We occasionally get low quality answers. By this I mean questions that have a very low score and possibly flags — this is a relatively objective measure. What should we do with such answers? The Stack Exchange platform does not provide a clear way to handle wrong answers, and it is up to our community to decide.

If the answer is rude, very short, or completely unrelated to the question, there is a clear reason to delete it right away. But when the answer is polite, elaborate, and related to the question, no clear policy seems to require removal even if the answer is wrong.

Here is a concrete and clear example of an answer like this with a score of -7 and no votes up.

There are a couple of options:

  1. Let the answers be. The low score indicates that it is bad and nothing else needs to be done. They can serve as warning examples of what happens to certain kinds of answers. Low quality answers are automatically grayed out.
  2. Delete the answers. Very low quality content is never a benefit of any kind to the site. This site should contain well curated content, and the worst contributions need to be removed. Something saying "this is bad" doesn't make it okay to have bad things.
  3. Something else?

There is no automatic deletion of answers as far as I know.

Whatever we choose to do, please vote down and flag when you see questions and answers you feel have a problem. That always helps, and this question is about making that feedback even more helpful and impactful.

1 Answer 1


My suggestion is option 2: let us delete these answers systematically.

To make it fair, we could do it as follows:

  • This manual deletion applies to answers that have score -3 or lower and have no votes up.
  • A comment is left recommending major revision within a couple of days, otherwise the answer will be deleted. (The user can still edit the post after deletion. Moderators can undelete it.)
  • If there is a substantial revision, we can let the answer be. If more flags or votes come, it can be deleted. A moderator can consider an edit to be insufficient, but those cases should be clear enough. If there is a new vote up, the answer can usually stay.
  • We can end up deleting something unjustly. Then the user in question can raise a flag or ask a meta question. This is the standard procedure anyway; we cannot refrain from action to avoid ever doing too much. Mistakes can be corrected and moderators are accountable.
  • I think the best option is often to write a completely new answer. I expect it to be rare for an answer entering this process to be salvageable.

This way the user has the possibility to learn and improve, and the decision is not based too much on a moderator's personal judgement.

  • 3
    Another reason for this: I often search through questions that have "no answers" (from the "unanswered" view), and this doesn't include questions which have a single answer even if it's deep in the negatives and flagged several times.
    – Draconis Mod
    Commented Feb 25, 2020 at 18:29
  • @Draconis Excellent point! I hadn't thought of that, but that's a strong point in favor of this.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta Mod
    Commented Feb 25, 2020 at 18:36
  • 1
    1. 24 hours is too short in my opinion; not everyone logs in every day, and keeping bad content up for a few days isn't dangerous. 2. The manual deletion is based on objective criteria. But who decides whether the revision is good enough?
    – b a
    Commented Feb 26, 2020 at 10:12
  • @Joonas llmavirta: When I have posted a Q; then, found the answer, an attempt to delete the Q fails. It is enshrined in a purple hue and is still legible. A Moderator (Cerberus) has to be asked to do the deleting. Why can't we delete our own stuff?
    – tony
    Commented Feb 26, 2020 at 13:54
  • @ba Thanks! I updated my suggestion. 1. I agree; I edited my suggestion to a vague "couple of days". It's not really all that crucial, as the user can edit after deletion or they can post a new answer. 2. That is more based on judgement, but a moderator can tell whether an edit is a small polish or a substantial improvement. I expect that most answers entering the process are unsalvageable. And we can always fix problems later on, so the system need not be (and will not be) perfect.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta Mod
    Commented Feb 26, 2020 at 14:03
  • @tony We can delete our own stuff. The thing is that advanced users can see deleted things. Posts with red background are deleted and are only visible to users with high enough reputation (and with a lower threshold the owner of the post). Deletion is mostly a matter of how things look to outsiders who pass by and read without contributing. Deleted questions will from the main page (and searches I think), but if an active user has the link, they can see it still. This is all by design. There should be a little banner "deleted by X" under a deleted post.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta Mod
    Commented Feb 26, 2020 at 14:15
  • @tony There's more to deletions. If you want, you can always ask a meta question. Support questions like that are precisely what meta is for!
    – Joonas Ilmavirta Mod
    Commented Feb 26, 2020 at 14:16
  • @Joonas llmavirta: Why leave deleted content, coloured-up, visible to anyone? When Cerberus deleted my Q., it disappeared--as requested. If I type "Latinstack" followed by the title, the Q reappears. It can be deleted easily. This is computers, anything posted sticks around somewhere. This explains why some intelligence officers are now going back to typewriters--who would have thought it? Thing is, if a contributor makes a fool of himself, he wants to remove the evidence from a public forum. This is not a big problem, hardly worth a new Q.
    – tony
    Commented Feb 28, 2020 at 10:58

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