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One of the reasons for which you are able to flag an answer is the following:

not an answer

This was posted as an answer, but it does not attempt to answer the question. It should possibly be an edit, a comment, another question, or deleted altogether.

When (or if) you flag an answer like that, then you're asking a moderator to delete the answer.

What should moderators do with answers which are "not an answer"? As a moderator my personal inclination is:

  • Don't delete an answer just because I think that it's not an answer

  • Delete it, if I don't think it's an answer, and if:

    • Several people have downvoted it (so it has a negative number of votes)
    • Or, someone, or maybe several people, have flagged it
    • Or, only I'm very certain by myself that it's not an answer (or is at best a "there is no spoon" answer)

For example, some current examples which I think are not an answer include:

Basically these answers say that the view which the question is asking about is wrong, for example,

  • Q: what is 'enlightenment' if you don't believe in literal rebirth? A: you should believe in literal rebirth and nirvana is meaningless if you don't.
  • Q: if your view is 'materialist' how does that effect your practice? A: you can't be materialist and Buddhist and you're going to hell if you're materialist.

An advantage or benefit of these answers is that they present an orthodox view.

Two disadvantages, one is that they don't answer the question, and another is that they might be seen as hostile to another sect, if there is another sect (or individual) which self-identifies as Buddhist but which does not conform to that orthodoxy.

So, my questions are,

  • Do you agree with what I suggested above: that moderators may delete such an answer, but only if other people have flagged and/or downvoted it?
  • Does it worry you that "not an answer" answers, whose purpose is to define an orthodox view that's contrary to the view that's being asked about, might seem hostile to other sects (if there is any sect with a view like the one being asked about)? Should they be deleted for that reason?
  • In the first example, the answer is -in my view- at most a comment, something to clarify some misunderstanding in the field which is covered/touched by the question (and as a comment I would appreciate it much). Aside that, I second Chris' appendend comment on it, couldn't make it clearer. – Gottfried Helms Apr 5 '17 at 11:36
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I've fallen foul of this as well. I deleted this zen type answer because it looked like nonsense to me. Apparently not - it is a legitimate form of answer so I reversed my delete.

If I can try to put my opinion on your first point

Do you agree with what I suggested above: that moderators may delete such an answer, but only if other people have flagged and/or downvoted it?

I don't think you or I ever claimed to be experts on Buddhism and I think as time goes on the questions and answers are edging towards becoming more technical and academic. Although I practice Buddhism I'm not a teacher and I just have an interest in the academic side but no formal qualification or expertise. But we are moderators and although we weren't voted in, it was a community decision.

So from my perspective it's just best endeavors to moderate the site, delete answers that appear nonsensical, unhelpful or abusive and always listen to the community and be prepared to reverse any deletions if (when) we get them wrong.

Regarding flags I pretty much do what you suggest. So

If it is flagged by a user - really consider a delete if it looks like nonsense or vandalised. However put a comment on trying to explain my decision - to be fair I'm not sure if the user gets the message on a deleted question. I hope they do.

If it is autoflagged by the system - I will almost certainly not delete them (unless it's totally obvious). Instead I might leave a comment expressing doubts about quality and/or vote down.

Generally though I just do my best with it and try to be as fair as possible and be always ready to be called out on anything and reverse a decision. It is hard to tell though what should and should be deleted and downvotes are really helpful in making delete decisions.

