It's apparently agreed that we need a "back it up" style expectation of quality but support for actually placing it in the FAQ was very meh.

The general suggestion so far has been to gauge expertise by reputation and use up/downvotes to confirm the validity of posts...but honestly that hasn't been working. People pile on the same exact answer and get upvotes. People state the obvious and get upvotes. People contribute nothing of worth to the question but get "I agree with this" upvotes.

In order for this site to be useful it's very important that answers are more than just noise/piling on, and that upvotes mean more than "Sure, I agree with that".

How can we enforce a quality standard for answers if we're against putting it in the FAQ? I'm not seeing this unspoken quality standard being enforced through voting at all and I'm rarely seeing it enforced via comments on answers.

  • Related discussion (yes, it's pretty much a discussion) on Programmers Meta: Do significant claims require evidence?
    – Nicole
    Apr 30, 2012 at 20:05
  • @NickC Although that's a great discussion, I think we should avoid looking at ProgSE for examples. Don't get me wrong, you are a regular there and you probably know how much hopelessly in love I am with the site, but you also know that the scope change left a permanent scar, and that's echoed in several Meta discussions. Let's look elsewhere for examples, and fallback to ProgSE when we don't find any better.
    – yannis
    May 1, 2012 at 0:19
  • @Yannis Fair enough. Though, I'm not really suggesting following any advice anywhere else -- I just think the discussion points have relevance.
    – Nicole
    May 1, 2012 at 3:39

3 Answers 3


Without adding to the FAQ?

  • Really get the community to downvote low-quality answers. This can't happen on its own. Fortunately I think the meta community is large enough that if we make a concerted effort to encourage adding a comment when downvoting then we can start to make a difference.
  • Discourage the bad answers in the first place. The Stack Exchange software is doing nearly all it can do already — short of drastic changes to quality-detection or new filtering systems that could hinder the site's mission.

    The key to this part is the questions. I think the discussions currently taking place on chat and meta are key to solving this part of the problem. I don't think it's easy.

At a core: questions need to set clear criteria for good answers, and it needs to be more than "everyone with an opinion please share it.". Right now, too many questions don't do this — we average 4.1 answers per question. Let's keep focusing on this until we have a good clear definition of what constitutes a good subjective question. I'm not saying what we have now is bad, but I am saying they are not sufficient for this site. There is too much subjectiveness in the current subjective guidelines, so to speak.

As always, use your votes and close votes. I may not be right on every question I choose to close or not close, but that's why it takes more than one — it's a collaborative effort.

Remember, close votes are not only helpful to stop the bad answers from piling up or to block a discussion, but also as a signal that something can be improved. I will often take close votes from others as a sign that I should look more closely at the question and see if I can improve it.

  • I don't think it's easy. That's the key, there's no easy way out. At one hand the site is naturally attractive to soft questions at the other we want quality answers, as light on opinion as possible. And your last paragraph is exactly what newer members fail to understand and we should re-iterate every chance we get: Close and down votes are just a part of the peer review system, there's nothing inherently wrong with them and sometimes a close / down vote can be the nicest thing you can do, if it does indeed get people to look closely to a question they might otherwise miss.
    – yannis
    May 1, 2012 at 0:24

I do not feel that a back-it-up requirement will stop our avalanches of me-too answers: It is easy enough to add an anecdote or find a fact to back up every me-too answer the pirated software question garnered, none of which changes the fact that the question should have been answered once, with a solid and resounding "NO". Backed up or not the additional pile-on/me-too answers add zero benefit to the question.

The solution IMHO is to downvote the worthless answers (and when we have mods, let them be cast into the abyss of deleted items). Deny people their precious reputation points for this sort of tripe, and when they realize they can't win "the game" by posting it they'll stop.

We are a small site. Our question volume is low. Our users (all of us) MUST exercise a little tiny bit of self-control and not jump onto every question in a rush to post an answer.
Read what's there. If what you want to say has been said, upvote. If you have something to add, edit or comment. Don't pile on like mindless animals - It helps no one, and clutters the site.

  • Note I think that a back-it-up requirement may have merit for other reasons, I just don't think it's the right solution to this problem.
    – voretaq7
    Apr 30, 2012 at 20:42

My Opinion is:
Good questions will bring good answers. We do not need to fix the answers we need to fix the questions. Teach a man to fish and all that (cause girls cant fish :)(that is a joke for those of you who have had a humorectimy)

Back it up is a horrible way to go so long as the rule includes:

Please note that opinions shared here should be backed up by experiences that happened to you personally

Please note I paraphrased this to how too many of our users will read this:

Please note that opinions shared here should be backed up either with a reference, or experiences that happened to you personally.

This one time at band camp I build a spaceship and went to mars. That means I know how to answer your question...

That makes things worse not better.

I hate pointing out problems with out providing a solution but this is not a solution it is just going to build onto the snowball.

  • 1
    Please actually explain your objection to this rule, it seems to have nothing to do with it's intent or intended enforcement. Expecting people to actually state why they believe X is effective is the exact opposite of "I am qualified to answer all questions ever". I want to know why this wouldn't work... back it up.
    – Rarity
    Apr 30, 2012 at 19:49
  • 1
    I get the intent. My problem is that adding an anecdote does not help solve our quality issue it makes it worse and adds to the noise because now everyone with an anecdote feels the need to chime in with theirs Apr 30, 2012 at 19:51
  • What's stopping them from doing exactly that now? Because people are. How on earth would this encourage that behavior?
    – Rarity
    Apr 30, 2012 at 19:52
  • If we want to lock it down like skeptics and require references to all claims then it can work, though I am not in favor of that. Anecdotal evidence is not a way to make this better. Apr 30, 2012 at 19:58
  • You're either going to have facts backed up by references or opinions backed up by anecdotes. I don't see another option.
    – Jacob G
    Apr 30, 2012 at 20:19
  • 3
    Solid anecdotal evidence can be OK: "My company did this, it backfired and all their talent left. I would suggest doing this other thing instead" could be a good answer to some question. The problem you're trying to solve is worthless me-too answers, which can only be solved by downvoting them away (or once we have mods, blasting them into the pit of deletion). It's a separate issue from people posting completely unsubstantiated answers.
    – voretaq7
    Apr 30, 2012 at 20:23
  • @JacobG We can restrict answers to Facts and Authorative opinions shared by experts as posted on the interwebs. Which is only slightly better than allowing anecdotes but we then just become a human powered google reinterpreter. Apr 30, 2012 at 21:02
  • @voretaq7 - I hear the same thing said about Agile regularly. The problem is not that the attempted solution was Agile it was the implementation. That is my big problem with anecdotes. We take an experience, drawn out our own opinion of what the problem was, then cite that as fact. We usually slant it in a way that ignores the things that we personally did wrong and paint an ugly picture of our rival in the process. Apr 30, 2012 at 22:16

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