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Say I post a bad answer (out of oversight or ignorance or who knows what). Then I recheck the page after 5 minutes (or because the envelope icon has turned very bright) and I discover that the answer collected 5 downvotes.

Then there are 2 things you can do:

  • be a man and take the pain
  • delete the answer

Most people I see this happen to, delete their answer. Why? Because if they let it stay, within minutes it might get downvoted another 10 times.

I think on the other hand, bad answers are informative as well and should be kept. Especially since they probably get a comment underneath to why it is a bad answer.

So I think there's an imbalance here right now. Wrong questions are taken away as fast as possible by the people who answered them, the moment they realize it was not a smart answer. Yet, you really want the bad answers (and the comments why it is bad) to be visible since others might have the same wrong reasoning, and now don't know why it is wrong.

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It's not that bad to remove the wrong answer. This is actually encouraged by the "Peer Pressure" badge. Most of the time it's just noise and should be deleted. Besides, in most cases, especially if the correct answer comes after the wrong one, the person with the correct answer is likely to hint about the pitfalls of the wrong answer. –  LeakyCode Jan 18 '10 at 12:40
    
Well, browsing around today, there are many wrong answers. Unfortunately many of them haven't been down voted. –  Peter Ajtai Jul 31 '11 at 23:23

3 Answers 3

Wrong answers which still assert something incorrect should be downvoted. You missed the other option though: correct the answer, either to just be correct, or to include the previous text and explain why it's wrong.

If it means replacing the whole answer, I'd normally delete the old one and add a new one.

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Still, no one does this. They just remove the answer. No one will take the chance that new visitors will upvote a badly downvoted question. Easier is to just remove it and lick your wounds. And thats too bad. I argue that it makes more sense that bad answers stay visible, since they carry value. –  Toad Jan 18 '10 at 12:34
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My point is that they carry a lot more value if they're explicit about "this is wrong because". Note that if you do this, I suspect you're likely to get upvotes - and it only (currently) takes 2 upvotes to counter 10 downvotes. It's certainly something I've done in the past. –  Jon Skeet Jan 18 '10 at 12:55
    
I agree with this solution. However, most likely the wrong answer will just be deleted. But as from what I read, this might be a good thing. –  Toad Jan 18 '10 at 13:31
    
People rarely take the replacement options because, by the time they've figured it all out there are already good, up-voted, correct answers. That's the time to grab your peer pressure badge and running cackling off into the night. –  dmckee Jan 18 '10 at 15:57
    
[OT] Congratulations for your 1000 bronze badges on SO. I was curious whether a thousands separator symbol would appear there :) –  Daniel Daranas Jan 19 '10 at 15:51
    
@Daniel: Yeah, I was kinda hoping it might break something ;) –  Jon Skeet Jan 19 '10 at 16:25

Not necessarily:

  • there's some pity upvoting that goes on for -1 and lower

  • since downvotes are -2 while upvotes are +10 it's quite easy to come out ahead.

  • sometimes, disagreement doesn't mean the answer is wrong, per se

I don't see pile-on downvoting as an actual problem. It really depends how confident the answerer is in their answer, and how willing they are to defend it through edits and comments.

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Even if the person giving the bad answer agrees and sees their 'think-error', they are now most likely to quickly delete their answer. Out of shame perhaps and out of making sure they don't suffer more downvotes. –  Toad Jan 18 '10 at 12:37

They're bad. Ok, we'll keep them, but don't expect people to upvote them for being a "don't do this, ever!" example. If the post is hideously bad, donwvote it, don't ever upvote, unless it's been edited into shape. It doesn't help anyone, that's the major thing to consider:

  • the person that gets the upvote will think that it's ok to ask stupid questions/give stupid answers, because he'll see someone agreeing with him
  • the persons that downvoted will feel wronged and will start downvoting him even more, out of anger
  • the post should be downvoted, to let people know that that is really a bad question. It simply says Stay away from this!

At one point, garbage has to be cleaned. Most stuff can be done in one good way, and an infinite way of doing it wrong. Let's just stick to the good way, it's more informative.

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I'm ok with the downvotes. But one might argue that a bad answer is as informative (or sometimes even more given it has good comments why it is bad) as a good one. But the person taking the downvote pain is most likely to delete an answer as soon as possible. –  Toad Jan 18 '10 at 12:36
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I can't really say I agree; bad answers are informative only to a certain extent. There are simply too many ways to do something wrong to list them all. Trust a good answer, try to understand it, recognize the problems yourself. It's a much better way of doing things. –  alex Jan 18 '10 at 12:50

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