Recently, I was alerted to how questioners choose which of the answers best solve their problem(s). I observed that, especially for beginners, that they did not select the best answer from the available ones, but rather one that imposed the smallest change to their question and in some cases preserve the clutter and bad solution in their code example (in my opinion).

Somehow I understand such an approach. Beginners, especially those who are for some reason forced to use LaTeX and therefore not likely to learn more than the bare minimum for their temporary needs, have a very narrow LaTeX horizon. Consequently, they aren't aware of better possibilities for writing theirs LaTeX code.

One example, which illustrate above description is the following question. This question received three answers. However, the OP selected the first post answer, which in my opinion (well, here I'm slightly biased) is not the best choice.

I know that the acceptance of an answer is up to questioner. However, how does one politely warn her/him that (s)he should reconsider other answers again, because they present a better/nicer result, or have removed all the clutter in the OP's code, or suggested code that is more clear and intuitive, etc?

  • 8
    I just had this problem; my usual approach is to leave a comment pointing out the advantages of the better answer: tex.stackexchange.com/questions/419310/… If or if not the OP changes the accepted answers is up to him/her but if not such a comment will also inform future users of your opinion. – user36296 Mar 9 '18 at 14:36
  • Why being polite? ;-) – user31729 Mar 9 '18 at 17:38
  • 1
    @ChristianHupfer, i not like to offend people, they usually take (even a bona fide criticism) as attack on them. – Zarko Mar 9 '18 at 17:49
  • 1
    @Zarko: There's a huge spread being between polite, honest and offensive ... – user31729 Mar 9 '18 at 17:51
  • @CarLaTeX, many time i wrote the same , probably with less net english :-( – Zarko Mar 9 '18 at 21:16
  • 1
    See this case, read the comments to my answer, the tick was given after those comments: tex.stackexchange.com/questions/367858/… :):):) – CarLaTeX Mar 9 '18 at 21:16
  • 13
    You don't need to do anything. They are free to choose whatever answer is to their liking. Accepted answer does not mean it is the best answer. – percusse Mar 9 '18 at 21:26
  • 2
    I think the basic idea is that the community votes for the best answer, which moves it up to the top, and the OP selects the most helpful answer from their own point of view. – Nicola Talbot Mar 9 '18 at 22:57
  • 3
    @NicolaTalbot, you are right. however, i observe that in many cases op select first received answer and then don't care if (s)he receive more answers after then. so it happens, as in the linked case, that the accepted answer has (far) less votes than others which arrived later. with this ignorance the possibility to learn how to step on the next level of knowledge about latex is lost. therefore, I am thinking of (politely) encouraging him to rethink his decision once again. – Zarko Mar 9 '18 at 23:40
  • @Zarko That's true, but once the OP has a received one answer they might not bother returning to the site, in which case there's not much that can be done about it unfortunately. – Nicola Talbot Mar 10 '18 at 11:54
  • @Werner, thank you very much for editing my question! – Zarko Mar 10 '18 at 18:18
  • 2
    When I get the accepted answer really quick and do realize this soon, I often write a comment under my answer that OP should not accept my answer just yet, because there might be better answers in the near future. – Skillmon Mar 10 '18 at 22:42
  • 1
    "with this ignorance the possibility to learn how to step on the next level of knowledge about latex is lost" I am a teacher at heart, so I perfectly understand the sentiment behind this idea. However, if they don't show up again, they probably do not care. It is hard to accept, but people have the right to neither learn nor improve. – Daniel Mar 13 '18 at 23:03
  • 1
    @NicolaTalbot Doesn't the accepted answer always appear at the top, regardless of how few votes it has relative to other answers? – cfr Mar 16 '18 at 1:42
  • 7
    you could leave a comment like WHY DIDN'T YOU GIVE THE GREEN TICK TO ME – David Carlisle Mar 21 '18 at 19:59

If the accepted answer is provably wrong, it seems fine to add a comment saying so. But the comment IMO should be aimed at the answerer, not the questioner, and the answerer should suggest unaccepting the answer if that's the case.

But if your opinion is that another answer is better, then again, it's fine to add a comment to that answer saying something like "I think this should be the accepted answer because...", but again, not aimed at the questioner as an attempt to tell them to change their acceptance.

People accept non-optimal answers for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it's the first answer they get. Sometimes it's the answer that has code that they can understand, as opposed to a 'better' answer with more complex/ingenious/tricky code. Sometimes people like a hack, even when a more general solution is possible.

The only people who should try to change people's acceptance may be people who have answered the question and think that their own answer is inferior in some way.

  • 1
    Very nice :) One thought that occurred to me was that the populist badge tex.stackexchange.com/help/badges/39/populist might have been motivated by such things – cmhughes Mar 11 '18 at 17:44
  • @cmhughes Yes, I think so. I'm still hoping to get it from an answer of mine which is competing with one by Heiko! :) Three votes short at the moment. – Alan Munn Mar 11 '18 at 17:54
  • 2
    Good advice. The operative word in the OP is "clutter." Not just TeX: Question says "Last Tuesday, while adding two numbers on my Frizzle-Mark6 computer, using the Wonkly OS, on a network connected by Throbson-8 cables, I got the wrong answer. Please help." Then, the accepted answer does not identify the underlying problem; instead, it only works with that machine, that OS, those cables, those numbers -- last Tuesday. Hard to find a general principle from among the 200 lines of reply code. – user139954 Mar 11 '18 at 17:56
  • In this case, adding a comment to the accepted answer regarding the expected problems accompanying use of tabu and longtabu might be helpful. Personally, I wouldn't touch these with a barge pole, given what I know about their current state and future prospects, and this is something that the answerer may be oblivious to. – cfr Mar 16 '18 at 1:40

If a user chooses a solution that is not as robust as your own, it may be (as I think you suggested) that they do not yet understand the intricacies of Latex code and needed a solution they could most easily (and quickly) understand. I don't know if being in a pinch necessarily says anything about their ambitions, though.

However, on the subject of tone, maybe start by thinking about how people prefer to receive input in person:

A person asks a question. A knowledgeable person's response might begin by restating the question being asked, so the person asking knows that the nature of his problem is understood (useful if the original question is rambling). The answer provided is ideally phrased in a way that people with a broad range of expertise can understand.

If the person answering thinks the asker has misunderstood something, or intends to say something else, he/she should absolutely go out their way to NOT imply that they think the asker is foolish, or inexperienced (which they may be).

The asker does not care about your intentions if you make them feel embarrassed for asking a question, and will be less likely to ask more questions. An asker will almost always volunteer their inexperience in exchange for not feeling called-out.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .