I have a +7/-0 answer, written based on a reasonably careful reading of a particular authoritative text (not the question itself, which was straightforward). Unfortunately, I wasn't careful enough, and another answer on that question, by looking more completely, has the right of it. (The result is that mine is not merely incomplete, but actually wrong; fortunately, the second answer is currently at +9/-0.)

Should I delete my answer? Edit to say "no, go check the other one"? Leave it for votes to handle? Comment on it? Or what?

There's a lot of questions on metas about deleting downvoted or otherwise community-recognized wrong answers, as well as those that misread the question, but this seems to be a little different, as neither is the case.

  • @DavidPostill: I looked at that earlier, and for some reason it didn't seem applicable (maybe because most of the answers assume conditions that don't really apply, like discovering the error through downvotes or missing the point of the question). Hrm. – Nathan Tuggy Aug 8 '15 at 17:53
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    For what it's worth, I generally don't consider votes to have anything to do with the deletion of a post. I'm a moderator, so we're kind of just taught that, but I apply it to my own as well. If I post an awesome answer that is actually good, and it gets some down-votes, I don't delete it. If I post a horrible answer that actually brings nothing to the table, but get some up-votes, I will delete it. Votes are often (almost always) correlated to delete-worthiness, but those answers are probably still relevant, unless their main point is "delete to get your rep back," which is a bad answer. – Matthew Haugen Aug 8 '15 at 18:09
  • Is there a reason you're not editing the answer? Something like "Update: after ...'s answer I see that doing X is wrong"? – S.L. Barth - Reinstate Monica Aug 8 '15 at 19:27
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    @S.L.Barth: I eventually went ahead and did that, yeah. That was one of the possibilities; I wasn't sure how ugly it would look, but it turned out OK I think. – Nathan Tuggy Aug 8 '15 at 19:29

It depends. From what you've described, it sounds like the original question was pretty ambiguous, and perhaps the presence of this other answer makes that clear, but if you put a lot of thought and research into your own, and if other people said "that's right" rather than doubting it, I don't think you should delete it.

That's in-line with the whole philosophy that "there are no stupid questions, because if you're asking yourself something, there's a really good chance someone else is also confused on it."

I'd edit it and leave a note at the top. Importantly, though, the note should say why it's wrong. It sounds like you misunderstood the unclear question, so include in this brief note what you misunderstood about it.

You don't want this to be too lengthy, especially since "metadata" of the sort is generally frowned-upon. But I'd leave something.

This serves two primary purposes:

  1. It means anyone reading the question won't have to go through your same thought-process, because you've already shown what you thought and proved it wrong.
  2. It means anyone who reads the question the same way you and those seven other people did, will get the answer to the question they thought was being asked, which is really the goal at that point anyway.

Of course, that's all contingent on this being a minor difference. If, in reality, those seven up-votes were just random and you honestly don't know where they came from, and you were just half-asleep so you wrote a really nonsense answer, just delete it. But if you think it adds something to the question to show an alternate interpretation of the question, then leave it.

As for editing versus commenting, I think a comment is probably the "right" place for it, but I tend to like a quick edit at the top with a horizontal rule (<hr />) following it, just to make sure everyone reads it. This is a nice exception, just in the interest of making sure everyone walks away with good information.

  • The question is fine. It's actually a case where source material is somewhat poorly organized; the question read some of it, I caught some more, and the other answer found the rest that was needed to get the correct answer. – Nathan Tuggy Aug 8 '15 at 17:51
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    @NathanTuggy If your answer doesn't bring anything new to the whole thing, aside from just being incomplete, and if the other answer addresses everything you bring up, then deletion is probably the best bet. Again, the goal here with any of this is to answer the question completely. Ambiguous questions get answered completely either through edits, or in edge-cases, through competing answers. – Matthew Haugen Aug 8 '15 at 18:06
  • But if the trouble here was that you cited facts A and B, and the other person cited A, B, and the differentiating C, then deletion is up to you, but probably the best approach. Of course, if the other post brought up C, D, and E, and not A and B, then yours still brings something to the table. So it's tough to say without seeing it, but that's the standard I'd work off of: what does it introduce that isn't there otherwise? – Matthew Haugen Aug 8 '15 at 18:06
  • It's mostly the last of those cases; I've decided to go ahead and edit in a notice. – Nathan Tuggy Aug 8 '15 at 18:13

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