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The title looks like this question on meta How to deal with posters of consistent poor quality/incorrect answers but mine is more straightforward.

What to do with incorrect answers? Often they can be flagged as 'low quality' as rightfully commented in the linked question above. However, now and then it occurs that someone posts an incorrect answer but with acceptable quality content-wise (mostly not great, however, as it is incorrect :-). I mean, the facts are there, it just isn't applicable to the question. For example, I saw a question on peripheral adaptation and the answer from a first-time Biology user went about a somewhat distantly related process in the cortex. From a physiological standpoint an incorrect answer.

Should one:

  1. Leave it alone and just comment; and/or
  2. Flag it for deletion; and/or
  3. Downvote? (somehow I don't like downvoting 'nice-tries').
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    $\begingroup$ I think a comment and possibly a down vote apply. I'd be interested in the official stance. It's somewhat disconcerting to see accepted answers that are actually incorrect. $\endgroup$ – canadianer Dec 19 '14 at 5:37
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for replying! What exactly do you mean with "I'd be interested in the official stance"? $\endgroup$ – AliceD Dec 19 '14 at 5:44
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    $\begingroup$ I mean if there's an official stance on whether incorrect answers should be down voted and left alone or flagged and deleted. To me, flagging seems to be for posts that don't even attempt to answer the question. I think incorrect answers should only really need to be deleted when they are accepted (although I know SE would never go for that). Unfortunately, the majority isn't always the best at choosing what's right… $\endgroup$ – canadianer Dec 19 '14 at 5:51
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    $\begingroup$ Downvoting, even if it's a 'nice try', is definitely an appropriate course of action here. The hovertext on a downvote says "This answer is not useful". Incorrect answers aren't useful - even if the author tried really hard. $\endgroup$ – hairboat Dec 23 '14 at 18:17
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If the issue is factual disagreement I don't think flagging is a useful way to go. This would mean that moderators would have to evaluate strength of evidence and factual content to act on the flag, and this is not a viable option in the long run. To me, answers that are factually incorrect should be commented on and downvoted, and a better answer should be provided instead. If you can point out why an answer is incorrect you can most likely also provide some sort of answer that at least points in the right direction.

However, if answers are downright poor, as in making large claims without references, or with really poor language, formatting or logical inconsistency, a flag can be appropriate in my mind. The same is true in cases where the answer in clearly answering a different question than the stated one, even though this can sometimes be tricky to judge if you do not know the field well.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you. This makes a lot of sense and will do. Somehow flagging seems less offensive as downvoting. Perhaps because of the -2 penalty. $\endgroup$ – AliceD Dec 19 '14 at 11:01
  • $\begingroup$ In addition BTW, when placing a negative comment accompanied by a downvoting, the latter is factually not unanimous anymore. That is actually my biggest issue with placing a negative comment+downvoting $\endgroup$ – AliceD Dec 19 '14 at 11:20
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    $\begingroup$ @ChrisStronks Is this because of fear of revenge voting or just because you don't want to be percieved as negative? I think negative comments that are clear and non-confrontational can be really constructive and lead to a clarification of the answer. To me, uncommented downvotes are annoying because you don't have any clue about the reason - I haven't received many so far though. $\endgroup$ – fileunderwater Dec 19 '14 at 12:25
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, perhaps the fear of revenge downvoting. I have heard stories by others.. I do try to accompany close votes and downvoting by constructive comments, but yes, the revenge votes are probably the cause of my reluctance. $\endgroup$ – AliceD Dec 19 '14 at 12:26
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    $\begingroup$ @ChrisStronks if someone goes on a downvoting spree against you, they'll be caught by the system and automatically reversed within 24 hours. No worries. I downvote all the time on Stack Overflow (often leaving comments why), and haven't been retaliated against yet. Besides, some good things can happen - the answerer will fix their answer, allowing you to reverse the downvote, or if they accept that they're wrong oftentimes they'll delete it. Either way, you get your 2 points back. I personally feel the message sent by a DV is worth more than 2 rep points, though - but I have 'em to spare on SO $\endgroup$ – MattDMo Dec 19 '14 at 23:53
  • $\begingroup$ @MattDMo man, you do have them to spare at overflow... respect! thanks for your comment, that helped a lot. $\endgroup$ – AliceD Dec 22 '14 at 14:07

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