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As the dangerous question brought up, this stack exchange site is in a unique position because there is much more risk associated with our topics than other sites. If an answer is misinformed and provides advice that might actually be dangerous, there should be some way to remove it, for the safety of our readers.

The obvious answer might seem like "let the community decide," the idea being that people will vote on answers and "wrong" ones will be pushed down. However, I've seen it happen a number of times where poorly researched or inexperienced answers are voted up -- presumably by people who though "oh, I didn't know that, thanks!" -- because they used pictures or bullet points or relied on some outdated "conventional wisdom."

This reinforces the wrong answer and makes it potentially even more dangerous for readers.

I'm not sure what the best option is. Maybe just flagging an answer for moderator attention with a comment denoting its inaccuracy? Other ideas?

  • Plenty of sites have real risk. For example, bad advice can make you crash while Bicycling.SE; DIY.SE has electrocution and fire. – Jay Bazuzi Jan 29 '12 at 19:48
  • Do you know if/how they deal with similar issues? – Hartley Brody Jan 29 '12 at 19:59
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    Moderators aren't necessarily experts in every aspect of the site, and for that reason they typically moderate for general suitability (i.e. answers that aren't offensive, have enough info, etc.) rather than correctness. As other answerers noted, (down)voting is the preferred way of handling wrong answers. – Adam Lear Jan 30 '12 at 1:52
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    we could require references for safety / first aid questions, with a standard similar to that of skeptics.se – David LeBauer Feb 1 '12 at 2:45
  • Perhaps a second voting button could be added temporarily to see if community voting on the "safety" of an answer was worth recording in addition to the correctness / usefulness. If not, perhaps the "This answer is not useful" would be better worded "This answer is unsafe or unuseful" and the regulars could explain it when people asked or things are spotted by commenting - I'm down voting it because XXX is unsafe in my opinion. A few comments like that should help ease the concern addressed here. – bmike Mar 2 '12 at 7:08
  • My answer at How do we deal with “dangerous” questions? applies here too. – user741 Sep 4 '12 at 0:13
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In many circumstances, especially for common misconceptions, I think it's better to have a downvoted answer with comments explaining why it's wrong, so that people who come along later will know it is wrong and why.

If you feel a question is being upvoted when it shouldn't, downvote it yourself and leave a comment. Perhaps if there are people in the chatroom, link it in there and explain why it's wrong, and perhaps they'll downvote it.

And remember, once community members with high enough rep can vote to delete it too.

  • You can't delete a positively voted answer, unless you are a moderator. – PearsonArtPhoto Jan 29 '12 at 21:58
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There are similar meta threads at DIY and Cooking.

It looks like they've decided to let the voting mechanism handle it.

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As pointed out already while the site is in the position where bad advice could be a safety hazard, it's not "unique" in this sense, just different from many of the traditional technology based SE sites (SO, SU, programmers, etc.)

I think the votes scenario actually works well in this instance, combined with the fact moderators can delete answers they deem particularly bad (and people can flag as such so they're noticed.) While you could argue misplaced advice could get voted up if it was a common misconception, I'd like to think if someone came along and posted something that proved it was in fact a misconception, the votes would swing the other way or (better still) the original poster would correct their answer.

Either way, if you do decide to deal with this some other way how do you decide who's correct? If the majority go against the "truth", then this would have to be decided by a moderator - and if it's really that widespread a misconception who's to say they know the right answer?

It seems to work fine on other sites with votes, so I don't see how outdoors would be that different. If it does become a bigger issue then we can discuss it later on, but until then I suggest we don't try and engineer our way round a problem that probably won't exist :-)

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The primary goal would be establishing unsafe wording in the voting and flagging guides and aids.

I would start with changing the text on the down vote to read:

This answer is unsafe or not useful.

Better would be to have the "unsafe" in red.

Also, we could see if a safety category could be added to the flagging interface so people didn't have to type it in other. I don't know if this is an easy code fix, but that could be raised in the main meta if desired and we don't get a comment here on the feasibility of custom code for a beta site.

Of course the FAQ will need a safety section - both advising people to be adults and take responsibility for applying information as well as explaining the care taken to let everyone vote on safety and flag for safety.

  • Though we Mods are knowledgeable, as Anna Lear mentioned in a comment on the question, we aren't necessarily experts in everything and generally don't police for correctness. If there's a flagrantly dangerous answer, flag it (I don't see why "other" shouldn't suffice) and we will decide whether we need to take action on it. – Kevin Mar 2 '12 at 19:42
  • I was floating the idea to change the wording so new people would see and know safety is an issue and that the place is community policed through flagging. I know all the mods and people with rep know innately to flag - but I was proposing the changes to give more form and discoverability. It's a "hidden-feature" if you don't document it and say it in words. Should "safety flagging" be a hidden feature here? By taking steps to alert everyone about safety - you capture the wisdom of the crowds to make up for potential and real lack of moderator subject matter expertise. – bmike Mar 2 '12 at 19:53

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