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Add the ability to mark an answer as incorrect.

The amount of traffic a question gets once it has one or two "answers" goes down dramatically. This creates a situation where, if the first two or three answers you get are bogus, you're unlikely to ever (or within a reasonable time) get a correct answer. People just stop looking at the question because they assume their odds of answering it and being rewarded are low.

Why not have the ability to mark answers as "wrong" or "incorrect"? This could then be reflected in the feeds, and would let people looking for questions to answer know that the question is still worth their time.

EDIT - Grace Note had some good points that I'd like to address in the question.

  1. "Downvoting should solve this" - The reality that I've observed is that answers that miss the mark often still get upvoted. After explaining why they don't address the question, voters are unlikely to come back and change their vote.
  2. "Unanswered feed also solves this" - The unanswered feed is littered with posts that have been abandoned. Points hunters do not find it to be an optimal use of their time.

My observation is that people hunting points look at the feeds, and heavily prioritize questions that have received no answers yet. The traffic flow seems to go down by an order of magnitude for every answer left, regardless of acceptance or votes.

My proposal would give question askers the opportunity to express the fact that not only are they still paying attention to the question, but they're actively reviewing answers and seeking a correct one to reward.

  • @random - The post this one duplicates clearly demonstrates the exact problem at hand. The OP didn't take the time to really explain the solution and provide feedback. Instead, he or she just never accepted an answer. Now nobody looks at it anymore because they assume it's been addressed, and the topic is dead forever. The upvotes and activity this repost has generated indicates to me that the topic is still very much alive, proving the point that something is wrong with the system. – DougW May 3 '11 at 20:32

I tend to agree with DougW that questions with 3 or more answers, even though they may be unaccepted, definitely reduces the chance that anyone else will want to take a crack at it. You assume that since there are several answers, one of them is probably good enough for OP, so you move on to the next one. If it's not accepted yet, I usually figure OP hasn't got back from lunch yet or went to bed after posting.

I don't think that answers should be marked as "wrong" beyond the downvote system, but one thing that I think would helpful would be to see the total amount of answer votes next to the question. I actually would find this more useful than seeing the amount of answers, and generally more useful than seeing the question votes.

Which would you be more likely to give attention to?:

  • A question with 5 answers and -2 total answer votes
  • A question with 1 answer and 10 total answer votes

I would personally check out the first one: Looks like a few people tried but no one got it right. The second one probably means that the first person who answered had it dead-on.

For anyone interested in this idea, I have opened a separate request, feedback welcome!:


Please chime in with your opinion and votes!

  • This would kinda solve the point that Pop made where people just can't see the total answer votes. – Grace Note May 3 '11 at 19:27
  • I can see this working too. Whatever the mechanism, I think something should be done to expose the quality of the answers posted. The count only discourages people from visiting imo. – DougW May 3 '11 at 19:30
  • Well, the best measure of quality is certainly vote count assuming it's been exposed to enough people to balance it. When I browse the "unanswered" tab, and everything has 3+ answers, I just go back to the main page and hit refresh a few times instead. If I could see that those answers had 0 total votes, I would be more likely to check it out. – user159834 May 3 '11 at 19:33
  • Yes this is my observation as well. The one thing that I would point out about your proposal is that it still does not indicate that the OP is actively reviewing answers. I personally think that would be very useful information, and I would be much more likely to focus on questions where the OP was marking answers, right or wrong. – DougW May 3 '11 at 19:36

An answer that is wrong or incorrect is an answer that is not useful. This is what downvotes should be used on.

Questions that do not have answers with positive vote scores (which most things with only wrong answers should end up with) are still considered "unanswered", which increases their visibility and seems to be what you're gunning for.

