This answer from a new contributor was deleted for the reason

Does not provide an answer to the question.

The question is:

Can "hilfreich" be used with people, or only with things?

The answer provides a cite from Goethe using hilfreich with people.

Edel sei der Mensch Hilfreich und gut Denn das allein unterescheidet ihn Von all Wesen die wir kennen.

This answer is clearly of poor quality. The sentence is not marked as a quote and no source is given. It contains several spelling mistakes.

But in my opinion it clearly provides an answer to the question. Corrected and given a source and some context, it could even be a very good answer. Instead it was deleted.

So my question is: Is Goethe not a noteworthy reference when it comes to the possibility of using adjectives in specific contexts? Or is there another reason making this answer not an answer and therefore deleting the first answer of a new contributor?

Rigorously deleting the first answer of a new contributor instead of pointing out the flaws and thereby giving them the chance to improve their answer is anything but welcoming. It will most certainly lead to the answer being their first and last contribution to this site. In my opinion it's at least careless and I would not be surprised if a new user, whose first answer is dealt with in this way, would consider this community to be arrogantly dismissive.

In my opinion, deletion should be reserved for spam and obvious troll posts.

  • Please clarify why you deem Goethe a noteworthy reference in the first place. Commented Feb 4, 2020 at 13:59
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    @infinitezero Probably because Goethe is not some random poet, but often considered being one of the most important/influential/best German writers.
    – Arsak
    Commented Feb 6, 2020 at 8:30
  • Schlechter Titel für die Frage, zu allgemein. Die Reaktion zu diesem Post sollte nicht primär unter dem Gesichtspunkt diskutiert werden, ob wir damit als gastfreundlich wahrgenommen werden. Eine Bitte, die Antwort zu verbessern und erst wenn nichts passiert sperren hätte ich auch angemessener gefunden, weil die Antwort heilbar war. Commented Mar 14, 2020 at 21:12

2 Answers 2


What is a noteworthy reference is a decision left to the reader

I think the rationale behind this becomes clear by employing contraposition: If it was not left to the reader, the site would have to agree on what constitutes a noteworthy reference. I see no mechanism for reaching such an agreement, and if there was, feel that such an agreement would unfairly limit the people writing answers.

What I could imagine is a small list of dos and don'ts (do use dictionaries written by professionals, don't use Google Translate), but that list would have to be based on common sense, and I don't see how common sense could decide on Goethe's noteworthiness (especially not independent of context, which is vital for quotes).

A quote by itself can never be an answer

The relevance of the quote needs to be put into words. Otherwise, every reader would have to guess at the poster's intentions, and a judgement of the answer's usefulness would be impossible.

Quotes need to be given context and interpreted. For instance, in the example given: What does it mean that the quote is two hundred years old – is the poster saying that this is current usage or that it is old-fashioned?

Quote-only answers are rude and unhelpful, similar to LMGTFY links.

Quotes need to be marked as such

This ensures everybody knows it's a quote.

