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I enjoy finding answers that are "not an answer" (should be a comment or deleted completely). I just had a quick question about whether or not users should be penalized for "not an answer" answers. Here's a scenario:

  • User posts comment as answer.
  • Answer is found quickly enough that no downvotes have been applied (even if they have been, the answer is about to be deleted, so the user will get that reputation back, correct?)
  • Answer is deleted by a moderator

Unless I'm mistaken about reputation being restored on deleted answers, the answerer really hasn't been penalized.

Usually the way we guide users away from providing unhelpful or incorrect answers is to downvote them. Theoretically, this corrects that behavior and the user learns what a good answer is.

Since in the case of a "not an answer" answer no reputation is lost, what hope is there for training users to make these answers comments? Should there be an inherent reputation loss associated with a moderator deleting an answer?

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6  
I always thought it was odd how if your post is bad enough, you're not penalized. –  John Nov 26 '11 at 18:58
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How often do the posters of non-answers actually have reputation to lose? –  Grace Note Nov 27 '11 at 18:42

2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

In most cases where I flag "not an answer", it's really a comment or more likely another question being asked. We shouldn't be penalizing people for not knowing how to use the site (or how the site works). That is what warnings and/or bans are for. Removing a person's reputation just because they posted something as an answer that should be a question, etc goes against the goal of the site. We'd rather the person just learn how to use the site properly and gain reputation. Removing the answer is an effective way to "clean the slate" and allow the user to re-post it as a comment or new question without any harm done to the user.

The only flag that really fits into this question is the spam flag, where users are just advertising and not attempting to contribute anything to the community. Even the "very low quality" flag is just a way to help users. That jumbled mess of an answer could very well be a very good answer if it was properly formatted and worded in a way that it would actually be understandable.

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I agree that there's no need to remove rep, but it should be noted that among the things that rep is meant to measure (or at least be a proxy for) are familiarity with the site and understanding of its workings. This suggestion is not as unreasonable on its face as you seem to imply. –  Josh Caswell Nov 26 '11 at 20:45
    
Also, I believe that your understanding of the VLQ flag is flawed. See meta.stackexchange.com/questions/111592/… –  Josh Caswell Nov 26 '11 at 20:46
    
@John: Not at all, I've only flagged a couple of posts as very low quality in my time, and those posts were so malformed that no one could understand what the user meant to even attempt editing it. However, the user knows what they meant and they could very well rewrite it into a fabulous answer. –  animuson Nov 26 '11 at 20:54

Since in the case of a "not an answer" answer no reputation is lost, what hope is there for training users to make these answers comments? Should there be an inherent reputation loss associated with a moderator deleting an answer?

If I recall correctly, when users write answers that are then deleted, they are penalized because after X deleted answers they cannot write answers anymore, until they don't get up-votes on their questions.
There isn't a reputation loss, but the penalization is quite effective.

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I've never heard this before (not that I don't believe it), but it is reassuring. I wonder what X is equal to... –  ɹǝʞɐʇıɥʍ ʍǝɹpuɐ Nov 27 '11 at 0:45

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