I often see late answer to some post which already has decent number of votes which has accepted answer, and these new answers (mostly by new users) don't any any value and just eat the screen-space + the precious memory of SE hosting + the money + the maintenance cost + time of the user coming/reading the post in future (most important for me).

I thought flagging these for deletion should be good. But, I am not sure what should be the right course of action. What do the meta users have to say about these? Your views?

  • Downvote and comment should usually be enough to cause the author to self delete the answer. If you see it didn't help and sure the answer does not add anything that wasn't said before, you can flag it as "other" and explain. Feb 26, 2015 at 16:16
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    @ShadowWizard Such a flag is just going to get declined. Don't waste the mod's time by flagging it.
    – Servy
    Feb 26, 2015 at 16:17
  • 5
    @Servy I disagree. If answer is adding nothing, it's just noise and should be deleted. Feb 26, 2015 at 16:20
  • @ShadowWizard: I also just downvote such posts and comment on them. Works wonders on Programmers where I still am actively reviewing late answers. Feb 26, 2015 at 16:22
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    @ShadowWizard: such posts do not require moderator intervention. Feb 26, 2015 at 16:22
  • 4
    @MartijnPieters so if 20 users post the same exact answer in one month interval between the answers it's OK, as long as it's not jiberrish or spam? Still don't agree. Feb 26, 2015 at 16:23
  • @Servy Yea, it too think, it should be deleted, instead of waiting for the user to delete himself after he gets downvotes. I am not against just downvoting it either.
    – mtk
    Feb 26, 2015 at 16:23
  • @Martijn for deletion of post, moderator is required right?
    – mtk
    Feb 26, 2015 at 16:24
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    @ShadowWizard: then protect the question the moment the first such low quality late answer comes in. Feb 26, 2015 at 16:24
  • @mtk: no, 20k+ users can vote to delete answers with a negative score. Feb 26, 2015 at 16:24
  • @mtk: No, privileged users can delete answers too. Feb 26, 2015 at 16:25
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    @PatrickHofman: ah, yes. I've been over 20k for too long to remember these things.. Feb 26, 2015 at 16:29
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    A side remark: "the precious memory of SE hosting" is not saved by deletion, because SE keeps all deleted posts anyway, they are just marked deleted: true in the database.
    – user259867
    Feb 26, 2015 at 16:48
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    @gnat: Since I do exactly the same to some other poor sod leaving comments and downvoting, that's only fair game. :-P Feb 26, 2015 at 18:45
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    @gnat: I think you misspelled common sense there, after that sounds like. Feb 26, 2015 at 21:14

4 Answers 4


If you feel that an answer is not useful you can provide that feedback by voting on the post. You can also comment if you would like.

You should not be flagging a post just because you feel that it's not a useful answer.


Maybe everybody agrees that answers that add nothing should be deleted. The problem however is with the "add nothing" bit. People differ about where the bar lies between something and nothing.

On the one hand there is this feature request that comes from a moderator on SO. The feature would be (in brief) to add a way to vote to delete an answer as a duplicate of an earlier one on the same question.

On the other hand, when I've flagged answers as duplicates of earlier ones on SO, I've rarely been able to get the desired results. Maybe I did not make enough of a case for it, or the moderator who handled the flag placed the bar between something and nothing somewhere else than I do, which is likely. The closest the duplicate answer is to be a cut-and-paste of an earlier answer with minor modifications (yes, some folks do this), the greater the chances of success. And there has to be a significant time difference between the time the answers were posted. Simple problems don't have very many significantly different solutions, combined with the Fastest Gun in the West phenomenon you get a bunch of similar answers posted in a short time span. This cannot be helped.

In the meantime, you can downvote, which is unlikely to do much in the grand scheme of things (even with a comment), as the mass of users (on SO at least) tends to upvote anything which is not untrue, irrespective of whether or not it is adding anything to the earlier answers, pertains to the question, etc.

  • not only "people differ" but (which is probably even more important), making moderators handle such a load wouldn't really scale. Too many flags requiring judging content, even a useless / repeated one (and I have seen a lot of useless content) would break the system, in which moderators are assumed to be exception handlers
    – gnat
    Feb 26, 2015 at 18:47
  • True but I do not perceive there being a consistent stance that such flags are flat out inappropriate. I do not recall a response to my flags that was "don't use flags for this". The cases that were quasi-copies were handled with a deletion. And in one case at least, I had polite discussion with the moderator who declined the flag (which would not have happened if the moderator's stance had been "don't use a flag for this").
    – Louis
    Feb 26, 2015 at 19:01
  • that's for sure, especially for late answers in popular questions. I think that if (if) moderator manages to recognise that flag reveals case covered by Atwood's guidance, chances for flag to get through become much higher. My point is though that there won't be (can't be) consistent stance for opposite, that is that such flags are flat out appropriate - simply because system is not designed to handle this in consistent manner, at least not now
    – gnat
    Feb 26, 2015 at 19:13

Flagging is a bad idea if the answer:

  • answers the question and
  • isn't jibberish, spam or crap.

Just being 'low quality' (note: not 'very low quality' as in the definition of the second bullet), isn't a reason to flag.

It might be a reason for you to downvote. Also the late answer queue has some people in place to check if the quality is decent enough. I often see they also judge the answer on the quality relative to the other answers (whether this is good or not).

Also, privileged users can protect a question. This prevents it from attracting more low quality answers.


Stack Exchange is designed to deal with low-quality answers without moderator intervention. The screen space these answers eat up is at the bottom of the page. Downvote them to make sure they stay anchored there. There's just not enough moderator bandwidth in the world to deal with every answer that adds no value.

  • How about community moderation through the VLQ queue? It might be able to keep up. Feb 27, 2015 at 16:17
  • @JanDvorak A lot of these already get picked off by the Late Answers queue. Feb 27, 2015 at 16:28
  • "space these answers eat up is at the bottom" -- bullsh!t. Active tab view shows latest answers on top, no matter what's their quality. As for the point about dealing with low-quality answers without moderator intervention, it is only partially correct, given discussion in the duplicate question
    – gnat
    Mar 1, 2015 at 7:45
  • @gnat Oh, piss off. Votes tab is the default and 99% of people probably never change it. Stack Overflow was designed so that good answers rise to the top. That's mentioned in the very first podcast. Mar 1, 2015 at 14:44
  • 99% with default setting are people coming from google, who only consume content and never rate (vote) it. What setting is preferred by active voters is not known. I for one change it to active at all sites I'm active at and never look back
    – gnat
    Mar 1, 2015 at 14:48

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