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We sometimes get answers that are just wrong: it might be crackpot theories in etymology, stating that words mean something other than they do, being irrelevant to the question, failing to compose a grammatical sentence, or something else. Examples of such questions can be easily found among recent answers with score -2 or lower.

An individual wrong answer is not a big deal. Others can comment and the user can edit or delete. Or it can be voted down and deleted as a low quality answer.

Such answers become a bigger issue if there is a pattern of systematic low quality answers and their author is unresponsive or hostile towards comments. We have had some cases of this over the years, and it would be useful for us moderators to know how you would prefer to see it handled.

What is your preference?

The options on the table include:

  • Do nothing more than we do now.
  • Delete the answers with a lower threshold.
  • Contact the user privately and guide them to write better-received answers. (Failure to follow such guidance might lead to a temporary suspension.)
  • Add notices to the answers. (The relevant notice types are "Needs citation" and "Needs detailed answers".)
  • More comments from moderators.
  • Something else.

There are some automatic processes related to this. Questions with a low score and no answers are deleted automatically, but answers are not (whence the earlier meta discussion). If a user posts too many too bad answers (measured by score and deletion), they get an automatic answer ban. There is a similar but separate ban for questions, but the exact criteria are not public.


If you see any low quality answers, please vote down, leave a comment, vote to delete, and flag as appropriate. Your repeated feedback really is very valuable in guiding moderator work.

1 Answer 1

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Since the platform has a mechanism in place to mitigate a person repeatedly posting bad answers, I like this approach:

  1. Down-voting to ensure that said mechanism will be used when applicable.
  2. Commentary from moderators that includes direct feedback on what can be done to improve the answer and increase the votes.
  3. Answers that remain below a specified threshold of downvotes should be deleted.
  4. For persons who are hostile in response to this public feedback, a private message from moderators on improving tone and answers.
  5. If there are no signs of improvement after private and public coaching, and the user is still contributing unhelpful comments/questions after a temporary answer ban we should then consider a temporary suspension.
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  • @Joonas llmavirta: Is it a certain contributor who has stimulated this question? If it is he, of whom I am thinking, he has moderated his tone; sweetened his disposition; now, consistently scoring positive upvotes. I'd say a bit peer-group "pressure" works wonders, with anyone who wants to be a part of this. Adam's answer appears to cover all bets.
    – tony
    Sep 24 at 17:09
  • 1
    @Adam Thanks! This sounds very reasonable to me. The way I read this, the changes you advocate are (1) more moderator comments, (2) private coaching, and (3) disciplinary action, in that order. // One technical note: Bans are fully automatic, suspensions are fully manual.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta Mod
    Sep 24 at 17:37
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    We have a low tolerance for hostility, and issues of that nature we try to deal with quickly but without unnecessary force. Everyone needs to be given a proper chance to discuss the matter and improve their behaviour before being kicked out, especially if the user history has a positive side to it, too. We'd rather give one chance too many than one too few. // Once hostility has been reduced, the problem with the existence of the wrong answers remains, and that we didn't have an equally clear solution to.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta Mod
    Sep 24 at 17:38
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    @tony Everyone is free to guess what inspired this question, but we are really looking for a general approach more than a one-time solution. As I wrote to Adam above, we deal with hostility with high priority and that has always been quite effective. // I don't think that all prolific users really want to socially belong here, and some can be impervious to peer pressure. But nonetheless everyone should continue to show their opinion through votes and other means.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta Mod
    Sep 24 at 17:40
  • @tony I'll second Joonas' statement. This isn't directly about any particular user. This actually had been raised before and discussed intermittently for a while now.
    – cmw Mod
    Sep 24 at 18:47

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