Recently, this review has popped up with some controversy surrounding it. This controversy obscured the actual question behind the review, so I'd like to ask the question here.

While the answer wasn't explained at all, there was certainly an interesting thought process behind it, and more importantly it hadn't been said yet. Within minutes, there was a delete vote started on the answer. Before two days had passed, the answer was deleted.

There is another meta post here where a moderator answered that a correct policy for answers like this should be to first add a comment asking for an explanation, then if after 48 hours an explanation hasn't been added, flag the answer for deletion. We didn't even give the poster 48 hours before his answer was deleted entirely, receiving 5(!) delete votes in that period as well as attention from a moderator.

In the future, how should we handle posts like this? I rather like Kevin's suggestion from the above linked meta post, which clearly isn't currently being enacted. Further, if/while we wait for an explanation to be added, should we skip the answer in our queue, mark it as a "Looks OK", or simply leave it for later? I think ironing out these policies now will prevent tension in the future, as well as (and more importantly) promote good quality and a friendly atmosphere on Puzzling.SE.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 for the constructive approach to reviewing $\endgroup$
    – leoll2
    Jun 11, 2015 at 15:09

2 Answers 2


For the most part, I agree with Doorknob. However, in implementing the approach you've linked to, I actually created a spreadsheet to follow up on answers and see what happens to them. (The ability of the community to correctly and consistently delete low quality posts is a relatively new, so I used to follow up on each post manually.) While I don't intend to link to the spreadsheet itself, the aggregate data is... telling.

About 85% of insufficiently explained answers end up deleted, even after waiting a reasonable amount of time. Of the 15% that survive, most of them are edited within a few hours of comment feedback. I can only guess why, but if I had to, I'd suppose that an answerer who is liable to care about the feedback they get is also liable to stick around to see what it is. An answerer who doesn't care or is new to the site is liable to vanish after posting the answer and not come back.

The part of Doorknob's answer I agree with is that "Looks OK" should be used if the answer currently looks OK, not if the answer might be edited by the author to look okay sometime in the future if they decide to come back. The part I'm less sure about is a 24 hour waiting period to delete the answer. There are two main reasons for this:

  • It already takes a few hours to delete an answer out of the LQP queue currently (on average). Anyone who would come back to improve their answer would do so within this time period.
  • We don't see an extraordinary amount of these answers to begin with, but for every 20 we see, 17 won't end up improved. Deleting those answers after a few hours might come across a little harsh to the occasional person who cared and actually came back to find their answer deleted, but the quality tradeoff leans toward the 17 bad answers that were cleaned up quickly.

Overall, my recommendation is not to hesitate to click 'delete.' If it's deleted from review, the author was very unlikely to return and improve it anyway. If you see the answer doesn't currently have a comment asking for further explanation, then please add one, though this isn't a requirement of using the review queue.

On the other hand, if voting to delete early makes you uncomfortable, you're also welcome to skip - just don't say it looks OK if it doesn't currently look OK.

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    $\begingroup$ I would agree more with this, but I think to smooth over the harshness of the quick deletion, include in the "standard" comment that the post is likely to be deleted but will be reviewed for undeletion (look at me making up words) as soon as it is edited. $\endgroup$
    – Aggie Kidd
    Jun 11, 2015 at 21:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Aggie Sure, seems reasonable. $\endgroup$
    – user20
    Jun 12, 2015 at 14:22

We didn't even give the poster 48 hours before his answer was deleted entirely, receiving 5(!) downvotes in that period as well as attention from a moderator.

Note that users can still see their own deleted posts, edit them, and flag them as "in need of moderator attention" in order to get them undeleted once fixed.

That being said, it's probably a good idea to leave a bit of time for the user to edit an explanation into the answer. 24 hours sounds like a reasonable compromise, and as long as nobody voices any concerns, I propose 24 hours as the new, official-ish policy.

As for the downvotes, I'm not sure what you're referring to, as the answer in the review task you linked to was deleted at +1/-0. However, downvotes are an important method of feedback, and there is nothing wrong with downvoting explanation-less answers immediately (and coming back to un-downvote and possibly even upvote if/when an explanation is added).

should we skip the answer in our queue, mark it as a "Looks OK", or simply leave it for later?

Skip is probably the best option in this case. Do not mark it as "Looks OK" because it does not, in fact, look OK. Simply use the Skip button in order to leave the review for another user to look over later.

  • $\begingroup$ I meant delete votes, not downvotes. My mistake! Thank you for a clear answer. $\endgroup$
    – Bailey M
    Jun 11, 2015 at 14:37
  • $\begingroup$ There's a little problem, though: how will people know about this new policy? This thread probably won't get more than few hundred of views, not enough. I suggest to add this in the description of the flag. I mean, when you hit the "flag" button, it would be nice to read the 24 hours thing along with the usual "this answer has severe formatting problems..." $\endgroup$
    – leoll2
    Jun 11, 2015 at 15:17
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    $\begingroup$ @leoll2 Assuming nobody disagrees, this post could be made featured for a little while. Either that or a new faq post could be created describing the general policy on explanations in answers. $\endgroup$
    – Doorknob
    Jun 11, 2015 at 15:19
  • $\begingroup$ Sounds good for me. $\endgroup$
    – leoll2
    Jun 11, 2015 at 15:20

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