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Until recently, I feel like I have very rarely seen the deletion of answers that aren't clearly spam by other site users, but that seems to have changed.

I have noticed an increase of 'bad' answer deletion and I'm not sure that's the correct use of the tool, but I wanted to bring it up for discussion since it does seem to be used more frequently.

Should we delete what we perceive are bad answers? Typically, these are posted by either new or relatively new users (but I've seen it with some more with more rep) and immediately draw downvotes.

The answers aren't spam or obnoxious, they're just not good. Keeping them isn't helpful, but I"m not sure that removing is the right thing to do (but understand that it could be.)

Examples

This answer was one example that I saw recently. I will try and add some more, but the answer itself isn't good because it's "bad subjective". But rather than giving them a chance to change it, or just purely downvoting, it was deleted.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Sometimes keeping a bad answer is quite helpful: it's very instructive in how to not use the system. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Dec 12 '18 at 22:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener That's kind of my point :) I haven't submitted an answer because I'd like to see what the community has to say - but that's what I was thinking about when I asked this question. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Dec 12 '18 at 22:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ I will try and add more examples when I've got time. Is there a way to search for deleted answers? \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Dec 12 '18 at 22:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ There is no way for ordinary users to search for deleted content. Diamond moderators can, though it's going to catch a lot of genuine junk too. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Dec 12 '18 at 22:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener Okay, i'll try and go through and see if I refind them and them. But the current example I think is a good one (even though mxy doesn't agree :) ) \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Dec 12 '18 at 22:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ D'oh, I just realised there is a way for you to see what's been deleted recently. Head to your moderation tools, take a look at the "Recently deleted" dropdown, third row down. This link will have it sorted to the last 30 days (the maximum). Large text in there is questions, smaller text is answers. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Dec 12 '18 at 23:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ I generally agree with all the answers here so far, but I wonder if this is an example of an answer that makes your point better (it currently has one delete vote, and I'm unsure as to whether to also vote to delete after reading your meta question earlier)? \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Dec 17 '18 at 12:24
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This is good news

Community moderation is a goal of the SE system. You are seeing the community in action, which means that those with enough rep to exercise those controls care enough about site quality to do so.

This is a cause to toss confetti, not to be worried.

In any case where you feel that the community modding has gone overboard, raise a mod flag and get a ruling. (@mxyzplk goes into more detail in his answer)

Should we delete what we perceive are bad answers?

Yes. That's why those tools are there for those with the rep to use them.

If an answer simply has errors, engaging via comments and pointing out the errors will often get the answerer to (1) improve the answer or (2) delete it themselves.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think this is a case of a tool that I just haven't really used much and am starting to see when/how it's used. Your assessment that it's good news because it's being used and being used well was very helpful in guiding me. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Dec 20 '18 at 16:31
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One of the delete reasons is 'very low quality'. There is a big difference between 'very low quality' and 'wrong', but it is a distinction that can be easy to obviate in emotionally charged situations (like when someone disagrees with you and you're bad at being disagreed with). Nonetheless, I do not see a frequent abuse of this deletion reason, at least in my personal experience.

Your linked answer, for example, is a less-than-three sentence forum-like-blurb. I think it well-qualifies for deletion by dint of quality, and I would have voted for such deletion had I seen it before it was deleted. While downvoted wrong answers can add value to the site (e.g. especially in situations like this ), downvoted very low quality answers don't, because they are just noise. The linked answer doesn't try to support its claims with experience, or to explain its claims, or even to assert its suggested course of action over any other particular course. It's just "Eh, maybe this???" which doesn't warrant space on our site.

That said, deleting an answer doesn't in any way prevent users from improving it. A deleted answer can be edited by the post's author and then once edited undeleted by a flagged mod. It mostly happens, in my experience, when a diamond mod freaks out over a negative judgement in a post they interpret to be unkind or too-close-to-being-unkind to people who associate with the negatively judged thing, but theoretically any answer that's deleted could be edited and then salvaged. It's just that outside of that edge case we're pretty good about deleting only unsalvageable answers. So there isn't really a problem if the querent comes back and edits their post to be no longer deleteworthy, just they very probably won't.

Disclaimer: I am definitely more delete-happy with low-quality answers than average for the site, not sure by how much. So my perspective is somewhat off in that direction from the majority.

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https://stackoverflow.com/help/deleted-answers:

Why and how are some answers deleted? Answers that do not fundamentally answer the question may be removed. This includes answers that are:

  • commentary on the question or other answers
  • asking another, different question
  • “thanks!” or “me too!” responses
  • exact duplicates of other answers
  • barely more than a link to an external site
  • not even a partial answer to the actual question

If you wish to improve an existing answer, click the edit link beneath it. For more guidance, see How to Answer.

Answers can be deleted at any time by their authors, unless the answer has been accepted by the question asker.

Answers can also be deleted by the community. Moderators can delete any answer, and trusted community members can vote to delete answers scoring -1 or lower (3 votes will result in deletion).

Additionally, any answer that accumulates enough offensive or spam flags will be automatically deleted.

This means that in many cases, including those above, and especially when answers have been negatively voted, that deletion is appropriate. "Spam" is not the only deletion reason. Spam, abuse, and nonsense aren't even listed in the above because that goes without saying. These other forms of "bad" make a question eligible for deletion. And it's not just these - there are a wide variety of ways in which people put words into an answer-box that are not close to an on-topic answer.

A wrong answer, however, is not delete-worthy. In fact, we have a custom mod flag rebuttal reason that says "flags should not be used to indicate technical inaccuracies, or an altogether wrong answer". We should leave wrong answers so that the community and user learns that "we don't think that answer is the right one to this question". That's valuable information. "No, the community does not agree that you can double-stack that bonus" or whatnot.

But we don't need to have true trash on the site for people to learn not to litter; they'll learn when it's deleted. Therefore, any of the reasons above, or others that make an answer not what we consider a legitimate answer to a question, are legitimate deletion reasons and can and should be used by community members to delete.

I haven't seen much in the way of inappropriate deletion; I think that in general over the history of the site it's taken a while for the community members to get comfortable with the tools they have and exercise them instead of reaching out to mods; I am happy for the site users to be doing the vast majority of the closes and deletions and whatnot as they get the rep. From the mod POV, I have not seen much in the way of "I shouldn't have been deleted" flags, and the ones I have seen have been wrong (got one today from a comment-not-answer, in fact).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Would it help to try and provide some examples (gotta search...)? I don't want to make a moving target of a question, though. But I'm asking because I'm seeing things that are borderline and not clear issues that would fall under the criteria above. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Dec 12 '18 at 22:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ This was one. To me, that looks like a bad subjective answer. We generally don't delete those, but ask people to back them up or revise in another way. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Dec 12 '18 at 22:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, without examples this is the most guidance that can be provided. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Dec 12 '18 at 22:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ Your example is a terrible answer that I would also vote to delete because it's a random brainstorm. Beyond being bad subjective it's a list answer to a list question (and hence the question was put on hold too). It's good to delete these because let's say the person fixes the question - the answer is still bad, beyond being wrong - it's not the format we expect here. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Dec 12 '18 at 22:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ And three community members thought it was bad and deleted it, so best as I can tell "activity is appropriate" so far. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Dec 12 '18 at 22:48
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I discovered there was an achievement on the site for deleting a bad question and answer or two so I found my worst ones and removed them to get the badges for them. People will do what is rewarding for them to do.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The question is about deleting other users’ questions via votes, not self-deletions. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Dec 21 '18 at 22:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah this doesn't seem to have anything at all to do with the question. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Dec 28 '18 at 17:35

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