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A multiple choice homework question is posted, of which only two answer choices fit even the most obvious requirements, and it is then a simple matter to figure out which actually matches the problem givens of the problem description.

The asker makes no attempt to find their own solution.

A new poster arrives and posts a deeply erroneous answer proposing a solution not even remotely plausible, and vehemently defends it against comments explaining the error for hours.

A moderator then "relocates" all of the comments explaining the error to chat, so at basic level the question is left with an upvoted wrong answer impressively full of formulas and expansive reasoning... but simply wrong.

How as a community dedicated to technical accuracy do we handle this?

  • An answer cannot really be posted to rebut the wrong answer, because answers are not permitted to comment on other answers, but only address the question - pointing out the error in an answer is the role of comments.

  • The actual correct answer to the homework problem itself should not be posted; that would do a dis-service to the asker's education. And substantial hints leading to the answer are already there in comments on the question, so getting the right answer only needs a tiny bit of the asker's effort.

  • We could simply close the question because it is unattempted homework. I've voted to do so, but that seems like administratively dodging the issue, when the actual answer to the physical situation is quite clear; if we're going to be leaving an answer visible to the world, it had better not be a wrong one.

What process are we going to use to stop showing a wrong answer as our community's response to this question?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Eventually the erroneous "answer" was downvoted into well deserved oblivion; but the time that took, and the horridly counterproductive actions of "voltagespike" in hiding the explanation of what was wrong with it remain serious concerns for the health of our community. Those issues remain very much unresolved. \$\endgroup\$ – Chris Stratton Sep 22 at 4:15
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You are right, the question should have been closed, but there is no timeframe for closing (because there are not enough people participating in the moderation system) and unfortunately the question was not closed before it received an answer.

First off, answers are only deleted if they are spam, or if they are not answers. (flagging is not intended to delete answers that are wrong, as this would not give people a chance to improve their answers, and would also delete information). Answers should not be deleted if they contain technical inaccuracies. The flagging system is commonly recognized as a way to delete answers that contain technical inaccuracies, this view is incorrect. The voting system was built to take care of technical inaccuracies, you downvote. Answers that have downvotes should be recognized by the answerer's OP and modified or deleted. An answer should be deleted if it has several downvotes by several people and then should be voted upon with the deletion system.

Users of this site are welcome to help the OP improve the answer by following the code of conduct (and instead of berating users exercising understanding and helping them be a member of EE.SE, and helping them understand the system). Another option is to edit the users answers and remove the technical inaccuracies if it does not modify the answers total meaning (a goal of SE is to build a repository of good answers and questions).

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    \$\begingroup\$ No, as you well know, edits are not permitted to make serious changes to the meaning of an answer, unless it is a community wiki. Edits are for formatting issues and minor, obvious oversights, not inverting the entire argument of an answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Chris Stratton Sep 7 at 21:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ Voltage Spike: Very well said in your post, and I agree entirely here. Wrong answers rely on the voting system, its why we have it. It is not uncommon to see answers that are horrifically wrong but they tend to be well into the negative on votes and eventually just get grayed out anyway. \$\endgroup\$ – Jeffrey Phillips Freeman Sep 7 at 21:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ChrisStratton That is correct, I'm sure there are ways to improve an answer and correcting inaccuracies without changing the meaning of the post. \$\endgroup\$ – Voltage Spike Sep 7 at 21:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ How do you change the wrong answer into the right one, without changing the meaning? \$\endgroup\$ – Chris Stratton Sep 7 at 21:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sometimes you can't (I'll leave that to your discretion as you are well educated), you can always ask the user to change it while being nice, another option would be to provide your own answer and downvote (which I wouldn't not recommend in this situation because the question is bad so I think you did the right thing) \$\endgroup\$ – Voltage Spike Sep 7 at 21:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is not a useful answer as it suggests that a user is free to post a false answer which tricks a few users into upcoming it, and unless they voluntarily remove it nothing can be done - voltagespike themselves removed the factual comments necessary to warn readers that the answer was erroneous. This effective belief that wrong answers may not be challenged is simply unworkable on a site devoted to the fact based pursuit of a technical subject. \$\endgroup\$ – Chris Stratton Sep 22 at 12:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ Stack exchange does not support immediate removal of answers in the case that they are wrong (and not spam or one line answers), and I don't either. \$\endgroup\$ – Voltage Spike Sep 22 at 15:08
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One of two possibilities here. One, the question shouldnt have been asked, in which case it would be closed. However the OP in this case did not indicate this was homework, for all we know they could have found an old text book and is working through it for their own benefit. But anyway, in the case that the question shouldn't be answered because it goes against site rules, then the question should/would get deleted and the problem resolves itself.

However not to administratively dodge the question, if the question is such that it is valid according to site rules then answering it is the appropriate response. As such the correct response here is if you feel an answer is wrong then provide your own correct answer, no need to address the other question at all. If your answer is clear and concise on why it is correct than the knowledge that answer imparts will also give the reader the understanding as to why and how the other answers are incorrect, at least if there is a contradiction among them.

The other possibility is to edit the answer and make the corrections, being sure to cite your corrections well. Again the community will be able to vote on your edit and decide if it is superior.

Ultimately we are a community of experts and it should be that community that as a whole will reflect on erroneous answers by the way they vote. Give the correct answer yourself and that should be sufficient.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It was homework without question, and there is not tolerance for homework questions on this site if there is not an attempted solution \$\endgroup\$ – Voltage Spike Sep 7 at 21:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @VoltageSpike Thats fair, it certainly seemed reasonable. I dont dispute that it was taken down. I just know I have posted textbook questions verbatim all the time decades after I was out of school. So it can be hard to tell without context. \$\endgroup\$ – Jeffrey Phillips Freeman Sep 7 at 21:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ The EE.SE community has determined that we don't want to answer HW questions without an attempt, it deprives the user of learning. There are many users who post their questions on the internet and try to get a certificate without doing work. \$\endgroup\$ – Voltage Spike Sep 7 at 21:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @VoltageSpike That's fair. If I am reading you correctly it seems it has less to do with if its a homework question (that can be impossible to really know) and more to do with the lack of effort. If someone just posts a cookie cutter question with no attempt made, that isnt acceptable, regardless of if its homework or not. Does that sound about right? \$\endgroup\$ – Jeffrey Phillips Freeman Sep 7 at 21:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's not homework questions that are banned, it's homework-like question. If a question is asked that has the nature of the kind of questions that get asked as homework, it should be closed, not answered. \$\endgroup\$ – The Photon Sep 11 at 22:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThePhoton Ahh I see, that is a very strange rule, I'm not sure what would really qualify as homework like. Seems all the best high quality questions would be homework-like. But its also not really up to me decide, I of course leave that in the capable hands of the moderators. I certainly wont give them a hard time if they feel a question should be closed. \$\endgroup\$ – Jeffrey Phillips Freeman Sep 11 at 22:48

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