I came across the following question recently: How do I properly clean up Excel interop objects?

The first answer was of high quality, had 120 upvotes, and was marked as the answer. I was almost ready to just go with this answer, but, luckily, I happened to notice the second answer, which had 52 upvotes. After reading it, I decided it was a much stronger answer and upvoted it. Then, I noticed the third answer. After reading that, I thought, I'll be darned if the third answer isn't better than the second, and I upvoted that one too. I was going to de-upvote the second answer, but I had already passed the timeout. After all this, I found another answer further down that was possibly the best of all.

Anyway, the point is, the first answer was, in my humble opinion, definitely not the best, yet it was being portrayed as the best. I was tempted to edit the answer to say, "Warning: while this answer is not incorrect, some of the other answers are newer and likely provide a better solution." (Or something to that effect.)


Is that bad form?

Is there a better way to get people to notice other answers when one answer has gotten off to a significant head start?

Similarly, is there a better way to speed up the process of better answers floating to the top? (Well, almost to the top, since nothing can float above a marked answer.)


I wonder if this could be a feature: give high-reputation users the ability to stick a bright-colored banner at the top of the answer list with a warning that the marked answer may not be best.


Of course, people should read all the answers and decide for themselves which is best, but it's very easy to latch on to the first answer you see that makes sense, especially if it's dominant and you don't have the luxury of time to read through, say, 10 quality answers. And, if you end up upvoting one answer then later realizing another is better and upvote that as well, no progress will be made as far as getting better answers to float above worse ones (unless you remove your first upvote, which is an option that is often locked out by the time you realize you want it).

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    What you've described reminds me of that Churchill quote "It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried." Yeah that sucks that this happened but its still leagues better than the old forum-style Q&A – Some Helpful Commenter Nov 2 '11 at 22:23
  • @Conrad, that's brilliant, thank you. I have to say, though, that there's a major difference between voting on SO: you have candidates entering the race after the election has already been held :) – devuxer Nov 2 '11 at 22:26
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    This doesn't answer your actual question, but note that the official word says that it's not bad form to edit someone else's answer to retract your vote. – Kevin Vermeer Nov 3 '11 at 1:27
  • @Kevin, thanks, that's actually quite helpful. – devuxer Nov 3 '11 at 1:37
  • To be completely fair, that official word has a score of -27. – Pops Nov 3 '11 at 2:27
  • @Pop - Yes, and one of those downvotes is mine. Just putting it out there. – Kevin Vermeer Nov 3 '11 at 12:40

Yes, it is bad form to edit such meta commentary into an answer. Don't do that.

We can't really do anything if an inferior answer is the accepted one, there were some proposals to change the sorting and not always put the accepted answer on the top, but none of those succeeded yet.

Voting is the correct way to distinguish the better answers and get them to float on top. You can revert your vote for a few minutes after voting, so when you're reading the answers you should still be able to revert your vote if you notice that other answers are far superior.

If there are specific problems with high-voted answers you can also point those out in comments, other users might read them and adjust their votes if they agree with your criticism.

Voting doesn't always result in the best answer floating to the top, it is not a perfect solution. It is still better than nothing though and it works reasonably well in most cases.

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    I won't bother with my answer now :). The only thing I'd add would be that you could comment if you think the answer is particularly bad. – ChrisF Nov 2 '11 at 22:11
  • Thanks, Fabian. I'm glad I decided not to edit the answer. I did run into the time limit on changing my upvote, though, because I was actually running some tests in my code to try out the third answer...by the time I turned my attention back to StackOverflow, it was too late to undo my upvote. – devuxer Nov 2 '11 at 22:13
  • @DanM You can make a small edit to reset the vote timer if you really want to change your vote. – ChrisF Nov 2 '11 at 22:19
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    @ChrisF, true...but doesn't that notify the author of the answer that their answer has been edited? I always feel a little funny doing that. – devuxer Nov 2 '11 at 22:21
  • @DanM - well yes, but the mechanism is there. – ChrisF Nov 2 '11 at 22:23

Is that bad form?

Yes, it is. You should edit a post to:

  • fix grammatical or spelling errors
  • clarify meaning without changing it
  • correct minor mistakes
  • add related resources or links

If you think the most up-voted answer is wrong, or incorrect, you should write that in a comment. Adding that to the answer itself is wrong.

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