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I asked a question yesterday and so far have received one answer. However, it doesn't actually answer my question. I was wondering how such a high rep user (over 25 000 points) could post such a low quality answer. I looked at their profile and they've answered over 1 000 questions, with an average upvote of about 2.5. Their maximum is 18.

The few other answers I've looked at are quite similar to mine, being quite chatty and with often irrelevant opinions. "OMG! Let me tell you about my favorite plant!" I prefer answers that get right to the point and don't ask for irrelevant details. I also prefer answers to be polite and professional but not overly friendly. I've come here to get a question answered, not to make friends with everyone who posts a reply. I certainly haven't come here to make enemies either!

The help centre doesn't really have much to say on this topic except "Answer the question". Should I just say "You haven't addressed my question"? How does one handle a high rep, high activity, low quality user? They obviously think their behaviour is acceptable (as in doesn't need improvement, not as in being rude).

  • CJ Dennis, I think in general telling someone they haven't answered your question is fine. Adding the reasons why can also be good in order to help the user learn. Some people just don't understand the system. As you've noticed, this particular user has a lot of rep, and has been here a long time. Mentioning a person's rep history could be construed as invasive. On the other hand, it is public information, and I think your heart was in the right place when you looked at it. You were just trying to figure out what might be happening. – Sue Oct 21 '17 at 22:25
  • This user is brilliant, and puts her loving heart into every answer. That's no excuse for the special treatment she's received, though. I can assure you people are working with her to try and get her to use the site the way it is intended. – Sue Oct 21 '17 at 22:34
  • 1
    I'd encourage you to continue "speaking up" when anyone's answers are far away from what you asked, or if there is useful information that is hard to find as it gets lost in the rest of the answer. Flagging comments is good too. Use the "no longer needed" which is for too chatty, obsolete, etc. For long threads, flag the whole post and ask the mods to delete as many as you'd like. Obviously it's up to them, but they do pay attention to flags, and take care of them quickly. Our mod team is awesome at caring for the community. – Sue Oct 21 '17 at 23:04
  • I have been thinking about editing the extraneous material out of answers. I haven't done it before because, as with Alina, I'm not good with people issues, and am always terribly afraid I'll hurt feelings. However, I see you've been around the network enough to know that editing is encouraged. Most of our work will be around for a long time, and editing is part of keeping the quality up. OP can always rollback or change your edits. – Sue Oct 21 '17 at 23:14
  • One last thing, for now (!), is that this user is frequently in our chat room. If you want to "talk" to her, just go in and feel free. You can do a private chat room with her if you'd rather. Those are "public" but people tend to leave them alone and respect that they are intended just for those who opened them. – Sue Oct 21 '17 at 23:17
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I act in the same way regardless of the rep and activity:

  1. If it's an answer I learnt from, I upvote it.
  2. If I don't find it useful, I ignore it.
  3. If it's misleading, I downvote it. Misleading means that it causes harm to plants or promotes useless actions causing more work in the long run.

There was a time when I flagged low quality answers, but I stopped doing it because I'm not good at handling people-issues and I ran the risk of being a default suspect in case someone felt unjustly treated. That's why I set the three-category rule. It also helps me to stay focused on the content, not on the user.

4

Stormy is very chatty, and there were in past some problems with this behaviour. But this is SE, you should not check reputation level, but the level of single answers.

Some of her answers are the only answer to some questions, so chatty is better then nothing. And if you read gardening magazines, you see that it is a common style. More that a specific answer, you will have a chatty reasoning, valid with many cases (but possibly not the most correct on specific case).

There is much wisdom in her answers, about gardening in general. If you send her to Mars, she will be able to cultivate a garden, with observation and generic rules.

But I rarely have time to read full answers from her.

4

I personally think a good practice might be to edit the answer yourself, and remove the unimportant stuff. If others agree, they'll approve the edit. If it's really not important to the answer, I would think the questioner wouldn't be terribly offended. I've had similar stuff happen to things I've written before.

