My answer to this question was deleted and turned into a comment:

GroupBy doesn't enumerate the list

ToLookup enumerates it the same way ToList / ToArray

Moderator casperOne indicated that I should bring this to Meta if I wanted to continue the discussion.

I believe my answer should not have been deleted.

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I can't see the deleted answer, but "answers" that are somewhat tangential can be converted by mods to a comment. Given the volume of posts, not every 'deserving' post is. –  Nick T Apr 18 '12 at 20:27
It wasn't a great answer, but IMO it should have stayed an answer. –  CodesInChaos Apr 18 '12 at 20:29
I would have been more than happy to elaborate my answer if someone asked (through a comment). That would have more beneficial than deleting. –  Aducci Apr 18 '12 at 20:56
@Aducci And yet, you were presented with a comment indicating what you could elaborate on, as well as a means to have your answer undeleted after you updated your answer. At this point in time, two hours later, you've done nothing to improve the quality of the answer. You've actually spent more time typing about your non-answer instead of actually improving your answer. Why the resistance to actually contributing something of greater quality to the site? –  casperOne Apr 18 '12 at 21:12
@casperOne - It seems to me that the current threshold for deleting an answer is too low. Aducci's answer should have been fleshed out, but if it weren't deleted, then that improvement could have been made by any user. As it is, his correct information, which was not present in other answers at the time, was made invisible to a large percentage of the users of the site. And it's not like it was a garbage answer that was being downvoted - he had received 3 upvotes and no downvotes, so community members obviously saw some value in it. –  kvb Apr 18 '12 at 21:28
No, the real problem is that there aren't enough crappy answers deleted, which makes this one look like a special case. It's the rule, not the exception. The moderators involved didn't just lumber down from the mist and target some innocent answer, either. They were responding to flags raised by other users. –  Cody Gray Apr 18 '12 at 21:29
You should read What's an acceptable answer –  Lorem Ipsum Apr 18 '12 at 21:29
@TheEstablishment - There will of course be false positives and false negatives with any reasonable filtering strategy. What evidence is there that deleting more answers on balance improves the site? This is not a rhetorical question, I'm seriously curious. And even if deleting more answers is better, could the process be improved to give a little bit more leeway to answers that have several upvotes but no downvotes? What's the point of voting if moderators will come in and remove correct (but flawed) answers that community members have clearly indicated are useful? –  kvb Apr 18 '12 at 21:35
@kvb You seem to be forgetting the fact that the information in the answer was not removed. It remained available to the user to improve and was visible to everybody else as a comment. Aducci has had plenty of opportunity to edit his answer, but doesn't seem to have done so. –  vascowhite Apr 18 '12 at 21:39
@kvb: The "evidence" is that bad content makes the site less useful and appealing. You're making this way too complicated. Also, if you want to ask new questions, you should use the "Ask Question" button for that. –  Cody Gray Apr 18 '12 at 21:41
FWIW if you needed a second opinion: had I seen the flag on your answer, I would probably have left it alone as I don't really know what to do with it. I try not to delete answers too soon anymore unless I'm looking at spam or blatant non-answers (and this is of course not "blatant", but I agree could have been vastly improved, which curiously after 3 hours it still hasn't been). –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Apr 18 '12 at 22:06
@TheEstablishment - I don't think you understand my point. Of course bad content makes the site less useful. However, so does deterring users who voluntarily spend time and effort contributing useful content which is aggressively flagged. What evidence is there that at the current rate of moderation, the former effect outweighs the latter? –  kvb Apr 18 '12 at 23:40
It is because Eric Lippert posted an answer to the same question. That gets at least one moderator I know going, trying to elevate it over the din of well meaning but lesser known members. Have you considered a blog? –  Uphill Luge Apr 19 '12 at 0:57
@Uphill you want to say a name or are you just going to be all mysterious about it? Trust me, it's not cute. –  casperOne Apr 19 '12 at 3:52
@kvb I think that you'll have to convince most that there was any noticeable time or effort put into that "answer.". I've had sneezes that last longer than it took to craft that. Hell, this comment took longer to put together. –  casperOne Apr 19 '12 at 3:56
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5 Answers

The answer was basically "that won't work. Use <insert link here> instead." It didn't explain why you should use the linked item.

It was functional, but not self-contained. And in general, answers that are just "Use <insert link here>" are comments, not answers.

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This is not an accurate summary of his answer. He succinctly described the different effects that the two methods had, analogizing one of the methods to two related methods. I agree that the answer could have been greatly improved by fleshing it out, but I don't see deleting it as a good way to encourage that behavior. –  kvb Apr 18 '12 at 21:22
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I think that your answer, now a comment, might be the correct answer, but is too short to be helpful. You should have expanded your answer, and I think you wouldn't have any problems.

