Sometimes a wrong answer is the accepted answer, sometimes a wrong answer is the most voted answer, sometimes a wrong answer is both at once. Should we make a list of those? The purpose would be that newcomers (and any member who hasn't already voted in those questions) would make up their minds and possibly correct, in the long run, the most upvoted answer. By correct I mean that a correct answer would come more voted than wrong answers.

So far I see that time does not necessarily make the correct answers float over the sea of wrong answers. When a new and correct answer is posted in an old question, people suddenly see the question (for the first time) and usually, apparently at least, upvote the most voted answer (which is wrong) and do not bother to read all the other answers. At least that's the impression I get when I see a "frozen" question which received no answer in the last months, suddenly gets a new correct answer and people restart to upvote the already wrong answer.

The question is then, how do one defines a correct answer? I don't know exactly, but I think you people can think over it and come up with a good answer to that. An idea could be "This question has an accepted answer that is tagged as wrong by X, Y, Z, etc. members on ....(date)", so if the wrong answer gets edited after the date it has been tagged as wrong answer, people will know it. Also, I'm not sure it's a good idea to edit an already accepted wrong answer to make it right. Because it would completely change its meaning and people voted it for being wrong, not right. So another answer would have to come and replace it as the most accepted answer.

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    $\begingroup$ There already is such a system: just leave a comment, post your own answer, and downvote the wrong answer. $\endgroup$
    – knzhou
    Mar 2 '18 at 10:55
  • $\begingroup$ @knzhou - That system bites, at least at times. Questioners have selected blatantly wrong answers and answers that while pedantically correct are nonetheless of rather low quality. The problem lies with search engines and browser settings. Google and a number of browsers now know that foo.stackexchange.com (e.g., foo -> physics) is a Q&A site for questions about foo. To avoid confusing the searcher / reader, they present one answer as the answer to the question. ... $\endgroup$ Mar 3 '18 at 16:37
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    $\begingroup$ There have been times where the OP selected an answer that was dead wrong, others where the OP selected a pedantically correct but still rather low quality answer. There are ways around this. For example, display the top-voted answer first over the selected answer if (a) the selected answer has a non-positive net score but the top-voted answer does, or (b) the net score for the top-voted answer is positive and exceeds that of the selected answer by some margin(e.g., ten votes). $\endgroup$ Mar 3 '18 at 16:38
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidHammen I think that would make the situation worse. For (b), the only questions that have a significant number of votes at all are the ones that hit HNQ. I don't trust those votes to determine quality because most of them come from people who don't know any physics. For (a), it should be obvious that a negative score indicates a bad answer, so I don't see a problem. $\endgroup$
    – knzhou
    Mar 3 '18 at 18:43
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidHammen you were spot on. The system of voting doesn't always work. Here's a disaster case of an incomplete (not wrong) answer where the answerer modifies the question so that his answer is now complete. The voting system was unable to make the complete and correct answer float up to the top. physics.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/10591/… $\endgroup$ Apr 9 '18 at 16:15

I really don't think this is a good idea.

For starters, we already have a system established for determining which answers are good and bad. It's the voting system.

If wrong posts are gaining more votes than correct ones, that would be a community issue. I'm not sure why we as a community would be able to overwhelmingly decide that an answer is bad if it is being highly up-voted. It would require a pretty strange combination of Hot Network Question and inattentive drive-by voting.

Even worse though; it would completely defeat the operating principle of the site. Votes are summed through individual user contributions to the voting system. By establishing a list of answers we deem incorrect, it would lead to severe voting bias driven by whoever is active on the meta topic. It would basically add redundant quality control that would essentially work against the current quality control; by magnifying it's inherent problems.

Basically, I don't think this site's quality can fairly be dictated by the few select members who may have the privilege of marking answers as incorrect. Quality is already driven by the broader community; and I think we should keep it that way; or else we risk becoming an echo-chamber (even if that's less of a concern for physics compared to say, politics).


I'm no specialist on what new-comers usually do and I can only speak for myself, but when I first came to this site, I was first magnetised by the list of highest voted answers and questions, not the lowest. Are you saying that there is a substantial percentage of highly-voted answers that are wrong ? Or are you saying that the community isn't engaging enough with certain questions by new-comers and the answers to those questions end up being upvoted a few times but are somehow wrong ?

I'm not sure I'm sold on the first and if it's the second, then you could always drop a comment on those "wrong" answers linking to a related question with a more "correct" answer/interpretation but comments aren't forever so it's better to write your own answer. There's a huge base of really good, conceptual questions with stellar answers on the site.

Besides, your list suggestion seems a bit backwards to me; we instead have a list of the best answers and best questions by lieu of voting. Even though it might be that Physics.SE is more of an educational site than a research tool, I'm not sure it's within the objective of Physics.SE to have a list of top answers that are "wrong". As is oft done, I quote the words of ACM:

I cannot help but thinking [sic] that the mission statement of StackExchange is "The best answers rise to the top", not "Even the worst answer is here for your convenience".

I'm not saying that all highly-voted answers are correct and infallible, but we'd be taking on quite the task to find, judge and sort these answers when we already have a very good "inverse" list: sort by votes.

As to the part of your question about a correct answer, IIRC, isn't this a settled issue ? The system we have for "correctness" is the same system we have for "listing", i.e. votes.

A more canonical answer I can think of is that, because of the existence of questions

"What exactly is wrong ?" and "Who is to decide ?",

we let the voting decide the matter and trust the community to vote a blatantly wrong answer into oblivion.

Note, there was a post on here recently by Emilio regarding a change in the working mechanism of flagging something as a VLQ (very low quality) post, in that a blatantly, dangerously incorrect question that is so far from saving-by-editing can be flagged as such to then by deliberated upon for deletion by the community where once a VLQ flag would not be appropriate for such an answer. And although the flag usage might be different, the philosophy behind it is unchanged, in my opinion; the community consensus of many sufficient-rep users voting determines what an answer should be like.

The question of an accepted answer being radically edited is addressed here. In any case, one should not hold an accepted answer as the "be-all and end-all" of a question. And if anyone has any problem with any answers anywhere, here is a list of things you can do by our very own Jeff Atwood.


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