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I occasionally browse through the tag. One of my pet peeves is having to scroll through answers on the hard science tag that have a lot of upvotes, but don't meet the requirements of the hard-science tag.

Lately, answers that don't meet the requirements have been receiving post notices. But that doesn't do anything other than leave an "official" comment. The answers are still upvoted, and still distracting from the more useful answers.

Could answers on the hard science tag that have a post notice be moved to the bottom of the page? They would still be visible, and the OP would still be able to improve them if they wished to do so. But that way they wouldn't be obstructing the more useful answers.

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  • $\begingroup$ If you see a non-hard-science answer on a hard-science question, feel free to flag it to bring it to the community's attention. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Jul 18 '17 at 18:59
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    $\begingroup$ I'd like to see this for all post notices, actually. "Insufficient explanation" or "citation needed" notices also indicate that the answer is wanting in some way. (Also, as a practical matter, I suspect that all notice types would need to be treated the same.) $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Jul 18 '17 at 19:07
  • $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre the answers are getting attention, they're getting post notices. And then nothing happens. $\endgroup$ – user171 Jul 18 '17 at 19:08
  • $\begingroup$ The post notices can only be applied manually by diamond moderators (as far as I understand -- @MonicaCellio -- Feel free to correct me). I don't know if they provide any notice to the answerer at the same time, but if there are no comments, then the user has no feedback. If comments have been provided and the user has taken no corrective action, then a flag is warranted. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Jul 18 '17 at 19:13
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    $\begingroup$ We try to add a comment when we add the post notice, just in case. But HDE does most of our hard-science-post-notice-wrangling, so he could say more definitively than I can. Anyway, we as a community should talk about when a post that has a notice and hasn't been updated should be deleted. (That should be a separate meta thread.) How long should we wait? A week? More? Less? $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Jul 18 '17 at 20:03
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    $\begingroup$ Regarding whether we should ever delete answers not meeting the criteria (I'm still on the fence), see worldbuilding.meta.stackexchange.com/q/3930/627 . . . which never really went anywhere. cc @MonicaCellio $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Jul 18 '17 at 21:17
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This is one of those areas where a topic breaks the model a bit.

For questions, we have essentially two axes for voting:

Useful vs useless, appropriate vs inappropriate

Closing a question - possible even if highly upvoted - makes it eligible for deletion and prevents answers from being posted, providing strong encouragement for improvement.

For answers though, there's only one axis: useful / useless. An answer with a positive score can't be deleted except through moderator intervention, and there's no equivalent to blocking answers for an answer; years ago we tried using Community Wiki as a "reputation denial" feature but this failed miserably - the closest thing we have today is probably locking, which prevents voting but also prevents both improvement and deletion.

The solution we arrived at on Stack Overflow was to simply discourage questions whose answers cannot be effectively moderated based on the single useful/useless axis. This solved the immediate problem*, but did so by pushing it off onto other sites: Software Engineering, The Workplace, Software Recommendations all allow or have allowed questions for which answers may be difficult to evaluate on a single axis and thus require manual intervention by a moderator in order to remove those that violate community norms.

Some other sites go even further in this direction, and impose rules on answers that may be difficult if not impossible for the average voter to apply. From the sound of it, this is the case for your tag.

Your proposal would, I think, just add confusion: if other answers exist then it would appear that the sorting is broken, but wouldn't otherwise prevent voting (it might discourage it a bit of there are many other answers). If no other answers exist, it would essentially do nothing.

A more thorough implementation might zero out the score and block further voting until the notice was removed; this would be a pretty significant change.

Until / unless such a thing can be implemented, it is critical that you establish your own protocol for enforcing rules that require consideration beyond up/down votes. For example, you might establish a process by which answers on notice are reviewed periodically and either de-noticed or deleted. Such a policy should be discussed here on meta and implemented by the elected moderator team if approved.


*I gloss over things like answers which recommend insecure or user-hostile practices here, but they're also problematic as they may be useful in solving an immediate problem at the cost of opening up much greater problems on down the road.

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  • $\begingroup$ Hi Shog. For context, the reason behind this meta post isn't just a pet peeve of mine over at worldbuilding, but a dissatisfaction with the tools available to stack exchange communities to ensure good answer quality. So I know that while the development team is busy with other things, I think a way for the community to "close" answers would be very helpful. I seen too many Stack Exchange sites, some that have graduated, some that are still in beta, that aren't making the internet a better place. $\endgroup$ – user171 Jul 18 '17 at 20:13
  • $\begingroup$ For example, just the other day I was googling a topic and I came across a Stack Exchange question where the top voted answer began with "I'm not a professional x, I'm a programmer, but here's five paragraphs of unsubstantiated opinion about a topic I clearly know nothing about". And it was upvoted. I see this a lot, on a lot of different sites; at this point, for certain topics if I click on a Stack Exchange Google result it's out of curiosity about how wrong the answer will be, not because I'm actually expecting to get good advice. $\endgroup$ – user171 Jul 18 '17 at 20:15
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    $\begingroup$ I see that frequently on Motor Vehicle Maintenance & Repair and Home Improvement, although usually those answers are either downvoted or also reflect years of amateur experience in the associated field; the nice thing about practical topics is that someone's probably not going to upvote your nice-sounding answer if their engine seizes because you told 'em it was fine to drive without oil. The situation is more dire when answers cannot readily be applied. $\endgroup$ – Shog9 Jul 18 '17 at 20:18
  • $\begingroup$ Anyway, sorry to change the topic away from worldbuilding. I just proposed this feature request because I thought it would be a simple way to implement a "closing" mechanism for answers. And I think this answer is a well thought out explanation of the problem. $\endgroup$ – user171 Jul 18 '17 at 20:19
  • $\begingroup$ yeah, I'm thinking more about sites like History or Philosophy, which are, well, the exact opposite of practical topics. Of course, I'm not trying to pick on these sites specifically; this is a problem that a lot of sites have, and I think a closing mechanism for answers would go a long way towards restoring SE's mission of making the internet a better place. Anyway, it's reassuring to see that someone from SE has at least thought about this, even if there isn't development time to implement this feature. $\endgroup$ – user171 Jul 18 '17 at 20:21
  • $\begingroup$ Does that graph come from some older document (e.g. a blog post), or did you make it on the spur of the moment? I'd love to use something like that when explaining to people that bad/wrong answers aren't necessarily VLQ/NAA/deleteworthy. $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Jul 18 '17 at 23:40
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    $\begingroup$ I've spent years saying "voting and closing are orthogonal", @rand... And it occurred to me that folks may not quite get what I mean by that. So today instead of saying it I drew it. $\endgroup$ – Shog9 Jul 18 '17 at 23:43

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