I'm personally quite proud of our question and answer quality. It's a big reason we still exist. One of the ways we do maintain that quality is by deleting posts that don't meet our standards.

However we still have an obligation to welcome new users and our standards take some getting used to. In particular, people who find our site via Google tend to assume we want answers stemming from some particular viewpoint (often a Christian one). If we delete such answers on sight, we risk losing out on potentially valuable contributors.

How do we balance the tension between our unusual standards and our need for new blood? Should we be using downvotes instead of deletion more often?

A case study to consider:

One of the answers to Why does the Scripture say that Abraham sacrificed his “only-begotten son”? was:

There is one more explanation: The sacrificial son was Ishmael.

Instead of working with the user to improve the answer quality by finding supporting documents and so on, I deleted the answer. I gave less than 6 hours for the community to fix the post. In retrospect, that was not a smooth move and I regret it. It would have been interesting to see how that answer played out and I screwed up the opportunity.

1 Answer 1


I think 6 hours may be a little fast. I try to wait about 24 and see if they have logged in and had a chance to see comments. If they do see comments and/or reply but leave it for a day anyway, then . If they don't come back at all, . If they do come back and engage with the community, whether it gets fixed right away or not, I'd try to work them through the ropes.

In this case I think your action was ok. You didn't just delete, you convert it to a comment. The user could not have commented because they don't have rep, but it makes a fair enough comment. It doesn't make an answer at all. I think showing people first thing how those functions should work ... that answers have to be developed and that comments are ok for a passing remark that could spark somebody else to answer is fine. There is a trail for the guy to follow: he can see his comment, he can see the answer it got converted from and he can see the comments that got left explaining why it wasn't an answer.

Fast? Maybe. Totally wrong action? No.

How quick should we be? It depends on how likely a candidate the answer looks for improvement. Some of them are obviously starting with a premise that won't ever work as an answer. Others have a spark that if somebody is willing to put effort into could be made into something. In the ends, it's a judgement call.

In some ways, I think deleting really off topic / not answer posts is better than downvoting, somehow it seems more like a corrective measure (even if not converted to a comment) than punitive. Downvoting seems like it's a bigger discouragement to newcomers. Sometimes it's a necessary measure, but I try to avoid it on people's first couple answers. If they keep throwing up junk, then I don't worry about it but a first answer I try to let it sit until they've been shown a few ropes.

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