Quite often I see users posting reams of superfluous information to an answer, after their summary which is sufficient. Often this information is flat, I.e. it does not include reasoning to support their logic, and resembles a Wikipedia article. Here is an example.

This ends up raising the signal-to-noise ratio, I say this because i spent a long time looking round for the 'answer' in the above question. I also feel it pushes other's answers down behind another poster's wall of text. Obviously this is different for different answers, and should be treated case by case.

Should we down vote these highly informative but partially irrelevant answers, because of the superfluous noise? Or do we edit out the info we don't need?

I know I've only given an example from one user, and this isn't something ive seen elsewhere but I think could be nipped in the bud, as i thought succinct answers are more useful to stackexchange.

  • Do you mean an answer with original content, or an answer that quotes large swathes of Wikipedia?
    – user56
    Commented Aug 23, 2012 at 10:59
  • 1
    Same as tangential imagery, but with words. Let's call it tangential paragraph!
    – DavRob60
    Commented Aug 23, 2012 at 12:08
  • 2
    @Gilles original content, just tangential to the question.
    – AncientSwordRage Mod
    Commented Aug 23, 2012 at 12:55
  • You mean one particular user's answers, don't you? Did you refer him to this thread? I thought we'd already had this on meta, but I can't find it, maybe it was only discussed in chat.
    – user56
    Commented Aug 23, 2012 at 13:15
  • Yes, but I don't see why others couldn't fall into the trap of what a lecturer of mine once called 'regurgitating'. If you can't find a dupe of this, I'll point him here for his opinion
    – AncientSwordRage Mod
    Commented Aug 23, 2012 at 13:56
  • I have no problem with bags of bonus material, unless of course the answer follows an identical answer, the only difference being the seemingly useful added references. I'm not a fan of answer snipers. Commented Aug 23, 2012 at 14:19
  • 1
    Since you appear to have something concrete in mind, why not refer to that particular post?
    – bitmask
    Commented Aug 23, 2012 at 16:27
  • 2
    I think I know who you have in mind, and frankly, while SOME of the answer can drag on, on the balance I find more relevant information even in extra paragraphs than not. I don't see it as a problem that is endemic; and any specific answer can be edited/commented to point out the specific issues. Commented Aug 23, 2012 at 18:14
  • Also, frankly, withe the VERY high quality of that user's TL;DR summaries, I don't see noise/info being as an issue at all Commented Aug 23, 2012 at 18:23
  • @bitmask I'm on my phone atm. Once I have a full keyboard, I'll add it in.
    – AncientSwordRage Mod
    Commented Aug 23, 2012 at 21:05
  • @dvk I completely agree that the quality in general is good and this isn't a huge issue. I think once i add in more details it'll become clearer.
    – AncientSwordRage Mod
    Commented Aug 23, 2012 at 21:09
  • Personally I love it. Occasionally the original question gets lost in long write-ups, as I've done a number of times myself (had to go back and edit in the actual answer), but it's rare that I see information that is explicitly irrelevant.
    – dlanod
    Commented Aug 23, 2012 at 21:21
  • 2
    Can you point to specific examples of the posts you have in mind?
    – user366
    Commented Aug 24, 2012 at 5:42
  • I'm a fan of information, so long posts don't bother me. And obviously I fall into the long poster category myself. I think I'd rather have more information than I need than not enough, but I will say that I, too, don't care for Wiki spam posts. I don't come to SFF to read C&Ped swaths of info from another site. :) Commented Aug 25, 2012 at 22:18
  • 1
    Sorry about that! Sometimes I skim when I read. Anyhow, I personally don't support excessive amounts of tangential information. A small aside, sure. No problem. But if it significantly increases the post's length then, no, that's not on. :) Commented Aug 25, 2012 at 23:53

2 Answers 2


First, let me wear my moderator hat and make a few general statements:

  • When you discuss a post on meta, leave a comment on that post to notify the author and other interested parties.
  • Editing out 80% of an answer is generally considered vandalism. There are edge cases where it can be appropriate (for example, editing out plagiarized content, or editing out irrelevant material from a community wiki post), but most of the time, it would be abuse. Authors are entitled to their style, even if that includes droning on.
  • If you flag a long answer, don't flag it as “not an answer”, as our (moderators') reaction is likely to be that you must have flagged the wrong post. Use a custom flag to explain how this answer does not address the question at all. Remember that the moderator may not be familiar with the material being discussed.

Moderator hat off now, speaking as a member of the community (both of this site, and of Stack Exchange in general).

What you consider irrelevant material may be what other people consider interesting side remarks. An encyclopedic (but relevant) answer is what we strive for; a two-line answer is what we make do with sometimes.

If you think an answer is completely irrelevant, flag it for deletion (with a custom message, see above).

If you think that an answer contains some relevant material but that it's buried under other considerations, feel free to edit that answer to make it easier to locate the directly-relevant material. Do not edit the side notes out! Use linking words, paragraph breaks, titles, emphasis and other language and presentation tools intelligently.

If you don't feel up to the task of editing, leave a comment stating that you had a hard time reading the answer in the context of the question, and explain the kind of editing you'd like the author to do.

If you think that an answer is correct but very badly written, it's a valid reason for downvoting. Please leave a comment explaining why you downvote, and ideally come back after a couple of days and change your vote if the author has improved the answer to your satisfaction.


For a specific example on how to deal with a specific issue (extra paragraphs that aren't relevant) see here: https://scifi.stackexchange.com/a/22539/976 - I added a comment stating my suggested edits:

I would suggest deleting all bullets except #5. That one answers the Q perfectly and the others don't really apply at all. And simply emphacise "4 balls" part in that bullet

Short, polite, and to the point as far as proposed edits.

If there is no response for a while (1-2 days) and you feel that the answer would be strongly improved by deletion, edit it yourself; and leave a courtesy comment explaining WHY you did the edit and offering that the user can roll back the edits if they feel that the edits were bad.

So far, of all my edits ever to remove extraneous info, the ONLY rollback ever was by Gilles on meta (I still can't figure out why he insisted on answering something I didn't ask, but I'm too tired of arguing)

  • Thats a good method. I know Thaddeus has complained previously about people editing his answers when he didn't feel there was a need. But 1-2 days warning sounds adequate.
    – AncientSwordRage Mod
    Commented Aug 24, 2012 at 22:08
  • The only kerfuffle I was aware of involving him and editing I was fully on his side when some \<unprintable\> didn't have enough IQ to realize an image in his answer had direct reason to help with the answer and kept deleting it. Commented Aug 25, 2012 at 0:25
  • 1
    Someone added links to other answers in one of his posts. That's where e saw the issue. But regardless, removing 80% of a post in an edit is pretty extreme.
    – AncientSwordRage Mod
    Commented Aug 25, 2012 at 9:53
  • 2
    @Pureferret, DVK: I'll repeat it here: editing out 80% of an answer is not acceptable. DVK: that edit you refer to on meta was not acceptable.
    – user56
    Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 23:01
  • 1
    @Gilles agreed.
    – AncientSwordRage Mod
    Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 23:03
  • @Gilles - I apologize. It would be nice if YOU edited your own post and removed complete misrepresentations of everything I proposed that 80% of that answer constitutes. Commented Sep 1, 2012 at 0:40

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .