A user answered a question, the answer got many votes and was selected as the accepted answer; while it contains interesting elements, I find it's also partly inaccurate. How and where to discuss the technical details of the answer besides doing so in comments?

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    Why do you want to avoid addressing issues with the answer in comments? – scottbb Sep 30 '17 at 21:10
  • Because it would have required several long comments. Actually I had started to do so, but it was getting too long: quote the wrong passage and explain why and what is wrong. Also while I was confident with my points of view I wished I could discuss them with knowledgeable experts in the field. – calocedrus Oct 1 '17 at 0:38
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    Understood. I guess in that case, personally I probably would have just written my own answer. If you wind up being wrong and get downvoted, you can always delete it if you feel it doesn't represent your best. =) – scottbb Oct 1 '17 at 0:54
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    A small comment on the deeper reason why I asked this question: it often bugs me when I read inaccurate scientific statements and the public takes them as a truth because they look scientific. I'd like to try to spread accurate knowledge or at least raise a flag on inaccuracies. So if I'm not sure (or have not enough time to perform simulation / calculation / more research), I wish to have someone to discuss with or/and some help to review my views. – calocedrus Oct 1 '17 at 1:01
  • Understood as well. =) There are a lot of people with a similar approach and attitude here (myself included). One thing we tend to be good at around (and not necessarily in a good way) is to nitpick and tear apart and correct inaccuracies. Especially in recently-active posts. – scottbb Oct 1 '17 at 1:04
  • @calocedrus what I normally do in that case is what scottbb suggested. Write your own answer and then simply post in the comment to suggest they check out your answer and ask if they have any questions about it. It lets you go in to more detail about what's wrong without having to be long winded in the comments. – AJ Henderson Oct 1 '17 at 3:44
up vote 5 down vote accepted
  1. In the comments to the answer. That's the best, most direct place, because it's implied to pertain to that answer. If the back-and-forth comment discussion gets long enough, the SE system will automatically suggest you take the extended discussion to...

  2. ... Chat. When the discussion gets a lot of back-and-forth, it should head to chat, preferably its own chatroom.

  3. If the answer is older, and maybe not likely to get engagement from the original author, you can opt to just edit the answer to make it correct. However, you run the risk of changing the answer's meaning. That path invites a possible revision war between you and the original author and/or community readers who disagree with the scope of your edits. So unless the edit is just making minor corrections (such as fixing typos, or easily-supportable technical fixes that are not opinion-based), I strongly do not recommend this route.

But really, the comments is the beginning place to note your objection. Comments aren't meant to last forever alongside an answer, but legitimate potential problems with an answer are almost never deleted by mods if those comments haven't been resolved / incorporated back into the answer.

If you put your notes/objections in any other place, they won't be easily correlated with the answer (i.e., they won't be seen).

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    This is close enough for me to upvote, but I would alter to add something else before 3. If it is a minor issue, yes, edit is fine, but if you are materially altering their answer, you should down vote the answer and create your own answer instead. Edit's should not significantly materially alter the post unless, perhaps, it is simply something that fell out of date. – AJ Henderson Sep 30 '17 at 23:49
  • @AJHenderson feel free to DV my answer and write your own... ;-) but seriously, great point. – scottbb Sep 30 '17 at 23:51
  • I'd also add that if a comment objecting to an answer is still valid, if I delete it, it's going to be to condense down the objections if there are too many of them. Comments are there chiefly to improve answers, so a comment trying to do that is a comment being used for the primary thing they are intended for. – AJ Henderson Sep 30 '17 at 23:51
  • And how about flag the answer, can that lead to a technical discussion (I've never thought about flagging any answer but I felt doing so for this one)? – calocedrus Oct 1 '17 at 0:44
  • No, flagging the answer is not appropriate. Flagging should only be for problems such as rudeness, spam, not-an-answers (i.e., should really just be a comment, or asking a new question, etc.). Instead, if it's patently incorrect, downvote it. – scottbb Oct 1 '17 at 0:52
  • @AJHenderson good point in your 1st comment, I actually wrote my own answer to address some of the issues; the user who wrote the accepted answer must have got a "Eureka" reading me and included some of the material of my answer in his, also adding lot more details in his original answer. But inexactitudes remain. – calocedrus Oct 1 '17 at 0:52
  • @scottbb got it :) I downvoted it but it had many upvotes! – calocedrus Oct 1 '17 at 0:54
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    @calocedrus if they are that responsive, it's probably worth trying to keep commenting with them (don't forget to delete comments they fix) and/or suggest they jump in chat with you if they have enough rep and you feel like there is some more detail they could benefit from. Sometimes people who are just a bit ahead of the OP in knowledge will answer and can benefit from more experienced people offering them further insight. I hope that even those who mostly answer on the site are able to learn from the exchange of ideas. I know I have even though I don't have that many questions on the site – AJ Henderson Oct 1 '17 at 1:08
  • @calocedrus Your user profile shows no answers from you on this site. – Michael C Oct 2 '17 at 3:23
  • @MichaelClark you are looking at their meta profile. Click on "Main User" from their profile to see their answers on the main site. – scottbb Oct 2 '17 at 21:24
  • @scottbb Indeed I am. Thanks! – Michael C Oct 3 '17 at 6:08
  • It's never OK to edit someone else's post to change the content. – Olin Lathrop Oct 4 '17 at 11:03

The first thing to do if you think existing answers are incorrect is to write your own answer. You can even explicitly state why XXX doesn't apply, and the correct answer is therefore YYY. However, it's best not to mention the other answer directly, and certainly don't say things like "the answer above". Answer orders can change.

