As a trusted user, I can vote to delete answers that have a score of -1 or lower. Typically, the answers I find myself wanting to vote to delete come from new answers to old questions. These answers are new and thus usually have a score of 0.

I was thinking it would be helpful to the moderators if other 20k users (who are presumably working from the same list of answers) voted to delete such answers ourselves. (with appropriate comments added to the answer) But in order to vote to delete I would have to first downvote the answer. However, I'm not sure if this is something I should be doing.

Should I:

  • Simply flag the answer
  • Downvote the answer and vote to delete
  • Downvote the answer, vote to delete, and then undo my downvote

Historically of course I would just choose the first option. I would like to know if any one (or a combination of) these options is ideal.

In sum: as a 20k user, what should I be doing with these sorts of answers?

  • Depends on whether they're just really bad, spam, should be a comment, etc
    – slhck
    May 17, 2012 at 16:13
  • (That question actually asks both > 20K and < 20k)
    – Flexo
    May 17, 2012 at 16:14
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    "I was thinking it would be helpful to the moderators if other 20k users (who are presumably working from the same list of answers) voted to delete such answers ourselves." I... I think I love you. -cries rainbows- May 17, 2012 at 16:14

3 Answers 3


If in doubt, simply flag the answer and let us figure it out.

  • If it's something egregiously promotional like blatant automated bot spam, raise a spam flag.

  • If it's something egregiously angry like an antiestablishmentarian diatribe, raise an offensive flag.

  • If you'd like to see your name in the list of users who voted to delete, and you're very, very sure that it's something that should be outright deleted, you can vote to delete it along with your flag.

  • If it's something that's most definitively not an answer, like "did you solve this", "thanks", "I have the same problem", or a huge dump of code that's completely irrelevant often followed by one of these quotes, raise a not-an-answer flag. These are also the kinds of answers that are almost always grounds for deletion, so you can vote to delete if you're very sure.

It bears repeating, however, that if in doubt, flagging and letting us look at it is sufficient.

  • Would you ever recommend vote to delete and not flag?
    – Flexo
    May 17, 2012 at 16:18
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    Ha, it's very important to me that new users see my name and add me to their "list" for future vengeance. ;) The sort of answers I'm talking about are, "Help me, I'm having the same problem. Did you ever get it resolved?" Those seem like they should just always be deleted.
    – Kirk Woll
    May 17, 2012 at 16:19
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    @Kirk Woll: Yeah, you can vote to delete those. May 17, 2012 at 16:23
  • @awoodland: That's a toughie... I rarely voted to delete any answers before becoming a mod, so I'm not familiar with what regular 20k users do with their answer deletion votes. May 17, 2012 at 16:24
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    Yes, anyone whose answers disagree with mine should be immediately flagged as "offensive". This is very good advice.
    – Cody Gray
    May 17, 2012 at 22:43
  • @TheEstablishment Gah! I could've sworn there was one in there! Maybe it's just my mind doing an auto-complete without reading it carefully May 18, 2012 at 0:28
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    Bolt, regarding @awoodland's question, I'd like to have a kind-of-authoritative answer. While I've not run out of delete votes, I tend to only vote-to-delete non-answers that I'm sure ought to be deleted and have a negative score, and not add my flag, in the hope that they get deleted before they enter the mod-queue. Is that hope misplaced and community deletion of such doesn't really help reducing work for mods? May 27, 2012 at 11:32

Honestly, voting to delete obvious non-answers like:

Help me, I'm having the same problem. Did you ever get it resolved?

It's not worth the effort. It's better to flag them for moderators to delete. It takes 3 community votes to kill them, but just one moderator vote. If I vote to delete, I still need two other 20k users to come along and also vote to delete to get rid of it. But if I flag it, a moderator will see it and delete it. It's just a better bet for solving the problem.

I think I've only ever voted to delete an answer once. And I don't even remember what it was. Delete voting is generally something I do with questions.

Answers are either right, wrong, or not answers. Right answers may get upvotes, wrong answers get downvotes and correcting comments. Non-answers get flagged.

  • 4
    What we often see are multitudes of 20k users flagging them but none of them bothering to drop in delete votes. It takes only 3 community votes to delete them, and the system trusts them that they know what they're about to delete, so we'd actually appreciate if the community could lend a helping hand here. Hopefully I'm not just being idealistic or optimistic on this, of course, and that we can actually trust them :) May 17, 2012 at 16:35
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    @BoltClock'saUnicorn: True, but the main problem isn't trusting the votes. It's getting the votes. If I vote to delete an answer, what's the chance of two other 20k users stumbling across the same answer and voting to delete? Whereas if I flag the answer, a moderator is pretty much guaranteed to look at it. This is simply more likely to get the job done than voting to delete. May 17, 2012 at 16:37
  • Hm, I suppose you could vote to expedite the deletion, if that makes any sense. May 17, 2012 at 16:38
  • @Nicol, but why not do both? I think it's actually a pretty common workflow to go through the new answers to old questions -- I think a lot of 20k users are probably doing it. And we're seeing the exact same answers, and are eyes are zero-ing in on the same obvious non-answers.
    – Kirk Woll
    May 17, 2012 at 16:39
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    @BoltClock'saUnicorn - my perception so far is that delete votes are rare so instead of using them on answers that are going to be deleted anyway they are better saved for things which are likely to only be deleted by the community and not mods.
    – Flexo
    May 17, 2012 at 16:43
  • @awoodland, but what else are you going to cast delete votes on? And don't we have 15/day? It seems to me it's better to use them and be helpful, than to sit on them in the hope that you'll be able to use them usefully elsewhere.
    – Kirk Woll
    May 17, 2012 at 17:10
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    @NicolBolas - So far 2 of the 15 delete votes I used on the flag queue this morning have resulted in the answer being deleted without mod intervention.
    – Flexo
    May 18, 2012 at 10:42
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    @BoltClock'saUnicorn - I added an answer with a little trial I did yesterday, where instead of flagging non-answers, I downvoted and voted to delete them. My results were in line with awoodland's, in that 24 hours later only 2 out of 12 non-answers had been deleted. In terms of keeping things clean, it seems more effective to flag a moderator than wait for other 20k users to add on their delete votes. Jun 2, 2012 at 18:25

To follow on to Nicol's answer, I ran a little experiment yesterday.

In the past, I'd found that downvoting and voting to delete obvious non-answers (follow-on questions asked in answers and "me too" responses, primarily) was less effective than flagging for moderator deletion. Therefore, I'd almost exclusively flagged these as non-answers, because that seemed to produce more consistent results. However, things might have changed in the time since we were handed a lot more daily delete votes, so I wanted to revisit this.

Yesterday, I downvoted and voted to delete twelve clear non-answers, all of them asking "can you help me" style questions as answers:

24 hours later, only two of these answers have been deleted, and in both of those cases a moderator cast the final vote to delete. Were I to have flagged all of these as non-answers, I have no doubt they would have been removed within an hour, given how quickly the moderators can act on these flags. Because a moderator still took part in the deletion of the two that got removed, I didn't really save them any time by doing this.

I even ran into one answer that I had to flag, because it was a clear non-answer, yet had been voted up so there was no way for me to even vote to remove it.

While the idea of voting to delete a non-answer in order to help the moderators out is a noble concept, in practice it seems to still be far more effective to flag non-answers for moderator action. I'll still vote to delete answers that are so wrong they are actively harmful, or ones that are totally off topic yet still within the question and answer form, but flagging currently seems to be the best course of action for true non-answers.


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