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More than half of the answers I have with many positive votes that are not accepted are answers to questions made by unregistered users. While I am not disputing the general conclusion from here (obviously it's entirely up to OP whether or not the answer is to be accepted), the situation in which the OP is unregistered is different. What should be done about answers to hit-and-run questions where the OP is a guest and thus cannot mark a question as accepted as soon as they close their session? It frustrates me that so many of my answers are on questions still marked as open, despite the fact that the OP will never be back on the same account to accept them, or any other answers.

A few relevant facts:

  • Marking an answer is a decision made by the OP, but only if the OP can mark it.
  • Unregistered users are unable to accept answers as soon as they first leave.
  • Questions marked as unanswered are treated differently when displayed.

With this in mind, I see no reason why allowing mods (or user votes) to accept an answer or mark a question as answered for an unregistered guest user would not be a good idea. Even if they do come back, they cannot mark the answer as accepted as they were unregistered at the time. I have even begun to check the OP's activity on various sites and how long they have been registered before deciding whether or not to answer (as my time may be better served answering other people), and that seems to me like it may be causing a prejudice against new users who I have begun to ignore.

In the past before I was registered, I've asked questions (and written answers) as a guest. I'd mark an answer if it was made in time for me to still be logged in, but quite a few times, I look back and see my old questions and see some answers that were only created recently, long after I had logged out of the unregistered account. I wish I could mark the answers as accepted, as some of them are really good.

There is a particular event in mind which actually caused me to lose reputation and a good answer because of this issue. A user asked a question that was fairly basic and was closed. This was after I wrote an answer which was voted up by the user, who could not accept it. For some reason, someone had downvoted my answer, bringing the score back to 0. Immediately after, the entire question and answer was deleted, due to being closed with an answer without positive votes. As a result, I lost 10 rep and a good answer. This would not have happened if the unregistered OP was actually able to mark it as accepted after they logged out. The fact that an accepted answer gives it immunity from being automatically deleted means that this is more than just an aesthetic desire.

What can be done to deal with guest users being unable to mark a question answered?

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It frustrates me that so many of my answers are on questions still marked as open,

If you stop thinking about the green checkmark as indicating if the question is open or not, perhaps it will be less frustrating? I view the checkmark very narrowly - it indicates wheater OP has confirmed the asnwer helped them. With that perspective it would make no sense to let moderators or other users mark answers as accepted.

I agree that it is unfortunate that guests can not accept answers after their session has ended. But I think it is something we will have to live with. Focus on writing good answers to good questions, and in the long run I think the rep loss from this will be small in comparison to the rep you earn from upvotes.

Edit to adress some more specific points:

You are correct to point out that an answer being marked as not accepted affects how the system deals with the question:

  • Bumping to frontpage.
  • Showing up in "unanswered question".
  • Autodeletion if question is closed.

But all these (perhaps except bumping, not sure how it works) also take votes into account. If the answer has a positive score, the question will not show up as unanswered and it will not be autodeleted.

So there is already a mechanism here. We don't need a new one, in letting moderators or other users mark as accepted. If someone wants to indicate an answer is good, they upvote.

  • Unfortunately, my personal view of what the green checkmark means does not change the fact that answered questions show up on the unanswered questions list, and that answered questions get bumped to the front page periodically (in vain, as the OP is not going to be able to mark it as answered even if it gets more attention). – forest Feb 23 '18 at 14:20
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    @forest Questions with upvoted answers does not show up in the unanswered list. Not sure how the bumper works, but I suspect it takes votes on answers into account as well. So there's already a mechanism for other users to say an answer is good - voting. – Anders Feb 23 '18 at 14:32
  • Perhaps I need to familiarize myself with how the bumping mechanism works, then. I recall a question with an answer I wrote being bumped, despite having several upvotes. The bigger issues for me though are the answers not being immune to automatic deletion, and the lower (or even removed) rep that comes with it. The bumping is just a slight nuisance. – forest Feb 23 '18 at 14:34
  • @forest Not sure about bumping, but if its a problem I would say the solution is to change how bumping works. – Anders Feb 23 '18 at 15:12
  • @forest As for deletion, see my edits. – Anders Feb 23 '18 at 15:24
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There is no such thing within the StackExchange system as marking a question as answered.
The green tick marks a question as being the most helpful to the OP.

The purpose of acceptance is given here on the Main Meta.

It would make no sense for a moderator, or anyone else, to be able to mark a question as being helpful to the OP as they are not the OP.

Whether or not the person who asks the question is registered makes no difference.

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    I would argue, that after a certain time, a question becomes more relevant to the community than to the OP. The acceptance of an answer through a moderator helps keeping the site "tidy" and easier to sift through for newer users. – Tom K. Feb 20 '18 at 16:08
  • Exactly as @TomK. says, keeping it tidy is important. It's not just useful for newer users, but even other users tend to find the accepted status unhelpful. It badly clutters up the unanswered questions page with numerous questions that already have upvoted answers. – forest Feb 21 '18 at 5:36

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