose.

PS: I can't give any "real" examples at the moment but I'm sure that I'm not the only one who noticed this before. And I have to say that I'm not the subject of any of those questions. So please don't even try to smell a "jealousy" here :)

• I haven't really seen this happening except when several similar answers are posted within less than < 30 minutes or so from each other (several people starting to type out an answer at the same time). Mar 14 at 11:56
• @Lundin Actually you should have seen this because you are a 10-yr member. And yeah, these things don't appear recently but was quite common in previous years. several people starting to type out an answer at the same time this is totally understandable to some extent but I'm trying to look from the OP's perspective – Why do they tend to accept an answer came from a high-rep member? Is the rep really a parameter for the OP to get an impression about the nearly-identical answer could be "truer"? Mar 14 at 13:39
• No, I can't say I have seen it, neither here nor at SO which has way more traffic. It's quite common that someone posts a new answer which includes new details not present in posted answers though. Mar 14 at 13:42
• I think this has to do with how answers are ordered if they have the same number of up votes. I don't know that any of us can truly know how this is done, but IMHO it should be done in chronological order of the answers. I've been burned by this myself...I write a good answer then someone with higher rep essentially says the same thing and gets the "accepted" bonus. Remember that this site exists to make money for its owners. Mar 16 at 22:53
• It's quite possible that given two very similar answers, the OP may choose the answer from the person with the highest reputation especially if they think that they can extract more details in subsequent comments. Several times when an answer has been accepted (not mine) and the OP has then tried to strike up a comment conversation with me I say to them "sorry dude, question's closed down now so go ask who you voted for". On the other hand, if they have accepted my answer, I'm happy to answer a few related follow-up queries. Mar 20 at 11:43
• It's happened to me and personally, I don't see the big deal. It's just a few points that don't really make a difference to my day to day life, and the OP gets the answer they wanted and hopefully learns something. So whether my answer was accepted or another doesn't really matter.
– MCG
Mar 21 at 15:07

Summary: Trying to understand why an OP does X or Y can't be answered with certainty, unless we ask that OP (and we might not be able to believe their reply - they might tell us what they think we want to hear, not their actual reasons).

I agree that answers should not be accepted based only based on the reputation of the answer writer. However I think there are a few things going on...

The [first] answer is technically correct and it sufficiently answers the OP's question. But the OP does not accept it.

Something I see quite often is an OP who asks a question, then goes offline for some hours (perhaps they go offline overnight their time, or perhaps they go offline until they get home at the end of the day, their time - things like that).

That means the OP may not see that first answer before others have been added, and so they didn't have a chance to see that only the first one was "enough".

Then, a few minutes (or even hours) later, another member with higher reputation (i.e. higher than that of the member who put the first correct answer) puts exactly the same answer (maybe with only a few unrelated additions just to make their answer a little "different")

I try not to underestimate the value of those additions you mention. Adding extra information / quoting (and linking to) specific sources, or specific experience, can definitely add value.

Also saying the same thing a different way might be be easier to understand for that OP. I know that when teaching classes of engineers, I sometimes had to explain the same thing with different examples & different starting assumptions, due to the wide variation of backgrounds and previous experiences of the engineers in my classes.

and the OP accepts this answer, not the first one. Just because the new answer came from a high-rep member?

I really can't understand the motivation behind this. Maybe the OP wants to be sure about the 1st answer by seeing the same thing (in other words, verification) from a higher-rep member.

Yes, I do think that waiting for verification is a real effect, especially if the person asking is unsure (or unable) to verify on their own, whether the first answer given is correct.

I see something similar in medicine as well. For example: A junior doctor diagnoses that the patient has condition X. Later, the patient sees a consultant (i.e. a more senior doctor) who confirms the diagnosis of X - and perhaps explains more and gives more details, due to them having more experience of patients with condition X. Patients tend to believe the later diagnosis from the (senior) consultant more, even though it is the same diagnosis given earlier by the junior doctor. This is a variation of "getting a second opinion".

Getting back to Stack Exchange: Even if (due to the added info), the later answer has a greater chance of being accepted by an OP, all correct (and therefore useful) answers should be worthy of upvotes, as long as they are not clearly duplicates of each other.

What's the point of upvote/downvote system then?

• Remember that really new OPs cannot yet upvote (15 points needed) or downvote (125 points needed).

• If an OP isn't sure whether an answer is correct, then it's understandable that they cannot judge enough to vote, even if they do have the required points to be able to do so.

• Upvotes / downvotes should be for whether that answer is useful, even if it doesn't include everything needed to completely solve the OP's problem. However for new OPs who cannot yet upvote (or don't understand the difference between upvoting and accepting) I would not be surprised to see useful-but-not-quite-complete answers that have not been upvoted by an OP (because they can't) and not accepted (because the answer may not give them all the info they need, and/or because they don't understand the concept of "accepting").

• Personally I would like more people to vote here overall. I know that we all have limited time and different skill-sets & things we want to do - some people do more reviews, others do more editing, and yet others do more answering (all of which we need and thank you to all the active site members here!).

However while doing all those things, it would help if site members also considered voting. For example, we have some active members who rarely vote. Please don't judge only at your expertise level; consider what would be useful for others, who don't know everything that you do.

