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It frustrates me how often I run into threads like Proper use cases for Android UserManager.isUserAGoat()? which have more deleted posts than non-deleted posts. In this case, some of them are perfectly coherent and provide information that was not provided by any other posts when they were deleted.

How can we encourage people to downvote rather than delete when they just don't like an answer or think it's completely optimal?

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    Related, if not a dupe: Very popular answer deleted Commented Nov 15, 2012 at 12:53
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    Take a look at the answers to the related question I just linked. I think they lay out a pretty clear explanation of why this question has so many deleted answers. I certainly do not think 1 question with a lot of deleted answers points towards "over moderation" as much as it points towards a question with a lot of borderline answers that needed cleaning up. Commented Nov 15, 2012 at 12:54
  • @psubsee2003, thanks for the relevant link. I makes me wish I'd chosen a different example, as this isn't the first time I've seen over-moderation of late. Commented Nov 15, 2012 at 12:56
  • Although reading the linked meta thread it would appear that it doesn't lay out a clear explanation at all....... Commented Nov 15, 2012 at 12:57
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    "Pretty clear" was probably an exaggerated choice of words, but I think there was significant discussion on it already, and the logic behind the moderation on this question seems valid in this case. If the question is attracting that much traffic in a short time due to being promoted on social networking sites, the moderators need to make sure it is a good question with good (on-topic) answers. Commented Nov 15, 2012 at 12:59
  • @psubsee2003, The discussion seems to address the fact that the thread could attract bad answers, but doesn't address why there's no hope at all for the voting and protecting systems, let alone the fact that answers were deleted with unique, relevant, coherent answers, as has been the case for what seems like more and more threads of late. Are you able to see deleted posts on SO? Commented Nov 15, 2012 at 13:03
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    Excuse me, I can not follow...do you mean that diamonds delete answers when a downvote would have been more appropriate? Commented Nov 15, 2012 at 13:04
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    @MikeGraham If you do have various other examples, please do list them. The discussion on the one you list more or less seems to have reached a consensus that the (majority of) deletions was justified. There's not a whole lot more to discuss here if that is your only bit of data.
    – Bart
    Commented Nov 15, 2012 at 13:11
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    @SulfurizedDemonbobby We delete answers when they are not answers. We do not delete them for being incorrect. Incorrect answers get downvotes, "Not an answer" gets deleted. Commented Nov 15, 2012 at 13:23
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    Which answers exactly do you feel are coherent and add something constructive? Can you link to them individually in your question so they can be evaluated and addressed individually? Most of the deleted answers were obvious jokes, some were borderline. Which ones do you think need keeping?
    – user50049
    Commented Nov 15, 2012 at 13:25
  • @GeorgeStocker: I'm aware of that, no insult intended...but I can't grasp the meaning of this question...that's why I asked. Commented Nov 15, 2012 at 13:40
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    That's far from being over moderation. The fact they let such question stay open is a wonder if you ask me. Personally I don't really care, but quick look in the revisions show bloody war between high rep users. I think that at some point there will be no choice but lock that question. Commented Nov 15, 2012 at 13:51

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If you can point me to any of those answers that have been deleted that are actual answers, then I'll be happy to undelete them.

The question is What are the proper use cases for Android UserManager.isUserAGoat()?

This is important because it's not asking whether or not it's an easter egg, or what the possible reasons for its inclusion are; or for everyone to include a picture of a goat in their answer.

I admit that the question has the potential to be like the perma-deleted Boat programming question, in that it could be a clever troll, but as stated, there is a discernible question there that can be answered.

We don't hate fun, but we do expect answers to answer the question asked, and not become some forum where anything goes.

The community and the moderators did the exact right thing here. There's nothing to 'encourage' here; the answers were deleted not because they weren't optimal, or the users "didn't like them"; they were deleted because they were not answers. You may be confused about the role of deletion and downvoting:

Downvoting is for when an answer is wrong or not well thought out.

Deletion is for when an answer does not address the question asked, is irrelevant to the topic, is spam, a comment, or a question. This is not an exhaustive list of reasons to delete.

We don't delete answers because they're incorrect, we delete them because they don't address the question, or are comments, or appear to be monkeys hitting keys.


I would support a feature request that required users to give a reason for deleting a post (much like we have close reasons), and have that reason displayed under the names of the users who voted to delete it. That way deletion would require reasons much like close votes would. Hopefully it would allow for people to improve their posts and flag them for undeletion.

I have made this a feature request.


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    it's not asking whether or not it's an easter egg -- To be fair, the question when should it be used is answered by the fact that it's an easter egg (ie, never).
    – McGarnagle
    Commented Nov 15, 2012 at 17:45
  • Which is a valid question asked, question answered pair, so why the drama with the question? Commented Nov 16, 2012 at 12:46
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Regarding down-voting and deletion: they each have their place, and on an ordinary question there's not too much to worry about - some folks down-vote, some folks vote to delete, and some folks do both; what actually ends up getting deleted vs. just down-voted usually boils down to the effort put into the answer. But on super-popular questions that bring in a lot of gawkers with at best tangential interest in the topic, that tends to fall apart. We're not reddit - the ranking algorithms are not optimized for long threads of tangential comments.

This is the second time that question's come up in a couple of days. Here's why: it wasn't locked.

