Meta Stack Exchange is where users like you discuss bugs, features, and support issues that affect the software powering all 158 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

What is the position on purging old answers that receive little or negative response. What benefit does it serve to keep answers that are downvoted numerous times (resulting in negative scores), or answers that have no upvotes/downvotes and exist for well over a year?

Is there any reason to keep these types of answers around for a length of time? Seems like they only add noise.

Grounds for purging:

  1. Answer is older than n-months
  2. Answer is not accepted
  3. Answer has negative score with primarily downvotes
  4. ...what would you suggest?


Answers aren't purged. Instead, they are hidden and aren't shown until the reader explicitly requests "answers older than n-months."

share|improve this question
(-1) for the reasons in my response. – devinb Sep 1 '09 at 17:33
what does the age of an answer have to do with anything? why isn't sorting good enough - why do we need to hide these? – user27414 Sep 1 '09 at 17:35
Sort along the z-axis and we'll both be happy ;) – Sampson Sep 1 '09 at 17:36
Standard blow-off answer: write a greasemonkey script to do it! – user27414 Sep 1 '09 at 17:36
-1 Because While it's helpful to see the right answer, it's very helpful to see what the community disapproves of. If I had my way, the owner of a post could disassociate themselves (and regain the rep-lost from downvotes), but the answer would stay, as a warning towards others. – George Stocker Sep 1 '09 at 17:50
@Gortok, what percentage of the users do you think really want to dig into wrong answers, when they have the right answers directly in front of them? – Sampson Sep 1 '09 at 17:52
@Jonathan Sampson - No clue. However, the percentage of "This is the canonical way of doing X" answers are very small. Most times there are n-number of ways of doing something; and it's good to know what the community thinks is the Best, the Better, and the Please-Don't-Do-It-This-Way answer. Sometimes there are architectural considerations that prevent the 'best' way from being done, and being able to fall back on the lesser means helps. – George Stocker Sep 1 '09 at 17:57
@Gortok, good points. But if I encountered an architectural issue that wouldn't allow me to implement any of the top few answers, I would probably create a new question including my architectural-difference rather than digging through many other answers that may by chance assume my unique environment. – Sampson Sep 1 '09 at 18:00
I've not done that, only because I don't want people to say the obvious ("Well, just change the architecture!"). There are days you can't do that. – George Stocker Sep 1 '09 at 18:13
up vote 2 down vote accepted

I think the way answers are sorted solves the noise issue. I don't think there's really any benefit to purging.

share|improve this answer
If an answer has 10 responses, and only one is worth keeping, why keep the other 9? You could save a tremendous amount of storage. – Sampson Sep 1 '09 at 17:21
Storage is cheap. The negative karma resulting from deleting my answers is not. – user27414 Sep 1 '09 at 17:21
I'm not suggesting you should be punished if your answer is purged. If it wasn't accepted, and received only negative attention - your karma is already bad :) – Sampson Sep 1 '09 at 17:24
I can delete if I so choose. I don't want the system to delete it for me just because it had few (or no) votes. If the post was counter-productive, then it can be flagged and removed by a mod. – user27414 Sep 1 '09 at 17:26
Purged answers would only be answers that are bad. If you have bad answers, you've already be sufficiently punished. If anything, the purge would save you from further punishment. – Sampson Sep 1 '09 at 17:27
What's a "bad" answer? If it's inappropriate, then flag it. If it's just a less-than-ideal solution - it still serves a purpose as a reader can see that it's a bad idea. – user27414 Sep 1 '09 at 17:28
@Jonathan, how can you determine that the answers are 'bad' is this a manual determination? Or is there an algorithm that determines an intrinsic level of good that is inherent in each response. – devinb Sep 1 '09 at 17:32
@devinb, similar to how we determine users are bad with the flagging system. By the number of votes to score. – Sampson Sep 1 '09 at 17:38
@Jonathan: If posts are flagged, then there is a process for deleting them. Flags are very different than downvotes. Especially on MSO downvotes do not mean that something is wrong. It means 'disagreed with', and we can't just delete all the people we disagree with. – devinb Sep 1 '09 at 17:49
@devin, I'm speaking in the context of SO, where downvotes typically do mean something is wrong (except in the case of 'what's your favorite cartoon'). – Sampson Sep 1 '09 at 17:50

I do not think we should be removing old answers based on score.

On the issue of noise, they don't actually add noise if you are in the 'votes' view, because there are simply at the bottom of the page, so they will only bother you if you voluntarily go to view them.

In terms of the actual removing of the answers, this is a very bad idea. We have in general no idea why this specific answer was downvoted. Starting with an example from MSO (Is "Don't Do It" a valid answer?) That question has a negative score for me. It does not mean that my answer is bad, offensive, wrong, or awfully written. It simply means that the sum of people viewing the question disagreed with me. It is important to keep these answers around, because it articulates both sides of the debate. If you delete all the MSO answers with a negative score, you'll end up with a lot of one sided debates, and no real learning.

On the SO side, I have two responses with negative votes.

Algorithms: interesting diffing algorithm

In this case, the OP (or someone tactical) downvoted almost every answer, even though I made a few edits in direct response to the author, and ended up providing code that did exactly what was required (and updating it as the OP repeatedly edited the question). I don't feel that I deserved the downvote, but that is the way it goes sometimes. However, if that were to get deleted because it has a downvote, I'd consider that offensive.

In this question as well, I was voted down twice for presenting an opinion that was contrary to other people's beliefs. Again, I don't mind the downvotes, but I maintain that my answer should be there for people to read. Even if they disagree, they will be better off if their assumptions are challenged, rather than pretending that there is no opposition.

Even 'bad' answers are educational, because they provide "patterns to avoid".

share|improve this answer

If negative, it might show you what not to do, not to say, or have a certain bad opinion. It is beneficial sometimes to know at least that.

Less responsive or low vote answers might provide alternatives that might not be as popular, but still possibly beneficial to anyone looking at the question.

Any duplicates or the same idea or "what he said" answers could just be deleted though.

share|improve this answer
From a behavioral standpoint, I don't think people come here looking for downvoted answers. – Sampson Sep 1 '09 at 17:30
And they won't see them unless they scroll all the way to the bottom of the screen. – user27414 Sep 1 '09 at 17:31
...or they're hidden completely until explicitly requested? – Sampson Sep 1 '09 at 17:33
Well they won't be looking for them, but they could find some value in them if they want to. Like Jon said too, there at the bottom and only there if you scroll down. (that takes some people a lot of effort) ;) – Troggy Sep 1 '09 at 17:37

Purging answers with negative scores will inherently improve someone's rep after a recalc which I think is contrary to the whole notion of negative rep. Negative rep is there to show that folks don't agree with that person. In order to show that, all history needs to be maintained (with obvious exceptions for abuse, offensive, etc etc). Without the negative rep you don't get the full picture

share|improve this answer
If I delete my own negative scored answers doesn't that have the same consequence? – user27414 Sep 1 '09 at 17:29
@squillman, Note that when I say "purge," I don't insist that the records must be physically deleted. Perhaps just made invisible. – Sampson Sep 1 '09 at 17:31
@Jon B: Yes, true, but I hold that you have that right as the owner of that post. Autopurging is a different story in my book – squillman Sep 1 '09 at 17:37
@Jonathan: Ok, then the rep thing becomes moot :) – squillman Sep 1 '09 at 17:38

You must log in to answer this question.

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