• Finally: Here is a (long but useful) Meta.SE topic which suggests criteria for voting on Q and A:
When should I vote?

While I don't agree with every single point in that topic, I think that it's a good starting point especially for people who are unsure what to consider when voting.

If the answer is technically wrong or needs some additions/corrections then the comment section can be used for that purpose.

Agreed. Unfortunately some OPs don't use comments to request clarification (I have learned that there can be a cultural element to this behaviour, as I have experienced junior engineers who just said "yes" when I told them something. Only later did I discover that they hadn't understood me, but they eventually explained that in their culture, it would have been rude for them to question what someone as senior as me had said). So there might be an element of "conflict avoidance" by those who don't raise points in comments.

Due to the differences between comments and answers on Stack Exchange, I also think that new OPs in particular (but also some longer-term site members) do not fully understand some of the details about the correct use of comments. For them, this is a useful Meta.SE topic: How do comments work?

I don't have a fix for what you describe, partly because we don't know the reason(s) why some OPs behave like that. I have explained my guesses. Overall, I am not surprised that a (perhaps shorter) first answer from a lower-rep site member, isn't trusted as much (especially by an OP who doesn't know enough to quickly judge a correct answer) as a later (perhaps longer) answer from a higher-rep user, especially if that later answer explains why it is correct.

Assuming that many hours have passed between the answers, then:

• Optionally down-vote to get their attention. Since a new, nearly identical answer isn't helpful, this is pretty much the very definition of what down votes are for: to mark answers as unhelpful.

If they respond and give a sensible reason, then you can withdraw the down-vote or even change to an up-vote.

• Hi, With great respect, I cannot agree with some of your points: (a) "Optionally down-vote to get their attention" Unless you can, in good conscience, decide that an answer is not useful, then downvoting it "to get their attention" would be site abuse. I have explained in my answer why a nearly identical answer can still have value. Exact duplicate answers are not useful, of course, but that doesn't happen here. So without examples to discuss, we might just disagree about how "nearly identical" some answers are. (b) You can't withdraw a downvote on your own, only after the A has been edited.
– SamGibson Mod
Mar 14 at 18:24
• That's not site abuse. If they genuinely think it's not a helpful answer. Mar 17 at 11:59
• @Passerby - Hi, Re: "That's not site abuse. If they genuinely think it's not a helpful answer." Agreed, but you are saying something different from this answer. I actually something similar to you - I said: "Unless you can, in good conscience, decide that an answer is not useful [...]". My point is that the use of downvotes to "get their attention" as stated, would be site abuse. To be blunt, I don't believe there's an official SE post which says that downvotes should be used to get someone's attention, as stated in this answer. If you have found otherwise then please do let me know. Thanks.
– SamGibson Mod
Mar 18 at 14:03
• @SamGibson there also isn't an official se post that says down votes shouldn't be used to get someone's attention to their unhelpful answers. The entire point of downvoting is to bring attention to the unhelpfulness of an answer or question, to the author and others. Downvoting triggers reviews right? Mar 18 at 16:18
• @Passerby - I see we have different views, so I expect this to be my last comment. I doubt you could change my mind & I doubt I could change yours. Just to put on record a reply to your comment: "there also isn't an official se post that says down votes shouldn't be used to get someone's attention". As I have tried to say already, "getting someone's attention" is not listed as a downvote reason in the official SE policy - see here. Voting is too big a topic for a discussion here, so I can't reasonably respond to your additional question in the available space.
– SamGibson Mod
Mar 18 at 18:35
• "Flag instead of or In addition to down voting "duplicate" no reason duplicate answers shouldnt be down voted and flagged just like duplicate questions are. Mar 18 at 19:07
• From the perspective of an OP, the more similar answers there are, the higher the probability that all of them are correct so, to downvote answers that are very similar is just plain ignorance and not serving the OP in any way at all. The OP wants, above anything else, good guidance and not down-voted answers that appear to be pretty much say what upvoted answers say (because that confuses the OP and does not help him). The OP needs clarity. I mean, bloody hell, are you really at all serious Lundin? Mar 20 at 11:37
• Getting their attention is what comments are for. When you comment on someone's answer they get a notification - if that doesn't get their attention then downvoting isn't going to be any more effective. Imo getting their attention is not a legitimate reason for downvoting an answer . Mar 22 at 12:07
• @Passerby "no reason duplicate answers shouldnt be down voted and flagged just like duplicate questions are" I don't think this example serves your point: see, duplicate questions aren't meant to be downvoted or flagged. The normal course of action is to simply close them as duplicate. Of course, they can also be downvoted if they are bad, or flagged if they have serious problem and need additional moderator attention. But automatically associating "duplicate" to "downvote/flag" is simply wrong, and shows a misunderstanding of the site tools and objectives IMO.
– dim
Mar 23 at 11:16
• @dim the faq Sam posted literally says to downvote and or flag duplicate questions. If that's wrong, bring it up to the site. Mar 23 at 14:12
• @dim this also says to flag duplicates. electronics.stackexchange.com/help/privileges/flag-posts so maybe you misunderstand the rules. Mar 23 at 14:16