Sometimes people think that they have answered a question but haven't really and then it appears on the front page or elsewhere in such a manner that no one else thinks to look at the question because it's already been answered (even if there is no accepted answer). It would be great to be able to flag an answer as unhelpful or that it didn’t' work and to then have it bubble up again o the front page and go back to red to show that there are no acceptable solutions on the question. This would also force people to do something about people’s responses as well as help users realize when there answer isn’t helpful. If there are no penalties to the poster then this just becomes a way to help them write better answers. You could even add a badge for really helpful people.

I believe that this is better than just looking for accepted answers as a ton of people don't ever check off acceptable answers and there are lots of junk answers as well. This way the user is required to check on the status of their question to keep it active.

I’d also suggest that this only results in a performance hit (if at all) for the person who posts the question. If I know that a person has checked the responses that people left and that the solutions were either unhelpful or wrong then I would be more likely to address the user’s problem

  • Simple: Flag it.
    – Fewfre
    Jul 18, 2012 at 16:36

4 Answers 4


Down-vote it and leave a comment describing why the answer is wrong. With a bit of luck, this will encourage the author to either fix it or delete it, rendering the question answered or visibly unanswered.

See also: How to get attention for your old, unanswered questions

  • 6
    What about cases where the answer is a good one but not quite the right solution or the problem. I don't want to penalize someone for trying and doing a good job even though the solution doesn't work out. I think that only (obviously) wrong or unhelpful answers should be down voted but that still leaves cases where someone has gone to a lot of effort and should at least get some credit for that effort.
    – Middletone
    Feb 25, 2010 at 16:32
  • If you want to give them an A for effort, then that's your choice - see the other options on the link I posted.
    – Shog9
    Feb 25, 2010 at 16:34
  • @Shog9 - The fact of the matter is that human nature is to give them an "A" for effort. You can argue all you want that people shouldn't do that, but people aren't going to change. We can either adapt to human nature or stubbornly stick to what "should" work. The other issue is that those votes don't show up on the new question feeds. People looking for questions to answer are discouraged long before they have a chance to factor in the point totals.
    – DougW
    May 3, 2011 at 20:29
  • @Shog9 - Also, I did read the post you referenced. Yes, bumping and posting a bounty are options, but they're both flawed. Bumping doesn't generate interest in a question with 5 wrong answers. A bounty should also be unnecessary if the problem is lack of interest simply because wrong answers were left. True, a bounty is one way to correct the issue, but I contend that it's only a hack to fix an issue that shouldn't exist in the first place.
    – DougW
    May 3, 2011 at 20:39
  • 1
    @DougW: I'm not out to change human nature. My mantra here has always been that - by and large - folks should be free to vote how they see fit. And I'm all about adjusting the system to encourage useful feedback... But that's not what this suggestion is about. Folks can already down-vote wrong answers, flag non-answers, and leave comments explaining why an answer doesn't work... If those tools aren't being used, I have a hard time believing throwing another tool into the mix will do anything but cause confusion for the few conscientious users who do down-vote. Try again...
    – Shog9
    May 3, 2011 at 21:14
  • @Shog9 - The problem I've encountered is that none of those things you mention are reflected on the feeds. People are discouraged from even taking the time to check a question out long before those tools come into play. If we wanted to surface the answer voting totals on the feeds, I think that could be an excellent possible alternative.
    – DougW
    May 3, 2011 at 21:28
  • Your solution doesn't work with orphaned answers (where the AP isn't using SO anymore). Jan 8, 2014 at 13:10
  • True, though if enough people do so, the answer becomes pretty visibly "marked", @ŁukaszL.
    – Shog9
    Jan 8, 2014 at 19:48
  • I hate how we are relying on a "bit of luck" instead of actually fixing this.
    – NH.
    Dec 12, 2017 at 0:14

I get the idea, but what's the difference between downvoting and marking as wrong. If somebody puts something that is technically correct but a terrible idea, is it 'wrong'?

