28

There is a highly enthusiastic user with lots of time to post incorrect answers on topic he's most enthusiastic about. Through sheer massive effort and lots of free time he's got high enough rep that novice users are unlikely to suspect the wrongness of the answers - they sound confident and slightly plausible.

I don't want to serially down vote this user but when I start looking at his answers at least 50% of them are completely or partially wrong (on this particular subject anyway).

Is there a recommended action here? In theory, the community is supposed to recognize the better answers but it's amazing how much misinformation one person with nothing better to do can spread :(

20

While I definitely wouldn't go out of your way (i.e., looking up older answers, etc.), if you encounter these answers during your normal activity on the tag and they are incorrect, please downvote them.

The important distinction is that you are downvoting the content, and not the user in particular.

Tossing in a (gentle, constructive, diplomatic) comment here and there (i.e., not "-1 WRONG") would probably be helpful as well.

  • 3
    Agreed on leaving comments, sadly enthusiastically ignorant folks are frequently completely unaware of their mistaken beliefs... :( nothing more frustrating than posting correct answer and getting a "how is this any different than what i said?" back. – Asya Kamsky Dec 22 '13 at 7:45
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    @AsyaKamsky There will always be some people with thick skulls around, so at some point you have to decide that you've done all that you can. – jonsca Dec 22 '13 at 7:49
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    Agree on this, the bad part though is sometimes downvotes and comments (maybe linking to a fiddle showing the answer is wrong, or a page on the documentation) are still not enough: happened more than beliveable that dowvotes carried simpathy upvotes, which adds wrong to the wrong. But other than these rare-but-not-that-much situations, the course of action should be this: let SO know the content is wrong, the best way you can. – Damien Pirsy Dec 22 '13 at 8:50
  • @damienpirsy ugh! I hadn't even thought about sympathy up votes phenomena - but boy does that explain how some of his answers get back votes that seem totally random! – Asya Kamsky Dec 22 '13 at 15:34
14

You are of course in fear of being caught with the serial downvote flag if you go through their answers downvoting.
This is a little frustrating as in essence you'd be doing good and the site and it's users a favour, but as with any blanket policy there are pros and cons. In this case it's an essential policy to ensure there's no malice in voting between users, and not designed to cater for your scenario.

How about going through their answers and politely commenting on them stating why they're incorrect?
If you're sure they wrong enough that it's worth going through them, at least the bulk or worst ones, then you are helping other users who may have otherwise been mislead by an inaccurate answer.

Forget your being bothered by the fact they get away with this before commenting, then provide a polite and factual comment explaining why the above answer is:

  • Completely wrong, because of XYZ
  • Wont work in certain circumstances (PHP version X only, when value is integer, etc)
  • Isn't secure because XYZ
  • etc

Then users seeing the answer will likely see your response and you have then added some valuable advice either warding them off the answer's advice, or making it more accurate.

Others have suggested editing the answers, and I agree entirely it's the best approach for the site and other visitors etc, but you could open a can of worms if you edit something badly, provide inaccurate info yourself, the answerer comes along and reverts them back (wasting yours and their time).
Personally I think comments are enough, and there's nothing the answerer can do about them, other than (hopefully) edit their answers, learn, and/or comment back.

  • 4
    Commenting to state why the answers are incorrect is what I do. But when it goes on for months, that the guy posts answers which are have nothing to do with the question or which are downright wrong (in a way that could easily be tested, and where the existing answers explain why that answer is wrong), it gets wearing. And yes, I'm talking about a real case. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Dec 22 '13 at 14:05
  • "he serial downvote flag ... it's an essential policy to ensure there's no malice in voting between users" Goodness knows how anyone thought it could achieve that objective. – ChrisJJ Dec 22 '13 at 21:41
12

Shog9's answer elsewhere is definitive. To paraphrase: If you downvote as you see new bad content arrive, you are doing the right thing. If you start walking someone's profile, you are at very serious risk of doing the wrong thing. At best, if you patiently evaluate everything you see, dispensing upvotes, downvotes, and edits accordingly, you will be operating within the spirit of the site; but it's a lot of work, and there's some risk that you'll trip the serial voting detector even so. If all you do is go hunting crud and downvoting it, you're definitely off the reservation.