  • 2
    The two statements contradict each other. Never is a big word.
    – Olafant
    Commented Feb 4, 2020 at 13:50
  • @Olafant The reference being noteworthy does not make an answer consisting of a quote and nothing else acceptable. Therefore I see no contradiction. I have amended my post to make it a little more clear what my feelings are based on.
    – David Vogt
    Commented Feb 4, 2020 at 14:01
  • Leaving it to the reader would require not to delete the post. 1) Overgeneralized. It's about a specific post, not site policy. 2) Overgenaralization generalized. 3) Sth. to point out to a new contributor. 4) Would only apply if the use of the specific expression would have changed. It has not. Hilfreich sein is generally valid and intelligible German. 4) Sth. to point out to a new contributor. Rude? Doesn't mean NAA. Unhelpful? Quote (how to answer): "Any answer that gets the asker going in the right direction is helpful."
    – Olafant
    Commented Feb 22, 2020 at 15:33
  • @Olafant Feel free to disregard the part about noteworthiness. My position is that the noteworthiness of the quote is irrelevant. The second part is sufficient for deletion: A quote cannot be an answer. An answer may contain a quote, but the quote needs to be marked as a quote and the relevance of the quote needs to be put into words.
    – David Vogt
    Commented Feb 22, 2020 at 16:21
  • 1
    That should be a comment under the first answer of a new constributor to give him the chance to improve his answer instead of rigorously deleting it and thereby making it this users first and last contribution to this site. You're missing the point. I don't need your explanation. The new contributor would have needed it. That's what I would call welcoming in contrast to at least careless if not arrogantly dismissive. (btw. I mentioned the missing source and context already in my post.)
    – Olafant
    Commented Feb 22, 2020 at 20:17
  • @Olafant I answered your original questions: Is Goethe not a noteworthy reference when it comes to the possibility of using adjectives in specific contexts? Or is there another reason making this answer not an answer and therefore deleting the first answer of a new contributor? – Note that I did not vote to delete said post and am always in favour of commenting before taking any negative action.
    – David Vogt
    Commented Feb 22, 2020 at 20:57
  • I know, that you didn't vote to delete the answer. But you state here that deletion is justified. That's why I said you missed the point and that's why I edited the post to make clearer, what it is about.
    – Olafant
    Commented Feb 22, 2020 at 21:09
  • @Olafant You initially chose the route of arguing that that particular post was an actual answer, which I disagree with. Surely the matter of how welcoming the community is does not rest on the issue whether a post is eventually deleted or not, but in what precedes the deletion. If you are arguing that the poster should be given a chance to improve their post before it is deleted, I agree.
    – David Vogt
    Commented Feb 22, 2020 at 21:26

Why should he be? First of all he lived some ~200years ago which is enough time for serious changes in a language. Then it's only a single person and a additionally a poet - which grants him poetic licence and thus raised doubts about the validity of usages in ordinary German. So if you want to quote Goethe, or whomever, bring in an argument why you think it's relevant.