The other problem is that if a question is not marked as wrong, then by definition it must be right. That leaves a terrible hole open as those answers which are wrong but are not marked wrong then look right.

It's better to have an explanation of why something is wrong, and leave the votes to handle the rest.

  • Right. And who tells me that someone who marked an answer as "wrong" wasn't just angry and in fact the answer is good? May 4, 2011 at 7:42
  • @Hendrik True. Another reason answers can be 'wrong' - the user is 'wrong' in the question. For example, people who say they have cleared the cache when, in fact, they haven't.
    – Dan Blows
    May 4, 2011 at 9:35

If you are looking at the unanswered tab, then it only considers questions answered when either an answer is accepted or one of the question's answers has a net score of at least 1 - it doesn't just show all questions without any answers.

If an answer is wrong, comment on it to say so - many users delete their answers when they're shown to be wrong, so users who look solely at the answer count will look at your question again. You could also downvote it, if you feel so inclined.

I'd be interested to know whether a question with a net score of 0, with 1 downvote and 1 upvote marks a question as answered. Anyone know?

  • 3
    @Dominic Rodger - Questions are considered "answered" when they have a net vote score of at least +1. To verify, go the the 'unanswered' tab and check the split-vote counts of the answers. Some of them have +1/-1, +2/-2, etc. Feb 25, 2010 at 16:39

Wow. So I asked this question again, not having found this post. The irony is overwhelming since this post clearly fell prey to the exact issue I was bringing up.

My post is here Mark wrong answers

Brief summary of my point is that a couple of off-the-mark answers can completely derail a question. Intentions aside, the fact of the matter is that people want points and don't take the time to suss out whether questions that have "answers" are worth their time. Odds are, the OP just hasn't accepted one, or will never return.

It would be really nice to have an opportunity to say "I'm here. I'm actively reviewing answers, and nobody has submitted a correct one yet". That would greatly improve traffic past the 2nd and 3rd answer.

  • Since you're the first person to bother even attempting to point out a problem with the obvious "this already exists in the form of down-votes" answer, I don't see how this post has "fallen prey" to anything other than a huge amount of indifference from a population of users who don't see this as a solution to anything.
    – Shog9
    May 3, 2011 at 21:19
  • @Shog9 - Fair point, and maybe you're right. Just because somebody hadn't thought of something before doesn't make it wrong though. And the fact that this post was able to slip through the cracks over a year ago with minimal debate does little to contradict that possibility. The site is also very different now from what it was a year ago, and perhaps this wasn't as much of an issue then. Anyway, I'm certainly willing to listen to differing opinions, but having discussed this problem with people in real life I'm not inclined to believe that this is a total non-issue.
    – DougW
    May 3, 2011 at 21:25
  • oh, it's an issue. It's just not a simple issue. One thing I've found to be true over and over again on SO is the simple fact that questions which are easy to find and well-understood tend to collect answers long past the point where they've already been answered adequately - the problem usually occurs for questions that are either very niche, or simply poorly-explained: the classic case is a question that requires actual debugging and lacks sufficient information for anyone other than the OP to debug without guesswork - answering these depends quite a bit on blind luck...
    – Shog9
    May 3, 2011 at 21:43
  • Wow, it's been a year and I'm glad that SO finally notified me about this question. Just to add to this, the reason that I have an issue with the system is that other users tend to up vote answers that they think work, but don't. If a bunch of noobs upvote answers because they sound nice then the question looks like it's been answered. What I believe I need is to be able to say "no, you're answer was not correct even if it was well phrased or solves a similar problem." This way the question doesn’t just go missing. When I look for questions to answer I look for unanswered questions first.
    – Middletone
    May 5, 2011 at 2:19
  • 1
    @Middletone - I agree Middletone. There appears to be some fairly entrenched resistance though, that has invested heavily in the idea that users should use the system the way SO designed it, rather than designing the system to accommodate clear patterns of human behavior. I guess I'll stop worrying about it and just continue gaming the system in order to get my questions answered unfortunately.
    – DougW
    May 5, 2011 at 19:54

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