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When someone asks a bad question, the closed question system is designed to have three goals:

  1. Prevent bad questions from causing harm as-is
  2. Allow time for editing/improvement of the question
  3. Auto-cleanup if the question is closed and not edited/improved

With answers, we don't have that same luxury. There is no workflow. We can flag posts, but that requires mod interaction (and mod follow-up). We can vote to delete, but that is restricted to very high rep users, and requires that posts be downvoted first. We can only let users know that their post could use improvement through comments, but those comments need to be followed-up manually.

The current options for dealing with answers is only downvoting. On more subjective sites like the Workplace people upvote answers they agree with even if they aren't backed up by any sources and/or are just 'me-too' answers that don't add any extra value. These sorts of answers end up making a weaker signal because they only provide noise. Downvotes are not enough to deal with poor answers, in the same way that just downvoting poor questions isn't enough which is why we have a system to close questions. Also note that unlike questions, answers are not deleted automatically unless the question is.

(for reference, 5/33 of the posts deleted in the past 30 days on TWP had positive score, we also have many bad answers with very positive score we have worked to clean up)

We should change that.

Proposal

A two-stage workflow should be put in to place for dealing with bad answers.

  1. Users can flag poor answers to add post notices, notifying the answerer to give them (and the community) a chance to improve the answer
  2. Answers with post notices that haven't been edited within 5 days will be sent to the Very Low Quality queue for potential deletion by the community

Make Post Notices Accessible by Non-Moderators

Post notices already exist and closely mimic the role that close reasons play:

  1. They inform the user what is wrong with their post
  2. They inform other people reading why the post is inappropriate
  3. They allow the community to react to bad posts even if upvoted

The issue is that they can only be added by mods, meaning that custom flags have to be used and making individual mod judgment more important to answer-moderation than community input.

Instead, I suggest that anyone with over 3k rep (500 on beta sites) be allowed to have an additional option in the flagging menu for answers as they have with the vote to close option on questions:

Flagging Dialogue with Extra Option

If you select that option, then an additional menu will come up with the various post notices that can be added:

Post Notice Dialog

The above notices came from the post notice tag wiki, but they should be editable by the community as certain sites may have no use for the existing notices, or want to add other ones. For instance, TWP could really use a 'me too' post notice for answers that provide absolutely nothing not offered in existing answers

If enough users flag a post to have a post notice added, it would be added, additionally these post notices would appear in the 10k tools flags so that higher rep users can view and vet them as valid/invalid.

Alternatively, we could make the same dialog accessible from below each question as its own menu with just the second dialog to make it more like closing a question:

optional answer dialog

Put Posts with Post Notices in the Review Queue

Even if the post notices are added with custom notices to the mods, those post notices don't get reviewed through any workflow. A custom search with hasnotice:1 needs to be done to find them and deal with them, and if it has a positive score, then again it requires mod intervention.

We already have a system to deal with posts of questionable quality, it's the Low Quality Posts review queue. Like questions that go from [On Hold] to [Closed], after 5 days with a post notice, posts that aren't edited are sent to the Low Quality Posts review queue. In that queue, community members are given 4 options:

  1. Looks Good
  2. Edit
  3. Recommend Deletion
  4. Skip

The same workflow should work for posts with post notices.

This was originally posted with slightly different details on TWP Meta

share|improve this question
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What's wrong with downvoting bad answers? –  Bill the Lizard Mar 10 at 2:41
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@Bill, unfortunately, many poor answers end up getting upvotes on popular questions (see here and here) because of new users who just upvote things they agree with reddit-style. Recently we have been dealing with it with lots of custom flags, but it is a huge amount of work for our mod team because there are so many poor answers. This probably isn't an issue on SO or SU, but sites like UX, English, Skeptics, Programmers, and TWP most likely suffer from the same thing. –  jmac Mar 10 at 2:47
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Ok, I see. You might want to edit that information into the question. It's good to have examples of what kinds of answers you're talking about. (The "me too" answer category is one that's a problem everywhere. They just don't tend to get upvoted on SO, thankfully.) –  Bill the Lizard Mar 10 at 2:55
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@BilltheLizard this also helps with enforcing per-site rules. For example, some sites have a "back it up" rule; people who agree with answers may upvote them even though they show no work, but those posts should be annotated or improved per that site's rules. Currently this can only be done by involving a moderator. –  Monica Cellio Mar 10 at 3:19
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It might also be worth noting that this feature request isn't something that would affect Stack Overflow as much as it would Workplace SE, Freelancing SE, Skeptics, Programmers SE, and sites where there's a greater degree of subjectivity in questions and answers. –  jmort253 Mar 10 at 3:42
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@Bill, added a section to deal with your comments. –  jmac Mar 10 at 3:47
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@BilltheLizard oh, nothing wrong with downvotes... provided a site having 2,000 trusted users, active 24x7, ready to quickly delete most blatant garbage –  gnat Mar 10 at 8:25
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...of course, it doesn't hurt when site is focused on strictly technical, coding questions, so that answers quality is easy to verify by firing up an IDE and compiling the code. Quite a pity that whiteboard doesn't have a compiler –  gnat Mar 10 at 8:53
    
Someone has to have made a whiteboard compiler by now. Should ask about that on Software Recommendations –  Shog9 Mar 20 at 17:21

2 Answers 2

I've been giving this some thought. While I do think this could be a useful tool, I have a few concerns:

  • Post notices should be rare - if we're seeing these on every other answer, there's a bigger problem.