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What's the advantage of turning the answer into a comment, rather than adding a comment on the answer suggesting that it be expanded with further information? Surely the latter is more likely to generate the kind of participation that StackOverflow is looking for, right? Deleting accurate but short answers merely discourages knowledgeable people from contributing to the site. –  kvb Apr 18 '12 at 20:58
@kvb An alternate point of view: This response (deletion of the answer) encourages knowledgeable people to contribute properly / correctly next time. –  jadarnel27 Apr 18 '12 at 21:06
In addition to what @kvb said, keeping these short and correct answers as...answers...will also help people who show up at the site looking for answers themselves. They're much more likely to see a one-line answer with a green check than a comment. –  Adam Rackis Apr 18 '12 at 21:06
@jadarnel27 - I suspect that there will be two types of responses to having a correct but not great answer deleted: some people will take the deletion in stride and change their style, while others will see it as a borderline anti-social act that discourages them from posting anything. It seems to me that a comment encouraging them to edit their answer to provide more details would also have the first (positive) effect, but not the second (negative) one. –  kvb Apr 18 '12 at 21:18
@kvb I suspect it might have to do with the ability to follow up. SO mods don't have time to check and see it it's been expanded. Comments are still contributions. –  Matthew Read Apr 18 '12 at 21:38
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One line answers will always be in danger of being turned into comments. I quite often flag them as such myself. In general, on SO, we are looking for answers which explain and educate. Remember, SO is not a forum.

The goal here is to have great answers to great questions, I'm afraid one line answers (or one line questions) don't fit the bill.

You can still see and edit your deleted answer to make it better. Do so and then flag it for un-deletion by a mod or vote for it to be un-deleted. It hasn't disappeared forever, on SO there is always the opportunity to improve an answer, even a deleted one.

I'm sorry we failed to point that out to you earlier.

How is deleting an accurate answer (with multiple upvotes, even) likely to improve the usefulness of StackOverflow?

By improving the quality and usefulness of answers. The answer is not just for the asker, but for future visitors with the same or a similar problem. By expanding your answer you make it more relevant to more people and so make the site more useful.

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I think that accurate but too-short answers are more likely to become good answers after editing than non-existent answers. I really believe that deleting the answer is counterproductive. If you think that the answer needs to be expanded to be truly helpful, then why not give that feedback to the answerer in a comment? How is deleting an accurate answer (with multiple upvotes, even) likely to improve the usefulness of StackOverflow? Do people really believe that the benefit to the site from deleting short answers outweighs the cost of discouraging knowledgeable users? –  kvb Apr 18 '12 at 21:14
Obviously expanding the answer makes the site better. But what's more likely to result in that behavior: deleting an accurate but incomplete answer or commenting on it that it should be expanded? –  kvb Apr 18 '12 at 21:29
As I say in my answer, go and edit your deleted answer to make it a great answer then flag for a mod to un delete it. Your answer isn't really deleted just hidden from everybody except you and 10k+ users. –  vascowhite Apr 18 '12 at 21:31
First of all, it's not my answer. Secondly, you're not really answering my question: I agree that expanding it will improve it, and that it's possible to expand it even after it's been deleted. However, isn't it more likely to be expanded if a user (or moderator) leaves a comment suggesting that, rather than deleting it? Clearly some users are not interpreting deletions as friendly suggestions to improve their answers and then try to get them undeleted. –  kvb Apr 18 '12 at 21:38
@kvb One aspect is that a technically correct one-liner discourages future posters from posting something that's the same, but more in-depth. This is reasonable behavior since some users will downvote you for "copying" the other answerer's suggestion. –  Matthew Read Apr 18 '12 at 21:41
Sorry, I lost track of names in the typing frenzy :). Maybe the message given on each deletion needs to make clearer the mechanism for having your answer restored, but I think the basic mechanism is correct. –  vascowhite Apr 18 '12 at 21:42
@MatthewRead - Doesn't the converted comment serve a similar discouraging role? –  kvb Apr 19 '12 at 0:30
@vascogotlost - Certainly when a bad answer is rightly deleted, the mechanism seems fine to me. However, I think that in the case where useful content is deleted it's not surprising that users sometimes feel rebuffed and then don't follow through by editing their answers. Their altruistic attempts to help others have been thwarted by overzealous moderation - why should they bother continuing to exert effort that may just be callously disregarded? –  kvb Apr 19 '12 at 0:46
Also, I think your attitude towards one-liners is too negative. Why punish brevity when it's appropriate? Sometimes questions do have short and sweet answers and nothing else needs to be said. See… for one example I'm fond of (though feel free to delete it if you think that will encourage me to improve it). –  kvb Apr 19 '12 at 0:48
@kvb Not in my experience. –  Matthew Read Apr 19 '12 at 1:22
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Because it wasn't grokkable to common folk, we are a dynamic knowledge repo, not a lookup book. Do you see on Wikipedia the content squeezed into concise answers?