  • 1
    Nothing of what you say would make the answer NAA.
    – Olafant
    Commented Feb 4, 2020 at 13:51
  • I'm unfamiliar with the abbreviation NAA. Commented Feb 4, 2020 at 13:53
  • Sorry. NAA means not an answer.
    – Olafant
    Commented Feb 4, 2020 at 13:55
  • First of all, I'm missing an argument for why Goethe should be a noteworthy reference. Personally I was unfamiliar with the answer being a quote. For me it was just a contextless post. Commented Feb 4, 2020 at 13:57
  • 1
    The question is: why not? Why wouldn't it be noteworthy and therefore the answer would be considered NAA?
    – Olafant
    Commented Feb 4, 2020 at 14:02
  • If you want to bring in a reference you have to argue why it is a reference. Or everything becomes a reference until proven otherwise. Commented Feb 4, 2020 at 14:03
  • @Olafant nachdem ich deine Antwort zu dem anderen Metapost gelesen habe: Schade, dass dir deine Zeit dafür zu schade ist. Denn ich empfinde es gerade aus (natur-)wissenschaftlicher Sicht eine sehr interessante Frage, warum gewissen Personen, wie hier, Autorität verliehen werden soll. Das mag eine Grundsatzdiskussion sein, aber ich halte diese für unabwendbar, wenn man die Frage klären möchte. Commented Feb 18, 2020 at 17:04
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    Why should Goethe be a reference? Is a person in its field that is referenced very often considered as a noteworthy reference - in general? If yes, than Goethe is regarding at least in language. Because he is cited very often with poems and also what he wrote about "science topics" like Farbenlehre as he is considered a natural historian. Commented Feb 19, 2020 at 16:00
  • @infinitezero Die Zeilen stammen aus dem Gedicht Das Göttliche, in dem es darum geht, was den Menschen von anderen Tieren unterscheidet. Goethes Briefwechsel mit Schiller lässt erahnen, dass beide (mit Kant) große Hoffnung in die Vernunft als Lösung aller menschlichen Übel legten. Das macht es - kurz vor der franz. Revolution - m.E. schon zu etwas anderem als irgend ein Gedicht. Dass das so wenig bekannt sein soll, wundert mich sehr. Dass ein 200 Jahre altes Gedicht möglicherweise nicht mehr den gegenwärtigen Sprachgebrauch 1/2
    – Olafant
    Commented Feb 20, 2020 at 12:04
  • 1
    @infinitezero 2/2 widerspiegelt, mag sein. Das könnte man diskutieren. Es rechtfertigt aber in keiner Weise, dieses Zitat als abwegigen Antwortversuch zu betrachten und die Antwort als 'not an answer' zu löschen. Ansonsten kann ich mich nur den Kommentaren von Arsak und Shegit Brahm anschließen.
    – Olafant
    Commented Feb 20, 2020 at 12:05
  • Mein Punkt ist ganz präzise, dass nur weil "der große Goethe" etwas gesagt/geschrieben hat, man es nicht a priori als gottgleich dahinnehmen soll. Deswegen wäre meine Forderung: Begründen warum man das Zitat/Gedicht als geeigneten Referenz erachtet. Also quasi das, was du in deinem vorletztem Kommentar getan hast. Ich gehe mit David Vogt vollkommen d'accord. Ich habe es nur drastischer/provokativer formuliert als er. Besonders seine letzten 3 Punkte waren für mich Anlass, die Antwort als "not an answer" zu löschen. ...cont... Commented Feb 20, 2020 at 13:53
  • ...cont... 1) ich habe es nicht als Zitat erkannt. Für mich war es vollkommen zusammenhangslos und nicht erkannbar, um was es gehen sollte. 2) Mit der Implizierung, dass einem bedeutenden Schriftsteller gewisse Sprachauthorität zugewiesen werden soll, fehlt der Sprung, warum ein 200 Jahre altes Zitat noch aktuell ist und 3) Ist eine Zitat-only Antwort nur einen Deut besser als eine Link-only Antwort. Commented Feb 20, 2020 at 13:55
  • 2
    @infinitezero Dein zweiter Punkt macht keinen Sinn. Hilfreich sein (darum ging es in der Frage) ist nach wie vor allgemein gültiges und verständliches Deutsch. Das Alter wäre also höchstens relevant, wenn sich der Gebrauch geändert haben sollte. Nach deiner Logik müsste man begründen, warum die Riemann-Hypothese nach wie vor relevant ist. Der ist doch schon seit 150 Jahren tot. Zu 1) etwas provokativ: vielleicht solltest du dann besondere Vorsicht bei der Beurteilung der Antworten anderer walten lassen ;) zu 3) Ok. Das ist eine berechtigter Einwand.
    – Olafant
    Commented Feb 20, 2020 at 14:13
  • Ja, natürlich muss man auch begründen warum die Rieman-Vermutung noch Relevanz hat, wenn man sie irgendwo heranzieht. Mein Standpunkt ist ganz klar, wenn ich ein Argument herbeiführe, muss ich auch in der Lage sein - spätestens auf Nachfrage - zu erklären, warum es ein Argument ist. Egal wie trivial das Argument sein mag. Wenn man dazu nicht in der Lage ist, rüttelt es arg an der Glaubwürdigkeit. Deswegen habe ich auch so oft nachgefragt, warum Goethe überhaupt eine noteworthy reference sein soll, denn dann hat man eine Basis auf der man diskutieren kann. Commented Feb 20, 2020 at 14:24
  • Unterm Strich stimme ich Dir aber zu, dass es das Potential zu einer sehr guten Antwort gehabt hätte. Aber wegen den oben genannten Punkten es daran gescheitert ist, bis zu dem Punkt hin, dass ich für ein Löschen der Antwort gestimmt habe. Commented Feb 20, 2020 at 14:26

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