If I provide an answer which is not useful for the person who asked the question, should I delete it?

Obviously, when the answer is off topic (due to a misunderstanding for example), it should not stay on the topic. However, in some case, the answer is constructive but does not fit the enquirer specific needs. This answer will therefore no be accepted but could help someone else. And this answer could have took a lot of time to find...

What do you think I should do in such cases? Is there some rule/guideline here?

  • 18
    No, you should not delete an answer just because it's not going to be accepted. There is usually more than one way to skin a cat, with different advantages and drawbacks, so it's useful to have a wide variety of answers (ideally with explanations about the specifics of an approach, and not just a code dump). even if only one can be accepted. What makes you think that answers that aren't accepted should be deleted? – Jake Nov 28 '13 at 12:12
  • 10
    an answer deserves to be deleted if it is distinctly in error or misleading. otherwise, consider whether it supplies information that might help someone else, and if it does, keep it. – barbara beeton Nov 28 '13 at 17:12
  • 2
    While reading, I was thinking of plenty of questions regarding doing something in pgf and answers with pstricks and vice verse. Only the erroneous answers should be deleted. – m0nhawk Nov 28 '13 at 20:47
  • 9
    Definitely don't delete it just because it isn't accepted, a user can only accept one answer. The site in fact encourages you to keep it and even awards badges if an unaccepted answer ends up being a lot more popular than the accepted one. I delete an answer if it is identical to another answer (usually because we post within a second or two of each other) as having two identical answers isn't useful, but having two different answers is a good thing. – David Carlisle Nov 29 '13 at 9:11
  • I agree with all other comments. A not accepted answer could be just the one a third person is looking for. I often find valuable informations in the not accepted answers. Also, the number of votes seems to be little bit misleading if an answer was given late or - even worse - at the wrong time of day. So, please, also keep answers if they get very few votes compared to others. – Thomas F. Sturm Nov 30 '13 at 9:19

Don't forget that, as many people said before, every question has two basic purposes:

  1. short-term purpose in helping the person who asks;
  2. long-term purpose in helping whoever finds it through whatever search engine.

So while your non-accepted answer doesn't serve the 1st purpose, it still likely serves the 2nd one. Therefore it is valuable.

As pointed in the comments, only answer that is not an answer or is really wrong should be deleted.

A side note: The general StackExchange policy is that in average there should be at least 2.5 answers per question, so that the community "has a choice" as which answer is more proper and which is worse; with this, much more than a half of answers cannot be accepted.

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