FAQ Discussion: How do I mark a solution?

This topic is for discussing questions, suggestions, and other feedback about the following FAQ:

I think it should be more clear on this FAQ that the user is suposed to choose just one solution per topic (because they also should post just one question per topic) and also we should investigate the rare cases were the system allows for more than one answer per topic, like the one discussed on this thread.

Thanks for pointing out the topic that allowed more than one solution to be marked! That appears to be a rather obscure bug in the Discourse solution-marking plugin (I can't find any other similar reports on the plugin support forum).

We can try to investigate what went wrong in that one topic, but since this seems to be a rare bug, I personally don't think it's worth noting in the FAQ. Under normal circumstances, the plugin only permits a single solution to be marked. Marking another reply automatically un-marks the one that was previously marked. In my experience, users seem to figure that out pretty quickly (comments like "it will only let me choose one, so…" have been fairly common).

The discussion of the mysterious double-solution topic brought up a question that's come up before, which is what to do when there are multiple good answers:

As I understand it, one of this community's goals is not to be strictly a "there is one right answer" Q&A site, but also to support more free-ranging discussion and allow people to support each other even if a "right" answer doesn't exist. I have definitely seen cases where there are lots of great answers, because there's often more than one way to do it, and this community is lucky to have lots of creative members! :grinning:

So rather than admonishing people to only choose one solution, what if we offered more guidance about what to do when they wanted to recognize multiple helpful answers?

Here's one idea: to handle multiple valid or helpful answers or suggestions, how about posting a new reply quoting parts of the best answers, then marking that as the solution? By quoting helpers, the OP is still giving them credit, and others who come along later will be able to easily find what they felt were the most helpful posts. And that's the core point of marking solutions as far as this community is concerned! :grinning:

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My concern is more about the fact that newcomers tend to confuse the "solution" button with the "like" button and they mark each comment of the person who solved their problem, usually letting marked the last reply (or even the canned reply asking them to mark a solution) which not always is a working solution to the original question. I think that could be misleading for other people and for search engines.

Maybe we could clarify in the FAQ that they are supposed to choose just one solution but they can "like" as many replies as they want?

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Hmm, I've seen people get confused and mark the reply asking them to mark a solution, and I've seen them change their minds about which solution they want to mark (which is OK!), but I'm not sure I've seen anybody mixing up hearts and the solution button? People seem to use hearts a lot, even when they're brand new.

Is this something that's happened to you a lot recently? The Solved plugin got updated a while back to make it more clear what the Solution button does (it used to just have a mysterious checkbox, now it says "Solution" as well).

If you see people mistakenly marking the "please choose a solution" reply, you can always flag the post so that someone else can fix it (if it's obvious) or message the user and ask them to choose again.

Yes, it has happened to me very frequently, they mark as a solution all my answers (I get a lot of notifications) and usually they let marked a follow up commentary or the canned reply, then depending on the case either I flag the topic or I simply change the mark my self (when is pretty evident) I have seen other sustainers to do the same.

What if we had a section that said something like…

  • Try to choose the one reply that best answers your original question, or that you think will be most helpful to others in the future (since the marked solution does get highlighted by search engines)
  • If there's really >1 good solution or the whole solution is scattered across more than one reply, then [alternate instructions go here]

I've proposed one idea for "I really can't choose just one" instructions above, but I can imagine other options:

  • Post a summary of what worked and mark that as the solution (people often do this already when the answer winds up scattered across multiple posts)
  • Encourage people to use hearts instead (it's great to encourage them to do this anyway! :heart_eyes: I'm not sure it helps others that much, though, since posts can get hearted for reasons other than being helpful/correct, and one heart doesn't stand out that much)
  • Any other bright ideas out there?
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I think this is a great way to phrase it, it's clear and friendly.

I'm very much in favour of multiple marked solutions. But I understand that it may be misused, by marking all posts in a thread as Andres pointed out.

Another possibility could be some sort of bounty. Maybe the OP will mark a solution following this (somehow subjective) logic: Try to choose the one reply that best answers your original question, or that you think will be most helpful to others in the future, and divide a bounty to the other answers he/she considered helpful. But here we don't have reputation points like SO, so this is not feasible I suppose.

Along these lines, it can also happen that OP may end up combining suggestions provided in multiple posts by same/different users, which is more relevant/efficient for his/her use case. This is very likely, but while people answer on this community, they'll be working with fake data most of the times. It's possible to suggest ideas, but it's hard to know what will be the best, and that can be known (probably) only by handling those personally. So, they can be encouraged to post their updated, possibly combined solutions, and give references to the original answers on which it is based upon.