When working through the Low Quality Post queue, I will come across answers to questions that strike me as simply "not good" - they're too short, don't support the point, or something like that, but they are answers to the question. What criteria distinguishes posts that deserve a down-vote an answer as opposed to when one should be deleted entirely?

  • Good question. You can't make it general, but as a guideline I often use: "If it fits in a comment, it probably should be a comment". See for example this answer. Although it's strictly an answer to the question as stated in the title, it is not an answer to the body of the question; and it doesn't add anything to the discussion but that which anyone could add after thinking for half a minute.
    – user2953
    Jun 8 '15 at 22:32
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    I think it would be great to get some clarity on this in order to bring up the quality of the site. This may relate to the use of sources and some other things. (It's challenging as a moderator because we have dictatorial power to delete things).
    – virmaior
    Jun 9 '15 at 5:10

Answers should help the asker.

If someone asks "blah blah ... I would say x y z, am I right?", an answer "Yes" would technically answer the question, but it doesn't really help the asker. You want to teach him in such a way that he does not have to check everything here, and can be independent.

If an answer is too thin to really help someone, but potentially useful, I would leave a comment with a request for elaboration and come back in a day. If nothing changed, flag it for turning it into a comment or removing it. If people are not willing to improve their posts, we can't do much with them.

If an answer makes unsupported claims that cannot be considered generally accepted, I would do the same. It would make a useful answer if it would be improved - but if the poster refuses to improve his post, it's nevertheless useless.

If a user continues to post low quality posts and repeatedly refuses to improve the quality of his posts, he should be banned from posting.

If an answer is incorrect, but would be fine if it were correct, just downvote it. Flags are not meant to be used for technical inaccuracies.

Note: this is the main usage guide for Low Quality flagging.

A flag for low quality means this post, and possibly this user, are totally stinking up the joint and need to be ejected from the premises ASAP.

Since 2011 it may have changed a bit though. Personally I think that when an answer is 'regularly bad' and the asker is not willing to improve, the post is 'totally stinking up the joint'. But there is always room for interpretation. That's why flag review is a privilege, only available for users fairly familiar with the system.

  • I understand this to state "incorrect" => downvote; "unsupported claims that are not fixed" => remove. I don't understand why "unsupported claims" (assume that they would address the question -- spurious comments/discussion are a separate matter) are treated more harshly than "incorrect claims".
    – Dave
    Jun 10 '15 at 16:28
  • @Dave that's a good point. As you quoted in your answer, for incorrect answers these are the guidelines. I don't think these are very good guidelines, I think answers that are clearly incorrect should be removed. This is just to not deviate too much from the standards. In any case, it doesn't matter much if a post is heavily downvoted and grayed out, or removed.
    – user2953
    Jun 10 '15 at 16:30
  • Right, this response would be more self-consistent (imho) if you advocated for flagging/removal of answers with substantive errors in them.
    – Dave
    Jun 10 '15 at 16:32
  • Yes, well, I would, but it's just not going to happen.
    – user2953
    Jun 10 '15 at 20:39

This is a good question and it is important to clear up what everything means with regard to low-quality/deletion/voting.

I can't say how things are supposed to be or even how things ought to be, but I can say how I have been operating as a moderator on this site for several years:

  1. If an answer is useful/helpful in some way, upvote it.
  2. If an answer is not useful or helpful in that it would appear grossly unintelligble to the lay philosophy student, downvote it and prompt the author to revise it. If it is not revised, after a time it will be a candidate for deletion.
  3. If an answer is neither clearly helpful nor unhelpful in that it makes otherwise deductively valid but unsupported claims which cannot be verified, or, is simply too short of an explanation where more is sorely needed, or, is about a rapidly changing event, I would (if I were not a moderator) flag it as low quality. Moderators see this flag and can add the appropriate post notice.

In other words, I only delete answers which:

  • are obviously spam

  • are rude/abusive and the author does not appear to be willing to remove the violating sections

  • are not actually answers to the question (if still useful, I will usually convert to a comment instead)

The low-quality flag in my mind is thus the flag used for everything that does not fit in the above categories but still warrants moderator attention. I.E.:

  • for answers which make claims that are not readily known to anyone with bachelor-level philosophy knowledge or are not supported through results returned from web searches

  • for answers which may be technically correct but have overly short explanations


From overall SE Meta:

What are the criteria for deletion?

For questions, a post that no longer adds anything to the site should be deleted. Basically, this includes most closed questions that cannot be improved and reopened. However, it may be beneficial to keep duplicates to aid future users in finding the canonical question.

For answers, any post that is not an answer (should be a comment, doesn't answer the question, etc.) should be deleted. Answers that are wrong or that dispense poor advice should be downvoted, not deleted.

I interpret this as: if it is an answer keep it, and (optionally) downvote or comment for further elaboration, and only delete "non-answers".

  • But it's important to also note that if it is a question, then by these criteria, we should delete ones that "no longer add anything to the site". For instance, questions that are too parochial to have repeated value.
    – virmaior
    Jun 9 '15 at 23:01

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