Takeaway: If removed negative-rep answers don't get ignored during re-calcs, why should removed positive-rep answers?

Over the last year I've "contributed" a great amount of answers to questions - some good, some not so good. Some of the no-so-good answers were downvoted, resulting in a negative rep. And some were upvoted a couple times, for their helpfulness, but ultimately skirted for much better answers provided by others.

I'd like to go through and remove older "noise" that I've contributed. If I remove these older answers which have an upvote or two, do I lose that acquired rep during a recalc? Or do I get to keep my rep gained by helpful (but not accepted) answers?


Removed negative-rep answers do get ignored during a rep recalc. It's rare, but I've seen people gain reputation as a result of a recalc. Most often, though, the losses due to other (positively-voted) questions and answers being deleted outweigh the smaller gains from the deleted negatively-voted posts.

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  • SO a recalc will add 10 points to your rep if it comes across a deleted answer with -10? – Sampson Jan 28 '10 at 17:53
  • I'm willing to bet I'd gain some rep in a recalc, since I've deleted a few -2, -3 scoring answers, and I became active on SO after most meta questions got migrated, so I can't think of any reasons why I'd go down. Mind you, I could have some positive answers on questions that got deleted; I guess when I hit 10k I can look for those in my answers list. – Ether Jan 28 '10 at 17:54
  • @Jonathan: Yes, anything that's deleted or closed won't count, so those -10 will be put back. – Bill the Lizard Jan 28 '10 at 18:12
  • @Jonathan: My comment above is incorrect. According to Jeff's comment here: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/37317/clean-ups-and-recalcs/… reputation from closed questions isn't removed, only rep from deleted questions. Sorry about the bad information. – Bill the Lizard Feb 2 '10 at 4:49

If I remove these older answers which have an upvote or two, do I lose that acquired rep during a recalc?

Yes, you lose that rep. Deleted questions and answers are not counted in a rep-recalc.

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  • Are deleted negative-rep answers counted? – Sampson Jan 28 '10 at 17:12
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    The last I understood, lost rep was lost no matter what. However, I've heard varying reports and wouldn't mind a current state of the rep recalc statement from Jeff. – John Rudy Jan 28 '10 at 17:16
  • @SOTU: That is my understanding too. It causes me to wonder why deleted positive-rep answers are not considered in recalcs though. – Sampson Jan 28 '10 at 17:25
  • If a question or answer is deleted, its votes do not count for anything. If you've heard otherwise, I'd like to hear about it! – Pollyanna Jan 28 '10 at 17:26
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    @Pollyanna, I was under the impression that a -10 deleted answer will not restore 10 rep to your count. – Sampson Jan 28 '10 at 17:28
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    @Jonathan: probably because the "deleted posts" FAQ said that (or implied it at least) at one time... I clarified this during a cleanup a few weeks back: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/5221/… I suspect the confusion may have originated with the penalty imposed for posts deleted via spam/offensive flags. (and to be precise, a -10 deleted answer would, post-recalc, restore 20 points to your reputation...) – Shog9 Jan 28 '10 at 17:56

I don't think there's much use in deleting your low vote answers. First, someone found them useful enough to upvote them. Second, the vote system itself one major way in which SO turns the volume down on noise. If there are plenty of higher-voted answers, they will appear above yours.

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    Somebody found them useful until another (better) response was provided. – Sampson Jan 28 '10 at 17:54
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    @Jonathan That means someone found another answer more useful. They didn't find yours less useful. – user27414 Jan 28 '10 at 17:58
  • @JonB I'm referring more to answers where one person says "Use $.live() to accomplish this." They get an upvote. Then comes another user who gives a great example and explanation of the method and how it's used. They get +5, and accepted. The first answer serves no purpose there and is just wasting space. – Sampson Jan 28 '10 at 18:03
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    @Jon: if the "more useful" response is more useful because it covers the same subject matter more thoroughly or explains it more clearly, then there's really no reason to keep both around. FWIW, I do the same thing (remove pointless/redundant answers) from time to time. – Shog9 Jan 28 '10 at 18:04
  • @Jonathan - The "wasting space" part is of very low impact, especially because answers are typically sorted by votes. – user27414 Jan 28 '10 at 18:05
  • @JonB: I understand that, but the answer would serve absolutely no purpose, and as such should be pruned, in my honest opinion. – Sampson Jan 28 '10 at 18:06
  • @Jonathan - they're your answers so it's your call. As pointed out by others, you'd lose the rep in a recalc - so you have to be willing to accept that consequence. – user27414 Jan 28 '10 at 18:08

Everybody learns in a different way. By removing alternately-worded answers, you remove your contribution from the set of possible information that might help somebody understand a topic that they may not understand from the original answer.

Also, for much the same reason that we close - and do not delete - similarly worded but identical questions - it may be the words in your answer that lead somone to the site from a search engine.

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    Yeah, but... Check out the jQuery questions on SO sometime. You'll frequently see multiple, identical answers posted within seconds of one another. Really, that is just noise. – Shog9 Jan 28 '10 at 19:03
  • Sure, if it's a clear and exact dupe. But the OP is talking about removing answers simply because they don't have as many upvotes as another. Clearly someone found value in that answer, and I don't think it's safe to assume that nobody will ever find use in it in the future... I guess in short, I think the possible cost of deleting outweighs the (negligible) cost of keeping it around. Storage is cheap! – Kara Marfia Jan 29 '10 at 14:29

I periodically go through and clean out my "useless" posts. But much like Jon B said, I don't delete low-vote answers based on that criteria. I look through the other posts and see if I had anything of significance to add to the exchange.

If its all been said, I'd just as soon delete the excess noise I created. But if I had anything interesting to add, low votes or not, I would leave the post for the benefit of those who come after.

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