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I saw this notice under some one-liner answer that was straight to point:

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

Hell NO!

Me as an asker, I am not looking for long answers! I am looking for effective solution to my problem. On the contrary. I got several long answers that I will never have time nor motivation to read (and, more importantly, understand, since these long answers tend sometimes to be complicated, especially at STATS.SE). Many times, short and simple few-liner was what helped me most!

Please, if nothing else, at least reformulate this notice.

  • Where is this notice? – Werner Oct 25 '15 at 17:02
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    Isn't "long" relative here? For some, "long" might constitute three paragraphs, while for others, "long" might mean the 30,000 character limit. On most sites, one-line answers aren't good; "long" is used simply as an opposite term. – HDE 226868 Oct 25 '15 at 17:02
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    It's not about the limit. It's the principle. The length is not what is wrong with these answers. length is not value. – Tomas Oct 25 '15 at 17:09
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    The word thorough would be preferable to simply saying the post should simply be long, but where is this notice so that I can take a look at this? – Robert Cartaino Oct 25 '15 at 17:09
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    @RobertCartaino I don't think "thorough" is the word either. As I said, I got so many thorough answers that were not useful to me. The answer must be efficient to use. Concentrated value. – Tomas Oct 25 '15 at 17:14
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    @RobertCartaino I intentionally haven't provided the example, since I don't want to discuss particular examples. The principle is what is important. lenght is not value. PERIOD. – Tomas Oct 25 '15 at 17:18
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    @Tomas While, strictly speaking, that's true, in practice its very rare for an extremely short answer to be a quality one. Out of the tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of SO answers I've read I've seen maybe half a dozen one line answers that just didn't need any further explanation (one of which I wrote). The overwhelming majority of one line answers that I've read have been low quality posts. Given that, posting a warning (while not prohibiting such answers) seems entirely warranted. – Servy Oct 26 '15 at 0:48
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    @Tomas, I was with you right up until "never have time nor motivation to read." I disagree with that point strongly. – Wildcard Oct 26 '15 at 3:49
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Maybe the long answers can be reworded (to use a different word but kind of means the same thing) - but the thing that comes after it is, I think, what we look for: explanation and, if applicable, context.

I see this on Super User a lot -- some answers as short as:

# rm -rf / fixed it for me

(haven't seen that exactly, but you get what I mean).

That (if it was correct :P) might be useful to some users, but I'd think most users like explanations and to see what/why doing what they say fixes whatever their problem is!


Maybe it can be reworded to:

We're looking for high-quality answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

because I think that describes it better.

24

The word thorough would seem to be more fitting here, rather than simply saying the post should contain more words.

Please comment below point where where you found this so I can see if an copy change is warranted. But oftentimes this is just something a community member might say, and this post can serve as a reminder that we can be a bit more clear about what would actually be helpful rather than asking users to simply pad their post with more words.

Sometimes statements like this simply need a bit more context.

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    I think I prefer the wording offered in the other answer: "We're looking for high-quality answers that provide some explanation and context." I don't think "thorough" is the word either. As I said, I got so many thorough answers that were not useful to me. The answer must be efficient to use. – Tomas Oct 25 '15 at 17:16
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    @Tomas - an efficient answer is in the eye of the beholder. It may be TL;DR efficient for you, but need elucidation for thousands of visitors. Please remember that not everybody is as bright as you. – Deer Hunter Oct 25 '15 at 17:27
  • @DeerHunter in any case, would you agree that "efficient" would be much better than "long" in this notice? :-) – Tomas Oct 25 '15 at 17:29
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    This is the default "insufficient explanation" post notice; it was created, IIRC, back when Programmers was suffering from a flood of one-liners, which goes a long way toward explaining the focus on "long". I like "thorough" a lot - the implications are more in line with what would actually motivate the use of the notice in the first place. – Shog9 Oct 25 '15 at 18:09
15

I don't think an adjective is needed there at all:

We're looking for answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

This post notice is supposed to be added to answers lacking explanation, so why worry about what to call the types of answers we want (long, thorough, cerulean, etc.)? Instead put the focus squarely on what content we want to see in them. (And answers which provide explanation/context will be longer, tend to be more thorough, and will generally be regarded as higher-quality. Admittedly, I'm not exactly sure what colour they'd be.)

7

I do not like "long answers." I like answers which provide meaningful information and context so that someone in the future finding this site can get value from it.


I often search Google and find Stack Overflow questions. This causes me to really appreciate the difference between short, "here's the answer" questions, and "here's the answer, here's why" questions. If I have a similar issue, one which is not exactly the same - but perhaps super close - I absolutely love having the additional context or explanation a longer, comprehensive answer provides. It bothers me when I find threads on Stack Overflow and then realize I have a closely related question but can get no additional insight from the answers listed because they are too short.

This is why I do not like short answers. They do not provide a future reader the context necessary to gain significant value or insight unless the situation is nearly exactly the same as what is asked in the question.


OK, now a practical example. Note the two blocks of text above and separated by the -------- break. The first, before the separation, could have been my answer. It "answers" your question! However, the second provides the necessary context and reasoning such that someone coming here, either yourself or someone else, will understand my answer and make it valuable.

This distinction, hopefully shown simply by this answer, is why short answers are bad, and longer answers are, in general, better.

Content heavily borrowed from here.

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    It seems you missed a verb "like" on the very first sentence? – Meta Andrew T. Oct 26 '15 at 12:11
4

Which one is better?


longer, not long


...or...


Since we want, in effect, to warn those who post one-liners and correct their behavior, I would suggest replacing

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context.

with

We're looking for longer answers that provide some explanation and context.

  • 1
    once and again: length is NOT value! – Tomas Oct 26 '15 at 8:42
  • It seems this assumes the answer may provide some value, but certainly does not provide "explanation and context". Thus, any edit to the answer to provide explanation and context will make it longer than before, although maybe not long (eg, maybe now it's just 2 lines). While certainly length unqualified does not necessarily imply value, the only way to claim this suggestion would not add value is to claim that explanation and context are intrinsically valueless. I don't know how many people believe that, but I don't. +1 – gung Jan 22 '16 at 18:12
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I have seen that notice on Seasoned Advice some times too. It prevents low-quality answers which aren't really useful. Of course, some short answers are very useful, but the system can't really measure that.

Conditioning users to at least think of expanding their answer is a good think. And indeed, the wording should be revised to make the goal clearer: it is not about the length, it is about the quality.


Take this sample (please don't judge the question itself, merely an example of something I have seen there):

Q: Is there anything I can do with left-over Ingredient X?

A: Make lasagna sauce of it.

Of course, the answer is an answer, and actually it was a good idea to do that, but some expansion might be very helpful. And the author of the answer has the details, he/she just needs to write them down.

-5

We're looking for long answers

... looks as though it was written by an English Comp 101 dropout who forgot the second of the all-important Three Cs

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