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As the beta has been settling out, different patterns have appeared. Some answers have been well-thought out, referencing specific examples or research and having an objectiv, neutral tone.

Other answers have been short (which isn't bad in itself) statements of opinion with no justification and in a subjective, almost combative tone.

By my standards, the first group are good and the second are bad.

Whatever your standards are, take action on bad posts.

If an answer does not even attempt to answer the question, click on the flag and mark it as 'not an answer'.

If it tries to answer the question but is a 'bad answer' by your standards, downvote it or at least don't vote it up.

I have been voting up almost everything for a while, but some users have started to take advantage by posting answers with no justification and little thought, kniwing it will garner votes.

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  • $\begingroup$ Shouldn't this be a "Answer my own question" post? I'm not entirely familiar with all of the nuances of SE, but you don't state a question in your question. $\endgroup$ – David G Mar 24 '14 at 14:25
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidG In meta, there are slightly different rules and an answer can be contained in the question (upvote=I agree, downvote=I disagree). You can also answer to state a different opinion or discuss in the answers (that's why there is the tag discussion). $\endgroup$ – Markus Klein Mar 24 '14 at 14:32
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    $\begingroup$ Is there any netiquette about essentially trying to improve someone else's answer? For instance, suppose I say, "I mostly agree with xxx's answer but would like to add more/better reasoning thusly..." Is this considered ok, in general? $\endgroup$ – Brendan W. Sullivan Mar 24 '14 at 20:02
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    $\begingroup$ @brendansullivan07 It's usually more polite to leave additional information as a comment than to edit someone else's answer. I usually try to confine editing of other people's answers to fixing typos. $\endgroup$ – Jim Belk Mar 24 '14 at 20:23
  • $\begingroup$ @JimBelk: Thanks. But even beyond editing someone else's answer, is there a rough measure for how "different" my answer would need to be so that I can post it, without seeming like "piggybacking"? Obviously, this is pretty subjective. $\endgroup$ – Brendan W. Sullivan Mar 24 '14 at 20:38
  • $\begingroup$ @MarkusKlein Gotcha! I'm still trying to learn all the rules for meta vs regular SE. $\endgroup$ – David G Mar 24 '14 at 21:00
  • $\begingroup$ @brendansullivan07 If your answer is similar to or builds upon someone else's, it's usually polite to mention them in your response, and then add whatever you would like to say. See this answer for an example of this approach. If you're not sure you have enough to add to write your own answer, it's probably better to just leave a comment. $\endgroup$ – Jim Belk Mar 24 '14 at 21:03
  • $\begingroup$ I agree, Brian. I'd like to see a grace period, so the OP has a chance edit and improve. Else, I'd rather see my own poor answer deleted than to stay posted. $\endgroup$ – JTP - Apologise to Monica Apr 23 '14 at 17:51
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It's always good to remind people to vote early, vote often, but one thing that surprises me is that many people interpret this to mean to up-vote early, up-vote often. I'd encourage people to do both.

If you see good content, upvote! And upvote often! More upvoting provides a higher average resting point for content, ultimately providing greater granularity for distinguishing between the quality of posts.

If you see bad content, downvote! Remember, downvoting is not an insult, it is not bad. Or leave a comment first explaining how the poster should go about improving his or her post, and when that happens/doesn't happen upvote/downvote (respectively).

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One common type of bad answer is an answer that would really be more appropriate as a comment. If you flag an answer like that, I think it's possible for a moderator to convert it to a comment.

Of course, it's sometimes necessary to leave a comment as an answer, e.g. if the comment is much too long to fit in the comment space. Whenever I leave a comment as an answer, I preface it with a disclaimer to that effect. (See here for an example.)

Other kinds of bad answers should just be downvoted. One note: it's polite (but not required) to leave a comment whenever you downvote, indicating the nature of your objection, and perhaps a suggestion for how the answer might be improved. I think this is especially important at this early phase, when the definition of a "good answer" is still being determined. If someone else has already left a comment that summarizes the problems with the answer, you could just upvote the comment to indicate that you agree.

I agree that good answers should have justification and cite specific research or examples. I also agree that an objective tone helps, but I don't think an answer with a strong tone is necessarily bad. It's ok to feel strongly about things from time to time, and it's ok to make passionate, persuasive arguments as long as the discourse remains civil.

One more comment about downvotes: when the first post by a new user is of poor quality, it's not very welcoming to downvote them to oblivion with no comment. Wikipedia has a wonderful policy called Please do not bite the newcomers, and I think the same idea applies to this site. (See also Could we please be a bit nicer to new users? on meta stackoverflow). If a new user (easily recognized by their low score) makes a post of poor quality, the correct course of action is to first welcome them to the site, and then explain why their answer doesn't fit very well into this site's conception of a good answer. Many websites (e.g. reddit) are perfectly happy with users posting simple assertions of opinion, and new users here might not realize the distinction.

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