  • You're specifically aiming this at answers you hope to see improved - but we actually have no idea if post notices have any positive effect there. Unlike closing a question, adding a post notice doesn't restrict anybody from doing anything they want to do - so there's not much in the way of added motivation, apart from a bit of public shaming... Do we actually have any evidence that this works? Building a complicated system in hope that it'll encourage something it does not actually encourage is just pageantry - we might as well just delete these answers and then add a notice to the effect of,

    A warning regarding this deletion was put on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying Beware of the Leopard. The author ignored it, that lazy bastard!

  • Most concerning to me is the implicit notion that this is a way for low-rep users to remove answers that aren't downvoted. This isn't without precedent: both the spam and offensive flags work this way. Of course, these are intended for exceptionally serious violations of social norms, content so vile that any delay in its removal is a disservice to the community; abusing them for free downvotes is likely to result in the flagger being suspended. And asking folks to pile on is dangerous: there's a reason spam and offensive flags were removed from the 10K flag queue.

It's the last one that has given me pause. I'm not against removing upvoted content when it conflicts with the goals of the site - but one thing I've observed repeatedly in my time here is that all too many folks are unwilling to take responsibility for their actions when voting as part of a group. If a moderator steps up and deletes a +50 answer, his name is on it and he is expected to explain his actions if called to account for it - at least, if he wants to keep being a moderator. But what about the reviewer with 1100 rep who can't even see deleted answers? Is he gonna step up and explain his reasoning to the author? Is there any reason to expect he's even making an informed decision here?

Those are my concerns. This being said, I'm not wholly against the idea of automating the review of answers that fail to meet site-specific guidelines: but let's test this first, see where it works and where it falls apart, and then implement the system that emerges. Pick a site you're active on and propose a campaign based on this process but using the existing tools: flag and ask for a notice to be added, flag again after n days and ask for the post to be removed. Track the results.

share|improve this answer
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"we might as well just delete these answers and then add a notice" -- that would work too. We just don't currently have a way for non-mods to delete answers since so many end up with a positive score despite being absolutely terrible answers (sample). Having a lot of answers like that provides a disservice too; it implies that content is not only okay, but positively viewed, and it reduces the signal:noise ratio for future visitors. Our goal is to be a good resource where you get a straight answer -- tons of mediocre answers goes against that –  jmac Mar 20 at 15:35
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And we are already regularly adding post notices on The Workplace. We currently have 56. Next week I will go through and see how many are improved that we've already marked, and flag the rest for deletion (I'm sure jmort will be thrilled). The issue is that we don't have a good way of really collecting stats as some get deleted from the VLQ queue due to appearing on the flag list (many users flag as NAA, and we flag to add a post notice). If you have any magic tools, that would really help... –  jmac Mar 20 at 15:38
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Post a request on your meta, I'll see what I can dig up. –  Shog9 Mar 20 at 15:40
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Personally I do not see a problem with identifying in the post notice the people who flagged it like we do close notices. The flags are not personal they are about the content. –  Chad Mar 20 at 15:58
    
@jmac jmort won't be thrilled, I did that mark-and-sweep exercise over TWP notices twice already :) –  gnat Mar 20 at 16:15
    
Shog, there you go: Testing proposal at TWP meta, posted on behalf of @jmac –  gnat Mar 20 at 21:12

To me, this seems to be skipping over the larger scale issue -- watching the 'hot network questions' leads me to think that several of the recent sites are gigantic broken windows of self-absorbed subjectivity. Workplace and Personal Growth, to start. The questions are whiney, the answers are opinion, and the voting ... oh the voting.

I try to resist the 'reality TV' temptation to click on hot questions on these sites, but every so often I fail.

In my useless opinion, these sites dilute the brand, and it's hard to see how a post-flagging mechanism is ever going to keep up and fix it.

share|improve this answer
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also related: How come that there are 5 Workplace questions in the hot list? (at TWP meta) –  gnat Mar 20 at 21:30
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Totally agreed Rosinante. TWP questions on the hot list make bad examples because they are easy to comment on and people want to toss in their 2 cents, overwhelming community moderation. The highest viewed (most useful?) question on TWP is definitely not a broken window: How should I list languages on my resume? -- it pops up first on search engines, it has an awesome answer, it is actionable and useful. But it will never become a hot question. See the dilemma? –  jmac Mar 21 at 1:54
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In our defense, @Rosinante, we do try to edit the heck out of posts that sound ranty, whiny, or that appear to lack objectivity. It makes the askers sound petty even if there is a real question in there... makes me think maybe that should be a more explicit requirement of asking a question... be objective... –  jmort253 Mar 21 at 2:50
    
"bad examples" is sometimes a bit of an understatement, right @jmac? Yeah Workplace is small and has 1000x less close voters compared to say, SO... –  gnat Mar 21 at 6:25

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