In the past, I've made noise about what the accepted answer is and whose choice it is, because I feel it's important people accept the answer they wanna accept.

I think that linked ideology makes sense for Q&A, which we aren't.

The current help/accepted-answer page is, like the rest of the help center, sorely irrelevant for PPCG's style; its current text is exactly that of every other site in the SE network.

What does it mean when an answer is "accepted"?

When a user receives a good answer to his or her question, that user has the option to "accept" an answer. Acceptance is indicated by a colored checkmark next to the answer that has been accepted by the original author of the question.

Accepting an answer is not meant to be a definitive and final statement indicating that the question has now been answered perfectly. It simply means that the author received an answer that worked for him or her personally, but not every user comes back to accept an answer, and of those who do, they may not change the accepted answer if a newer, better answer comes along later.

Often, accepting an answer corresponds to reputation gains.

If you accept:

  • someone else's answer: You gain +2 reputation and the author of the accepted answer earns +15 reputation.
  • your own answer: No reputation is awarded, and the answer does not float to the top of the list. You must wait 48 hours to accept your own answer.
  • a community-wiki answer: No reputation is awarded.

emphasis mine, obviously.

...Well, no, actually, or at least that's not the community's consensus, or at the very least a ripply reflection of reality.

In practice, in the general case, the accepted answer on a given challenge / question / post / thingy is almost always (thankfully) the one which "wins" the challenge as written.

In theory, however, it's entirely up to the asker to reward the +15 however and wherever they like, without practising any discretion. The asker may accept

  • a wrong answer,
  • the longest answer () / the slowest answer () / an answer with negative score (),
  • an answer which doesn't work,
  • a Not An Answer answer (spam, not-an-attempt-to-answer-the-question, etc)
  • an answer written by an account of their own, (thankfully we don't get much sockpuppetry around these parts)
  • literally any answer they want (kinda the idea of SE)

In lieu of holding some poor SE dev at codepoint to rewrite the help/accepted page right now, and to put my mind at ease:

Whose choice is accepting an answer, and what does it represent?

Moreover, what happens if the asker deliberately1 accepts a non-winning answer? It's not like anyone else can choose, and it's not like we can reprimand the asker for accepting the "wrong" answer.

1 not accidentally-improperly-accepted answers

  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't have a problem with a help center rewrite, but I'm not sure what else can be accomplished here. Your last paragraph is the essence of it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Geobits
    Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 4:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @IGoBest Which was my point: what does the checkmark mean? \$\endgroup\$
    – cat
    Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 4:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ If we know that it's arbitrary on the asker's part and that nobody can change it, then I guess I'm just confused what you're asking. Are you just looking for a help center rewrite to guide people, or something more? \$\endgroup\$
    – Geobits
    Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 4:20
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ The checkmark means the winner of the challenge. All challenges should have an objective winning critera so I don't see how it's meaning could be ambiguous. \$\endgroup\$
    – Downgoat
    Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 4:27
  • 8
    \$\begingroup\$ This pretty much sums up why I'd like to see the accepted answer feature disabled on PPCG. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 10:57
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ "it's not like we can reprimand the asker for accepting the "wrong" answer" Why not? People can always downvote if they don't like how accepting is handled. We can't force the asker to change the accepted answer but we can explain to them why they should, many times they'll oblige and if they don't, future viewers will at least know about the issue. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 16:39
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Related: Are questions in which no answer is the best allowed? \$\endgroup\$
    – xnor
    Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 17:03

4 Answers 4


The accepted answer is the answer that wins the challenge

As defined by the objective scoring criterion the challenge writer gave the challenge when it was created.

That's it really.

If there are unforeseen circumstances that cause ambiguity on what the winning answer is (say a challenge is tied with no tiebreaker specified) then the challenge writer should use his best judgement to fairly accept a winner, sticking as close as possible to his original scoring rules.


You shouldn't feel obligated to accept the overall shortest submission in code golf.

The shortest submission is often not the best-golfed one, but the one written in the most optimized golfing language. C will always be longer than CJam, no matter how golfed the C code. Code golf is nicer as a competition within each language, and giving the check mark to what is almost always a golfing language makes other golfers feel secondary.

