6

Suppose a new user makes a first stab at writing an answer, but to a more experienced user's eye, his contribution would be more appropriate as a comment. The canned response offered to reviewers is

This does not provide an answer to the question. To critique or request clarification from an author, leave a comment below their post - you can always comment on your own posts, and once you have sufficient reputation you will be able to comment on any post.

If I put myself in the shoes of a new user, this is as frustrating to hear as the dentist's non-yes-or-no question when he's just stuck a bunch of tools in my mouth. I want to cooperate, delete the answer, and put my text into a comment -- but I can't.

Assuming that creating frustration is not our actual goal here...

When a new user (with insufficient rep to comment) writes a dud answer on his first time out, what is the most desirable behavior we would like to elicit from the new user?

  1. Delete the answer and try harder to write a real answer, perhaps for some other question.

  2. Improve the answer through more thought and research, better documentation, and figuring out where the "Edit" button is.

  3. Leave the answer as is, but feel stymied, put down, embarrassed, annoyed, etc. -- in short, something negative.

  4. None of the above?

-- Edit to clarify --

Please note, this question is different from the one referenced above. (That one asks, what action should reviewers take to deal with dud first answers.) This question asks you to back up a step and figure out what you would like to see happen after the dud answer has been submitted and reviewed.

  • 6
    Ask them to please read Why do I need 50 reputation to comment? What can I do instead? – DavidPostill Aug 23 '15 at 11:45
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    Note they already did see this warning for their first post. So, most often I just flag, downvote, vote to delete and don't even bother explaining anything... – Arjan Aug 23 '15 at 11:47
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    What is a "dud answer"? – Shadow The Curly Braced Wizard Aug 23 '15 at 11:54
  • For preference, options 2, 1, and 3, in that order. – Dan Bron Aug 23 '15 at 12:34
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    Actually, my first thought was who is "we"? This varies from site to site culture, and even prolly from person to person, or even from case to case. Some SE sites cuddle up new users, while the others - for some reasons - have gotten harsher. – Marshmallow Aug 23 '15 at 12:55
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    That said, I hardly use the template comment, since it's possible I have a better comment in my mind that fits the case. Also, hitting the user with a general comment could come off as "I'm cleaning the trash you've left here. Just so you know." But if you do it case by case, and explain in detail why it doesn't answer the question, and then they take it as harsh or something, it's their problem. – Marshmallow Aug 23 '15 at 12:58
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    Something you can do is to flag the answer for moderator attention so it can be converted to a comment – which is arguably the least frustrating experience. Note that whether moderators care about this depends on the site culture as well. – Wrzlprmft Aug 23 '15 at 14:12
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    How should option 2 work? Documentation, thought and research can only turn a bad answer into a good answer, but cannot turn a comment into an answer. If you think that this is all that only documentation, thought and research is missing, it’s probably an answer. (Some site may pose exceptions to this though, e.g., Skeptics, where references define an answer.) – Wrzlprmft Aug 23 '15 at 14:17
5

If the answer could be improved with an edit, I leave a comment like the following:

Welcome to $SITE. We're a little different from other sites; this isn't a discussion forum but a Q&A site, where we reserve the answer space for answers. Please check out our short [tour]. (Specifics of what's needed go here.) Could you please [edit] this to more directly address the question? Thanks.

For a first-time answerer I try to be generous here and give the user a chance to fix the post if I can imagine any way it could be fixed -- adding sources, explaining the reasoning behind the one-liner, etc. Depending on the specific issues I might link to help topics or meta posts. For example, some of my sites have a "back it up" rule, explained on meta, so if the problem is that the person just made an assertion without explaining it, I'll link to that.

Where possible, the goal is to get the person to improve the answer.

Sometimes that's not possible. If the answer can't be improved (it's just out of place), I use this:

Welcome to $SITE. We're a little different from other sites. We're a Q&A site, not a discussion forum, and we reserve the answer space for answers to the question that was asked. This doesn't answer the question so I'm deleting it. Please check out our short [tour] for more about how the site works. Thanks.

If the "answer" is a useful question for the OP, I'll convert the answer to a comment and leave a comment telling the answerer that I did so and why. My (anecdote-based) impression is that people feel better about having their answers transformed than having them outright deleted. However, moderators are not a comment-posting service; I do this only for ones that are actually useful as comments.

I use the AutoReviewComments script to make this easier. (I have a few other templates for specific types of non-answer.)