In other words, the team has decided that the there are too many risks involved in inviting the community to patrol people as opposed to content. The implication is obvious: even if you think you've got really strong evidence that a person is a generator of a giant amount of poor content, you still shouldn't try to seek out that person's other answers so you can downvote them. If you see users who seem to be up to no good (e.g., fraud, abuse), you can flag their answers for ♦-moderator attention and explain the situation.

  • I agree, walking a user's profile looking for content to evaluate is not the right course of action. And I really liked shog's post that talked about fixing content as well as downvoting when encountering it. – Travis J Dec 22 '13 at 20:11
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    "if you think you've got really strong evidence that a person is a generator of a giant amount of poor content, notify the team" - Does the team want to receive this kind of notification and do they have any plan to act on it? If their response is going to be "we defer to the community", then maybe better advice would be "if you think you've got really strong evidence that a person is a generator of a giant amount of poor content, you still probably shouldn't do anything special about it (other than continuing to downvote bad answers as they come in, regardless of who wrote them)". – D.W. Dec 23 '13 at 1:15
  • Don't care if someone emails us about that sort of thing, @D.W. - of course, I'll probably just tell them the same as what Ros said: down-vote it as you encounter it naturally. The moment you start walking through someone's profile, you risk losing objectivity. – Shog9 Dec 23 '13 at 1:38
  • @9Shogsa-Shogging, my question isn't whether you mind emails; the question is whether you really plan to act on them. It sounds like you most likely are not going to act on them and will most likely tell whoever emails you to downvote bad posts as they encounter them naturally (as I expected). Given that, it's not really helping anyone to suggest that if downvoting as you encounter it doesn't work they should contact the team, when they're just going to get referred back to this thread and told to do what already wasn't working (downvoting as they encounter it). – D.W. Dec 23 '13 at 1:57
  • Didn't say I wouldn't act, but... What would you have me do, @D.W.? Outside of cases that are clearly spam / very low quality / involving voting-fraud, there's not much I can do besides... Well, down-vote. Which does work, believe it or not - you might be surprised at how much folks who don't seem to care about any other form of feedback will react to the occasional down-vote. – Shog9 Dec 23 '13 at 2:03
  • @9Shogsa-Shogging, I'm not suggesting you do anything different -- not at all! Rather, my suggestion was that we should revise Rosinante's answer to not make a recommendation that will most likely prove useless. – D.W. Dec 23 '13 at 3:04
  • Ah, gotcha. Go ahead then, @d.w. - maybe add something about flagging posts from users who seem to be up to no good (fraud/abuse) – Shog9 Dec 23 '13 at 3:05
6

If their answers are poor, downvote them.

If they're genuinely causing harm, answer the question instead, providing a safer, better alternative.

Downvoting the user because their other answers are terrible is never the right way to go about things. That will reflect poorly on you rather than them. You want to vote on the merit of the content, not the user themselves.

  • 6
    I don't believe I suggested down voting the user. - just his terrible answers. – Asya Kamsky Dec 22 '13 at 7:42
2

The short answer is: there's nothing you can do, if the user is sufficiently persistent. There are some simple things you can try, but to be realistic, there's no guarantee any of them will work; you might just have to live with the situation.

You can and should continue to monitor all questions and answers as they come in. When you see a bad question or answer, you should downvote it, regardless of author. Keep downvoting bad questions and answers as you see them -- but remember that StackExchange doesn't want you to try to search out this user's other questions or answers.

You can try leaving comments on this user's bad answers. But be realistic: users that fit the profile you describe often aren't going to change their behavior because of comments; and it's too easy for other readers to fail to see your comments or to sympathy-upvote the answer nonetheess. Leaving comments is a worth a try -- it might work -- but don't be too disappointed if it doesn't change much. Also, understand that reactions to critical comments can vary. Some people get very offended or upset, or think you are being rude (you're not, but what can you do?) and start attacking you. If you see that happen, you'll have to decide whether it's worth it to continue commenting. Personally, I've learned that leaving a critical comment often isn't worth the agita, unless I recognize the user and consider them thoughtful; so in many cases I'll just downvote without commenting.