You're free to accept what you want, but I'd suggest picking an answer you think showcases the best golfing. It's hard though to judge golfing in languages you don't know well, so simply not accepting might be your best bet.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Aha, this is exactly how I was anticipating someone would answer, which is why I asked. \$\endgroup\$
    – cat
    Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 14:32
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ I disagree completely. The accepted answer marks the winner of the objectively defined challenge, as Downgoat said. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 16:46
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ I agree with xnor. Why should someone who is good at CJam or Pyth always get the extra rep? In fact, that is often part of the reason that certain users have more rep than others. People tend of +1 answers based on length, instead of skill (though Pyth/CJam answers may display lots of skill, don't get me wrong). They may not be better golfers, they just know shorter languages. IMHO, the user can accept the answer they like. I think golfing should be about creativity and problem solving, not about creating and using the shortest language.</rant> \$\endgroup\$
    – mbomb007
    Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 21:58
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @mbomb007 Golfing is about writing the shortest code. Full stop. The "creativity and problem solving" is in making your code more succinct than any other entry. Any contest where "shortest code" is not the winning criterion is not, by definition, a golf. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 4:13
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @mbomb007 People vote how they want. Letting challenge authors choose an accepted answer at their whim negates the point of having objective winning criteria. In code golf, the shortest answer in bytes wins. Here winning means getting the green check mark. \$\endgroup\$
    – Alex A.
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 4:14
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @AlexA. I think we all understand that's the policy as written, but I'm saying that in practice it's a policy that harms the site by promoting some languages at the expense of others. \$\endgroup\$
    – xnor
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 5:23
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Let's just say that if you do this, your question will get revenge downvotes from arbitrary users. \$\endgroup\$
    – Justin
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 5:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Justin You mean not accept an answer? Or accept a non-shortest answer? \$\endgroup\$
    – xnor
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 6:16

The asker chooses the top answer

We like to think that challenges are completely objective. Unfortunately, many of our challenges require human judgement. Common cases of broad areas include: Defining a "built-in" or "hardcoding", acceptable input/output formats, and whether or not a program even completes the task (passing all the test cases does mean it doesn't have bugs).

Therefore, the OP should judge the answers that meet the requirements, and then accept the answer with the best score (which is not a matter of judgement)

  • 9
    \$\begingroup\$ I fully agree with your last sentence but the title makes this sound like it's up to the whim of the asker, which is not the same. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 16:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ I support this approach because the challenge poster is not necessarily proficient in all programming languages: If you know only Pascal, you can only assess correctness for Pascal submissions, hence only accept answers written in Pascal. Being “bullied” into accepting an answer written in a programming language you do not know is not in the community spirit. The vote count is essentially hearsay that an answer is good but it is no guaranty. As long as people are not required to learn, e. g. GolfScript, to participate, you cannot demand GS answers to be accepted. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 7, 2023 at 13:37

Accepting is the asker's choice.

Well, why wouldn't it be. As far as I can tell, the vast majority of users play by the rules, and accept the shortest / fastest / most-upvoted / objectively winning answer of their own volition. The help centre should (obviously) be rewritten to reflect this.

The acception is representative of the answer which most correctly implements the goals / objectives required by the challenge's objective winning criterion.

The accepted answer is the one which "wins", where "wins" is clearly defined by the question's tags' implications of objective winning criterion. (Also why we don't like popcon.)

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ This is a system limitation, which we can't change. So why are you asking this question? \$\endgroup\$
    – Doorknob
    Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 4:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Doorknob yes, we can't change it. What does it mean? \$\endgroup\$
    – cat
    Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 4:24
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ "Accepting is the asker's choice." and "The acception is representative of the answer which most correctly implements the goals" are contradictory terms here. The asker of course makes the scoring rules in the first place, but if he has to follow them while accepting then the answer accepted is not his choice. Which do you mean? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 16:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HelkaHomba the point of the first statement is expanded upon by the paragraph immediately below it -- it's the asker's choice, but in nearly every case where the asker accepts an answer, they accept the "right" answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – cat
    Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 16:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ But the next two paragraphs say something completely different. Is "reflect this." supposed to have a colon? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 17:08

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