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(question revised inline)

People with over 10k reputation would see that most of my deleted answers are filled with Body must be at least 30 characters; you entered 53. They are deleted, and the shorter message make my vision clear the next time I view a similar question.

I recently received a private message from a moderator. Since it's a private message, I won't post it here. It said that I removed or defaced a lot of content from my posts, and the whole point is telling me that I possibly should not delete my own posts.

I then replied that I actually delete two different kinds of answers:

  1. down voted or zero voted (except when it is an accepted answer)
  2. answers of the closed questions

And now I have undeleted two answers, for example:

  1. Why doesn't Array class expose its indexer directly?

  2. https://stackoverflow.com/questions/14078723/why-is-c-said-to-be-an-unsafe-language-while-c-sharp-is-a-safe-one/14080289#14080289

I've started a bounty for a question: Porting code containing unsigned char pointer in C to C#

And it finally got an answer which was accepted. Although my answer is before the accepted answer, it seems to be a duplicate. So it's the next one I plan to delete.

My question is should I keep my answer there?

Shouldn't I delete them if the question is closed or I think my answer possibly is not considered good and that is why they are down voted or zero voted?

16
  • 2
    Having no votes doesn't mean it's bad. Why delete things you've obviously spent a lot of time writing? It'll help someone someday. (Unless they are deeply flawed.)
    – Mat
    Commented Mar 25, 2013 at 11:53
  • Why do you think you need to delete the answers?
    – Taryn
    Commented Mar 25, 2013 at 11:53
  • 11
    I don't understand why you would delete the answer that has 7 upvotes.
    – JJJ
    Commented Mar 25, 2013 at 11:53
  • @Juhana: I yelled for reopen that question, because I think it is helpful. For avoiding arouse unnecessary suspicion, so I don't consider to leave an answer there.
    – Ken Kin
    Commented Mar 25, 2013 at 12:07
  • 6
    I think you're assuming that "closed as a duplicate" == "bad question". That's not true, even the best of questions should be closed if it has been asked and answered before.
    – JJJ
    Commented Mar 25, 2013 at 12:09
  • @Juhana: But I think they actually are not duplicate.
    – Ken Kin
    Commented Mar 25, 2013 at 12:10
  • 1
    You just tripped a moderator flag, probably by deleting several answers at the same time. Pretty typical when doing some cleanup on a lazy Sunday. There isn't much point in replacing your answer with a garbage message and then deleting your post, just delete it. Keep the number of deletions at 5 or less in a day to avoid triggering the "rage quit" alert. Commented Mar 25, 2013 at 13:15
  • 1
    @HansPassant: Thanks for the recommendation. However, a deleted long answer is messed in the vision, to myself and a 10K man(or woman).
    – Ken Kin
    Commented Mar 25, 2013 at 13:37
  • 1
    Ken, I'm not 100% sure that the first answer you linked really belongs as an answer at all. The TL;DR that I get from it is "I don't know," which really isn't an answer at all. As the OP, why didn't you just incorporate that into your question?
    – Matt Ball
    Commented Mar 25, 2013 at 13:44
  • @MattBall: I think that would cause the question too long to read.
    – Ken Kin
    Commented Mar 25, 2013 at 13:50
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    If it is part of the question, then it belongs there regardless of length concerns. Remember, Stack Exchange sites are strictly question-and-answer. They're quite different from standard forums. If something doesn't answer the question, it's not an answer.
    – Matt Ball
    Commented Mar 25, 2013 at 13:51
  • @MattBall: It is my conclusion after I read all the answers, but seems if I put it in the question, will invalidates all the other answers.
    – Ken Kin
    Commented Mar 25, 2013 at 14:12
  • Thanks to everyone! I'm going to mark an answer later today.
    – Ken Kin
    Commented Mar 25, 2013 at 15:55
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    This is why I'd asked about this a couple of months ago: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/164954/… . These answers were being auto-flagged by the system for vandalism, and they didn't seem to be bad in the first place, so we were a little concerned about this. When you deleted another few good answers, we wanted to ask again why you were doing this. Thanks for posting about this on Meta to clear things up. Commented Mar 25, 2013 at 16:04
  • @BradLarson: Okay, I undeleted it.
    – Ken Kin
    Commented Mar 25, 2013 at 16:08

3 Answers 3

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The simple fact is content is valuable regardless of the number of votes. Just because it didn't help the OP, members of the community did not vote on it, or the question got closed does not make it any less valuable, so by deleting it you are doing a disservice to anyone who views that question in the future.

I believe there are only 3 reasons to delete your own answer

  1. Technically inaccurate - specifically the answer contains incorrect information that will do nothing but confuse someone in the future.1

  2. Answering the wrong question - this is close to #1, but I separated it because there is a slight difference. If the OP changes the question, or you have misunderstood the question at the beginning, then the answer isn't valuable and could lead to confusion in the future.