  • A breath of fresh air. A humane approach, and you managed to streamline it too. – aparente001 Feb 26 '18 at 16:01
  • I am stealing those 2 quotes above and adding them to my text macro list. Great, kind approach. I also try to encourage member to cut the new member some slack. A "101" rep implies some SE experience, a "1" rep? Brand new, let's not DV and pile on to a new member. – JoeTaxpayer Feb 28 '18 at 16:27
3

As with any user writing a "dud" answer (i.e. something other than an answer in the area reserved for answers) we want them to learn to write better answers as quickly as possible so that they can help rather than drain our volunteer efforts.

Since, these are first time answerers, presumably lacking the 50 reputation to comment anywhere, and assuming that they have not taken the time to read the site's Tour to know what is expected, I think the best thing is to try to address answers containing anything but answers quickly and firmly.

As a moderator, I usually delete non-answers posted as answers with comments like those below (to which I have added bolding to highlight the five flavours):

  • Welcome to <site> SE! As a new user be sure to take the [Tour]. Here you seem to be saying that you have the same problem in the area reserved for direct answers to the original question, and so your post will be deleted.
  • Welcome to <site> SE! As a new user be sure to take the [Tour]. Here you are trying to ask a new question in the area reserved for direct answers to the original question, and so your post will be deleted.
  • Welcome to <site> SE! As a new user be sure to take the [Tour]. Here you are trying to thank someone in the area reserved for direct answers to the original question, and so your post will be deleted. The way to say thanks is to upvote and/or accept answers.
  • Welcome to <site> SE! As a new user be sure to take the [Tour]. Here you are trying to make a comment in the area reserved for direct answers to the original question, and so your post will be deleted.
  • Welcome to <site> SE! As a new user be sure to take the [Tour]. Here you are trying to make a comment in the area reserved for direct answers to the original question. Such posts are normally deleted but in this instance I will convert yours to a comment.

The last flavour is one that I use when a comment that appears to seek a useful clarification appears in the area reserved for answers.

In all cases the answerer gets my comment as a notification and can still see their deleted answer. If the dud answer should have been a question then that question usually appears within a few hours.

Any concerns about whether the user receives these comments and can still see their dud answer content should be alleviated by How do notifications on deleted posts work?

To directly answer your question what I think we want is for them to:

  1. Stop writing "dud" answers
  2. Read (or re-read) the [Tour] and perhaps some more of the [Help] to learn more of what is expected when answering
  3. Start writing answers that meet the site's quality standards
  4. Start helping others to write answers that meet the site's quality standards by setting an example, making helpful comments, upvoting/downvoting appropriately and/or editing their "dud" answers (when fixable).
  • I like your four goals at the end, and I like that you send them to the Tour whenever they do newbie-nonsense. What site(s) do you typically do this quick-close-but-send-to-tour in? I'd like to get a feel for what it looks like in action. // How long do you wait between posting the go-to-tour-this-will-self-destruct-here's-why comment and actually deleting? One thing I don't care for is that when the post is deleted, the newbie can't see it anymore, and can't go in to retrieve what he wrote, to prepare for, for example, drafting a separate question. – aparente001 Feb 26 '18 at 13:22
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    I do this on Geographic Information Systems and Genealogy & Family History. I make the comment, usually in response to a flag, and delete the dud answer a few seconds later. The answerer gets my comment as a notification and can still see their deleted answer. If the dud answer should have been a question then that question usually appears within a few hours. – PolyGeo Feb 26 '18 at 21:59
  • Thanks for the info. Funny. When the Parenting Beta SE moderators deleted my answer it was wiped off the face of the earth. And I had no shortage of reputation there, at the time. – aparente001 Feb 27 '18 at 5:11
  • We did a test at gis.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/4256, but did not use socks to emulate new users, and it seemed to work. Because I see users whose "questions in answers" I have deleted, frequently post the identical question shortly afterwards I'm satisfied that it works the way that I think. If anyone else wants to run a more stringent test and finds me wrong, then I'll happily absorb the results into my workflows. – PolyGeo Feb 27 '18 at 5:28
  • I don't think I have the wherewithall to do a test by myself, but I'd be happy to do one with you. If you want to do one without me, I think you would need a second browser and a throwaway account. Its possible that in your previous test, the person remembered what he had written, or had stored the text in his clipboard or elsewhere. Or maybe the Stalinist moderators at Parenting SE had some special wipe-out powers that aren't part of the standard deletion protocol. – aparente001 Feb 27 '18 at 13:20
  • Yes, they receive the message if it is sent by within one hour of the deletion and by the moderator removing the post (I asked about it once). However, have you ever gotten any flag by those users asking for a post to be undeleted? I haven't, hence I wonder if it is quite difficult to see for them, or just mere coincidence. – fedorqui Feb 27 '18 at 14:52

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