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I frequently see answers from high rep users (over 10K) that, well, "aren't great". Symptoms may include:

  • Single line of code answer without an explanation
  • Doesn't address the entire question (partial answer)
  • Doesn't point out any of the multiple issues in OP's original code
  • Leaves in original mistakes from OP's code
  • Sloppy coding or lazy posting style
  • Clarifies post in comments rather than edits
  • Less than awesome coding practices
  • Sub-par (but working) solutions

An answer can show all these signs and still be "correct", deserving of upvotes even. However, I think that seeing these type of posts from experienced SO users is quite disappointing when I suspect they can do much better.

I've been known to downvote this material sometimes, knowing that the poster is capable of a much better (or at least less crappy) answer. The difference is: I might not do the same if the post was written by a low rep user - I just expect more from the 10K+ crowd.

Is it fair to expect better quality content from seasoned users? Should this be taken into consideration when voting or leaving comments?

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Some examples would help. In my experience, well-written questions, where the OP put some thought and effort into them, generally have a higher likelihood of attracting well-written answers. – Robert Harvey Jan 13 '12 at 16:31
I know, I wish I came prepared with examples but it's more the kind of thing that you notice as you go along, but doesn't really stand out. The example that prompted me: – Wesley Murch Jan 13 '12 at 16:32
I was kind of expecting this to pop up :) – BoltClock's a Unicorn Jan 13 '12 at 16:45
Sub-question for thought: Do new users/non-members/googlers assume that posts by high-rep users are more authoritative/correct? The vote count should be the determining factor, but what about when votes are equal or close to equal, or when the only answer is by a high rep user? – Wesley Murch Jan 13 '12 at 16:51
@Madmartigan I suspect concern for what you say there is one reason why our signature box is at the bottom of our posts, instead of at the top (as is more typical with 'forums'), and the vote indicator is at the top. – Andrew Barber Jan 13 '12 at 16:54
Oh thank god - that wasn't my answer.... – Adam Rackis Jan 13 '12 at 16:55
These people have been referred to in some circles as "rep-whores". – casperOne Jan 14 '12 at 3:03
Didn't feel like bumping the post, but here's another example: – Wesley Murch Jan 18 '12 at 14:49
Another: – Wesley Murch Jan 20 '12 at 16:47

Sadly, I don't think this is a valid expectation. This the result of reputation being a metric that kinda sorta measures technical skill and kinda sorta measures experience with using the site but doesn't guarantee strength in either.

In general, I think the "act based on the quality of the post, not the author" rule should always apply. However, I must admit I have left a handful of "you should know better than to do this by 10k" and "+1 for learning to use the site correctly" comments over the years.

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Is it fair to expect better quality content from experienced users, yes. Will you get it? Ehhh...

Should you down vote? The standard your reasons for voting are always your own disclaimer applies here, but in my humble opinion, no. I think such an answer tends not to be actively "unhelpful", as the down vote would generally suggest.

As far as commenting to that effect; I think that would tend just to generate noise, because people might usually not appreciate being told, "you just phoned it in, didn't you?"

My 'solution' in such a case (and I know I've done this) is to withhold an up vote to the offender, and perhaps issue up votes to someone else, instead.

And yes; I have up voted 'simpler' answers by new users, when the answer is good otherwise. If appropriate, I try also to encourage them to flesh out the answer; something to the effect of:

Good answer. Could you also share a little bit of information on why this works as you describe, to help those who might be interested?

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Forgive my ignorance, but what does the term "you just phoned it in, didn't you?" mean? Otherwise, I think I agree on all points. I wouldn't downvote an effortless correct post into a negative or zero score, but I have DV'd them for having "too many upvotes" even though I know I know that's probably not what I'm supposed to do. Likewise, I've given out upvotes to posts based on the fact that a user is new, where I normally wouldn't have voted at all. – Wesley Murch Jan 13 '12 at 17:27
@MadMartigan It's a phrase that suggests not expending appropriate effort on something. – Andrew Barber Jan 13 '12 at 17:34
Good answer, bar the +1 augmentation in comments, ugh! There should be an auto-strip feature request to rip out those awful things, like redundant @-user prefixes. – Grant Thomas Jan 17 '12 at 11:20
@Mr.Disappointment I feel you there, generally. When I think about it, it's really not even necessary as I've used it, even if the point is to take 'credit' for being the one who up voted: The words "good answer" get the point across. I think I'm going to edit my answer to remove that, lest I encourage it. – Andrew Barber Jan 17 '12 at 13:48
+1 I agree with your edit. – Wesley Murch Jan 17 '12 at 13:56
@Madmartigan Tha... wait a second! I see what you did there! :P – Andrew Barber Jan 17 '12 at 14:01

"I resemble that remark"

I don't always have time for a great answer. I will often provide a brief answer, though usually as a comment, with the expectation that someone with more available time will produce a more-thorough answer.