  3. Duplicate answer - if you post something that is exactly the same as another answer (and does not offer any new or different information), then it can be deleted since there is no real loss of info.

Deleting answers to closed questions doesn't help anyone. Closed questions are still questions, and the answer might help someone in the future. And just because something is closed doesn't mean that it won't get reopen in the future. It is not uncommon for questions to be closed incorrectly, and as the "rules" of Stack Overflow change, they might find that the close reason doesn't fit with the new rules and get reopened.

1 - If the technical inaccuracy is due to a common misconception, sometimes editing the answer to note it is wrong (and why) can be just as valuable as a correct answer since it attempting to correct the misconception. I'd hesitate to delete answers like this as well.

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  • I'm not sure what "hesitate to delete" means. Does it mean hard to choose to or hard to choose not to?
    – Ken Kin
    Commented Mar 25, 2013 at 13:45
  • 1
    @KenKin By hesitate to delete, I was trying to say I would think twice before deleting. The reasoning is if it is a common misconception that you find is incorrect after posting your answer, then by leaving and editing to explain why it is incorrect, you can help correct the misconception Commented Mar 25, 2013 at 13:58
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Generally, we would prefer you not delete potentially helpful content. Just because a post has not gotten any up votes does not necessarily mean it's not helpful. Even a down vote or two might not be such an indication.

That said, some reasonable paring down of lesser-valued content occasionally is not a horrible thing to do; but the question will be, "What is reasonable?" The answer: "That depends."

If you are deleting what you honestly think are 'weak' answers to questions that have some other answers that are of high-quality, and you didn't get up votes or other attention, then I'm not horribly against it now and then.

But if your answer is the only one, for instance, and is a quality answer; I would personally prefer you not delete it.

I think I'm the one who sent you that moderator message, perhaps. My biggest concern is that you just be careful about what you delete. :)

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  • But I unexpectedly earned a Disciplined badge when I delete an up voted answer. Doesn't it considered a cheating if I afterwards undelete?
    – Ken Kin
    Commented Mar 25, 2013 at 12:38
  • @KenKin I wouldn't delete one that is a good answer. I've had a wrong answer get up voted; that's how I earned mine. Commented Mar 25, 2013 at 13:06
  • 3
    @KenKin No. Cheating requires intent. (Not all possible wrongdoing requires intent--for example, serial up/downvoting can be done without intent. But unintentional bad voting patterns aren't cheating.) And even if you'd deliberately deleted it to get the badge (intending to undelete it), that "cheating" would be too minor to justify anyone's attention or action. I believe this is explicitly given as an example of the kind of minor scenario where a badge is never revoked. (Stack Exchange employees can and do take away badges that are obtained through serious gaming of the system.) Commented Mar 25, 2013 at 13:35
  • @EliahKagan: Thank you.
    – Ken Kin
    Commented Mar 26, 2013 at 1:51
1

Generally speaking, your first impulse (I don't want to leave a bad answer here) is good. But you have some execution issues.

  • first, if the question is closed, and you would have left your answer there if the question wasn't closed, leave it there. There's nothing necessarily wrong with your answer. It's possible that while the question is closed it will be edited and you may need to change your answer, but the question may just stay closed. Deleting your answer could hurt you (giving up rep it earned, or moving you closer to a question ban) and it definitely hurts others who are interested in the topic you have answered. Leave it.
  • second, if the answer is not good, either by your own evaluation or by other people in the form of downvotes, fix it. Deletion on the stack exchange sites is not like deletion elsewhere: the bad content can still count against you. Edit the answer and make it better. You obviously know how to edit, since you've vandal-edited all your content away. Instead, edit in better content to deal with that impulse not to leave bad answers in place.
  • third, if you've learned that you don't always have the best solution to certain kinds of problems, take your time before answering. Don't try to play Fastest Gun in the West. Wait, see if others answer, fire up an editor and try writing and running a little code sample, and then come and deliver a good answer that you can stand behind. An answer you never write doesn't need to be deleted; go for a few good answers instead of a lot of so-so ones with a plan to delete the ones that aren't appreciated.
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  • With the questions those need to be answered with some code, I actually compile and run EVERY the code in my answers. That's why I usually answered some slower than a Fastest Gun. However, if the question end with my down voted or zero voted, doesn't that means it is not considered helpful?
    – Ken Kin
    Commented Mar 25, 2013 at 13:20
  • the most common reason for downvoting an answer is that it's not helpful. Too short, too long, answering a different question, completely wrong - there are dozens of reasons for a downvote. If you're lucky, someone comments. If not, try looking at the upvoted answers to see what is different. Read the question again. Don't just immediately delete the answer and move on, because you're not moving on, the bad answer still counts against you. Commented Mar 25, 2013 at 13:27

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