11

We have a lot of very brief, one/two line answers. I think this is a problem, and this has recently come up on Programmers' Meta. We have a lot of answers per question and sometimes single-line answers get posted. Worse, in my opinion, the single line answers sometimes get upvoted, reinforcing the behavior.

Not to single anyone out, but this is an example. Fairly obvious advice (don't do X), little elaboration (X is implicitly dangerous). On most SE sites that's not acceptable, even if it would win a popularity contest on Reddit.

I think posts here really need to follow Good Subjective rules and elaborate on whys and hows.

Are one line answers a problem? What should we do about them? Comment, downvote, ect?

  • Ironic it would be to see one line answers here. – chrisjlee Apr 22 '12 at 15:45
  • similar discussion at MSO: Is it okay to post a one-line answer, or would those be better as comments? – gnat Aug 11 '12 at 14:46
  • @gnat I don't think the MSO one is as applicable; with programming it may well be the whole solution is one line, and there's no explaining to do, it's just right. Here, even if it is just right it requires some explaining. Can't just type your solution into a Workplace IDE and see if it compiles – Rarity Aug 11 '12 at 15:27
  • @Rarity actually, per accepted answer there it looks like one-liners aren't welcome even at SO: "Of course, obviously the better answers will generally be longer than one line..." I agree that this is even more true at Workplace. In particular, the way you describe the issue "a lot of very brief, one/two line answers" definitely feels like a problem. I can imagine one-liner being OK as an exceptional case but typically one-liners here are just low quality to me – gnat Aug 11 '12 at 18:00
8

Unless the answer is wrong, I wouldn't downvote. I would recommend leaving a comment to the user asking for more information (perhaps using some leading questions to probe at their answer) and flag the post for moderator review. As a moderator on Programmers, I typically give the user about 24 hours from the first comment asking for an elaboration before I delete the post (which might mean letting the flag sit in the queue for a while, but that's OK).

  • 2
    Oh, haven't you noticed that I come by a few seconds later and delete the answers? ;P – yannis Apr 17 '12 at 21:24
  • I'm somewhere between you and Yannis on this issue, but on UX it's usually very new users who do this. I'm seeing it from all experience levels here. – Rarity Apr 17 '12 at 21:53
  • 1
    We get one-line wonders or link-only answers on Server Fault all the time and handle it pretty much the same way - the usual thing to do is leave a comment that links to this SO Meta topic and some boilerplate about "We like answers here to give a sense of the why so people can learn from them" -- it seems to work pretty well for committed users, and when people don't get the hint their answers get downvoted or mysteriously deleted :-) – voretaq7 Apr 18 '12 at 18:43
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    @Rarity I don't really delete the answers seconds after Thomas posted a comment ;) What I do though is check the user's profile and see if they have visited the site since the comment was posted, and if they did and didn't care to expand the answer I just delete it and forget all about it. – yannis Apr 19 '12 at 15:40
5

A new tool that wasn't considered when posting this question: Moderators can actually apply one of the following Post Notices to questions:

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I've used the Insufficient Explanation to good effect I think, if you see a post that could use this (one two lines, almost an answer but lacking supporting information) go ahead and flag for moderator attention; use the Other flag option and explain which post notice the post needs and why (if it isn't painfully obvious)

4

If a question can be answered here appropriately in one line then the question should be closed. The questions here should require detailed answers. Office trivia, and other sorts of questions that work on other sites are inappropriate here.

If the answer is just basic well do this... then add a comment asking for more detail on what is required. If no update then Downvote. Sometimes if I feel it warranted(especially people who have been around a while and should know better) I will down vote with a note that I will reverse if the answer is fleshed out.

If the answer is unacceptable, ie a comment posted as an answer, then downvote, comment, and flag.

