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While running some Data Explorer queries, I noticed a user who has no answers with less than 2 votes (more than 100 total). As I don't yet have 10k I can't view the deleted posts, but I am assuming that there is no possible way this would occur over so many answers without having deleted low-scoring answers.

I'm not sure I've ever deleted answers*. I can understand the feeling of being sensitive to piling up low- or zero-voted posts — I am too, but this is why I usually just don't post late answers to questions unless I feel I have a substantial improved answer to what's already there.

  1. Is this common, or did I happen upon an extremely rare case?
  2. Is it ok? Should the community feel robbed of possibly good, but unnoticed (maybe late) answers? Is it gaming of some kind?
  3. Why or why not?

* I may have that I can't remember, so if you have 10k, don't jump on me. I even left a -1 post because I reviewed the answer after downvotes and felt like I still believed in my answer.

  • Isn't this more a question for meta? – user unknown Mar 26 '11 at 23:31
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    Do you mean Meta.Stackoverflow? I asked it here because this practice was observed here and I think more likely to be seen here. – Nicole Mar 26 '11 at 23:43
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    Oh, sorry, I didn't mentioned that we are in meta. How mortifying! I'm a bit color blind, and don't see here so a difference to main, opposed to other sides, which have an easy distinguishable theme for me. – user unknown Mar 26 '11 at 23:46
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    @userunknown We're terribly sorry about that. Are you color blind from birth or did a raptor bite half your eyeballs out when you used a goto? – Mateen Ulhaq Mar 30 '11 at 22:31
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    Not from birth - my birth went well - but from genetic material. ;) – user unknown Apr 1 '11 at 17:21
  • I have observed this behaviour on SO as well as here... – HorusKol Jun 8 '11 at 23:20
21

Personally, I delete some of my answers. My reasons for doing so are usually one of the following.

  1. I've misunderstood the question and given an answer that is useless.
  2. Whilst I've been writing my answer someone else has posted and it is a correct answer, or at least I agree with it.
  3. Someone else has answered and it is a better answer, more clear, or accurate.

By doing this, I feel I'm improving the site as a whole by cutting down on the chaff answers.

  • Id like to add one of the main motivation for doing this,Is maybe the person is trying to keep a clean and impressive(if we can call it that) profile.To ensure he gets viewed in the right image in case some one does a background check on his profile. – Aditya P Mar 27 '11 at 8:34
  • There is that possibility, but my view is that if someone is getting so many negatively voted answers that this would become an issue, then in all likelihood they are not going to get through the various interview and testing stages for a job anyway. – Kevin D Mar 27 '11 at 8:40
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    On SO I occasionally delete for pretty much the exact same reasons. On programmers not so much because questions here are more amenable to multiple good answers. I've thought about the "resume" aspect as well, but leaving a bad answer up feels too much like that guy who can't admit when he's wrong. Maybe profiles should have a count of deleted answers to be able to spot those who are gaming the system versus the occasional cleanup. – Karl Bielefeldt Mar 28 '11 at 19:31
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Some people delete their answers once they realize that someone else made their point better. I don't think I've observed lots of deleted answers. We don't see that very often.

In terms of your actual concern, I wouldn't worry about it much. If a user went on a deletion spree, it'd trip the "vandalizing content" heuristic and we (the diamond mods) would get notified. Depending on the circumstances, we would then likely restore some or all of the removed answers.

As Mark mentioned, Programmers is quite liberal with votes, so the odds of someone not having any 0-voted answers can be pretty good. Without knowing which user you're talking about, it's hard to draw any other conclusions.

  • I guess I'll take a look when I hit 10k. I didn't want to make this about a user. – Nicole Mar 25 '11 at 18:41
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    we have triggers now that alert and block when users delete too many of their own old posts in a short period. This will show up as a moderator flag. We had too many users ragequitting. – Jeff Atwood Mar 25 '11 at 23:06
  • Whats wrong in this really? if there are better answers to the question posted.A user would just be clearing his inventory/profile of unpopular and or not so useful answers. – Aditya P Mar 27 '11 at 8:32
  • @Aditya I'm not sure that's what Jeff means by ragequitting. – Nicole Mar 28 '11 at 17:21
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    @Renesis: Example of ragequit: User gets bent out of shape over something someone said to him on a post, and decides to delete his account. When he can't find the delete button on his account, user begins deleting his answers, and replacing the text of his answers with "I Quit." Moderator rolls back the deleted answers, and suspends the account for a couple of days. User accuses SO of violating the DMCA. Moderator educates User about the CC:Wiki license. This actually happened. – Robert Harvey Mar 28 '11 at 21:39
  • @Robert - I was explaining to AdityaGameProgrammer that I don't think the Vandalism alert is there to stop users who are benevolently cleaning up their poor answers. It's a good thing the license is in place, though. – Nicole Mar 28 '11 at 21:47
  • @Renesis: Yeah, I didn't see the word that's in your comment until I was done editing my comment and my five minutes were up. :) Oh, well. – Robert Harvey Mar 28 '11 at 21:49
7