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  • 2
    @Grace Note - I understand that this is the theory, but it is not what happens in practice. In practice, people are watching the new question feeds, because quick answers are more valuable. They generally skip questions that show 2, 3 or more answers having been posted, because they assume that the odds that they're all incorrect is low. Just because the OP hasn't accepted an answer yet doesn't factor in. They assume they just haven't done it yet. The downvote activity does not seem to compensate for this. – DougW May 3 '11 at 19:06
  • @Doug Yes, this is how things are intended to work moreso than how they necessarily function in practice. But we have an Unanswered tab that is dedicated exactly to bringing attention to the questions that have nothing but wrong answers. It seems exceptionally redundant to introduce yet another mechanism on top of both downvotes and the Unanswered tab. – Grace Note May 3 '11 at 19:08
  • @Popular Demand - Right. I've asked a number of questions where a few answers were posted, and even upvoted by others, but clearly missed the point and I would never accept them. Currently there's no way to indicate this, and it's not like people come back and change their votes once you explain why the answer is not correct. I think a lot of stuff gets orphaned in this way. – DougW May 3 '11 at 19:10
  • @Grace Note - Unanswered doesn't cut it because the vast majority of them are questions where the OP has gone MIA. Users looking for points don't find it worth their time. My suggestion would change that dynamic and allow the OP to state that they are absolutely not abandoning the question, they just haven't received an answer yet. – DougW May 3 '11 at 19:11
  • @Doug, when I posted my comment, your comment loaded on top of it; we must have been typing at the same time. So I deleted it almost immediately. Do you want me to re-post it? – Pops May 3 '11 at 19:13
  • @Popular Demand - Ah weird. No, I think my comment stands on its own alright. People will probably just assume I'm crazy and talking to nobody, but that's alright ;) – DougW May 3 '11 at 19:15
  • @Pop You just said summat along the lines of "I agree, but I think the OP is looking for something that separately indicates the unanswered status, something that can be applied specifically by the author", no? I actually responded myself, but then you deleted your comment and mine fell out of place so I had to delete that as well, haha ♪ – Grace Note May 3 '11 at 19:15
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    @Grace, yeah, I saw your response, and typed my own response, but refreshed the page before I submitted it in case you had deleted yours. Which you had. COMMENTS ARE FUN – Pops May 3 '11 at 19:16
  • Well, now that you're trying to recreate my comment, I guess I will repost it. My point was that the vote totals on answers are only visible on the question pages, not the main page or question list pages or tag pages. Therefore, they're of limited usefulness for the situation the OP describes, where people don't even bother visiting the question because they assume one or more of the existing answers must be good enough. – Pops May 3 '11 at 19:19
  • @Pop I'd repost my comment if I hadn't, in reality, just redirected it to Doug. And, to wit, that strikes me as those users being idiots. Just on my own experience, my highest rated posts are always posted late, and usually after someone else has already answered. – Grace Note May 3 '11 at 19:23
  • @Doug Getting back to you, I understand the frustration of how the people do use the system. To me, though, this is just feeding into an undesireable user behavior that spurns viewing questions independent of their content. It's the kind of behavior that keeps quality answers away from the questioners who need them. But I can understand why it's easier to accept this as the reality (as, indeed, it is the majority of our reality), and optimize for it. I'm not going to stand in your way, but to me, it's still duplicating the fundamentals of how the site is intended to operate. – Grace Note May 3 '11 at 19:25
  • @Grace Note - I understand what you're saying. I think it's understandable behavior though. The system intrinsically rewards early answers, and power users have picked up on this. A straw poll amongst my developer friends confirms this. They rarely visit questions with 2 or more pending answers unless they stumble upon them accidentally. – DougW May 3 '11 at 19:27
  • Those users are using the system incorrectly, no question about it. The real answer is to find a way to modify their behavior. But I've never been able to figure out how. And I'm guilty of it, too; if I only have two minutes and I see two question titles I know something about, the one with fewer existing answers generally wins my valuable, valuable attention. – Pops May 3 '11 at 19:28
  • @Doug It's understandable behavior, I don't deny that. I also don't fault anyone for doing it, either - it's your time, and it's a pretty optimal way to use it. Doesn't make me any happier to see its prevalence. ♪ – Grace Note May 3 '11 at 19:28
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    @Grace Note - Agreed. Would be nice if everyone was as altruistic as yourself. Unfortunately though, since it doesn't seem that they are in general, I'd like to see us take steps to optimize the system so that people acting in their own best interests contribute as much as possible. Cheers. – DougW May 3 '11 at 19:33

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