Follow-up to: Alternative for deleting an answer

The following idea just came to my mind:
Sometimes users post wrong answers. They get downvoted. They delete their answer. What's wrong with that? Nobody else (except users with the privilege to see deleted answers) can then learn from other people's mistakes. One solution (see question above) is to mark the answer CW and add "This is wrong, don't use:" to it. But few users will do that - I must admit I didn't even think about using CW in such a case.

I propose a dialog similar to the "Close question" dialog - there you can state an explicit reason why you vote to close. So why not give a reason for deleting your own answers. Then you could for example decide between:

  • Answers is so totally wrong and embarassing, delete it completely please.
  • Answer is wrong but the mistakes made in it (and shown through comments) might be helpful to others. Mark answer in a special way (another color? "Wrong answers" caption before it?) but don't delete.

Oh and by the way, this question on SO (see singularity's deleted answer) made me think about this issue.

EDIT: Pollyanna made a very good point in his answer below. An alternative to my proposed solution could be to allow 10000+ users (the ones able to see deleted answers) to vote for reopening the answer in a "locked" state - that is, the question is marked as incorrect and no votes are allowed on it.

2 Answers 2


I'm glad you provided an example. My initial response is, "Let's just be a resource for good information," but the example is interesting. Learning the wrong thing to do is really tangential to the discussion, but we programmers do like to learn new and interesting tidbits.

I'm thinking in terms of a thesaurus - you have the synonyms (the correct answers) and you have the antonyms (the incorrect answers) While not a perfect analogy, knowing the wrong way to do things can help you better understand the right way to do them.

On the other hand, there are a million wrong ways to do something, and ideally few "best" ways to do it. I'm afraid that if we codified this as an acceptable practice, we'd actually get significantly more "bad" answers (which would mess up the heuristics used to determine if a question has received and answer or not) than we would get good answers. It's trivially esay to come up with a bad way, and programmers nothing if not efficient in playing their "games".

So, on the whole, I don't think this would be a good path to pursue without a lot more thought into the consequences of letting the community believe there's a good reason to include the wrong way.

  • Good point, see my edit please.
    – AndiDog
    Jan 21, 2011 at 15:36
  • @AndiDog I like the edited suggestion. I think a well curated collection of "lessons learned" could be very valuable.
    – Pollyanna
    Jan 21, 2011 at 15:45
  • @Andi - The only difficulty then, would be that some users wouldn't like their answers to be paraded as "bad examples", and this 10k process doesn't suggest they have input on it.
    – Pollyanna
    Jan 21, 2011 at 15:57
  • Yes I thought about that problem, too. It needed to be an interactive process in which the user must accept that the answer is shown again... probably not easy to implement.
    – AndiDog
    Jan 21, 2011 at 16:28

I've made my own wrong answers CW before for this very reason, but I wouldn't want to force another user to live with the shame. If you want to keep your own wrong answers around for others to learn from you can flag it for moderator attention and we can make it CW for you.

  • 2
    If it's an answer, the author can still make it CW without needing moderator intervention.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Jan 21, 2011 at 14:36
  • +1 what Grace Note said. My point was that the CW method is not really known to many users. Explicitly choosing what to do when deleting an answer would be better IMO. That way you could tell the user "Think again before deleting completely".
    – AndiDog
    Jan 21, 2011 at 14:39
  • @Grace: I did not know that. Thanks. I guess I need to spend more time on SE sites where I don't have mod powers. Jan 21, 2011 at 14:46
  • 2
    Once phase 3 of our secret plan is complete, there won't be any of those left Jan 21, 2011 at 15:37
  • @Michael: And by that time, no one will be able to stop us! Muahahahaha! Jan 21, 2011 at 15:43

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .