Secko posted an answer to Trying to identify a novel with dragons.

Sevvack responded that it was incorrect. It was a decent, thought out answer which addressed the points in the question, it just wasn't right. Secko deleted the incorrect answer.

Obviously, that's his right to do so, but is it the recommended action?

My thought is that it should not be. While the answer is incorrect, it's still actually useful. The confirmed yes/no can help other people find the correct answer. Not every user can see deleted answers, and don't have the confirmed fact that it is not [Title X] to guide them. Personally, I've upvoted some incorrect answers because they were still well thought out and useful.

We recently discussed Is deleting really wrong answers ok according to the rules?, and though no answer was selected, the general rules Keen mentioned seemed to go largely uncontested. This doesn't seem to fit into any of those rules.

Related: Extra answers after an identification question has been correctly answered

2 Answers 2


The rules in Keen's answer are about deleting someone else's answer. There is no rule about deleting one's own answer, except that:

  • Accepted answers cannot be deleted.
  • Deleting a large number of one's answers is considered vandalism and will be reverted by moderators.

There are guidelines, though. You should delete your answer if and only if you think it will not help anyone, typically because:

  • you realized after posting that you'd misunderstood the question;
  • you realized after posting that what you wrote was wrong;
  • your answer is redundant given the other answers (i.e. it does not provide new information or a better or alternate explanation).

A point to note is that a deleted answer is still covered by the Creative Commons license and may be reposted with attribution (or without, if the author explicitly requests it that way).

In the case of story identification specifically, I would say:

  • Delete a completely off-the-mark guess.
  • Keep a reasonable guess that turned out to be wrong due to a point of detail.

A close-enough-but-no-cigar answer can be useful, both as a signpost (preferably with a comment in or under the answer to indicate what point shows the answer to be wrong) and for future visitors who recollect similar but not identical facts about a different work.

In this case, I'd say this is a reasonable guess and would recommend that Secko undelete his answer.

  • 5
    I'd suggest instead of deleting, editing it to put a marker on top reading something like "My guess was X, but I turned out to be wrong, because Y", followed by a horizontal line, followed by the original answer (possibly laid out as a quote). That way, the wrong answer is preserved, so future answerers don't make the same mistake (especially if there is no other answer) and also so that people can encounter more works they might like.
    – SQB
    Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 13:55
  • 2
    I agree with ATS - it's also potentially helpful for future searchers who are looking for a similar story. There's a current question about an android reshaping dice that has two answers, one of which was a TNG episode paying homage to the earlier movie. Someone in the future looking for that TNG episode will likely find it using the same search terms as if they were looking for the right story.
    – Paul
    Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 18:19

I'm of the opposite opinion. If a user wants to delete their own (wrong) answer then unless there's an overriding need to keep it then it should largely be down to the individual to decide whether to keep or delete their own answers.

Ignoring the fact that there is actually a badge to reward you for removing a downvoted answer, if your response is just plain wrong then it should be your prerogative to remove it to preserve your own standing in the community.

I can understand the desire to keep wrong answers (e.g. to signpost people towards the right answer), I just don't think that's a strong enough reason to deny people the right to remove.

  • 4
    From the question: "Obviously, that's his right to do so, but is it the recommended action?" I never once implied we should restrict a user from deleting the question. I'm asking if it's the recommended action.
    – phantom42
    Commented Jan 29, 2014 at 20:09
  • @phantom42 Recommended by whom? His answer was wrong and according to the site rules he has every right to delete it. Are you specifically talking about changing the answer guidance on the FAQ?
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 29, 2014 at 20:19
  • By the community. I'm asking if we, as a community, want to generally encourage or recommend people to delete "wrong" answers on story identification questions. User prerogative should always prevail in these situations (assuming it is an actual answer).
    – phantom42
    Commented Jan 29, 2014 at 20:21
  • @phantom42 I'm still lost how you think the general encouragement would work. Do you mean through the faq, directly contacting the user, through the comments?
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 29, 2014 at 20:23
  • 4
    Many of our "rules" are hashed out in meta and never really codified in the FAQ or official documents (though some really should be). Users tend to comment on posts/answers with guidance.
    – phantom42
    Commented Jan 29, 2014 at 20:26
  • Downvoted because the OP is asking for advice on what to do after having posted a wrong answer. This does not answer OP's question.
    – Kevin
    Commented Mar 22, 2018 at 3:02
  • @Kevin - If you feel like reading the question, OP is asking for the recommended action, not what to do with this specific answer
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 22, 2018 at 7:47

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