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I posted a quick answer to a question a while ago. I wasn't super detailed and it certainly wasn't a model answer, but I provided a service to the community by being the only one to recommend a certain piece of useful software.

Original question: Fast mp4 to mp3 converter Screenshot of my answer

Then just now, out of the blue, it was deleted with a comment saying that it "wasn't a good answer." Sure, it wasn't super detailed, but its actual content was good enough: it had two votes, second only to the top answer with three votes. This clearly shows I helped at least two people, but it's obviously safe to assume it helped many more than that. And my answer was just as long and just as detailed as this other answer yet it was not deleted.

I've used StackExchange on many of its sub-sites for a while and I know the customs. One of the main rules is that no content is deleted unless it is harmful (e.g. spam, a comment instead of an answer, or just entirely nonsensible and flat out useless). If someone deems an answer low quality, they are encouraged to leave a comment or to edit it with improvements. They can also simply downvote it if the answer isn't good enough for them.

So why are moderators going around necro-deleting random decent answers to random old questions? To me, this sounds like either a rogue moderator or that something really needs to be done to update the policy here with the customs of the rest of the StackExchange network, which is that nothing is deleted just for being below the standards for a high quality answer.

I have now edited my answer to provide more detail:
Screenshot of my revised answer

But since I never got a comment before it was forcibly deleted by a moderator, I'm unable to vote to reopen it with my new improvements. I would like it if the revised answer could be undeleted by a moderator, and I would also be interested if a discussion can be made about this topic as a whole.

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9

What you don't see is the six other poor quality and sometimes actually spammy answers there. Granted its a video conversion question, and they attract spammers. You're not one. Awesome.

We've iterated reiterated and for that matter, even been berated over post quality, and well, its something that's essential considering the unusual scope of the site. As such, well, answers like this get deleted first, and often as quickly as possible

While we'd love to post a comment, go back, and delete later at some point, it makes much more sense for us to delete (and entirely unscientifically, as a mod on two sites, VERY few deleted posts get improved like this), comment (for the few, who like you go back and fix your posts) and get back to it later if the poster actually did something about it.

I don't entirely agree with Undo's wording (and we shall chat about that in private at some point), but yeah, you could either do as you did, fix up the answer (and post a custom flag explaining that the answer has been substantially improved and you'd like to have it reviewed), or to post a new answer substancially improving the new ones.

I've undeleted the answerand hope that you keep this incident in mind for future answers.

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  • Thanks, Journeyman – my flag was faster than the answer I was working on in parallel :) Also good to see your bringing up one other point of my answer: the other low q answers. I wonder why those survived – and will go over them with comments and flags/votes now :) – Izzy Oct 23 '15 at 6:59
  • One more thing: Undo's comment should be deleted now, looks a bit stupid with the answer revived :) – And yuck, we have no flag for "low quality"? I've commented two more answers for that, but have no way to deal with them further except for flagging them to mods. – Izzy Oct 23 '15 at 7:07
  • There is no comment. Only Zuul – Journeyman Geek Oct 23 '15 at 7:08
  • LOL Now I only miss the possibility to flag 2 more answers "LQ". As there's no such flag: should I flag them for mod attention then? :confused: – Izzy Oct 23 '15 at 7:10
  • Thank you for undeleting it. But I don't see it as necessary to delete the others there; they aren't great, but they are useful if my answer isn't what Google visitors are looking for. Please see my comment in Izzy's answer for my response to the parts about the policy. – Keavon Oct 23 '15 at 7:11
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    Links on my answer cover that. At the end of the day, we're trying our best to enforce a policy that stackexchange feels is pretty beneficial to a site with a scope very few other sites touch. – Journeyman Geek Oct 23 '15 at 7:13
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    @Izzy: VLQ flag is only available on 0- or negative-scored posts. NAA is available on all answers, but that's not necessarily quite accurate. – Nathan Tuggy Nov 16 '15 at 21:20
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While I see your point of "no warning before" – I also see the point of the mod deleting the post. I'm not a mod; if I had "pushed that button" you'd have gotten a warning in advance (and a chance to fix it before 4 other members pushed the same). The crux of mods is: their votes are binding immediately and need no "approval" by other members (we sometimes call that "Thor's hammer").

But now to "the content". The mod gave you the link to our answer guidelines. In short, an answer must contain

  • how the product meets all of the OP's requirements listed in the question (to be honest: at least half of the other questions earn a close-vote for that point already: on a quick browse, only one covered the core requirement: the encoder must be FAST)
  • what makes the product recommendable (personal experience preferred – your edit covers this to a degree)
  • where to obtain the product (link to the home/download page – that's the only thing all answers cover)

I just tried voting to undelete the post – unfortunately, the system doesn't allow me that as a moderator had deleted it. I flagged it for the mods to re-evaluate; maybe you meanwhile want to fill the last gap, indcluding a hint on conversion speed?


