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Some of you (myself included) might remember how as a new user you struggle with finding stuff to answer, and hope to have these answers upvoted and accepted...

You really want that. You want to write comments, to the least but that requires 50 reputation.

As a result you look for old questions, possible with very good answers that were accepted, and write your own answer.

Now there is nothing wrong with adding more into threads like that, but it turns out that the answers added by some new users are of... "low quality content".

In his answer to my previous question Qiaochu said that the community should discuss and decide what is low quality and how to treat it. Since I'm starting to feel flooded with old questions, I would like to discuss this right now, so in the future we can judge what should we do about it.

So, what is "low quality" content, and how should we deal with it?

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    $\begingroup$ FWIW, we're finding much the same thing at the English SE. For some particularly popular (and tempting) questions, such as those on e-mail formalities/religion/sex, I think our moderator is preemptively protecting threads beforehand, but by no means is the problem completely solved yet. New user bumps on old threads are often quite bad. $\endgroup$ – Uticensis May 21 '11 at 7:29
  • $\begingroup$ I disagree a little with the first sentence. As a new user I tended to ask my own questions, and I think the experience of many 'newbies' that drives them to M.SE in the first place is the frustration of not having someone knowledgeable to turn to. So (with good questions) one passes the 50 rep mark very early, in my case after only a couple of questions. I didn't write my first answer until I was here for a week. I suspect most newbies (except those migrating from MO obviously) follow this pattern. $\endgroup$ – Sputnik May 25 '11 at 20:36
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    $\begingroup$ @Fahad: I had nothing to ask for the first few weeks of my stay on the site. I also didn't have much to answer, it took some time until I started gaining reputation. Besides, I wrote "some of you" - the statement does not include everyone but just some. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila May 26 '11 at 8:24
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Just to have an option for people to respond to: I have been deleting answers that are not answers (that is, that are questions or otherwise not attempts to answer the question in the OP), and otherwise I have just been downvoting new bad answers.

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    $\begingroup$ Downvoting with explanation? Especially for new users, we want to quickly (and politely) teach them community norms to minimize both noise and friction. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque May 21 '11 at 17:52
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    $\begingroup$ @Bill: I should have been clearer; by "bad" I don't mean "violating community norms," I just mean "not good." An unclear or partially incorrect explanation, for example. I generally comment on those if the mistake has not already been pointed out. $\endgroup$ – Qiaochu Yuan May 21 '11 at 18:18
  • $\begingroup$ To me, that posts should be "good quality" is a community norm. But it's good to hear that you are commenting on things you don't agree with (ouch!). $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque May 21 '11 at 18:31
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The general guidance I give is twofold. Ask yourself …

  1. Could a student (of x skill level) learn anything useful/practical from this answer?

  2. Would I be embarrassed to be associated with this answer?

(Beyond that of course if it's a purely duplicate answer, it is not of any value.)

The page to monitor your new users is here:

https://math.stackexchange.com/review

Almost all the tabs on that page are of critical importance to monitor incoming content by new users, and the more eyes on them, the better. This works both ways, to welcome great new users to your community and perhaps .. er .. discourage .. the not-so-great new users. :)

Do not hesitate to flag anything that you are uncomfortable with, and as always, vote honestly on quality.

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  • $\begingroup$ If I review a new post, I can flag it for low quality content. How can I assure that it will not appear (or appear less frequently) on other users review page? $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila May 21 '11 at 13:16
  • $\begingroup$ Based on experiences on other SE sites, what are the best courses of action on such low-quality posts? $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque May 21 '11 at 17:54
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    $\begingroup$ Pete Clark has made the interesting point in the past that what may seem like a duplicate answer to one user may not seem like a duplicate answer to another user. Of course, in extreme cases (exactly the same calculation, for example) I would agree, but for explanation-type answers the line is much less clear. $\endgroup$ – Qiaochu Yuan May 21 '11 at 18:19
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    $\begingroup$ @Qia It's a good thing Newton couldn't close Leibniz as a dup, else calculus would be less rich. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque May 21 '11 at 18:52

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