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I've recently answered two questions (here and here) that were subsequently closed and downvoted to -5 (one for being opinion-based and the other for not meeting the MSE guidelines). Though the questions weren't great, I answered them simply because I wanted to help, though improving them (which I did for one of them) / commenting / voting to close might have been the better choice retrospectively.

Nonetheless, my answers were both accepted but downvoted to -1. Should I delete them even though they were clearly helpful to the OP, knowing that answering in the first place wasn't optimal?

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    $\begingroup$ I think the first answer is fine. The question is opinion-based and your answer explains why it is opinion based, which is a good thing. $\endgroup$ – user1729 May 1 at 11:02
  • $\begingroup$ It would be great if you can delete the second answer, so that the system deletes the whole post. $\endgroup$ – Arctic Char May 1 at 11:15
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    $\begingroup$ Chances are some users are downvoting your answers to make it easier to delete the questions (and your answers, too). I don't know whether there's any difference between deleting your own answer, or letting the self-appointed janitors delete them for you. [Although, in my opinion, the question that was closed as being opinion-based should have been closed as a duplicate of the question Hans found.] $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson May 1 at 12:21
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks a lot for the guidance! I tried to delete the second answer but got the message 'You cannot delete this accepted answer'. $\endgroup$ – acephalous May 1 at 14:47
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    $\begingroup$ As you've noted, you can't delete one of your answers that is accepted. I would instead encourage you to think about whether the question you're answering is a good question before you answer it: see math.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/33508/… for additional recent discussion of this. $\endgroup$ – KReiser May 1 at 21:23
  • $\begingroup$ Instead of 'strictly checking if the question is good before answering', leaving comments to improve the question and then deciding would be more helpful. $\endgroup$ – KraZZ May 11 at 14:44
  • $\begingroup$ @Gerry, please stop behaving like a self-appointed commenter/judge writing editorials judging other users. Please apply the same cynicism to your self-appointed cynicism, and also to all the self-appointed answerers? $\endgroup$ – amWhy May 12 at 23:50
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    $\begingroup$ @amW, I wasn't judging anybody. There's nothing judgemental in the word, "janitor". I believe it has been used here before, with no judgement intended, to describe those who put a lot of effort into cleaning up the site by deleting content that doesn't meet the standards. $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson May 13 at 0:09
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    $\begingroup$ "or letting the self-appointed janitors delete them for you." Perhaps I misunderstood you, but I'd be flagged to hell if I referred to an answerer as a "self-appointed answerer", or a user as a "self-appointed site commentator." I'm sorry if I took your words the wrong way, though, @Gerry. $\endgroup$ – amWhy May 13 at 0:14
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Both the questions referenced by you above have been deleted following their linking to the CURED chatroom (I did the linking, so I'll answer this as well). But I'll say a few more things.

If you have a doubt on the quality of a particular question , then you can take a look at the current close vote and up/downvote count of the question, and once again take the time to look through the MSE guidelines if required. While there are instances where these counts can be misleading, in quite a few cases this is pretty much accurate.

In case you find your answer downvoted, search first, for what is wrong in it and ask for clarification. There is a chance that questions can be "scatter" downvoted. This can happen e.g. because the downvote button is clicked by mistake. In this case you can keep the confidence in your answer intact and leave it as it is.

Often people comment : "why the downvote?" and so on under their posts when this occurs and you may also do so, but in two cases this can be intuited :

  • If there is something wrong with your answer, then either it becomes obvious to you, or gets pointed out in the comments, in which case edit and keep the answer, maybe leave a comment saying : "downvoter, ... was wrong, I corrected it etc." and keep the answer.

  • If you answered a low quality question. As mentioned in the comments to this question by Gerry, the answer can get downvotes due to facilitating a low-quality question on the site. In this case, you may either consult CURED and ask for clarification if you're unsure the question is bad, and/or delete your own answer. If you are sure the question is bad , but you answered it and it got accepted then you can post it on CURED anyway and request for it to be closed and/or deleted, or take to the comments and seek improvement of the question and warn other users of the same. Realizing the issue is half the job, then you rectify it with positive actions.

Which, in the case you mention, means : "delete your answer if you can". Since you can't if your answer is accepted, you can post to CURED or leave a comment asking for deletion/improvement of the question.

Note : If you wish to understand , or disagree with, why certain questions on the site are low-quality and why the site guidelines are set, according to which the questions you answered were deemed inappropriate for the site, then once again you can ask me to elaborate in the comments, or somewhere else.


It is possible to do both the following things with suitable workarounds , in case you are wondering how you wish to participate on the site with these questions you answered being closed and deleted :

  • It is possible to improve questions that you wish to answer by using comments to request appropriate improvements in the question. I can elaborate more on this if you leave a comment and ask for it.

  • It is possible to use the search box (and some other features) to find questions which are already pretty much in line with site guidelines, and then search out which one is appropriate for you. Once again, I can elaborate if required.

With these two the shining knives and sparkling forks in your kitchen drawers, I expect you to cut and devour all the vegetables on MSE on offer. Good luck!

