So, I asked this question.

The first answer is an obvious standout, with three times the vote total of all the others combined.

Problem is, I don't like any of the answers much, and this one less than most. There's no objective way to know if this one (or any of the others) are genuinely correct, but this one is based on a premise (that the presence of an ebook on a pirate site and thousands of downloads from there doesn't in any way affect legitimate sales) that's both counter-intuitive and virtually impossible to either prove or disprove (at least with the limited resources of a single author).

If another answer were more helpful to me, or could be proven to be correct, there'd be no question in my mind: I'd accept that other answer -- but that's not the case here.

With no answer I'm inclined to accept, is there any kind of expectation for me to accept the obvious vote winner, or can I just leave the question open? Or should I just delete it as unanswerable in any objectively provable way?

  • You won’t be able to delete it. The software prevents OPs from deleting questions which have upvotes answers (because someone put effort into those answers & other people found value in them). So that avenue is not open to you. You are of course welcome to not accept any answer. The people have chosen their answer (the standout one), but the green checkmark says “this answer helped me, the OP”, and is yours to award or withhold as you see fit. That’s your prerogative. – Dan Bron Dec 8 '17 at 21:30

Let's say you went to physics SE and asked how to build a pair of wings that you could strap to your arms so you could fly.

Someone would probably post an answer saying that it is physiologically impossible for human arms to generate enough force to provide lift for the human body and therefore there is no way to build such a set of wings. That answer would probably get a lot of up votes. But you would not be any nearer to being able to fly.

Should you accept that answer? The convention seems to be that you should accept the answer that is most useful to you. What does useful mean? You are no nearer to your dream of flight, so in that sense it is not useful and you should not accept that or any other answer that does not enable you to build working wings.

You may also continue to believe, that answer notwithstanding, that humans actually can fly. In that case you believe the answer to be incorrect, and you should not accept it.

On the other hand, you could decide that the answer is helpful in an unexpected way in that it enable you to finally give up your dreams of flight and take up SCUBA diving instead. In that case, you should accept it.

If you decide not to accept any answer, should you delete the question? Questions and their answers on SE are not for the person asking alone. People vote on questions and answers to say that they find them useful. If your question and at least one if its answers have a lot of votes, that means other people found them useful. Therefore you should not delete the question. Others may benefit from it even if you don't.

Also, it is possible that someone may come along later and point out that by consuming large quantities of Whizz Bang Protein Powder(TM) you would be able to generate enough lift to fly. Or they might give you the plans for a hang glider. As long as your question remains on the site, there is always the possibility of a better answer being created.

You might have to wait five years for an answer you are willing to accept, but that is fine. The question is still legitimate, even if the consensus answer is "you can't get there from here", and there is always the possibility of someone coming along later and proving that you can.

  • 1
    Knowing the typical audience on Physics, you'd be more likely to get a thorough theoretical discussion on exactly how arm strength maps to body weight lift capability of a hang glider, complete with graphs and formulas, but no suggestions on things like which materials to use. If you ask for the latter, you'll be pointed squarely over to the Engineering SE. :-) – a CVn Jan 12 '18 at 22:28

There is no requirement to accept an answer.

There is no requirement not to accept an answer.

There is no requirement that, if you accept an answer, that you do so within any particular predefined period of time from when you asked the question.

The system will not automatically "accept" an answer for you. (There have been repeated proposals for different variations of this, and they are always shot down. Answer acceptance remains with the user who posted the original question.)

It's all up to you.

Typically one accepts the answer that was most helpful in solving one's particular problem. That's easy if there is some easily measurable criteria by which an answer can be said to be "helpful", or even that one is "more helpful" than another.

If none of the answers are helpful to you, you don't have to accept an answer at all.

If the question lingers for an extended period of time, you can set a bounty on it to draw additional attention to it, should you want to. In doing so, you can provide a description of what you are looking for that isn't covered by the existing answers.

Go ahead and not accept an answer if you aren't happy with any of the existing ones for whatever reason there may be. That's fine.

If you feel that the answer is outright wrong, then you can also consider downvoting it.

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