5

We currently have a long and vivid discussion about a newbie answer that

  • said it was written as an answer for lack of reputation to write a comment
  • pointed out two minor errors in another answer to the same question
  • finally listed corrected versions of the two sentences that had errors and said using them this way would be fine

Here's the question at the time of writing that answer, and here's the original answer.

I want to clarify:

Was this post an answer, or was it a non-answer (NAA)?

Please give a rationale and state whether you think the decision depends on how many up- or downvotes the answer gets.

I don't want to discuss here whether we agree or not with the course of moderator action on that post. I only want to clarify whether it is ok to flag such a post as NAA.

  • Yeah, I now believe this is the crux of the matter. However, I think you should expand the "said how to fix this" part into two sub-items: a) said how to fix this by saying "instead of X, it should be X-prime", b) said how to fix this by saying "the words y and z should be removed from X". It appears that, to some people, the answer will depend on that difference. – chirlu Jun 23 '15 at 12:05
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    @chirlu (I hope) I got your point, but I think both a) and b) don't match the post in question. But I edited the third bullet point so that it leaves less room for interpretation what "said how to fix it" means. – Matthias Jun 23 '15 at 12:12
5

It is not an answer.

  1. At its very beginning it declares "just wanted to add something to Hubert's answer". So it is not an attempt to answer the question, but its a post about somoneone elses answer. That by doing so it adresses the question, too, is just a side-effect.
  2. Then it says "since I can't comment (not enough reputation) I'll just answer here". So we can beleve the author would have written a comment if he had the reputation for it.
  3. The whole post represents that comment the author wanted to write. The second half is not an attempt to answer the question on its own, but is the counterpart to the first half, just with the errors fixed.
  4. Beside this, there is no other content adressing the question.
  5. The official guidance for the “not an answer” flag reads:

    This was posted as an answer, but it does not attempt to answer the question. It should possibly be an edit, a comment, another question, or deleted altogether.

    Here we have even two of the NAA reasons: the answer should have been an edit (a possibility the author sadly missed), and it was written in place of a comment.

Should we consider the upvotes the question already had? No, we shouldn't. The author would not have got any reputation if he had written a thrice upvoted comment, and it is his own failure that he did not get +2 for the edit he could have made.

  • @Takkat: I think now we can say without any doubt that this german.stackexchange.com/questions/23994/… is Not An Answer. So I think It's time now to delete it. – Hubert Schölnast Jun 25 '15 at 5:59
  • @HubertSchölnast: primarily it is you who by entirely unnecessary roll-backs turned the answer into this disputed NAA state again after I tried to save it from deletion. At present this answer still has +4/-2 votes. If community thinks it should still be deleted then you should go ahead and do so. That is what community moderation is deisgned for. There is nothing I can do here, sorry. – Takkat Jun 25 '15 at 7:12
  • @HubertSchölnast This answer has 4 upvotes, and we need 5 votes even to close a question. I would have liked to see much more participation on this topic, but alas, there isn't, and what we got isn't sufficient to necessarily trigger moderator action. – Matthias Jun 25 '15 at 7:40
  • @Takkat: As I already said in one of the comments there, non-moderators can only delete an answer that has a negative score, so this is not actually an option. – chirlu Jun 25 '15 at 14:04
  • @chirlu well - then the way to go is obvious... may it be because reputation does matter for the decision whether to delete a post? – Takkat Jun 25 '15 at 15:04
  • @Takkat: I already downvoted it when it was first turned into a (bad) answer, but perhaps yes, more people need to give up their restraint so that we can finally close this issue … – On the topic of non-answers getting votes: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/209618, meta.stackexchange.com/questions/156343 – chirlu Jun 25 '15 at 15:22
  • @chirlu: just for me to understand: what again are the reasons we are so tremendously urged to delete this? Is there anywhere said that deletion is a must? Really, I would have no issue here if it was not so much upvoted (it shouldn't have been voted upon at all). It was a comment - fine - let's flag it for conversion - bam - done - move on. Then, we have your opinion it was a bad answer. Fair enough - user your vote. Still, 4 other people deemed it helpful for reasons we don't know. We can't ignore this. Why irreversibly delete content other people sort of liked? I still don't get this. – Takkat Jun 25 '15 at 16:11
  • @Takkat: “It was a comment - fine - let's flag it for conversion - bam - done - move on.” Well, you might remember that was exactly what I did, and somewhere after the “let’s flag it” part, it didn’t continue … – At first, it was no answer, and I didn’t vote (neither up nor down). Then you turned it into an answer by removing the part explaining what it originally was, and this – as an answer – was bad one. – People upvoted it because it absolutely was helpful (as an edit suggestion). Remember that even comments can be upvoted and afterwards deleted as obsolete. – chirlu Jun 25 '15 at 16:38
  • @chirlu; I am not attached to a flag receiver that buzzes or electrocutes my skin - by the time I read it the post had 3 upvotes already. It is all not your fault, you did perfectly right. Reasons why it went different see below in my answer. – Takkat Jun 25 '15 at 17:10
3

