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At some places I've seen people advocate deleting incorrect answers. For example, in this thread: Hardness of node partitioning under shortest path constraint

But sometimes incorrect answers are kept and even upvoted: Relationship between SPACE(n) and E

I just posted an incorrect answer (Hamiltonicity of k-regular graphs) so I'm wondering whether to delete it or not.

What's the correct etiquette here? Is it up to the poster? Are both acceptable? Should we encourage either behaviour or just let posters decide for themselves?

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  • $\begingroup$ Note that the upvote of the mentioned answer was before the flaw was pointed out. Here is the timeline of the mentioned question. $\endgroup$ – Tsuyoshi Ito Sep 25 '10 at 0:27
  • $\begingroup$ @Tsuyoshi: Thanks. I didn't know we had access to such a detailed timeline. $\endgroup$ – Robin Kothari Sep 25 '10 at 0:29
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    $\begingroup$ Call me a hacker. :) meta.stackexchange.com/questions/54366/… $\endgroup$ – Tsuyoshi Ito Sep 25 '10 at 0:45
  • $\begingroup$ See also a similar discussion on meta.stackoverflow.com: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/22630/…. But note that not everything applies in the same way to our website. $\endgroup$ – Tsuyoshi Ito Sep 25 '10 at 1:31
  • $\begingroup$ Oops, I probably said an incorrect thing in my first comment about the order of the upvote and the comment pointing out a flaw. Looking at the timeline again, I do not know why I thought that the upvote was before the flaw was pointed out. The timeline does not tell the time of voting, and I can only tell from the timeline that the comment and the upvote were on the same day. Probably I had been misreading something in the timeline. $\endgroup$ – Tsuyoshi Ito Sep 26 '10 at 23:27
  • $\begingroup$ @Tsuyoshi: That's alright. You hackers are allowed to make mistakes. That timeline feature is pretty cool. $\endgroup$ – Robin Kothari Sep 26 '10 at 23:31
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I would like to cite a quote from Edison here. Part of it is taken from another website:

Thomas Edison tried a thousand ways to get a light bulb to work and all of them failed. Some didn't work. Some just flashed and went dead. Some only lasted a few minutes. He documented every case. Finally, he got one to work long enough that it would make sense to make it for sale to the public.

Colleagues asked him "weren't you disappointed after one thousand experiments?" He replied: "No, we now know a thousand ways not to build a light bulb."

That's exactly what I think about wrong answers. They tell other people what should be avoided, and what subtleties should be taken into account.

That said, it is the moral responsibility of the answerer to mark them as a wrong answer, and clear out what is wrong about them.

In any case, as Tsuyoshi pointed out, the answerer has also the right to delete the answer. Yet I believe that it is better to keep the answer (specially if it has not generated negative reputation), and mark it accordingly.

As a convention, I recommend the community not to down-vote marked-as-wrong answers.

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    $\begingroup$ Nice Edison story. Is this an urban legend or did he actually say this? $\endgroup$ – Robin Kothari Sep 26 '10 at 23:34
  • $\begingroup$ @Robin: Thanks. Maybe the "one thousand" part is just an exaggeration, but the quote is real. See, for instance, equotes.wetpaint.com/page/Thomas+Edison+Quotes $\endgroup$ – M.S. Dousti Sep 27 '10 at 2:26
  • $\begingroup$ I've seen it on many websites.. But I'm wondering whether it's really authentic. Perhaps one can find a reliable source that confirms this. But this is already getting too off topic! $\endgroup$ – Robin Kothari Sep 27 '10 at 2:39
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In my personal opinion, it is up to the poster and depends on the situation.

An incorrect answer with a clear remark about its incorrectness is often informative. It often shows an incorrect approach which many people may think is correct. Also, comments to an incorrect answer sometimes contain useful information. Therefore, I do not think that an answer should be deleted just because it is incorrect.

However, a poster may delete an incorrect answer if he/she does not want to keep it (possibly because he/she does not think that it adds anything or because he/she is too embarrassed by the fact that he/she posted the incorrect answer). We should not force a poster to keep an incorrect answer just because it is instructive or its comments contain useful information.

The system encourages to delete an answer with negative score in at least two ways:

  • If we delete an answer, we recover rep lost by downvotes (and lose rep gained by upvotes). Therefore, if an answer produced negative rep, we recover rep by deleting it.
  • If we delete an answer with score −3 or below, we are awarded a “Peer Pressure” badge.

However, I am not sure if it is right to decide what to do according to rep or a badge.

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