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More and more I'm hearing "the problem is bad answers, not questions". I disagree that the questions are not partly at fault, but I'd love to see more answer moderation.

The problem is the community can't close answers for review. Moderators have special tools for answers; we can delete them or add most notices for things like [citation needed] or [more explanation needed], but it's not practical for mods to read all incoming answers and vet them like this.

If we had a formal policy where certain classes of answers were considered "bad" and there was a certain amount of community involvement, deleting bad answers could be a possibility, but I'm not sure how to make it work.

I'm thinking something like this:

  1. Comments + downvotes on an answer when it's bad indicate a post really needs improvement.
  2. Window for improvement
  3. If nothing's done, a moderator can be flagged to delete the post. Seeing a multi upvoted comment "This answer should be deleted because X", a moderator can actually feel confident in deleting the answer. Or we can just apply a post notice.
  4. The owner of the deleted answer can edit their deleted post (yes you can do that) and flag it for attention when/if they fix it or just post another, hopefully better, answer.

Is some sort of answer deleting/notice adding policy something we want as a community? Does anyone have any rough ideas for how it could work? This really needs to be something the community can do 100% until a moderator is flagged, and there needs to be some clear signal for moderators to know, for certain, this answer should or should not be deleted because of policy X.

If you have suggestions for such a policy please post an answer outlining some ideas. It doesn't have to be perfect, I just want to get the discussion started.

  • The trouble is, what you think is a bad answer is not necessarily what others think. Can you, quote some samples as part of your question? – Dipan Mehta May 15 '12 at 11:12
  • @DipanMehta users have expressed a general feeling of "bad answers" but the main, relatively easy to identify problem are "me too" answers that add nothing – Rarity May 15 '12 at 13:03
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    I've certainly seen questions where there are a lot of repetitive answers and I'd like to clean them up, but there usually aren't clear "totally redundant" answers, only "mostly redundant plus one new thing". The "mostly redundant" part should just go away, but that requires more heavy-handed editing than I'm comfortable proposing. People need to be more careful when posting but they aren't; given that, how should we respond? And how can we train people to do better? I think the site will fail if we don't fix this. – Monica Cellio May 15 '12 at 14:46
  • @MonicaCellio that's precisely why I'm asking :). I don't really mind heavy-handed editing, in the case you describe I think it would be best if you edited those posts as you suggest and leave a comment stating why. – Rarity May 15 '12 at 15:32
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UPDATE: This seems very related to: How do we define Constructive on this site?

If it's not clear if the moderator should be involved, why is the moderator involved? You're right that moderators can't be expected to read every incoming answer - isn't that why we have community tools such as voting, multiple answers, and flags? Flagging is also supposed to be anonymous, to avoid retribution or flame wars between the OP/answerer and the flagger. Adding any kind of policy that requires a comment to make it clear to the moderator removes anonymity. I know that many people will comment anyway, even though they lose their anonymity, but that's their choice and it shouldn't be a requirement.

I'm failing to see where the problem is, however, I realize that might be due to my lack of visibility into the problem. I know that when I drop into chat occasionally there are lots of discussions about quality. The thing is, without full visibility into everything, including the moderator tools, it's hard to see the evidence for your point because I'm not getting the same view of the site that you are, or things like how many actions you're required to take as a moderator, what percentage of questions/answers are problematic, etc. I'm not asking for moderator access, I'm just asking for more information so I can more accurately account for what's being discusses and claimed about the quality issues. I want to bring this stuff into the light so we can all see it more clearly.

Along those lines, can you cite a few examples of where you're hearing complaints about the answers and not the questions (questions on meta, comments on specific posts, chat logs, etc.), so that we can all see them, and collectively discuss them?

Workplace.SE is a small community, but it's a community. Guidance is needed, yes, but if you're feeling you're needing to do too much already as a moderator (not saying you are, I'm just guessing at an interpretation of why you posted this), maybe there's an imbalance somewhere. Can we help you find it and work on it as a community?

  • I asked this because many have expressed concern over duplicate and/or low quality answers and honestly downvotes aren't the best solution; they're very rarely used. I'm not so much feeling I need to do much, but wondering if the community feels this needs to be done as it's not really something moderators can do on their own. – Rarity May 14 '12 at 20:22
  • Ah, that makes sense. – jefflunt May 14 '12 at 21:37
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I think as per me, by the time we become mature site, there will be answers more than 10k - It is unreasonable to expect that we apply deduplication of all answers and also identify low quality ones, on liners, me too.

So definitely, Rarity's point being brought here is very crucial. First part is to have clear cut policy and then execute it.

The policy itself needs two part -

  1. Defining what we think is a poor answer

  2. Defining what should be community and or moderators action against violation.

In this point of view here is what i find important points -

1. Defining what we think is a poor answer

Here is a bullet point listing - more discussion can comeup.

a. Answers which has significant part redundant

b. Answers which are opinions - WITHOUT any backup experience or reference.

c. Answers which are based on any rant, racial bias or otherwise not welcome.

d. Answers which are misleading, citing wrong-irrelevant fact or doesn't answer OP's question at all.

e. spam.

There can be other classes or different way - but i was hoping we should keep such definitions finite and well defined.

2. Policy on how to handle this

In terms of classifying - community should do the first surveillance.

a. We must communicate to the Answerer which can be best done by a comment.
b. Downvote, if you think things are too bad. c. And flag for moderator if this is completely unacceptable.

A critical point to understand is that many elements will be subjective or there will be difference of opinion. Use chat, comments to express yourself as much as possible.

  • Good points, your first point is why I want to nip this in the bud; if we can create a culture of no (unhelpful) duplication it can do a lot more good than any amount of editing or downvoting posts ever could. – Rarity May 16 '12 at 13:56

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