Ultimately, once you've tried the basic things, if they don't work, there's not a lot you can do. You'll just have to accept that this is the way things are. The StackExchange site is pretty good, but it's not perfect, and sometimes it promulgates bad answers and bad information. Right now, there's no solid solution to the problem you outlined; there's no mechanism that's really effective, if the problem user is enthusiastic and prolific enough. Oh well. Hopefully people won't rely upon StackExchange alone for anything that's life-critical.

It's possible to become demoralized and frustrated by the situation, but I think the most healthy response is to realize that not all problems can be solved; to realize that the StackExchange platform is not perfect, but it's still better than any of its competition. Keep your eyes on the positive aspects of the situation: even if the site is not perfect, by participating in StackExchange sites, you are doing a net good for the world.

In the long run, perhaps the best bet is to try to grow the community of your site so its population is, on average, more knowledgeable and more expert. That will help improve the quality of answers. One of the best ways you can help with that is by improving the quality of the site overall and by making the site attractive to experts.

0

Downvoting every one of their answers is the least constructive, I think you understood that though. Clearly downvoting poor quality answers is the correct course of action in general, but it would not help to go through and open every answer a user posted and then downvote it them all at once. If you downvote a large group of a single users posts at once the serial voting script will probably nullify the votes.

I think the most useful thing to do for this user would be to teach them. Either point out an issue they seem to misrepresent and directly inform them of the proper approach or give them links to documentation that outlines the misrepresentation.

Bad contributions don't really help anyone, and they can potentially waste a lot of time when producing a product. If you can manage to correct or inform the user, that would the best case scenario.

If the user is either not available, or only made truly harmful posts in a few places, another path is to edit them. Make sure though that you do not change too much with the edit, it should be an improvement not a re-working. If the entire post is incorrect then perhaps posting a competing one with information about what is harmful and what best practice should be is the way to go.

It is understandable not to point this specific user out, but it is also hard to answer in generalities for a specific situation.

  • 3
    Huh? Someone posts wrong answers, and downvoting the answers is not constructive? Are we on Quora? – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Dec 22 '13 at 14:05
  • @benisuǝqbackwards your linked question is quite similar, the main difference is "my" guy has 3 orders of magnitude higher rep :( – Asya Kamsky Dec 22 '13 at 15:29
  • @travisj I wouldn't think it would be hard to find that user, but I don't want to directly identify him because I doubt he's a unique phenomenon. – Asya Kamsky Dec 22 '13 at 15:31
  • @Gilles - I was referring to their entire set of answers and not just one incorrect one. I do think that it would not be constructive to go downvote every answer of a user all at once. – Travis J Dec 22 '13 at 18:31
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    @TravisJ I don't downvote them all at once, I downvote them as they come in (because they each, individually, deserve a downvote). – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Dec 22 '13 at 18:39
  • @Gilles - That isn't what is being discussed though. We are talking about how to address the whole set, not one individual answer. Note the part about many wrong answers. Basically you are recommending to downvote all of them because what is being addressed is examining them all at once. As they come in, as in, each time you click on one from their profile summary, is basically what you are saying in the context of this discussion. – Travis J Dec 22 '13 at 19:57
  • @Gilles - Just so I have this straight, your answer to this question would be to examine every post from the user, and then downvote each one which was incorrect all at once? – Travis J Dec 22 '13 at 20:01
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    @TravisJ I don't click on them from their profile summary, I see them come in as I watch new questions come in. I don't propose to go through his profile and examine every post: I've seen enough of him to know that they're all wrong, or close enough (as often wrong as a stopped clock). – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Dec 22 '13 at 20:14
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    I linked it here @Asya more as a response to Travis' answer than your question, i.e. that attempting to teach a user that they're wrong can also go badly.ar nicer. – ben is uǝq backwards Dec 23 '13 at 16:44

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