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?