There seems to be quite a network-wide debate amoung users whether something is actually not an answer or maybe just is an answer. There is also this apple picture which looks great, but doesn’t really help:

apples and answers

  • Meta.SX has a resource that both sides could agree on:

    • A comment that was posted as an answer is NAA; but
    • A partial answer is an answer.

    You totally understood that, right?

  • A different Meta.SX post more or less stresses the first part: If a comment is posted as an answer, it is NAA.

  • A third post by a mod on Meta.SX pretty much repeats the reasons but leaves out the comments as answers part.

  • And then on the same question as just above, a Meta.SX user says

    a comment

    for one-liners, link answers, "this other StackOver question is similar" repwhoring, or was an answer posted before 2009 (most likely)


If you don’t agree with me yet that this issue is highly confusing, I wouldn’t know when to agree at all.

I agree with most people that upvotes but also downvotes should be irrelevant in judging whether something is an answer or not. But I no longer have any clue as to whether the answer should be considered an answer or not.


Related: I myself posted an almost-comment-answer on Tex.SX in my very early days. It gained three upvotes and is still around, but the question only gained 5, so it’s not a good one. But it shows that maybe one should treat non-answers in a very strict way? I really don’t know anymore …

  • 1
    I fail to see why you are confused. Comments are NAA; partial answers are not NAA. There is no contradiction here. – Wrzlprmft Jun 24 '15 at 19:17
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    @Wrzlprmft Technically yes, but the line between ‘comment’ and ‘partial answer’ is so slim it is sometimes of negative thickness. And that part is confusing. – Jan Jun 24 '15 at 19:58
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    There is network wide confusion, and we can't deny that there are answers where it becomes hard to tell. If in doubt, and only then, we should not overreact by purging all doubtful cases. It causes no harm if we just leave those borderline cases. Deleting somebody else's post is quite a drastic means of moderation which should be reserved to clear-cut cases where there is no other option and where there is no doubt. This also should include community moderation where I often see delete votes on otherwise pretty harmless posts. – Takkat Jun 24 '15 at 20:12
  • As for post deletion we do have surprisingly little community participation on the related meta posts here: meta.german.stackexchange.com/questions/864 meta.german.stackexchange.com/questions/771 meta.german.stackexchange.com/questions/780 – Takkat Jun 24 '15 at 20:16
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    I think the picture does help - as long as nobody tries to see an orange as an attempt to draw an apple. But then there is no help at all. – Matthias Jun 25 '15 at 7:32
  • There is little arguing about the specific post in question in your answer. Why do you "have any clue" about it? "Should have been an edit" is an official NAA reason, and if we take away the first sentence the post looks like it could be the canonical example for "should have been an edit". – Matthias Jun 25 '15 at 7:36
  • @Matthias I can also understand Takkat’s side of things: If a post could possibly contain content that can be understood as partially answering a bit of the question, it is apply enough to be an answer. – Jan Jun 26 '15 at 0:45
2

Of course this was not an answer. It should have been posted as a comment.

But it wasn't.

