Along with the uptick in new users, we seem to be getting more and more answers in the form:

So just do X and add Y with a Z thing and it will work.

Giving no details as to how to actually do X, Y, and Z.

I find this especially common when users find the answer to their own problem and just write some little snippet like this.

How should these answers be dealt with? Should they flagged, edited, deleted, down voted, etc.? If they should be flagged, what flag should be used (none of them seem to fit perfectly)?

I usually try to leave a comment asking them to expand on their answer, but they often don't do so.

To be clear: I am talking about situations where the answer does technically answer the question, but just makes absolutely no effort to explain itself.


3 Answers 3


I would say the best thing to do is a DV. By all means leave a comment asking them to expand on their answer; but low quality content should be DVed (that is how the sorting process works to always have the best answers on the top).

There is a rather thick gray line between what is low quality and not an answer, or just a low effort post.

When you are trying to decide whether or not to flag something, ask yourself what you would do?
Is there really any justifiable reason to delete this post? (in the case of an answer that does technically answer the question, but is rather bad the answer is no.) However if it is better suited as a comment, then by all means please flag it (probably as not an answer).

Short answer: DV low effort posts, flag "answers" that really aren't.

  • $\begingroup$ please consider my updated post ;-) $\endgroup$
    – Samoth
    Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 12:42

I like Samoth's idea of posting a better answer, with or without a downvote of a correct, but not very detailed one. However, to me two other bits of information should be taken to account: who'd asked the question, and who answered. If an experienced user posted the question, an answer similar to that described in the original question might be quite adequate; on the other hand, if the question is from a brand new user, then I'd suggest that a more elaborate answer would be called for.

Yes, I do know that the idea is to build a knowledge base for future users, in addition to asking the immediate question, but given the same question asked by two different users, they may not both require the same level of detail in the answer.

Then there's the answer of time. Sometimes I have provided a shorter answer than usual because I'm short on time, and I want to get the answer to the questioner as soon as possible. When I feel the answer lacks detail, I generally have the intent to go back and improve the answer, but I know I've not always done this.


I would really encourage not to DV short answers. Commenting about elaboration is good. But if it technically answers the question (what you included), then it is a good answer. There are so many "maybe" answers which should be DVed.

But if you want more details that you'd see yourself that could be added - why not make it a community answer? Or post your own answer with more details and see if it get's UVed?

I know, brilliant and detailled answers are wanted. But UV a good answer to encourage answering at all. If all answers get DVed just because they could be improved, that's cutting your own branch you're sitting on. This site is not about questions only but about answers. And if technically answered it's a help for people who search for answers*.

Not to forget: DV means (as its tooltip explains) "This answer is not useful". So if the answer is technically right but only could be elaborated, you should better not vote than vote and express that it is not useful at all. You should instead probably just UV because you can clearly see that the technical answer is given. And might drop a comment encouraging to elaborate.

And feedback here should be more encouraging, right? Not discouraging with DVs (even more without a comment about why).

* consider that as a programmer I myself often stumble over questions that I have as well and just searched for it in Google and with a bit of a more specific topic I get more hits nowadays on SO than on Forums which is a great thing. And People often look for answers and if they find a technically correct one it will really help them out. When there are open points/details left out, the comment section is the place where one can ask for them. This might remind the author to elaborate. And it might new users to register to ask for more details - and if they get them (probably in another more detailled answer that you just posted later) they might consider sharing their knowledge as well.
I think, it's about answers first and foremost. Elaboration is a process in time. So don't hinder this process from evolving with a DV. ;-)


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