Staff announced on Meta Stack Exchange that they're considering unpinning accepted answers - either on a per-site, opt-in basis, or network-wide with the ability to opt out. If such a thing went through, answers would sort by score alone (or date posted/last active, depending on setting), with the accepted answer treated as any other. Basically, what happens for self-accepted answers currently.

Do we (Puzzling Stack Exchange) want the accepted answer to be unpinned, or to stay pinned as it currently is?

Discuss! I have opinions but would like input from non-me sources :)

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ There seems to be a fairly clear consensus here for not "unpinning". I've posted an answer to the MSE question above saying so. $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan Mod
    Sep 12 at 13:12

Yes, absolutely yes. So much yes.

On Puzzling specifically, due to the nature of our site and the fact that bestowing a checkmark is an implicit message of "this is my puzzle's intended answer and/or the most high-quality solution path" from the original poster, it is my opinion that accepted answers should stay pinned to the top, to most clearly communicate the correct answer and/or the asker's intended answer to the puzzle. Even if an answer is highly upvoted, that doesn't necessarily mean it represents the poster's intended answer.

Situations where unpinning might be appropriate, and my rebuttals

There are only a select few Puzzling-specific situations where I can think of that an unpinned checkmark and showing the highest-voted answer instead could be appropriate, but I have rebuttals for a few of them:

  • If the OP's intended puzzle answer is not actually the correct solution to the puzzle as given. I can break this down further into two subcategories of situation:

    • The OP didn't actually know the answer to the puzzle when they posted it. Let's say the OP posted a complicated mathematical puzzle without actually knowing the answer, only that there is a possible answer. If somebody gives a very high-quality answer, the OP could just say "yup, looks right" and checkmark it without actually verifying its correctness, since they don't know if it is correct themselves. Later on, somebody else could then post the actual correct answer, which should logically have gotten the checkmark instead and should thus be displayed higher than the accepted answer. However, this forgets one thing: this sort of thing is highly discouraged on Puzzling, at least in my experience. Ordinarily the OP is expected to have a clear idea of their expected answer in mind before posting a self-created puzzle, and if they post a self-designed puzzle of their own making and then admit that they don't know the actual answer to their own puzzle, their puzzle will probably be downvoted or closed.

    • The OP made an error in the puzzle as written, and somebody answered before the error was corrected, making their answer technically "correct" but for an earlier version of the puzzle. When his happens on Puzzling, however, there is usually some etiquette around editing and correcting puzzles, and when a puzzle is corrected by the OP, they are usually expected to (and usually do) communicate with the answerer to explain their mistake and ask them to revise their answer to earn the checkmark. Thus, I don't feel this is a prevalent enough situation to merit unpinning accepted answers either.

  • The puzzle's checkmark is meant to go to a high-quality solution path (i.e. for a puzzle), and later on a better solution path is posted by somebody else. However, the OP never goes back to change the checkmark. I've never seen this happen personally, but it's possible, and in this scenario it would be plausible that the more highly voted answer is shown rather than the checkmarked answer. However, even if this were the case, grid deduction puzzles and similar "best solution path" puzzles are usually a first-come first-checkmarked basis, where the correct answer posted with a decent solution path - even if it's not the best solution path explanation - gets the checkmark to prove they got there first. Thus, I don't see this as a major issue.

  • The puzzle was so low-quality that the "intended" answer is not considered a very good answer, and somebody posts what could have been a better answer for the puzzle, and proceeds to get highly upvoted for it. However, in this scenario, if the original puzzle was that atrocious, it likely wouldn't even get answers at all, let alone checkmarked and accepted answers, before getting downvoted and closed as a low-quality post. Thus, I consider this another moot point.

There are probably a lot more situations for consideration, but these were the main ones that came to mind, so please let me know if I missed anything here.


Yes, in my opinion the checkmarked answer pinning should stay.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ RE "I've never seen this happen personally": This answer of mine was posted much after the original one and is (in my biased opinion) of higher quality because it has a worked-out solution path. However I'm satisfied anyways because I got a nice bounty :) $\endgroup$
    – bobble
    Sep 8 at 22:25
  • $\begingroup$ @bobble Welp, I stand corrected! Might edit later to add a good point from Stiv in chat, too. $\endgroup$
    – Sciborg
    Sep 8 at 22:29
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Re the last bullet point: I remember at least one notorious case (now deleted) where an OP accepted a very bad answer. But even there it was useful to have the accepted answer pinned to the top, as it explained why the puzzle itself (which seemed interesting at first) received a sudden slew of downvotes :-) $\endgroup$ Sep 12 at 13:44

Let's look at some real examples from PSE. (Note: Potential spoilers ahead!)

Ghotiy spelling (score of accepted answer currently +39, top answer +173)

This is our most "extreme" example at the moment in terms of score difference between accepted and top answer. Here the top answer reads more like a "joke" answer, as the same method would work on practically any string of characters and not just the one in the question. (Although I'm not sure whether it was meant as such; it was posted some time before the accepted answer, in any case.) In this instance I think I like seeing the accepted answer first, and the other tries after that.

Make 11 from five identical digits (accepted -2, top +34)

Why this answer is accepted is completely puzzling to me since it does not fully answer the question, covering only four cases out of the 10 in the question. In this case I would definitely like to see the top answer first. Although even if the top answer was shown first it would still just feel wrong to see tickmark on the currently accepted answer. Best of all would be to change the checkmark, but of course that's up to the OP to do as they please.

Simple geometry. Or is it? (accepted +17, top +76)

Here the top answer expands on the accepted answer by adding an intuitive visual explanation. It works much better after having read the accepted answer first, so I think here the current order works quite well.

Separate the milk! (accepted +50, top +103)

Here the accepted answer immediately seems like the "correct" one, whereas the top answer is very clever but clearly not what anyone would actually do to solve the problem in the question. Again, makes sense to put the accepted answer first in this case.

Folding paper into corners (accepted +6, +49)

Here the accepted answer simply manages to get a better result than the top answer. The only reason that I can see why it scores so much lower is because it was posted long after the top answer. Absolutely makes sense to show the accepted answer first in this case.


All in all, after looking at several real examples, I think it makes the most sense to do as we're doing now and keep having the accepted answer at the top.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ I wonder whether "accepted answer first, unless it's actually on a negative score" would be even better. $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan Mod
    Sep 12 at 13:12

I'm sure that in general we want the accepted answer to stay pinned on Puzzling Stack Exchange. Now, if you're new here and don't know how PSE works, here's something:

Most of the "questions" on this site are carefully crafted pieces of art by the OP, puzzles for the public to solve. I believe it would only be fair to respect the artist's intended answer by not removing them from their position of visibility.

Of course, on the cases where the OP's intended answer is highly disapproved of by the public, downvotes are effective.


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