You can actually do an audit of people deleting their own low-voted answers because there's a badge for that.

But generally, people are extremely liberal with their voting on Programmers.SE: the only answers and questions that tend to get more downvotes than upvotes are ones that are egregiously offensive.

So there winds up being a very high correlation between posts that are flagged (and thus deleted) and posts that have negative vote totals.

I'm of the mind that the community should feel robbed: votes are more or less meaningless on Programmers.SE because nearly everything—no matter how inane, banal, or off-topic—gets upvotes.

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    I won't downvote, since I don't mean this as an insult, but I don't feel like this answers my question. It seems more like you are relating this to your anger about what the community on Programmers seems to like/upvote. Also - the badge only applies to -3 or lower, and I'm talking about 0s and maybe even 1s. – Nicole Mar 25 '11 at 18:18
  • @Renesis As Anna said, my point is that the odds of someone having a low-voted answer are extremely slim because everything gets up-voted. The reason you don't see low-voted answers is because the main times people down-vote more than they up-vote is when an answer is so bad it gets flagged for moderator review and deleted anyway. That only 41 out of 16,000 users have deleted their own negatively voted answers, combined with very few (if any) low-voted answers are in SEDE, should indicate to you that if there are low-voted answers being deleted, it's generally not by the answerers themselves. – user8 Mar 25 '11 at 18:48
  • Mark, are you ignoring me? It has nothing to do with the Peer Pressure badge. As you can see from this query (Enter 50, =, 0) - the top 50 users on Programmers have amassed 1400 0-voted answers. This is what I mean by "low-voted". Achieving a -3 answer is an achievement of sorts in and of itself on Programmers. – Nicole Mar 25 '11 at 19:07
  • @Renesis If I was ignoring you, why would I directly address you? Re-read what I've said here and what Anna has said here: we're making the exact same point. The odds are very high that there are users who don't have any low-voted answers because people are extremely liberal with their up-voting. – user8 Mar 25 '11 at 19:13
  • @Renesis Each user is listed twice in the results of that query, so the actual number of 0-voted answers should be 700. – Adam Lear Mar 25 '11 at 19:17
  • @Anna, that's just the way WITH ROLLUP displays the results. The true sum (I just quickly verified with a caluclator) is actually 1400. – Nicole Mar 25 '11 at 19:25
  • @Mark, you haven't shown that the odds are high by the definition I have repeatedly tried to explain: Score of 1 or less, or even 0 or less. The peer pressure badge then has nothing to do with proving that the odds are high, and I said that in the first comment. SEDE says there are over 22000 with 1 or less. 11000 with score of 0. – Nicole Mar 25 '11 at 19:29
  • @Renesis Ah, cool. Thanks for checking that. – Adam Lear Mar 25 '11 at 19:31
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I guess it's perfectly fine to delete low or negative answers, if you think they are of no value, compared with the other answers.

In some cases I have low or negative voted answers, but still think, that I am right, and wouldn't delete it.

Shall I suffer for the all times from bad answers? Shall visitors read my mediocre posts? Why? They just lose time. SE isn't meant as a documentation or archive of errors. Remove the bad - maybe it will work in small, but regular doses, without triggering Atwoods guards. :)

2

I used to delete my low (zero or below) scoring answers once someone else got the green check. My premise was that my answer was thought so poorly by the rest of the readership that not one other person felt it worthy of a single upvote. But I don't do that anymore. There is the "sportsmanship" badge that one can get by leaving one's low scores up and voting for competing answers.

Another reason I've stopped doing it is that on beta sites, your commitment cannot be fulfilled if you have less than 10 answers + questions, so deleting low scoring answers is counterproductive. And a silly bug I've noticed on beta sites is that if you award bounties that take you below 100 karma, no matter how many badges you've acquired by the end of the private beta week, you forfeit your beta badge (which supposedly only requires 3 badges).

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