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    $\begingroup$ I find this answer slightly frustrating, because I think the first question was a good question. It asked a genuine question about notation, gave a context and showed effort. Just because it is a common question on social media (or a duplicate) doesn't mean it is a poor question. $\endgroup$ – user1729 May 3 at 11:45
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    $\begingroup$ Or, to put it another way: The underlying question which the user couldn't quite verbalise is "why is the answer to this sum opinion based?". Closing the question as "opinion based" is therefore not particularly helpful! $\endgroup$ – user1729 May 3 at 11:50
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    $\begingroup$ @user1729 Agreed, the question about the value of $8\div 2(2+2)$ is a good question that many people have been genuinely curious / confused about. I could see closing it if it has already been answered elsewhere on math.stackexchange, but that wasn't the reason given. If a math question goes viral we should clarify the issue, not just stubbornly refuse to accept the question. $\endgroup$ – littleO May 5 at 5:51
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    $\begingroup$ @littleO "If a math question goes viral we should clarify the issue" combined with user1729's " It asked a genuine question about notation, gave a context and showed effort" convinces me that the question could have had merit and was certainly borderline. But I wish to ask the following : it's been closed as opinion based. , and the dialog says : "Update the question so it can be answered with facts and citations. This will help others answer the question.". In particular, a social media post and the discussion around the post counts. Next, "why do I believe the answer is 1?" can be... $\endgroup$ – Teresa Lisbon May 5 at 6:28
  • $\begingroup$ (@user1729 this reply is to you as well, so you can join in) answered by citing the expansion rule used. Having said that, I find myself agreeing with you that the phrase social media is without doubt a put off, and it's unfortunate that social media is an oft scrutinized source , especially when the question itself is good. But I want to shake off the opinion-based tag from this question, and I want either a presentation of the question that isn't opinion based and/or a defence that it is not opinion based as it stands. Perhaps it is convention based, for example? $\endgroup$ – Teresa Lisbon May 5 at 6:35
  • $\begingroup$ It is unfortunate that the OP of the question hasn't been around since that day, but I'm going to ask you for suggestions on how we can reboot the question if and when we find either how to improve it or a defence of the fact that it is not opinion based. I don't think undeletion does anything worthwhile since the OP is not around, but we can ask a community wiki question or whatever, as an MSE experiment. As a science student at some point of time, I have no problem carrying this out : and I also want to say "thank you very much for airing your views". We need more of this. $\endgroup$ – Teresa Lisbon May 5 at 6:40
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    $\begingroup$ @TeresaLisbon I don't think the question needs "rebooted" - it is a genuine duplicate of this question (as suggested in the comments to it). However, I also think that it would have been nice to be lenient here - the OP was not a mathematician and were genuinely wondering something, so leaving this "boderline" post open would have been helpful for the person and hopefully would have improved their opinion of mathematicians (they'll not be back!). I'll also note that noone commented with suggestions on how to improve the question at the time. $\endgroup$ – user1729 May 5 at 9:28
  • $\begingroup$ @user1729 Very true. I want the improvement comments to come early and at the right time, and I missed the duplicate!Ideally, the improvement comments should be the first comments. Having said that, a lot of people aren't even aware of what to improve, or aren't even aware that it needs to be improved either way.It is always nice to be lenient, probably with the exception of a rude OP I would always try my best to keep a question on before I delete.I would have as well, had I not noticed that this question had an answer as well : the incentive to improve is rarely ever there after an answer. $\endgroup$ – Teresa Lisbon May 5 at 12:29
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    $\begingroup$ @user1729 Once it had an answer , and once I noticed the user had not participated for a significant period (I think four to five days), I decided to delete the question. We do benefit from keeping general "borderline" questions open, however closing something requires the consensus of five users, which has its own reasons. I know some borderline questions which are open, there was a chat about one such question on CURED yesterday which reopened . I personally think the phrase "social media" significantly swayed this question, however. $\endgroup$ – Teresa Lisbon May 5 at 12:36
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    $\begingroup$ @user1729: I disagree that the question is a good one. Firstly, the asker for no reason used "%" instead of "/". Secondly, and most importantly, the question lacked context in the form of "why do I believe the answer is 1". Without such context, it is just a bare PSQ and we cannot even exclude the possibility that it is a trolling question (even if unlikely). Basically, I want to see personal effort on the part of the asker at the minimum. Does that make sense? $\endgroup$ – user21820 May 9 at 16:25
  • $\begingroup$ @user1729 I wish you'd give credit to everyone who says something you dislike because perhaps " the user couldn't quite verbalise" it. Here as well. $\endgroup$ – amWhy May 12 at 23:54
  • $\begingroup$ Also, @user1729, I think you underestimate users who ask here, in a way that strikes me as condescending and paternalistic: "the poor souls might feel bad, as they aren't cut of the same cloth as me". Such attitudes are insulting to new users. $\endgroup$ – amWhy May 12 at 23:59
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Most assuredly not. Good questions get downvoted and closed all the time. Often questions are closed by some upstanding member of the community who read it for half a second, read some other question that seemed vaguely similar for another half-second, and decided to close it without doing due diligence.

Some people will downvote or close simply because they don't like a question, although it breaks no guidelines. Gasp!!? Do ego and laziness exist among the veteran members at SO? Yes, actually, it exists and it thrives. And it squashes good questions that could be helpful to others.

Aside from ego-driven downvoting and closing, there is often a simple lack of reading comprehension skills on the part of the reviewer. Yes, it's a skillset and it's actually a difficult one to master. Questions get misunderstood and when they are misunderstood they get incorrectly labelled.

So if you contributed an answer that was helpful to one person, there is a strong chance it will be helpful to many more. If you got some up-votes or a little green check next to your answer, I think it's safe to say it helped someone and it will likely help others.

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    $\begingroup$ If a question gets closed because of a misunderstanding, I believe this is where the request to reopen comes into play. This comes from the help center, specifically this page. $\endgroup$ – soupless May 14 at 19:02
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    $\begingroup$ You make a lot of accusations, with no evidence to support any of them. Also, you seem to think you're on StackOverflow, with your reference to SO. $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson May 15 at 2:38

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