Help your community learn from the question.

The author was nice enough to introduce the problem in a suitable length, be nice enough to return that favor, if not then comment.

I have seen the following scenario play out

The moderator could have commented on your answer saying

Could you elaborate please on what you mean by X, Y and Z?

To which you would have replied in a comment. Then the moderator could have said

Could you edit your answer?

To which you reply no because you may feel the conciseness answers the question. Then the moderator decides to explain why it would help to elaborate. You disagree. Thread span 20+ comments. Moderator wastes 20 minutes handling 1 flag of 1000+. Moderator says take it to meta so he can tend to the additional 100+ more (on top of the previous 1000+) that came in while dealing with you.

You come to meta declaring that short answers should not be edited/contested, we end up in a parallel discussion.

All the while in the first 3 minutes I read the accepted answer and grokked a lot more. I could tell you right no matter how correct your answer is, I learned a lot more from the accepted one.

If I were you, I would have scrolled back through the FAQ/help section like how I do for other sites when I see something wrong find the make an assumption of hmm, let me elaborate on my answer and experiment to see if it works this time. Most likely the user who flagged it isn't going to come back and flag it again.

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As you can probably tell from my other comments, I dislike how this was handled (despite the fact that I don't think your answer was particularly great). However, I think that there are a few ways of looking at it:

Taken as an isolated case, should your answer have been deleted?

To me, your answer certainly should not have been deleted, for at least the following reasons:

  • It was correct, even if it could easily have been improved by elaborating on the content further.
  • A simple comment suggesting that you elaborate would have been much more likely to result in that effect than deleting the answer.
  • It covered ground that other answers did not, despite its short length.
  • Voters gave it 3 upvotes and no downvotes, indicating that the community as a whole did not find the answer objectionable.
  • The presence of a marginal answer seems to me to improve the content of Stack Overflow rather than to harm it. If there are other, better answers they are likely to be upvoted past it. Furthermore, since your answer was particularly terse, reading it wouldn't waste much of a user's time anyway.
  • Once the question is deleted, most users are unable to improve it (or add comments suggesting specific improvements) since they can't even see it.
  • In fact, I suspect that your answer may be of greater than median quality for the site overall, since I often see multiple wrong or speculative answers to questions. Even if brief, at least your answer is correct!

However, your post was apparently flagged for moderation by a user. Another relevant question is therefore:

Given that your answer was flagged, was deleting it appropriate?

Here, there's a bit more room for disagreement. I'm not a moderator, but I imagine that there's plenty of crappy content that gets flagged for removal, and they can't afford to spend lots of time investigating each flagged answer. Therefore, it may make sense for the moderators' actions to be biased towards deleting marginal content. I'm skeptical that deleting mediocre answers actually benefits the site much (as opposed to deleting mediocre questions, which is more clearly beneficial), particularly compared to the discouragement of well-meaning answerers that may result. I'm willing to give moderators the benefit of the doubt, though, if they have reason to believe that they should err on the side of deletion. Having said that, I would hope that there would be some easy-to-read indicators that might help moderators discriminate bad content from ok content (such as your answer). For instance, mightn't it be worth taking a closer look at flagged content that has multiple upvotes but no downvotes?

Finally, what really disappoints me is:

How do incidents like this reflect on Stack Overflow

Even if the moderator can be forgiven for erring on the side of deletion, I hope they will take some time to think about how these sorts of things make the site look.

Your answer was flagged for moderation (merely because it was concise?), but the user who did so did not make any constructive criticism at all, such as leaving you a comment. This makes the resulting moderator action seem arbitrary and unexpected and therefore makes the community appear to be antisocial and unpleasant. By way of contrast, see the stern but constructive comments that Eric Lippert leaves at questions such as Vertical Curve Formula when the user isn't using Stack Overflow correctly. How can people be encouraged to provide actionable feedback when they flag things?

I fear that moderators often fail to consider how these things look in cases where content is wrongly flagged or deleted. A user makes conscious effort to help strangers, and is rewarded with the removal of his correct, helpful information and no actionable feedback of what he did wrong. The burden for getting his content undeleted is then on him, where he has to convince busy moderators that he has sufficiently improved his answer for it to be undeleted. It does not surprise me that many users do not take the moderators up on this offer.

Overall, this incident (and others similar in spirit, such as the recent deletion wars) has lowered my estimation of Stack Overflow; I suspect that there are others with similar feelings (though perhaps, like me, they are not active on Meta). Since the site is dependent on users freely contributing content, I hope that moderators consider the deterrent effects that current policies and procedures might be having, and try to find ways to improve them rather than risk killing the golden goose.

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