IMO, downvotes are a lot harder to deal with in the long-run than undesired edits, even if you don't agree with the edits. At least you can see that the editor is trying to help, and is putting in some effort to do so (even though it might not be obvious for a short time, while you're fuming about the perceived vandalism). Some people will be grateful (rather than upset), however. Plus, anyone can look at the edit history to see your original answer, anyway (they can see that someone edited your answer, and who it was). I personally like to look at those. Plus, the answerer can always roll it back, if it was really important (and will possibly feel obligated to say why it was important to leave it how it was).

Edits are nice, because they show the answerer how to improve instead of telling them. Some people learn better that way.

I don't think you need to worry about making enemies here. Making your POV known is a good idea, and people can understand what you mean. It's possible you might hurt some feelings, but I'm pretty sure you'll be forgiven and appreciated with what I know about this site, so far.

It also might be helpful to instruct them on a few key points:

  • Comments aren't meant to be permanent, while questions and answers are (if people are posting long comments as answers, that poses some problems, because they're harder to clean up when they're no longer needed). If they understand that comments aren't meant to be permanent, they may be less likely to give really long ones.
  • You should never post comments as answers, especially if you know better (at least that's the impression I get). If you want to write a super long comment, you can always write it on pastebin and link to it in a comment. Because comments aren't meant to be permanent, it's not the end of the world that you're linking off-site for it. If pastebin disappears, the world will still go on, because it was, after all, only a comment. However, I think a lot of the comments on this site in particular are very useful while they don't necessarily fit into the question/answer (as in, I don't see a need to clean some of them up, even after all the questions/answers are edited). It's kind of a difficult situation for a gardening and landscaping site. I don't think that many people realize that comments are meant to be temporary, however (so some might question the use of pastebin for a long comment on grounds that the link might break some day).

If you weren't as used to StackExchange as it seems, I might tell you more stuff, like high rep users and professionals often need to know a lot of details about the question (including ones like this), and they may answer differently if they perceive that your need is not what you're asking.

People don't always get things from context on the first read. So, it helps if you more than hint or allude to what you want in your answers. If it doesn't say it in explicit terms, you can expect to be misunderstood. In fact, it's not a bad idea to expect it even if you do (but it's not your fault then). I mean, you might want scientific figures where people think you just want a basic idea. You should tell them you want scientific figures if that's what you want (although I'm pretty sure most questions that would ask for such are off-topic, and better suited to other StackExchange sites). This site generally deals in practical problems that need solutions, rather than merely questions that desire answers (it took me a good while to accept that). You use at least one other site like that, I see (so, you probably know what I mean all too well).

So, I'm saying, one way to help improve the answers (whether a high or low rep user is answering) is to improve your question. Not to say it was a bad question, but it can always be better. If the user is high-rep and active, odds are higher than usual that the same user will edit the question to something more appropriate after you edit your question to answer those misplaced questions. If they don't remove the questions from the answer after you answer them in your question, I think it's perfectly fine for anyone else to remove them (but it is the answerer's responsibility, I believe).

  • That's interesting Shule. I was just thinking about the idea of editing those posts. This particular OP is kind, and brilliant, and her knowledge is vast. All she wants is for people to get the most out of their gardens and yards, but that doesn't mean she, or anyone, should get special treatment. If it was anyone else, I, as an editor, would have edited some posts of that type. We have nothing to lose by doing the same, and, as you said, all post owners can rollback edits. – Sue Oct 21 '17 at 23:23
  • Editing my questions based on the information received in answers is something I should pay more attention to. I always appreciate someone improving my questions, you included of course. You tend to provide extremely thorough and helpful answers, and if the answers, or you personally, can improve my questions, that would be great, and is also encouraged SE behavior. Thanks for reminding me about that part. I answer almost nothing here because I don't have the knowledge, or someone else has already answered, but my questions can always use work. – Sue Oct 21 '17 at 23:26

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