Usually, when a question gains that much attention in a short period of time, it's necessary to lock it: thousands of people show up who aren't familiar with the structure of Stack Overflow, start posting their feelings as answers, and things start looking pretty raggedy. Locking gives things a chance to settle down without removing the good stuff that brought folks in in the first place.

The moderators yesterday opted to take a more hands-off approach: leave the question unlocked, welcome new answers, and only step in to remove things that... well, clearly were not answers. Jokes, discussions, trivia, etc.

This did end up encouraging a few people to improve their answers significantly. But it also seems to have created more drama. Given that the question is quite effectively answered at this point (how many uses can you come up with for a function that always returns false?), I've locked it for the next day.

Answers can still be edited and commented on, but no new ones can be added and the question will stay as it is.

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    This is what happens when we do nice things for people =P
    – casperOne
    Commented Nov 15, 2012 at 15:25
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"Rules of the game" have been set just few hours after the question has been asked.

Post notice in the question says clearly and unambiguously:

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer: please explain why you're recommending it as a solution. Answers that don't explain anything will be deleted...

As long as deleted are answers covered by above notice, I would find removal fair.


Without above notice, I would rather prefer downvoting bad answers instead of their removal. I downvote quite frequently and rep points I loose for doing this feel like an "investment" into site quality; pretty rewarding. But wasting reputation on those who just can't play by rules... give me a break.

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    Holy humongous bold Batman ;)
    – Bart
    Commented Nov 15, 2012 at 13:13
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    Unfortunately, that didn't stop people, in addition to the fact that people didn't read the question and realize that we didn't want a history lesson.
    – casperOne
    Commented Nov 15, 2012 at 15:24
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These answers should have been dealt with by the community through voting. The system works just fine, there is no need for such a heavy handed response by the moderators.

We need to educate people to not flag everything they see and instead use their voting abilities to moderate the site. People need to stop involving moderators in things since the moderators are clearly out of control.

There are two great studies that delve into some of the root causes behind these issues:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanford_prison_experiment

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment

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    Keep in mind, the community also deals with things through flagging.
    – user50049
    Commented Nov 15, 2012 at 13:44
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    Keep in mind that a user flagging something does not mean moderators have to (or even should) perform an action.
    – GEOCHET
    Commented Nov 15, 2012 at 13:45
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    "Keep in mind that a user flagging something does not mean moderators have to (or even should) perform an action." - But it just as easily could be a correct flag, and thus require moderator action. You can apply those arguments to any community activity (voting, flagging, editing) - some people are doing it wrong, some people are doing it right. Commented Nov 15, 2012 at 14:08
  • And mods should let people do those things right or wrong. That is how the system is built.
    – GEOCHET
    Commented Nov 15, 2012 at 14:11
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    -1 I spent quite some rep (few hundreds points I guess) downvoting bad answers and I find it generally fair that mods can't / won't delete these. However, there are few (very few) cases when rules allow them do that (not-an-answer, link-only-answers, question notice violation...) and I really appreciate when they use their power so that answer deletion refunds my rep back
    – gnat
    Commented Nov 15, 2012 at 14:21
  • You want things that you downvote to be deleted? Good lord. What have we become?
    – GEOCHET
    Commented Nov 15, 2012 at 14:34
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    @GEOCHET please re-read what I wrote " I find it generally fair that mods can't / won't delete these..."
    – gnat
    Commented Nov 15, 2012 at 14:40
  • "and I really appreciate when they use their power so that answer deletion refunds my rep back" -- Oh, I read it just fine, thanks.
    – GEOCHET
    Commented Nov 15, 2012 at 14:40
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    ...in "few (very few) cases when rules allow them do that" - ie, as long as mods obey the rules, anything wrong with that? I especially like that there are very few rules and these are public and easy to understand (I forgot to add spam to that short list sorry)
    – gnat
    Commented Nov 15, 2012 at 14:41
  • Rules don't make right.
    – GEOCHET
    Commented Nov 15, 2012 at 14:42
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    rules make fair game, I do not pretend to make anything right. Fair enough?
    – gnat
    Commented Nov 15, 2012 at 14:43
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    I have to agree that the moderators seem unnecessarily active, and therefore more power should be granted to high-rep users to share the burden. There would be far fewer things deleted by moderators if I could just delete them myself instead.
    – McCannot
    Commented Nov 15, 2012 at 15:28
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    IMO, SO needs more flagging. Currently, SO has tons of code-only/link-only/one-liner answers. On any other site, these would be downvoted/commented on, and in the case of the latter two, flagged and converted to a comment. On SO, we have users posting such things, even users with insanely high rep. Commented Nov 15, 2012 at 17:10
  • @mcc two 20k users can delete a post.. Isn't that good enough? The tools let you find half-voted(ie, one deletion vote) posts for deletion. Only mods can do stuff without having to vote, thats by design. 20k users are not necessarily trusted by the community. Commented Nov 15, 2012 at 17:23
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    @Manishearth: There are plenty of restrictions on when (and how often) 20k users can vote for deletion, and things they can't do at all. Or consider that people with hundreds of accepted "not an answer" flags vs. 3-5 declined would clearly be capable of voting directly to delete those answers without troubling a moderator.
    – McCannot
    Commented Nov 15, 2012 at 17:50

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