One more thing: WHY we are so strict? We strive for high quality here – we're not just an "extension to Google Search". If we accept "one-liner answers" not meeting our quality criteria, we'll end up with a lot of those, which would defeat the purpose of this site. On SE, information should be kept on site (links may die, and people shouldn't be forced to "click their way" to get the details needed for a decision). Each SE site wants to be the "prime source on its topic", so do we. To give you an example of "success": Whenever I fight a problem with one of my servers, and a "ServerFault"/"SuperUser" link turns up in Google search, that's the first ones I check – because they are the most likely places for quality answers to my issue. That's the spirit :) People coming here should find quality answers – not just "another list of links".

Thanks for your understanding – and thanks for turning to Meta with your question to get some light shed for understanding, instead of just resigning. I could repeat: that's the spirit :)

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  • I know the comments on this meta answer aren't the appropriate way of debating the policy which seems to be already established, but I still don't understand why a bad answer is worse than having no answer at all. Google results are usually horrible when searching for software that does a certain thing and reaching a Software Recs question can be a life saver because it contains recommendations by actual humans instead of a search algorithm. I can click on half a dozen links to find the best, starting with the highest voted answers. If it's low quality, why not just leave a comment & downvote? – Keavon Oct 23 '15 at 7:10
  • why not just leave a comment & downvote – that's what I do usually (always comment, sometimes also downvote). As pointed out in a comment on Journeyman's answer, I didn't see a LQ flag being available (and "not an answer" doesn't exactly fit); not being a mod I can't throw "Thor's hammer". // As for the discussion: See the linked quality guidelines, there it was discussed. If you've got no time for a full-fledged answer: leave a comment, you've got the rep for that, and convert it to an answer when you find more time. These are the rules the community agreed on. – Izzy Oct 23 '15 at 7:14
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This deletion was entirely appropriate. Before accusing others of being “rogue”, please take a minute to inform yourself about our site.

The fact that the answer had been around for a while changes nothing. Sometimes undesirable content falls through the cracks, that's no reason not to clean it up when we notice it.

Different Stack Exchange sites have different quality expectations. Your statement that “one of the main rules is that no content is deleted unless it is harmful” is not correct on any of the sites that I'm familiar with, though: every site deletes answers that are useless, even if they are not harmful, with varying thresholds for uselessness. Some sites accept anything that isn't outright nonsense; others are more strict.

Software Recommendations is on the strict side: we have quality guidelines (linked everywhere we can: in the tour page, in the on-topic help page), in the meta FAQ, and we delete answers that fall too short of our usefulness expectations. As stated there,

Answers that consist solely of a product name or link and generic information copied from the product description or other promotional material may be summarily deleted.

Your original answer was barely more than a link to the product; deleting it is in line with our quality policy. We are definitely not going to change this policy: it's what makes the answers on this site useful, and in particular ensures that this site isn't just a spam forum.

You were notified of the deletion by a comment. We always leave a comment when deleting an answer that isn't absolutely obvious spam or nonsense, linking to our answer guidelines. (By the way, the Stack Exchange comment notification rules have the unfortunate effect that if such a comment isn't left by a moderator, you won't be notified of it if you don't check your inbox before the post is deleted. Comments left by a ♦ moderator who deletes the post do stick in your inbox however.)

Thank you for improving your answer. When you've done so, you can flag your answer and request undeletion. If you prefer, you're welcome to post a new answer instead.

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  • +1. Over on ELL, I even delete correct answers just because they don't have an explanation of the reasoning involved... because to an English learner, a mere rote recital of the specific answer to the specific question just isn't enough to keep around. – Nathan Tuggy Nov 5 '15 at 3:43
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Everyone else has already covered the pertinent points here, so I'm going to try to give a little context for this (not in strict chronological order, though):

  1. Way back in the beginning of the site, a Community Manager posted the ground rules, which included this:

    Answers that contain little more than a link will be deleted without question, comment or other ceremony

  2. We came up with our own 'answer quality guidelines', which also contained this:

    Answers that consist solely of a product name or link and generic information copied from the product description or other promotional material may be summarily deleted.

  3. The highest voted answer on 'How are we going to moderate answers?' says this:

    Answers must be tailored to the question. Any answer that consists solely of generic elements shall be summarily deleted. Generic elements are, for example, the application name, ad copy, subjective praise, or other general description

Now, we get moderators. They (we) start enforcing those policies. Originally, I would give advanced warning to an answer before deleting it. As we grew, though, that very quickly became unmanageable - I literally had a Trello board just for keeping track of which answers to delete when. Not fun.

Also, through that, I noticed that we had a very, very small percentage of users that even acknowledged that comment - let alone edited their answer. To this day, I smile every time someone actually edits or posts a new, good answer after we delete their old one - it's that rare of an occurrence.

I used to comment asking users to edit their answer, then flag it for moderator attention with a custom flag. This worked fine... until we remembered that users with <15 reputation can't flag. There goes that idea.

So I finally settled on asking them to just post a new answer. This is less work for moderators, and gets the answer up faster for the user. I realize, though, that part of the motivation for keeping the old answer is the upvotes already on it - somehow your answer managed to fly under the radar for a few months.

I'm going to change my standard comment to give the option of either flagging or posting a new answer.

But reiterating what others have said, this isn't random in any other way than that this was somehow the first time I'd seen that answer.

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