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In the past we have seen questions on Puzzling Meta about what to do when an OP hasn't accepted an answer and similar. However, these questions tend (just by their nature) to end up being answered with the shrug-of-the-shoulders response, "Not much we can do, I'm afraid..."

After all, as @GarethMcCaughan says in his answer to the linked post, when an OP hasn't yet accepted an answer "no one can compel them to accept anything" - it's just not in anybody's power to insist that a checkmark is given after a certain amount of time has passed - only the OP can push that magic button. Plus there may be a very good reason that the OP has not granted the checkmark - the answer may not yet be complete to the level of detail they had hoped, for example.

There are, however, a substantial number of questions out there where what is clearly a correct answer has been given (often even acknowledged by the OP in a comment on the answer) but where the green checkmark has not been awarded. As a user of the site I confess that I find it a tad frustrating (to the level of TUT/HEAD-SHAKE/EYE-ROLL, nothing substantially higher!) when I come across a puzzle that I think has yet to be solved, only to find that it definitely has been, just the answer has not been marked as correct. Also, I can appreciate (like in the case of @KevinL in the linked post) that it can feel offputting not to have your correct answer acknowledged, especially when you put a lot of work into providing a solution.

Now, obviously, we can do nothing about all the questions which have been set by users who have since left the site, closed their account, or have not logged in for a long time for whatever reason. But on this site there are still a large number of un-checkmarked questions that have been asked by regular Puzzling.SE users. (Naming no names, and linking no examples, because this is not intended to 'shame' anybody...)

I propose that we hold a Checkmark Amnesty, either as a one-off event or as a regular occurrence (say, on the first of each month) where regular users of the site commit to spending just a few minutes to (i) look over the questions they have previously asked and which do not yet have a checkmark awarded, and (ii) award checkmarks where they should have been given (or (iii) possibly even consider adding hints or offering bounties on questions that remain unsolved).

This would help - in a small way - towards 'doing the housework' at Puzzling, cleaning up a little from time to time. Ultimately, this would make it easier for users to find puzzles (or puzzle-related questions) that actually do still require a solution, and set a good example to new members of the community.

My reason for posting this here is not to ask "SO WHO'S WITH ME?!" (although I do hope that those who read this post might consider adopting an attitude like this themselves, if they don't already) but to ask whether those who run this community - the mods, primarily - would consider incorporating this somehow into the overarching ethos of the site. The fact that the checkmark functionality exists at all is indication that the community believes it is important to mark correct answers as such, but the occasional comments left by conscientious users saying "Does this need a green checkmark now?" are often ignored, and while nobody wants a 'green checkmark police' hunting down others who they deem to have fallen short of a certain standard, or any notion of 'shaming' other users into closing things off properly, perhaps a regular reminder in the form of a banner message or a meta post might help keep things in shape and catch those questions that just slipped through the green net. Maybe even just a greater emphasis in the site tour or other materials aimed at newcomers...

I do not delude myself into thinking this is 'the answer' to the problem. Even an amnesty will not fix all of our un-checkmarked questions, of course... but it might go some way to encouraging others to take up this behaviour regularly and instil some 'best practices' into the ways we all use this site... And who knows, maybe it will inspire somebody else to come up with a better solution!

Thanks for reading.


NB I repeat, this is not an attempt to 'shame' any users into taking action, just a way to nudge a conversation into happening... This question most likely arises out of my own deep-rooted preference for closure in life!

