Being quite new to the site, I'm curious if there is any established protocol with regards to action toward answers that are incorrect (e.g., produce incorrect / incomplete / etc. results). Is it appropriate to comment on the answer as such, or to place such a caveat on one's own answer if provided for the question? Or is is more of a caveat utilitor situation?

I've recently seen several accepted answers that are flat-out wrong, leading me to wonder how many future readers might be led down a rabbit-hole, yet it feels... confrontational to think of "calling out" an answer. This is one of the few times I wish for a "private" means of conveying concerns to a poster.

So, is there some unwritten rule-set around this matter?

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    Related: Settling disagreement – Jacob Akkerboom Mar 31 '14 at 13:04
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    I would say go ahead. People with >1k reputation know what this site is about: quality answers. You can/should criticize our answers, edit them or do whatever you feel is needed to bring the answer into shape/make future visitors aware of the issues. I would expect nothing but positive response in return for such labor. It is better to comment on the answer you're criticizing than to put it in as a "by the way" in your own answer. This ensures that the author of that answer sees the criticism. – C. E. Mar 31 '14 at 13:19
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    I feel that you should always comment if an answer is wrong. If you are afraid to come across like "calling somebody out", the way you write your comment may give you some flexibility ("this is flat-out wrong" vs "this is incorrect, <careful explanation why it wrong>, could you please edit your answer"?). If the OP accepts an answer that is wrong, I would say you should also leave a comment to him/her. Downvoting an answer that is wrong, especially if it is not corrected after your comment is also an option of course. – Jacob Akkerboom Mar 31 '14 at 13:28
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    Did anyone else feel a sudden urge to double-check their recently accepted answers? :-) – Simon Woods Mar 31 '14 at 15:55
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    If I were to submit a wrong answer I would certainly want somebody to point it out to me. Especially for newer users (read: me) who are trying to contribute as best as they can, having folks critique their work is the best way to improve. – Andy Mobley Mar 31 '14 at 17:19
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    @SimonWoods Only the ones that rasher has commented on :D – rm -rf Mar 31 '14 at 19:27
  • I have posted wrong answers from time to time, and I'm happy to say the community has never let me get away with it. Further and fortunately, none of my wrong answers were ever accepted, so I had no trouble deleting them. – m_goldberg Mar 31 '14 at 23:35
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    btw, it's worth noting that users cannot delete accepted answers (the system prevents them from doing so). However, if the answerer requests that it be deleted, the moderators can do so. The request must come from the user who posted the answer; flags, comments, etc. from others will be declined. – rm -rf Apr 1 '14 at 2:12

Explicitly expected behavior:

Above all, be honest. If you see misinformation, vote it down. Add comments indicating what, specifically, is wrong. Provide better answers of your own. Last but not least, edit and improve the existing questions and answers! By doing these things, you are helping keep Stack Exchange a great place to share knowledge of our craft. [help/behavior]

Maybe we should close this question as being easily found in the documentation? ;)

  • I had not seen that in help. Thanks for link. – ciao Apr 5 '14 at 1:42
  • @rasher You're welcome! Thanks for the accept. – Michael E2 Apr 5 '14 at 2:29

yet it feels... confrontational to think of "calling out" an answer.

This is one of several ways in which Stack Exchange etiquette differs from the etiquette in some other places on the internet and in real life: when you see an incorrect answer, especially if it is getting upvotes and/or is accepted, you're encouraged and even expected (not really, but it is important to the health of the site for someone to do so) to post a comment calling it out. There is nothing wrong with pointing out why an answer is incorrect as long as you focus on the facts, not the person.

Of course, also keep in mind that thinking an answer is incorrect and it actually being incorrect are not necessarily the same thing.

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    I can imagine confrontational ways of "calling out" an answer, but it need not be confrontational. In a way, ignoring users who make mistakes is more aggressive than actually engaging with them so that they learn from their mistakes. If done with an appropriate tone (which seems to be the norm rather than the exception on Mathematica.SE) and utilizing evidence to back up one's claim of the insufficiency of an answer, I believe that most folks would not see it as confrontational. However, if laced with a nasty tone, it certainly could be confrontational. – Andy Mobley Apr 1 '14 at 8:23
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    A physics mod encouraging "calling out" an incorrect answer for the "health of the site"... LOL! What could possibly go wrong? :D #SE_not_so_inside_joke. – rm -rf Apr 1 '14 at 13:10

To do is to be - Descartes
To be is to do - Voltaire
Do be do be do be do - Frank Sinatra
You should do it Your Way.

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    I'm sorry but I really don't see how this addresses the question. – Emilio Pisanty Mar 31 '14 at 16:42
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    Seems fairly clear to me. – Mark McClure Mar 31 '14 at 16:55
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    @episanty The problem may be that a quantum of readers' IQ is desired. – Artes Mar 31 '14 at 22:43
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    Well, when someone expresses confusion about my posts, I try to take it as an indication that the post may in fact not be clear to everyone (including but not limited to people who are not native speakers of English). On the other hand, there is always the option of insulting their intelligence, which I understand is an appealing choice. Chat is a nice place for beating around the bush. I would argue meta is not. But hey, that's just me. – Emilio Pisanty Apr 1 '14 at 0:19
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    @episanty I expected an appropriate reply to your doubts would involve a sense of humor, however it wasn't my intention to insult anyone. I just think one shouldn't especially bother any protocol, things depend on a case by case basis, c'est la vie, better listen to that song. – Artes Apr 1 '14 at 0:39

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