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Sometimes new users are answering multiple questions in a short period of time but, as is often the case with new users, the quality is low (formatting, research, lack of good sources) or information is just incorrect. There is one recently arrived user with multiple low answers like this, they have been directed to the help pages by several users across their questions and been asked for improvements, yet these improvements seem to not be forthcoming.

Is there anyway we can block an account from posting new answers in these cases? I think just a very short timeout (a few hours) with a message to consult the help pages about the quality of answers and to look around the site at other answers that are well upvoted (perhaps give a link to a page of answers awarded the Nice Answer badge) so they can see what sort of standard is expected. However, I think that this would be quite an extreme treatment, something like a time-out should only be used VERY occasionally, we do not want to deter new users.

Potentially better softer solutions:

Perhaps new users should have a limit on the number/rate of answers they can post, so they can get used to the way biology SE works before going on answering marathons.

Perhaps answers from new users (for example; their first ten answers, answers in the first weeks, or answers from people with less than a certain amount of upvoted/accepted answers to their name - I specify this because I don't think rep is a particularly useful blocker, you get 100 just for being registered to multiple SE sites) aren't posted publicly until peer-reviewed.


a note.. I'm getting quite fed up with having to explain to people that answers should be of a certain quality (see how a good answer is described in the help pages) and just getting resistance and defensiveness in return. I'm seriously considering giving up bioSE because of the issue. If more experienced users don't point out these issues of quality it will just end up being full of nonsense, opinions, guesses, and misinformation like Yahoo answers!

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    $\begingroup$ There are such rate limits, I'll search for the meta post about them once I'm at a proper PC $\endgroup$ – Mad Scientist Nov 20 '14 at 10:59
  • $\begingroup$ thanks @MadScientist $\endgroup$ – rg255 Nov 20 '14 at 11:01
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    $\begingroup$ I would urge you to not leave, as you consistently give valuable contributions to the site! Hopefully this question will give more visibility to the issue, and others can help with educating new users. $\endgroup$ – MattDMo Nov 20 '14 at 15:53
  • $\begingroup$ I understand this problem - today was quite extreme. I usually flag these answers (sorry to cause much work to the mods this way), but I don't see another way. If some questions are getting hit in such a way numerous times, you can protect them. $\endgroup$ – Chris Nov 20 '14 at 23:01
  • $\begingroup$ I find this to be quite an obvious blip that I hope will go away. I get on BioSE about once a month based on my schedule, and each time I find the landscape to have changed substantially. Mostly for the better but here's a clear example of the reverse. $\endgroup$ – Atl LED Nov 21 '14 at 0:35
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So we now have rolling question rate limits network-wide, but I'm not sure if the same applies to answers, or if this has even been addressed (I searched through Meta.SE and Meta.SO without success). I think the best course of action for these sorts of answers is to downvote and/or flag as very low quality (or not an answer, if it truly doesn't even attempt to answer the question). Yes, downvoting answers does consume rep, although it's only 1 point, but, as the popup when mousing over the down arrow says, "This answer is not useful", so if that's truly the case then a downvote is warranted. Feel free to leave a comment if you wish - it's not mandatory, but may help the answerer fix their contribution if they so choose. Flagging as VLQ puts the answer into the review queue, where higher-rep users and mods can edit it or vote to delete it. Finally, if you find that a certain question is attracting a lot of low-quality answers from new users, you can either protect the question (if you have the rep), or custom flag the question and ask for it to be protected.

While I understand not wanting to deter new users, we also need to keep a watchful eye on the quality of the site. Many new users (if they return) will take constructive comments to heart, and attempt to fix their questions/answers. Unfortunately, some do not, so it's up to us as the community to maintain the standards of the site.

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    $\begingroup$ I've found user's can take it very personally - even just simply requesting for sources $\endgroup$ – rg255 Nov 20 '14 at 15:33
  • $\begingroup$ @GriffinEvo yeah, some people can be really touchy, especially when editing their question/answer. I think the best option would be to refer them to the appropriate section of the help center and leave it at that. If an edit/rollback war ensues, flag it for moderator attention and they'll deal with it. $\endgroup$ – MattDMo Nov 20 '14 at 15:51
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It is not very difficult to understand what users that sparked this post, and in this case I would encourage you to just add short comments, downvote and maybe flag, especially after seeing the responses you've got to previous comments that suggested improvements. Engaging more in an extended discussion will just drain the life-force out of you.

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  • $\begingroup$ "not very difficult to understand what users that sparked this post".. Really? I tried to be subtle ;) $\endgroup$ – rg255 Nov 22 '14 at 20:05
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There is a mechanism that will stop any user with too many extremely low-quality answers from answering any further questions. I can't really provide more details here because only SE employees know those, and I'm not sure if the few details I actually know are meant to be public. I'll say that this answer ban was triggered very recently on this site.

Apart from the answer ban, less severe cases can be handled manually by the community and the moderators. Downvoting and commenting are actions most users here can perform, and those should be sufficient for the common cases.

We could change our rules to require a bit higher standards for answers with regard to references. I'm not sure if that would help, but it would add the option of moderators removing answers not fulfilling the requirements more quickly. This is not without drawbacks, but I could see some limited forms of requiring references that might work on this site.

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    $\begingroup$ agree that there could be drawbacks to making references more strictly required - some answers don't need them. Maybe help pages can be altered to something roughly like "Answers should contain reference to supporting material from trustworthy sources where necessary, and authors should be willing to provide them if requested. ..to maintain levels of quality on the site/make sure information is correct." This might make the standards of quality + cooperation more clear. Also flagging option of "The author is making incorrect/unsubstantiated claims + refuses to provide credible references." $\endgroup$ – rg255 Nov 22 '14 at 13:27

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