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I had an exchange with a user regarding an answer they posted, specifically this one. It's one of my first such discussions and I don't feel it went well. I'm wondering how I could respond differently in future.

The answer does touch on the problem faced by the asker, but the specifics of the code are incorrect. As stated it would cause a similar exception in the asker's code to the one they had asked about, and because of this I down-voted the answer. Was this harsh?

From that point a discussion developed - I tried to point out what (in my opinion) was wrong with the answer, while the answerer responded with their own opinions on why it didn't matter. Should I have walked away from that discussion earlier?

With hindsight I realise I could have edited the answer to correct the error once I saw it, but at that point it would have already been a duplicate of existing answers so I didn't see the point. Obvious conflict of interest: one of the answers was mine.

Summary of questions:

  1. Was my initial downvote too harsh?
  2. Should I have walked away from the resulting discussion earlier?
  3. Should I have edited the answer, even if it created a duplicate of other answers?
  4. What else could I have done to help the answerer create better answers in future?
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You just didn't call Stack Exchange a forum, right? – Time Traveling Bobby Mar 28 '12 at 13:54
@Bobby - forum, 1.c - A medium for open discussion or voicing of ideas, such as a newspaper, a radio or television program, or a website. – Oded Mar 28 '12 at 13:58
I meant forum in a generic sense, but fair point. :) Fixed. – raveturned Mar 28 '12 at 13:59
I agree with your downvote. That just looks like somebody clumsily trying to cover his mistake. (It's not a bug, it's a feature!) Also, I think such an edit would be a "radical change", especially given the way he reacted in saying it was right. – Ryan O'Hara Mar 28 '12 at 13:59
@Oded: Stack Exchange is no place for discussions, the only exceptions are the Metas, and those try hard not to discuss too much. And if you'd now excuse me, I need to get rid of the [discussion] tag before you use it against me. *starts.retagging.questions* – Time Traveling Bobby Mar 28 '12 at 14:05
@Bobby - Chat is, just possibly a GREAT place for discussions. – cdeszaq Mar 28 '12 at 14:07
@cdeszaq: Uh, I always tend to forget about chat...not sure why. – Time Traveling Bobby Mar 28 '12 at 14:09
So, today's takeaway lesson: SE chat is a forum – BoltClock's a Unicorn Mar 28 '12 at 14:36
The only mistake you made was in admitting that you downvoted the answer. In the comments, just focus on the problems with the answer and/or why it doesn't work for you. Downvotes are anonymous for a reason. He has no way of knowing that you downvoted his answer unless you admit it. Even if he decides to accuse you of it, just ignore the accusation and move on. – Cody Gray Mar 28 '12 at 16:41
up vote 12 down vote accepted
  1. A downvote on an answer with incorrect information is never harsh nor is it unwarranted. Votes are intended to help future users find correct information quickly. As such it's important to downvote incorrect information so that people can distinguish it from correct information.
  2. You could have. Your first comment was all that was really needed. I don't know that the rest of the thread was as bad as you think, but it wasn't really needed.
  3. My opinion: don't edit answers to change their sense. Fix typos, add an example, format, yes. Change it from incorrect to correct, no.
  4. I thought you handled it pretty well.
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Clear and concise. Thank you. :) – raveturned Mar 29 '12 at 8:41

Was my initial downvote too harsh?

I don't think it was harsh. I think that answer is not helpful, as it suggests using new System.Diagnostics.ProcessStartInfo("net user" ) to somebody who tried new System.Diagnostics.ProcessStartInfo("net user " + id + " /domain") and got an exception.
Not helpful answers are down-voted, as the tooltip for the down-vote button says.

Should I have walked away from the resulting discussion earlier?

You didn't write many comments; you just wrote three of them, and you stopped.

Should I have edited the answer, even if it created a duplicate of other answers?

If you edited the answer to make it correct, it would have been a too radical change. You should not change an answer to say something the OP didn't say. It is fine to add links to relevant resources, though.

What else could I have done to help the answerer create better answers in future?

You said why the answer was not correct. I don't think you should have done more, especially when the OP doesn't seem to listen to what you are telling him.

share|improve this answer
  1. The title for the downvote link is "this answer is not useful". A wrong answer (which it is in this circumstance) is not useful. Downvote away.

  2. I would have walked away after his first reply. You'd made your point that his code was wrong, and instead of holding his hands up and admitting it, he started criticising your attempt to help him and being an arse. Whatever... some people can't be helped. You'd done your bit and the conversation stream is there for the public to read and him to get embarassed over... walk away.

  3. No. You couldn't have edited that answer in that way without it being a "Radical Change: This edit changes too much in the original post; the original meaning or intent of the post would be lost."

  4. Nothing. It appears he can't take constructive/ friendly criticism.

share|improve this answer

You done well by coming here to Meta - that's indeed the place for such debates.

I'll reply to the summary of questions:

Was my initial downvote too harsh?

Not at all. There's no such thing "too harsh" for downvote. You think post is poor quality or incorrect? It's your full right to downvote it - that's exactly the purpose of downvote.

Should I have walked away from the resulting discussion earlier?

Yes, it would have saved some tears. You done the right thing by explaining why you downvoted, but there you should have stopped - whether the post author accepts it (and edit/delete his post as result) or not is his problem, and his alone.

Should I have edited the answer, even if it created a duplicate of other answers?

NO - absolutely not. Putting words in other people mouth is considered very rude in my opinion, even in place like Stack Overflow that allows everyone to edit everything - it's meant to improve formatting or fix grammar mistakes, when it comes to code you should leave that to the author.

What else could I have done to help the answerer create better answers in future?

Nothing. That's not your problem. You've done your part.

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