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I just deleted an answer I had left to a question because it had been proven to be wrong. It seems that this would be the proper thing to do, since the purpose of the site is to provide correct answers - misleading information is the last thing we all want.

But what if the answer is providing important information about approaches that have been tried and rejected? What if it's an obvious but wrong choice, and others are likely to leave the same answer if they don't see yours? What if there are later responses that refer to yours, and you're removing the context?

As a compromise I waited a day before removing my post. How would you have done it?

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migrated from stackoverflow.com Jan 31 '10 at 23:13

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Could you make this a community wiki? –  Mark Cidade Oct 9 '08 at 22:35
    
If i have time, and it seems imporant, i'll edit my incorrect answer to 1) note that it is incorrect, 2) describe why, and 3) point to a correct answer. If i don't, or if the path i took to the wrong answer is well-documented elsewhere, i'll just delete it. BTW: make this a wiki question. –  Shog9 Oct 9 '08 at 22:49
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I answered to your question, but I decided to better delete my answer then. –  Sergio Acosta Oct 9 '08 at 23:46
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Back in October I'm not sure I understood why this should be community wiki, or how to accomplish it. Now I do - fixed. –  Mark Ransom Mar 19 '09 at 18:12

7 Answers 7

up vote 34 down vote accepted

If you provide feedback to a question and you think you have added something substantive to it, leave it. Even if it doesn't directly answer the question the best.

If you were completely out of the ballpark with your response, just save everybody time and space and remove it. We are humans, and we are just not on the same page as others sometimes.

Case in point: If it adds value, leave it. If it doesn't, remove it and move on.

Just because it isn't exactly right, doesn't mean it doesn't add any value to the OP or future readers.

I actually take some time to go through all of my responses that have not been ticked up. If I find that I didn't really add anything to the post, I remove it. Otherwise, I just keep it there.

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This was almost exactly what I was about to post (but better written to boot). Now I won't have to delete mine... –  Michael Burr Oct 9 '08 at 22:55

Once it hits -2, I assume I'm an idiot and delete it to prevent further damage. I also delete it if I see that someone beat me to the punch and posted the same exact information sooner. In that case, my answer is just redundant.

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With over 22,000 users on SO, trusting only two negatives for a deletion seem a little extreme. That acting on a 0.0091% disagreement rate. Perhaps a more even scoring might be views, in this case 38 times. That make 2/38, or 5.26% disagreement rate. Still not much of a majority. –  dacracot Oct 9 '08 at 22:40
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Not all questions are viewed by each and everyone of those 22.000 SO users. At the time of writing, this particular question has been viewed 54 times and this particular answer has two up votes. –  Christian Vest Hansen Oct 9 '08 at 22:50
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It takes 100 reputation points to downvote, so there is already a population of users who cannot visibly disagree. Secondly, if my answer is already downvoted, it's uncertain how many readers will make it to the bottom of the thread and/or "pile on". Thus, -2 seems right to me. –  Ben Hoffstein Oct 9 '08 at 22:53
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Also, I think people only tend to downvote if they know already know the answer, or at least know enough to know that your answer is not a good one. A lot of people on SO are landing here because they DON'T know the answer but were searching for one. –  Rob Penridge Aug 23 '12 at 0:10

I would prefer to edit the answer and explain whats wrong and why its wrong. IMHO thats the best way in all cases.

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Agreeing with Ben Hoffstein, I also delete my answer when it goes negative. However, I generally don't remove redundant answers as these are suppose to be automatically sorted out by the voting systemz, and different explanations of the same thing might help someone.

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IMHO, if you ended up saying the exact same thing as someone else, then you should be polite and remove your answer. It's like picking up litter - don't rely on others (voting) to keep the place tidy. If you actually provide a unique perspective on a common answer, then leave it. –  Shog9 Oct 9 '08 at 22:52

Once you realize that you made a mistake or your answer does not contribute any value to the topic. Regardless of the vote.

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Most of mine are rated fairly well, but I put one semi-serious semi flippant answer out there and got bashed to--well right now it's -34.

I happen to think it's a valid point though so I'm leaving it, and I did get enough corresponding upvotes that it actually earned positive rep (not that I really care much, but I found that interesting).

But after posting I usually review the others who have posted and if it turns out I misread the question, my response was worse than someone else's or mine is a dupe, I'll kill mine--I've done it 3 or 4 times so far.

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I think the only good reason to delete an answer is when you discover you didn't read or understand the question, and your answer is inappropriate.

If your answer is an honest attempt to solve the problem that turns out to be wrong, the information that it is wrong is still valuable. Removing it to protect your reputation level is a bit selfish.

Folks should probably avoid pushing answers far into the negative except in egregious cases of trolling or other bad behavior. Being wrong isn't a crime. If someone's already marked it into the negative that's good enough.

"I haven't failed, I've found 10,000 ways that don't work." - Ben Franklin

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It's interesting that you should leave this answer right now. I've been considering deleting an answer of mine because it's been proven to not cover all cases: stackoverflow.com/a/14533227/5987 Even if I were to discover the flaw and correct it, it wouldn't be as good as the highest voted answer. Deleting it wouldn't improve my reputation since it managed to get an upvote before the flaw was discovered. Care to comment on this specific instance? –  Mark Ransom Jan 30 '13 at 3:36

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