  • If a question can be answered here appropriately in one line then the question should be closed. I disagree. There are times when it's possible to answer a question in a one-liner. However, if a question is only generating one-liners, that could be indicative of a poor question (but doesn't mean the question is bad). A question needs to be judged on both the quality of the question as well as the potential to generate good answers. – Thomas Owens Apr 17 '12 at 20:45
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    @ThomasOwens - The questions here should require detailed answers. Any question that can be answered appropriately with one line is a bad question. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Apr 17 '12 at 20:48
  • The responsibility of creating detail is not on the person asking the question, but the person answering the question. There are many questions here that can be answered in a few words. However, the value is in answers that can either cite references or provide experiences (or, even better, both) to back up that answer. – Thomas Owens Apr 17 '12 at 20:50
  • @ThomasOwens - I completely disagree. We hold both parties to the standard of creating good questions and good answers. Which is why you can vote on both questions and answers. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Apr 17 '12 at 20:52
  • 2
    Case Study. This is a very simple yes/no question, but it's still a very good question. By itself, this question does not ask for anything else other than a "yes" or a "no" response. However, a good answer will explain why the answer is what it is, and three such answers were generated (to varying degrees of good). – Thomas Owens Apr 17 '12 at 20:55
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    @ThomasOwens - A one line answer would not be appropriate there. The great answer provided by nick was several paragraphs... – IDrinkandIKnowThings Apr 17 '12 at 20:57
  • Define appropriately, then. Because to me, "yes" is an appropriate answer - it answers the specific question asked. It's not a good answer for Stack Exchange sites, but it does answer the question. – Thomas Owens Apr 17 '12 at 20:58
  • @ThomasOwens I personally find those completely unacceptable answers. They encourage polling as well. – Rarity Apr 17 '12 at 21:56
  • @ThomasOwens - Yes may be correct. That does not make it appropriate. And if Yes is sufficient to answer the question then the question is inappropriate for this SE. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Apr 18 '12 at 15:36
3

I know this is a really old question, but we've been seeing users who cut their teeth here coming to other sites on the network thinking that this style of answering is ok...It's generally not a great thing.

Over on IPS we've been downvoting and flagging these as very low quality when they pop-up and we're having some success with that. The trick seems to be catching them before they draw upvotes or land in the hot network questions list.

I hate to do this, but it would be helpful if more Stack Exchange sites discouraged one liners because the behavior ends up bleeding over to other network sites that are less tolerant of them...

-2

There are no good subjective rules.

  • 1
    I see what you did there. – apaul Nov 2 '17 at 15:41
-5

I think that a good answer is as short as possible, but not shorter. So, the one-liner is not in itself a problem, if it answers the question - you then might ask yourself, if the question was that interesting to begin with. If I would think that a short answer would not be a useful answer, I would normally ask the poster to elaborate the points that weren't clear to me.

I think there might be a lot of questions here in the form of "Would such and so be acceptable in the workplace", to which you might answer "Yes, because... " or "No, because", and have answered a useful question with a single sentence.

  • 1
    The asker clearly stated Are there any general rules other than knowing your own limits? and then a one liner answer basically states "don't go overboard", which is effectively the same thing. How does that help at all? It was a well elaborated on question that asks for a lot more than "tell me to not drink" – Rarity Apr 17 '12 at 20:19
  • I wasn't replying with your example in mind. Indeed I think your example was one of a bad one-liner, which would need some elaboration to be a good answer. Question: Would you regard that example as somewhat which would have been more acceptable as a comment? – Owe Jessen Apr 17 '12 at 20:24
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    It certainly works fine as a comment, but I think it needs to be elaborated on to serve as anything else – Rarity Apr 17 '12 at 20:27
  • Could the downvoters please leave a short comment to explain why they take offense with my answer? – Owe Jessen Apr 18 '12 at 13:29
  • 1
    @OweJessen Voting on Meta is different, people just disagree with your answer, nothing to worry about. – yannis Apr 19 '12 at 15:42
-6

I think downvoting is a bit extreme - you can always upvote answers that you feel are more complete.

It's worth noting that sometimes the best answers are short - brevity can help emphasise a point. As a corollary, not all long answers are good.

  • 1
    I find it fairly rare that an answer requiring any form of expertise is only one line long and requires absolutely no elaboration. It might be good advice, but it's almost certainly missing how/why, the meat of the answer that makes it useful instead of an opinion. – Rarity Apr 17 '12 at 20:11
  • Agreed - one liners generally are too short. My point is that brevity is not what makes them good or bad, it is their completeness. – John N Apr 17 '12 at 20:27
  • 1
    I just find one-liners to be a particularly eye-catching example of poor answer quality/depth/effort. Since we're a site that draws a lot of subjective stuff I don't think there's going to be many cases where a one-liner is actually appropriate, unlike Stack Overflow where the right answer might be "You missed a comma on line 3" – Rarity Apr 17 '12 at 20:29

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