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I have a small open source library that I maintain, which now has its own tag on StackOverflow with just over 50 questions (I'll not name the library and keep this question generic, but it wouldn't take a genius to work it out). This is very nice, and I much prefer StackOverflow as an environment for answering questions than the forums over at CodePlex.

However, I have noticed a concerning trend. Someone posts a question about a problem they are having using my library. Then someone else, often a user with quite high rep, posts a guessed solution, looking for some quick upvotes, despite clearly never having used my library or tested their answer. Next thing happens is that the several drive-by visitors see the interesting question, like the look of the nicely formatted code sample, and up-vote it.

The only trouble is, sometimes the answer is completely wrong, with a code sample that could never work, or a completely false statement about the library's capabilities. I usually downvote such answer with a comment explaining why it is incorrect (I am not exactly trigger happy with downvotes - only 5 of my 1307 votes so far have been downvotes, and in my experience, people tend to react to a downvote like its a slap in the face). I also try to add my own "official" answer as the maintainer of the library, but often I have come by days later and my own answer doesn't pick up the "first answer wins" upvotes leaving the wrong answer as the community's chosen winner.

My question is, what can I do as an open source project maintainer about such answers which now exist as sources of misinformation about my library, potentially frustrating users of the library who will google their way to these questions in search of guidance? I suppose I could post links to the bad answer on twitter to encourage downvoting of it, but that seems downright mean, and an abuse of the SO voting system anyway. And if I go around policing every answer that relates to my library with downvotes, edits or comments, will this be considered antisocial behaviour on SO?

I am also wondering whether the stackoverflow voting system is flawed for topics where the majority of site users don't actually know enough to tell a correct answer from an incorrect one? I admit that I myself have been guilty of upvoting an answer that looks like it is correct without really knowing if the code sample is any good or not.

Edit I should also add that a similar problem exists when an updated version of the library renders a previously good and highly-upvoted answer incorrect. If it is my own answer I can of course edit it, but if it is someone elses what should I do - comment perhaps, or can I edit the answer itself to add a note explaining it is no longer up to date?

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For the naudio tag, you are by far the top answerer: the next closest person provided two answers (in 2010) with 7 votes total. In the last 30 days, you are the only person answering naudio questions. What trend are you referring to? Is this really a problem? –  user149432 May 15 '11 at 23:31
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Obligatory XKCD link: xkcd.com/386 –  Andrew Grimm May 16 '11 at 0:35
    
Yes to be fair it's not exactly a huge problem for NAudio, as originally I was the only question answerer. It also is nice that others are beginning to lighten the burden of supporting the library by helping out with answers. It looks like a couple of the problem answers have been deleted which is good & a sign that SO is actually working quite well. –  Mark Heath May 16 '11 at 6:06
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@Andrew Grimm - LOL, yes that was me late last night! Perhaps should have just gone to bed and probably wouldn't have bothered me so much in the morning! –  Mark Heath May 16 '11 at 6:33
    
If the answer is only mildly incorrect, you could simply edit it to correct it. Probably not a good idea to rewrite the entire thing, but still something to consider. –  Cody Gray May 16 '11 at 8:09
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2 Answers 2

up vote 24 down vote accepted

First and foremost you should post a correct answer of your own, even if it's late. If I'm frustrated by the top-voted answer, I go immediately to the second answer and try it out. If I asked the question I accept the one that works. If not, I'll upvote the one that works and downvote any that are actively unhelpful.

Second, comments explaining why an answer is wrong work better than downvotes in my experience. In most cases other people will at least stop upvoting answers that have comments that point out an error. The author of the answer will also often correct the mistake.

Last, make sure you disclose your affiliation. In cases where someone asks about your library this is more to establish your expertise than to avoid the appearance of impropriety, but it's a good idea either way.

Edit: In the case of an outdated answer, either a comment or an edit explaining what happened should work. Most people are happy to update their old posts in light of new information.

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I suggest is that you leave a comment on wrong answers with a short explanation of why it's wrong and then post a correct answer of your own.

And if you are involved with the library it's good manners to mention that in your answer.

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