  • For the three answers above (for example) I can't tell whether you think: a) I should delete them unilaterally (because I think they're not-an-answer) and then reverse my deletion if "the community" thinks my deletion was wrong; or whether b) I should wait (without deleting them, even though I think they're not-an-answer) to see whether other people will downvote and/or flag them. – ChrisW Aug 29 '15 at 21:39
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    @ChrisW personally I wouldn't delete any of them. You've commented which I think is enough. I think cases where the answer is oblique or it isn't obvious if it addresses the question or not are best left to people down voting. If it gets to -2 or -3 (can't remember) then higher rep users can start to cast delete votes. The only thing extra I would do is downvote if I think they are way off. As ever just my opinion – Crab Bucket Aug 29 '15 at 21:49
  • The reason I'm actually worried about them (and tempted to delete them myself) is that they might be seen as hostile: i.e. Learning about all the branches is great, but no one is helped by being reminded that one branch of Buddhism thinks the very premise of your question is, oh I don't know, either superstition or contemptible scientism – ChrisW Aug 29 '15 at 21:54
  • @ChrisW I do see your point. Regarding the materialism one - as soon as I saw that I knew that someone would post and say basically you are going to hell (and I thought it would be Sanhka). But I think that is a legitimate answer - for him in his tradition it's right you might end up in an unfortunate rebirth. But I trust this community to balance itself up and for someone to post the alternative more secular view that materialism and Buddhism can live together or at least you won't go to hell - you just won't get enlightened with that kind of view – Crab Bucket Aug 29 '15 at 22:02
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    MatthewMartins post was at the beginning of the site i think. We are more mature as a community and I think we are good at coping with divergent views. But you are right - that is no reason for complacency. As well I think our 'be nice' policy is helpful. Certainly worth monitoring these posts – Crab Bucket Aug 29 '15 at 22:04
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Regarding the answer given here, even though the question appears to limit answerers to materialists, it should be fine to answer any question in the site from a Buddhist perspective with information related to the subject matter, unless OP has specifically requested the answerers to be limited to a certain group of people. As you can see the OP has found the information useful. Also, stating something opposite to what one likes to believe in shouldn't be considered as hostile, especially if it is supported by the teachings.

  • If you felt you had reason to say something like that about any other Buddhist sect, in reply to a question which specifically asks about that other Buddhist sect and seeks answers from members of that other Buddhist sect, then I think that would be contrary to the site guidelines as I understand them. I don't know whether "materialist" is another Buddhist sect (e.g. I don't know whether "materialist" is similar to "secular") but the question itself implied that the OP thinks there is such a thing as a "materialist". – ChrisW Aug 30 '15 at 10:00
  • I think he is talking about an individual. In any case, it wasn't an attempt to insult a certain group(not sure if secular Buddhism is recognised as a sect). – Sankha Kulathantille Aug 30 '15 at 10:40
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Do you agree with what I suggested above: that moderators may delete such an answer, but only if other people have flagged and/or downvoted it?

(tl;dr: I agree with @Crab Bucket's comment)

Hum. On a first impression, my mind has inclined towards deleting. But on the other hand, what if I'm missing something that justifies the legitimacy of the answer? Maybe this should be left to the community (i.e. the question's score)?

So maybe having -2 score would be a point for deciding to delete? (since we seem to downvote so little?)

Does it worry you that "not an answer" answers, whose purpose is to define an orthodox view that's contrary to the view that's being asked about, might seem hostile to other sects (if there is any sect with a view like the one being asked about)?

I'm more worried that we don't seem to have enough heterogeneous user base where groups would actually raise this issue on spot. Instead, the answers get upvoted regardless of the fact that they really didn't answer the question.

If I find an answer to be useful to me, but I notice it does not address the questioner's concern, I rather downvote and comment to say thanks (and perhaps explain why I downvoted) than upvote.

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Your example questions have the same theme: the askers asks about applying perspective A onto perspective B (e.g. 'Comparative religion' questions). They try to understand B from the point of view A. This is good, but it can be seen as comparing apples with oranges.

So by being off-topic (and perhaps highly upvoted), the answers convey an important message: that the askers need to learn more about B by its own view in its own words. Ideally the answerers should know both A and B, but those who only know about B may also give valuable information, and thus should be allowed to present it. (And by definition, the only answers they can provide are about B, which, by definition, is off-topic.)

As the off-topic answers can be seen as reminders the askers to respect B, I think the best approach should be asking the answerers to put a disclaimer in their answers. The mods may want to educate the users about this, so that both the askers and the answerers don't feel that the other side missing and passing their points.

Although the askers want to understand B from perspective A, it is much better if they ask about A from perspective B.


See also: Answers vs Advice

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