It was fairly upvoted instead. This means people deemed it a helpful answer, and people wanted the OP to gain reputation with it. We don't know the reasons why, but it is a fact we can't deny.

In addition, it was a bit more than a comment, admittedly a tiny bit, but the second part of the post actually does not only provide the corrected sentence but taken alone it also answers the question quite well (just say ... is correct.). This corrected version was not yet posted before, hence it can be seen as an addendum to the existing answer (something we often see here). We can't exclude that this too was a reason for people to upvote it.

All this makes it different to the usual "comment posted as an answer":

  • it has quite many upvotes indicating some value to people
  • it also contains a part that could answer the question

Now for the tricky bit.

What should we do with this post?

  • Should we convert it to a comment? Not really - that's too late. The error was already edited out.
  • Should we delete the post? Yeah that is an option but the reputation points other people gave the OP would be removed. And people who found the post helpful may feel quite uncomfortable after they noticed it is gone for reasons possibly not obvious to them.
  • Should we edit the post to make it at least a valid answer? Yeah that would also be a possiblity here. It would leave the reputation with the OP, it would leave the OP with the choice to self-delete, and it would also let the post stay for people who liked it.

So, from an unbiased view the third option appears to be the least harmful in this case. The edit would only remove superfluous content but would not change much otherwise. After the edit the post even gathered another upvote, so apparently it was not so bad for the post.

Still, such an edit does not turn this answer into a great answer but it tremendously helps to avoid confusion coming from deleting a post and removal of reputation from a user who was so helpful in the first place.

Edits to NAA posts to just avoid comment conversion is not what we want to happen regularly.

But it can be done in some special cases. It needs to be exceptional. The much better approach would be to not vote and to flag for converting it to a comment.

  • You’re right in bolding not to vote. If it is voted up, is has to be an answer (or the people voting did not understand what they are voting). – Jan Jun 26 '15 at 0:47
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    @Jan I consider the option in parentheses to be quite likely. Beside: people who take the tooltips on the vote arrows seriously only express "this post is useful" when upvoting. They don't necessarily say "it is a legitimate answer". The usefulness of a "should have been an edit" post vanishes, however, when the real edit has been made. – Matthias Jun 26 '15 at 7:56
-4

No, it is not. It is Not An Answer to the originally asked question and therefore should be treated as NAA.

I will demonstrate it in an example:

Original Question (asked at 8:00am) written by Alice:

What is the full name of the president of the united states?

First answer (posted at 8:10am) written by Bob:

The name of the actual US-president is Barack Hussein Obama II actual.

This answer gets some upvotes. 10 hours later comes the next answer:

Second answer (posted at 6:00pm) written by the brandnew user Carol (obviously just registered to be able to react on the error) who has a reputation of 1 point:

I am a new user and can't write comments. So I post this as an answer.
There is an error in Bob's answer. He wrote:
<quote>The name of the actual US-president is Barack Hussein Obama II actual.</quote>
There is one actual too much.
The correct answer is:
<quote>The name of the actual US-president is Barack Hussein Obama II.</quote>

Within one hour three users upvoted this answer of Carol (It is his very first answer as a new user). Then a fourth user, Daniel, edited Bobs faulty answer and deleted the futile actual. He also set the NAA-flag to signal the moderator to delete this now useless posting. Some times later also Bob came across the site again and raised the NAA-flag, and also asked the moderator in comments to now delete this non-answer.

And here is the point where the moderator disagrees with many of the other users.

The moderator decided to modify Carols posting. He did not add anything, but he deleted 70% of its content. All he left was this:

The correct answer is:
<quote>The name of the actual US-president is Barack Hussein Obama II.</quote>

I do not think, that this part, ripped out of its original context, really is an answer. I believe, that this is just part of correction instruction. And therefore the original answer still is Not An Answer.

  • 4
    -1 This is rather a log of what happened, including a discussion of what the mod did after the NAA flag had been raised, although the question explicitly excluded this aspect. There is little rationale on why exactly the post is not an answer. – Matthias Jun 23 '15 at 13:28

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