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  • $\begingroup$ I can think of a couple of reasons here for no checkmarks: a) (and probably the more common problem here) there are a lot of unchecked questions where, as the previous post says, a new user has a problem they want/need solving, but don't intend to join the site. Once they get their answer, they don't necessarily know how the site works, or may not have even logged back in, they may just leave without awarding a check, I'm sure a lot of people have experienced this. There's nothing anyone can do about this, and it will probably always happen as long as this site exists. Part two.... $\endgroup$ – Beastly Gerbil Apr 22 at 14:41
  • $\begingroup$ b) (a bit rarer) sometimes there are multiple solvers, but no single full correct answer. For more long and complicated puzles, many may put some input in, and you end up with many answers. Here I tend to either award it to the person who had done the most, given their answer is now complete, or create a community wiki to give the tick to. These are just a couple of problems I can see regarding why there might not be a tick, I'm not sure how much can be done however. $\endgroup$ – Beastly Gerbil Apr 22 at 14:41
  • $\begingroup$ @BeastlyGerbil Thanks for your comments. Absolutely - there are many valid reasons why a checkmark might not be given (I couldn't list them all in my post!). However, there are also a substantial number of questions where the checkmark 'just hasn't been awarded' and probably should have been, and the reason why may fall into another (maybe less 'legitimate'?) category altogether (e.g. negligence, forgetfulness and apathy). It's those cases that I think we need the amnesty for - the ones people have forgotten to go back to and are just lying open unnecessarily. $\endgroup$ – Stiv Apr 22 at 15:07
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe someone who knows how to write code could use the sites data explorer to write a query to count how many questions have no accepted answer, asked by a user with less than 200 rep, and an answer with a positive score or something. It could then be reversed to compare the rough numbers $\endgroup$ – Beastly Gerbil Apr 22 at 15:16
  • $\begingroup$ @BeastlyGerbil I'm fairly proficient with SEDE (proof) and could help with this; here is a query which lists some candidate questions. $\endgroup$ – Glorfindel Apr 24 at 5:51
  • $\begingroup$ hmm...when will this question have an accepted answer? :P For the record, 57/58 of my questions here have a correct answer marked, and the fifty-eighth does not have a full answer (and frankly, it was not a puzzle of the highest quality, so I have little incentive to draw more attention to it). $\endgroup$ – Brandon_J Apr 27 at 17:15
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    $\begingroup$ I don't think "amnesty" is the right word here. $\endgroup$ – Steve Bennett Apr 28 at 10:28
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    $\begingroup$ @SteveBennett In the UK at least, it is very common to use the word 'amnesty' to mean 'an opportunity to turn in [a weapon] without fear of retribution' - for example, a knife amnesty. Consider the phrase in this sense and a 'Checkmark Amnesty' becomes an opportunity for question-askers to turn in those checkmarks! :) $\endgroup$ – Stiv Apr 29 at 9:18
  • $\begingroup$ No, I got that. I just don't think it really applies here, or it's a stretch. (What fear of retribution is there? Does anyone seriously worry that accepting an answer late is going to be worse than not doing it at all?) This feels more like a monthly check-giving drive, or an accept-athon or...something. $\endgroup$ – Steve Bennett Apr 29 at 9:50
  • $\begingroup$ @SteveBennett Well, the name is up for grabs - 'amnesty' was just what came to mind when I initially wrote the post. What we call such an initiative may not matter too much overall (though I like 'accept-athon'...) :) $\endgroup$ – Stiv Apr 29 at 9:59
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You'd be pleased to know that your question made it to a Hot Meta Post, visible in the sidebar widget:

enter image description here

which made me go through the list of my questions and all green-filled boxes there, so I didn't need to do anything.

This post will cease to be 'Hot' after a while, but then ♦ moderators could manually apply the tag to it (or another, more annoucement-y question) which makes it visible in that widget for 14 days (which can be repeated later on, if necessary).

Here are some SEDE queries which could be used to measure the effect of this question: a graph of the number of accepted answers per day (no significant change yet) and a list of the last 100 accepted answers; thanks @DEEM, @JonM and @Rand'alThor for participating! Please note that SEDE is updated only once a week, on Sunday morning.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for these remarks Glorfindel (and well done!). The hot question bar certainly enables the idea to get a little airtime. As of this moment, it stands at +13 (15 up, 2 down), so it's being seen and considered, and people are expressing their opinions through the vote buttons, which is good to see. $\endgroup$ – Stiv Apr 29 at 9:20
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    $\begingroup$ @Stiv I've spotted seven relatively old accepted answers, so there's at least measurable effect of your campaign already. See the updated answer for some quick SEDE queries. $\endgroup$ – Glorfindel Apr 29 at 9:35

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