In many cases I don't feel like deleting a wrong answer, mostly because of useful comments. The answer together with its comments often provides a good learning material, as in: see how this mistake is easy to make, and see comments explaining why it is a mistake.

Can there be an alternative to deleting answers? For instance, such "almost deleted" answers would always be displayed last and probably dimmed and/or collapsed.

EDIT: Another thing I forgot to tell. When deleting a wrong answer with comments I often feel uneasy because I indirectly delete other's correct comments only because of my mistake.

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    Note that starting with 10k reputation you can see deleted answers. – Georg Fritzsche May 11 '10 at 0:01

If I am in this situation , I point out to them that I am never wrong, and can't possibly be in this instance either use strikeout text to strike out the incorrect portions of my answer.

I then eat crow add some text to the bottom of the answer explaining my new position, giving credit where deserved.

In my case, this situation never hardly ever occurs. :)

  • It's hard to strike out code snippets, for instance. – doublep May 10 '10 at 23:26
  • I have a friend who claims, and I quote: "I'm never wrong, I'm just sometimes less than 100% correct." – Aarobot May 10 '10 at 23:27
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    If you really want to keep the bad code in the answer, you can put // BAD CODE! and //END OF BAD CODE comments in it, I suppose. As with all things, communicate your intent clearly and effectively. – user102937 May 10 '10 at 23:27
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    @Aarobot: I once thought I was wrong, but I was mistaken. – user102937 May 10 '10 at 23:28
  • How do you do the strikeout? – IAbstract May 10 '10 at 23:40
  • @dboarman put <s> </s> around the code you want to strike out – Jared Harley May 10 '10 at 23:52

Some people make their answers Community Wiki and leave a note saying "here is what you shouldn't do", so that they don't continue to lose reputation from downvotes for a wrong answer.

If it's wrong, it will very likely get downvoted, and after a few downvotes it will become dimmed and appear last, exactly as you suggest. If it's CW, then you don't lose any rep for this.

Although speaking personally, I don't feel that it's a really appropriate use of the wiki system, I'm just mentioning what some people do. I'd just delete the answer, because ultimately a wrong answer is simply noise. I do understand the perspective of wanting other people to learn from your mistakes, but most people simply won't get that far, they'll look at the accepted answer or top 2-3 answers and then move on.

Worse, if your answer has upvotes, leaving it up can be actively harmful; some people may not realize that it's been left up "for posterity" and actually attempt what you've suggested. Especially when it comes to code snippets, people have a remarkable ability to ignore anything and everything around the code while they copy and paste.

I know it's hard to delete an upvoted answer, but most of the time you'll be doing the readers a favour.

  • Well, if such "almost deletion" was implemented, it could work as normal deletion wrt reputation: at least remove all upvotes and rep. from them, maybe also stop rep. loss from downvotes. Another problem with deleting answers for me is that I feel like it is deleting other people's work (the comments) only because of my mistake, not theirs. – doublep May 10 '10 at 23:31
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    @doublep: I can assure you, as someone who writes a lot of comments, that I don't get upset when an answer I commented on is deleted. In fact, most of the time, when I leave a comment to the effect that the answer is wrong/unhelpful/misleading, I expect them to either fix it or delete it. So don't worry about us; we don't earn rep from comments and I'm pretty sure that very few of us are emotionally attached. – Aarobot May 10 '10 at 23:36
  • Anyway, people with > 10k rep can still see your deleted answer, so it's not permanently gone. – Aarobot May 10 '10 at 23:37
  • And leaving a comment on why you deleted an answer can be helpful and is appreciated, for that reason. – Gnome May 11 '10 at 2:20

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