Meta Stack Exchange is where users like you discuss bugs, features, and support issues that affect the software powering all 157 Stack Exchange communities.

What is meta?
Here's how it works:
  1. Any Stack Exchange user can ask a question
  2. The community provides support, votes on ideas, and reports bugs
  3. Your voice helps shape the way Stack Exchange operates

I enjoy using the review section helping to moderate Stack Overflow, but I'm not sure what to do with answers that suggest trying something.

I think this community needs diplomacy, and answers that just say "try this" or "try that" do not fit what SO needs.

Should we flag answers that contain only suggestions like

printf "%s\n" -n

or not?

share|improve this question
And we like you helping us! – casperOne Jan 20 '12 at 15:11
If it's a specific answer to a specific question, I don't see anything wrong with having a code-only answer speak for itself. – John Jan 20 '12 at 20:04
up vote 7 down vote accepted

Are you basically just referring to answers which are nothing more than a code snippet or a simple command? Or even just a single link to another site/article/etc. with no explanation or context?

Indeed, these are bad answers. They may solve the problem for the OP. They may help people in general. And for these things, they are appreciated. But they should be improved.

You have a few options, which are not mutually exclusive:

  1. Down-vote. If you think it's a bad answer, down-voting is the immediate way to address it. That's why the voting system exists. If the user who posted the answer is getting down-votes, he might realize that it's time to come back and fix it. Indeed, this happened to me recently, and the system worked. I got lazy in an answer, it was down-voted (with a helpful comment explaining why), I fixed it (and left a comment to indicate that), and the down-vote was removed.
  2. Leave a comment. This happens a lot on Stack Overflow. A user will post a lazy answer and someone will leave a comment saying something like, "Maybe you can explain a little bit about what this means or why it works?" Sometimes the answer gets fixed, sometimes it doesn't.
  3. Fix the answer. You can edit the answer yourself. All content posted here belongs to the community, not to the person who originally posted it. If you can improve an answer, please do so. (The community and/or moderators can always reject edits, roll back edits, lock posts, etc.) It often feels a little awkward to edit someone else's answer, but it shouldn't. It's perfectly acceptable behavior.
  4. Flag for moderator attention. If the content is so bad, if it's unfixable, if you have reason to believe that it simply just doesn't belong here, flag it. You can always use the "other" flag reason and indicate to the moderator team why you think the answer should just be removed. (Note that this doesn't necessarily apply to incorrect answers, since moderators can't be expected to be experts in every subject, but just to bad answers.)
  5. Answer it yourself. You can always post a "competing" answer. This is especially applicable if, as @RobHruska points out in a comment below, an edit to the existing answer is rejected. Don't "poach" the existing answer, of course. But if you can reasonably post similar content but include more information about that content, then do so. Ideally, over time your better answer should bubble to the top and the worse (albeit potentially correct) answer should sink to the bottom.
share|improve this answer
I'm not sure if #3 would work well. A lot of "fixing" edits to answers get rejected as Too Radical, with the alternative suggestion being to simply answer the question oneself with the correct and/or improved answer. – Rob Hruska Jan 20 '12 at 14:53
@RobHruska: Good point. Editing answers is a touchy subject, and I think that's something we need to overcome as a community. Stack Exchange makes it clear that answers are editable for the sake of improving them. But the community has a hard time adopting that model. I'll modify my answer to indicate this... – David Jan 20 '12 at 15:11
Yeah, I'm always rather hesitant when rejecting/approving edits because I don't know where they fall within the realm of community approval. Sometimes two votes seems too few. More often than not, I just don't act on the suggestion and hope someone more confident comes along and acts. – Rob Hruska Jan 20 '12 at 15:15
Feel free to poach -- with attribution. Give a link to the answer that you're copying from, copy, paste, and do better. I've even upvoted answers given by people who started with my content if they do a better job describing the solution or improving upon it. :) – sarnold Jan 21 '12 at 0:41

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .