I'm concerned.

Overall, I think we're doing great. We get more questions per day than all but 8 beta sites, we have awesome users with tons of reputation that help out, and we have a pretty decent answer rate considering the restrictions we place on questions.

Our answer quality guidelines are fairly strict:

Be verbose.

The asker has provided a list of requirements that the software must fulfil. It is the responsibility of the answerer to provide details on how their recommendation fulfils these requirements. Use screenshots if the asker has asked for a clean or intuitive user interface so that the asker doesn't have to install the software to see that you're right.

Going back even farther, we have the manifesto from the Area 51 days:

Good answers on this site will be in the form of honest testimonials that share first hand experience with something and why it meets the needs of the asker.

You should answer questions when you have first hand knowledge of things that satisfies at least most of the constraints given in the question. You should be ready to talk about your experience with it, what you liked about it, what features it does (or perhaps doesn't) have, within the context of the question. You should also talk about any potential quirks that you can think of, and even things that you found to be a down side of the product. In short, share your experience with something, not simply your knowledge that it exists.

Answers that do not even come close to meeting the constraints described in the question should be flagged as not an answer, and will be removed quickly.

But are we still as strict on answer quality as we were in the early stages? I don't think so. And we need to be. I wrote this quick query to get all the answers from the last month, ordered by length, shortest first. This surprised me:

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And that's from just the first ~10 entries in that query. These are really indistinguishable from spam - actually, I'd bet money that at least one is self-promotion. But we don't have any way to know if they're smart about hiding it. This is why we have to delete these - if we don't, we'll turn into a spam haven.

We have plenty of insanely good, well-researched, bullet-pointed, requirement-matching answers. That's awesome. But we need to be taking care of these.

Really, this is my fault for not being more proactive hunting down these low quality answers. I'm planning to do a lot more of that. But if you see one, I'd really appreciate it if you'd flag it.

Now, your turn. Have I had too much pizza and this is all crazytalk? Should I refrain from hunting these out, and just handle flags when they come up?

  • 2
    Man, that calls me back. We (and I don't mean just ♦) should review this query regularly. And some of these really should have been caught in first post review. Commented Jul 18, 2015 at 7:34
  • 5
    Its not just about the length of the answer. There's also people just copying the promotional blurb from a website. That doesn't tell you if they have actually used the software, or whether the software meets the requirements of the question.
    – vclaw
    Commented Jul 18, 2015 at 15:30
  • @vclaw Could you compile some of them and open a new Meta Post for them, then maybe we could easier detect them. Commented Jul 18, 2015 at 19:52
  • 1
    @vclaw Sure, the ones that don't copy the blurb are just easier to find. I have a comment template I use for pure ad copy answers (and then I delete them). Please flag such answers as well. Commented Jul 19, 2015 at 18:06
  • 2
    If you were to flag an example above, which flag would you use? Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 8:09
  • 2
    @RockPaperLizard I'd use “very low quality”, which goes to a review queue. Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 20:34
  • 1
    I am ashamed to say I may have written one or two poor answers, but now that I see your question, I understand they were, and I understand why they were.
    – Chop
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 13:59
  • On Code Review.SE we have compiled a list of frequently posted comments on our site in a meta post. This is handy for commenting on common problems of answers (or questions). It can be used together with the AutoReviewComments script. Maybe something similar would be useful for you too?
    – jacwah
    Commented Aug 8, 2015 at 18:51

2 Answers 2


I think you are totally right.

I tend to downvote such answers, I will go over to flag them as well (as VLQ as suggested by Gilles).

Usually I care more about questions then answers so I didn't really notice the downward trend there but I promise to take a regular look on that query of yours, or this one that I wrote, it sorts by oldest date and only short answers so I get different ones I can take care about.

Of course, as Chop rightfully pointed out in the comments, educating the people and leaving friendly comments for them is very important. Most people here are good willed and will change their ways.

  • 2
    I see many of these answers getting flagged and/or commented (dunno by who) so it's not all gloom and doom.
    – user416
    Commented Jul 19, 2015 at 11:44
  • 3
    Angelo asked which flag is best to use. I'm interested in knowing the answer to that question too. Commented Aug 2, 2015 at 20:28
  • @RockPaperLizard You might want to comment on the question to get better results :) Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 7:32
  • 1
    Education is important. @AngeloFuchs just told me what was wrong with one of my answers and I will take this into account next time I answer. Each SX has its own rules. I am not lazy or ill-willed, I just did not know all those here. Well, maybe I am lazy because I did not look for the guidelines. But I am willing to be positive and hope users are willing to learn from their mistakes (most of them are willing to avoid downvote). Only think of telling them what's wrong instead of blindly downvoting, so that they can do better next time.
    – Chop
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 14:12
  • @Chop very important point. Thank you! I included it in my answer. Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 18:35


I'm totally OK with those answers, they are software recommendations.

Don't forget many questions would have been posted in more specialized SE branches but, fearing instant closing, users post them here hoping for a better chance to actually get an answer. I guess many consider this site a lo-fi version of SO, so maybe lo-fi answers are a natural consequence. Steamroll users as it happens right now on SO, they will easily flee - for many it would be a second dissapointment.

What's so incredibly wrong with self-promotion?

And no, SE is not doing so great. There's a lot of rage out there about moderator abuse, go google it.

  • 1
    Self promotion itself is not the problem here. Short Link-only answers are. "This helps [link]" is no better then a google result. And we want to be better then a google result. Moderator abuse is a problem (especially on SO), but not one we are here to solve. The basic principle of SE (providing better answers then some forum + google) is working good and we should work on it so it stays that way. Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 7:35
  • For me, the simple fact that a recommendation is made by a human is "better", compared to googling, which is subject to SEO/advertising. Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 8:33
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    But self-promotion is advertising, thus reducing its value. Also, such short answers as are discussed here may only be the result of someone googling the relevant keywords - in contrast to someone who has used the software they are recommending. Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 8:48
  • 1
    While some claim that a link is no better than googling, they assume that google provides the answer trivially. They fail to account for the fact that google doesn't always return the right answer to your intended query (let alone the one you wrote) on the first or even after many tries. The poster of such a link has presumably done the homework to find the answer and that is useful. Deleting that link is a disservice, if the answer is relevant. I'll agree that it may not come with a specific recommendation, but it is often better than just plain silence. ...
    – Ira Baxter
    Commented Aug 7, 2015 at 15:32
  • 1
    If the link answer is wrong, it can be downvoted. It not, it should be left alone by those that don't have a stake in the outcome.
    – Ira Baxter
    Commented Aug 7, 2015 at 15:32

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