Many of the questions on our site are answerable with a sentence or two. Even the most complex questions on our site could be answered in only a couple sentences. Those answers are not very likely to be useful or high quality, but they still do answer the question.

These answers typically do not add to other, more sophisticated answers, and are not likely to be useful to future visitors or the OP. For example, on questions these answers frequently pop up, although that's not the only place.

These answers are often downvoted, but if they provide minimal benefit to future viewers and will not likely be useful to the OP, should we be doing more to encourage downvoting? Should we be adding post notices1 to them? Should we be deleting them?

1 A post notice is a message that a moderator can apply to an answer (for example, this one) which reads:

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.


While short answers might not be useful to future readers, it's hard to be sure. A post notice seems extreme, though warranted in some cases. I can't say I've seen very many post notices thus far. However, I also don't recall ever thinking it was misplaced when I have seen one.

More often I'd hope that comments would be sufficient to get the OP to update their answer. Of course, as users grow into the site they may improve their postings. I am firmly opposed to deletion of an answer that does answer the question unless it's extremely low quality.

Use Java, I do.

For Example, is delete worthy

I'm also inclined to extra leniency with new-to-SE users. I suspect many have used other fora, good and bad, and that adjusting to SE norms while still trying to deal with students isn't always an easy task. That's where, as CS Educators, we get to practice our Educating skills on contemporaries. :D

Voting, I think, needs to encouraged (and in my case increased), yet trying to decide how that voting should be done seems beyond what Meta is for. The tool-tips supplied say it all, and how each of us decides "useful" will forever remain ambiguous, at best.

Interestingly enough, on some of the linked answers, short or not, I think they are useful. Brevity is a skill I've never mastered, but do appreciate.

  • $\begingroup$ It seems funny that your example is essentially the basis for most points of view: people recommend what they use. They use it because they think it is best. But they started using it, because... many reasons. Someone once said that all education is basically persuasion, and therefore it is just a branch of Sophistry. Adding more to "Use this, I like it" might not actually contribute much: "Joe uses it too!" "It has been used for years!!" A real argument would persuade someone to use a thing you don't like and would rather not use, by independent criteria. Then it is not a popularity contest. $\endgroup$ – Scott Rowe Jul 9 '18 at 18:31
  • $\begingroup$ The voting criterion for Answers is: "This Answer is useful" My hair is standing on end. $\endgroup$ – Scott Rowe Jul 9 '18 at 18:35

There is more than one kind of poor answer. Some are just one-liners as noted. Others, also noted, just repeat what has been said previously without new content. Down-voting with comments can probably handle these situations.

However, some answers are also, potentially dangerous. For such answers, more needs to be done. Perhaps deletion is appropriate, but that leaves no way for others to note the dangerousness of the answer. Some commenters/answerers here don't really understand the nature of teaching and that it is about dealing with actual human beings. This is probably especially common in technical subjects where new teachers have a primarily technical education themselves. Damage can actually be done to students through something as simple as ignoring them or misinterpreting their goals and motives.

  • $\begingroup$ It is too bad that we can't just present the subject matter without the social aspects getting in. When I was in school, I learned things basically on my own whether there was a good teacher, bad teacher, or none at all. If students need social things, can that be handled separately? $\endgroup$ – Scott Rowe Jul 9 '18 at 18:38
  • $\begingroup$ @ScottRowe if all students were adequate self-learners there would be little need for good teaching and none at all for this site. $\endgroup$ – Buffy Jul 9 '18 at 18:47

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