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So it is merely an issue of how much time you have available? If you haven't got the time to post what you feel is a complete answer, why not let someone else do it? – Wesley Murch Jan 13 '12 at 16:43
Or how much of <your expletive here> I have left to give. – BoltClock's a Unicorn Jan 13 '12 at 16:44
By posting a comment or incomplete answer, how do I prevent someone else from providing a more complete answer? – John Saunders Jan 13 '12 at 17:05
You aren't "preventing" a better answer, but you are diluting the overall quality by doing so. Note that I'm not saying your answer should be perfect, just saying that perhaps "with great knowledge comes great responsibility". – Wesley Murch Jan 13 '12 at 17:05
I'm not diluting anything. I never provide such a brief answer when there are already better answers posted. – John Saunders Jan 13 '12 at 17:09
@JohnSaunders: Please note that the post is not about you in particular (at all, really). It's a general discussion. In 90% of cases, I really doubt it's an issue of not having enough time - many higher rep users spend loads of time on SO. – Wesley Murch Jan 13 '12 at 17:10
I'm aware that it's general - and that you should have provided more examples. My answer was about how I sometimes provide answers that I consider too brief or incomplete, and your comment used the term "diluting". – John Saunders Jan 13 '12 at 17:12
I'm just not buying the argument that not having enough time to provide a quality answer warrants posting an incomplete or lazy one, unless we're talking about a very difficult question where that's the best you can offer. Sorry I didn't have examples, it would have taken me weeks to accumulate them. FWIW, I'm not necessarily or only talking about brevity. A post can be brief and high-quality at the same time. – Wesley Murch Jan 13 '12 at 17:16
Then I suggest you vote with your votes instead of complaining on [meta] – John Saunders Jan 13 '12 at 17:34
Sure enough, thanks for the input John. Sorry you seem to be offended. – Wesley Murch Jan 13 '12 at 17:37
I'm not offended at all. I'm just in a hurry. – John Saunders Jan 13 '12 at 17:47

I think the system is mostly working as intended:

A high-rep user garnered 0 upvotes and no accepted mark with one pretty poor, too short, answer:

The other answers on that question got an aggregate of 14 upvotes and one answer got the accepted mark. That's 155 points doled out among the answerers and none of it to the high-rep user with the poor answer.

The same high-rep user posted another short answer to a different question:

He's got the most up-votes and a comment from the questioner that his answer was very helpful. (It was -- it was a direct link to what she needed. I gave it an upvote.) The directness of it is in many ways very eloquent despite being short and giving no examples.

In both cases The Right Thing happened -- the more useful answers are better rewarded.

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Ah gawd no. Example two is not an answer. That doesn't even qualify as comment. And I don't care: flagged. Just because we don't have a "general reference" closevote reason yet or we can't force everyone to look up duplicates doesn't legitimize single-word link-only posts. And the comment by the question asker is certainly directed at the manual, not the lmgtfy-style post. This isn't what I want to see SO become; that just paves the way for it to derail into a bulletin board. – mario Jan 14 '12 at 3:56


They're just people, and people are only so good.

Rep is a memory of how people on the site have voted for your answers. It doesn't mean you know everything and are an Assembly language GOD.

Don't consider/look at people's rep when you are rating their answers. An answer is an answer, and if it isn't good, then vote it down.

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Rep is also a measure of how familiar you are with the site, this is why I suggest that more invested users be held to a higher standard (e.g. not posting link-only answers), but you are right: vote based on content, not context. – Wesley Murch Jan 20 '12 at 17:24

I see the point you're trying to make, and I'd agree that the example answer you post is a poor answer, but I'd say three things spring to mind for an immediate reply -

We don't want poor answers to prosper, regardless of who wrote them. You should absolutely down-vote these answers.

However... I'm uncomfortable with the idea that we should "expect" anything from site users. People can use the site as they like, within certain guidelines, and its up to the community at large to act if their use is unacceptable. Don't like an answer? Edit it or down-vote it.

Incomplete answers are a grey area. If I can provide a great answer for 80% of an unanswered question then should I do so and hope someone else can answer the remaining 20% or should I leave the question unanswered?

Real world example: I answer some security questions on Server Fault. If someone asks "How do I secure X and what tools do people use to attack X anyway?", I'd say it was still worth answering if I can provide a great answer to the first part of that question but don't have a laundry list of the current 'X hacking tools' du jour to hand.

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