If you think the other answer is seriously wrong, then downvote it. While not required, you really should leave a comment explaining your objection. That gives the other answerer a chance to correct the mistake if he agrees, or to present his argument if he doesn't. It also lets others see what the disagreement is about.

You can also leave a comment without a downvote. Just don't go back and forth with the author. State your case, and leave it at that. A pissing contest just noises up the site.

One thing NOT to do is to edit the other answer if you disagree with its content. It's OK to edit someone else's post to fix obvious spelling, grammar, and formatting problems, but never to change the meaning.

  • Editing an answer that is objectively incorrect is different from editing an answer over a difference of opinion. Surfacing objectively correct information where it is likely to be seen and removing objectively incorrect information where it is found is the reason anyone can edit anything throughout StackExchange. That's not to say people should not use good judgment and apply empathy. Only to say that people should not be afraid and cases where a particular individual will be upset by any edit are not a reflection of the appropriateness and utility of the edit. – user50888 Oct 6 '17 at 3:53
  • @ben: I strongly disagree. The way to deal with answers you believe to be incorrect is to comment and/or downvote them. It doesn't matter how obvious or "objective" the incorrectness is. It's just plain wrong to change the meaning of someone else's statement. – Olin Lathrop Oct 6 '17 at 12:32
  • The content is licensed under Creative Commons. The idea that editing questions and answers is wrong is not really consistent with the intent of StackExchange. Creative Commons reflects StackExchange learning from Wikipedia and avoiding the problems of bulletin boards and mailing lists. – user50888 Oct 6 '17 at 14:39
  • @calocedrus - I like this answer, where there's a portion I disagree with I can simply make a comment, were there a better answer I could upvote that one instead. When one claims to know better about something it is always helpful to provide a Link to an authoritative source on a respected Website, simply saying 'X' is wrong isn't particularly helpful to anyone unless it's trivial common knowledge. If the person understands to 'listen' (read the linked info) then they can fix their own answer or await an editor. Going back and forth providing Link after Link to someone unswayable is a waste. – Rob Oct 6 '17 at 23:24
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    @Olin Lanthrop - See this answer by Shog9 (the Community Manager): meta.stackexchange.com/a/21789/282094 . He writes: "Users can edit the questions and answers submitted to the site. This gives the site a wiki feel, and allows the information to constantly evolve and remain up to date.". Obviously, when you Edit you want to make a correction (not make an error, or start an Edit War). Both Q&A are expected to be "correct" (in the end) so the result can be relied upon (clear well formed question, and correct answer). Civility and polite comments are the first resort, correction last. – Rob Oct 6 '17 at 23:56

To me a question about answers with 'interesting elements' but that are 'partly inaccurate' leaves a lot of room for interpretation. One of the difficulties when discussing this type of question is each person is free to imagine a different sort of answer. What makes this even harder is that the internet is not in the habit of describing the imagined basis for its answers...huh?

My imagination

  1. I imagine an answer with interesting elements and partial inaccuracies dominated by the inaccuracies.

  2. I imagine an answer with interesting elements and partial inaccuracies where the interesting elements and inaccuracies are balanced.

  3. I imagine an answer with interesting elements and partial inaccuracies dominated by the interesting elements.

Reality

It seems like I should probably have a different response to each. But I probably won't. Because I am like most people and will look at the answer and find a rationalization for my disposition and habits.

Maybe Duty Calls because I enjoy the sense of power doing my duty gives and what matters is the "you are wrong" inaccuracies and not the interesting elements. I hope not.

Using https://photo.stackexchange.com is supposed to be informative and fun. Historically, most people turn out to be wrong about many things. Fallibility is human nature but fortunately people are smart and recognize this intuitively and can be unsurprised by an answer that an answer with interesting elements and partial inaccuracies and enjoy the interesting elements and not be upset by the partial inaccuracies...

...at least until there are voting arrows and comment boxes.

Anyway

Because there are at least three different general (imagined) scenarios; an infinitude of possible actual cases; and a large but finite set of individuals acting from momentary emotional and intellectual states, trying to create one size fits all policy (and some StackExchange sites do that from Meta discussions not significantly larger than this) smells like a poor decision...again it is supposed to be informative and fun.

So my advice:

  1. If reading the inaccuracies creates an emotional state where downvoting is cathartic, downvote. It's best for everyone.

  2. If reading the inaccuracies creates an emotional state where commenting is cathartic, comment. Hopefully it is best for everyone.

  3. It is o.k. to upvote something because it partially useful or interesting.

  4. It is o.k. to fix something that is broken by editing it.

  5. Making it easy to fix things is why everything can be edited by anyone.

  6. The potential problems don't come from editing, they come from editing fights so don't engage in an edit war.

  7. Be charitable because this is supposed to be informative and fun.

  8. Upvotes don't cost anything.

  9. To a first approximation the stakes are always low.

  10. Use good judgement.

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