Report very wrong answers

Şafak

Senior Member
Hello,

Just out of sheer curiosity, can we report wrong answers? For example, if you ask a question and someone who's not a native speaker and can't even properly speak the language (in other words, whose competence is questionable) replies to it. I think this attitude is detrimental to the community and the forum itself. Sometimes people - both native speakers and foreigners - can be wrong and make a mistake - that's understandable and fine but sometimes they simply have no idea what they are talking about and don't fully realize their lack of competence. If moderators are interested in what threads I have in mind, please feel free to contact me privately.

That's why I'm genuinely curious whether I can report such replies, so that a moderator can arrive at a verdict to either delete the post or let it be.

With kind regards,
JW
 
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  • elroy

    Imperfect mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    Rule 3 says:

    Make a reasonable attempt to verify accuracy. If you are unsure of the accuracy of your information or translation, please say so.

    You may report any posts you believe are in violation of this.
     

    lauranazario

    Moderatrix
    Español puertorriqueño & US English
    All members are free to reply to any thread they see fit. Nobody —regardless of their level of real or perceived competence—is prohibited from providing their input in an open thread.

    And while this means that someone may sometimes provide a wrong/incorrect answer, other people who participate in the thread will usually point it out —in a respectful and civilized manner. The end result is that everyone benefits and learns. :)
     

    Şafak

    Senior Member
    All members are free to reply to any thread they see fit. Nobody —regardless of their level of real or perceived competence—is prohibited from providing their input in an open thread.

    And while this means that someone may sometimes provide a wrong/incorrect answer, other people who participate in the thread will usually point it out —in a respectful and civilized manner. The end result is that everyone benefits and learns. :)

    True. That's exactly why I've not reported anyone with a wrong response. I simply thought that I should start doing this to help the community to keep only useful and meaningful contributions in every thread. The problem is that sometimes knowledgeable foreros don't point out a flawed reply. They just ignore it, which makes sense to me as well. (To be fair, normally people do point out such things but still not always). As a result, we end up having a thread with conflicting replies and it's anyone's guess who's right and who isn't.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Sometimes the answer is SO wrong that I can't think of polite way to discuss it. We also get people in English Only who have Googled a very old thread, create an account, make one post that is a bit of ridiculous folk etymology (something like "My mother invented LOL." or "I was the first person to say "hoist with his own petard.") and they never return. There's little point in starting a discussion.
    I don't know if it does any good, but I report those.
     

    Şafak

    Senior Member
    Sometimes the answer is SO wrong that I can't think of polite way to discuss it. We also get people in English Only who have Googled a very old thread, create an account, make one post that is a bit of ridiculous folk etymology (something like "My mother invented LOL." or "I was the first person to say "hoist with his own petard.") and they never return. There's little point in starting a discussion.
    I don't know if it does any good, but I report those.

    Hah, I've always wondered what those posts / who those users are. :D
     

    elroy

    Imperfect mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    We also get people in English Only who have Googled a very old thread, create an account, make one post that is a bit of ridiculous folk etymology (something like "My mother invented LOL." or "I was the first person to say "hoist with his own petard.") and they never return.
    Those are usually trolls or spammers. Please continue to report them!
     

    Peterdg

    Senior Member
    Dutch - Belgium
    Sometimes the answer is SO wrong that I can't think of polite way to discuss it.
    In the forums I usually participate in, it does not really happen that often that I see answers that are so completely off, but it does happen every now and then.

    When I see something like that, I usually wait some time to see if anyone else reacts. If not, I do so and I say, "I'm sorry, but this is not correct" and then I give the correct answer (and possibly also say why the original answer in question is wrong).

    I guess that is kind of polite. This doesn't mean I don't get nasty reactions sometimes when I do so, but if so, I usually keep quiet and I report the nasty reaction. Most of the time the moderator team will remove it with a nice note to say "please stay respectful" or something alike. Most of the times, nasty reactions come from users that are relatively new to the forums. But as I said, it doesn't really happen often.

    Anecdote: one of the most remarkable posts that I saw, and in which I got involved, was some user (probably pretty young) who was giving a very long exposé. She said she had done a very thorough research and then she was telling complete nonsense, misinterpreting everything she supposedly read. After I corrected her, se posted again, with a lot of impressive nonsense and at the end she said that if I had remarks, I should answer her in a PM, not on the forum. I again tried to explain why her answers did not make sense (on the forum, of course) and at the end I told her that her request to answer her in a PM and not in the forum, was not fair and that this is not the way how the forum works. I have never seen her again on the forums.
     
    Reporting is always a good option.
    Don't be afraid to bother us with your reports - that is hardly ever the case.
    - If you see a totally wrong answer posted by a new member (often written in a way that shows very poor command of the language), please report it, it's very likely to be a troll.
    - If you notice that an active member systematically posts misleading/wrong answers owing to lack of knowledge or poor command of the language, please report it, and we'll see into it.
    - If you think that someone is being deliberately controversial for the sake of it, thus misleading language learners rather than helping them, please report it, and we'll see into it.
     

    swift

    Senior Member
    Spanish – Costa Rica (Valle Central)
    If you notice that an active member systematically posts misleading/wrong answers owing to lack of knowledge or poor command of the language, please report it, and we'll see into it.
    That’s great advice, but I hardly ever see rule 3 being enforced in some of the forums I follow.

    I see there’s some expectation on the part of some mods that more knowledgeable foreros will chime in to correct blatant mistakes or erroneous, misleading statements; but that’s completely unproductive. The author of such statements should be held accountable, and it’s unreasonable to keep their answers just because everyone is welcome to post whatever they want.
     

    lauranazario

    Moderatrix
    Español puertorriqueño & US English
    I see there’s some expectation on the part of some mods that more knowledgeable foreros will chime in to correct blatant mistakes or erroneous, misleading statements; but that’s completely unproductive.
    The author of such statements should be held accountable, and it’s unreasonable to keep their answers just because everyone is welcome to post whatever they want.
    What is "completely unproductive" (to use your words) is not to chime in when you see a reply that you deem incorrect—and abstaining from supplying one that is correct in your opinion, explaining why in a cordial and respectful manner.

    But even 'correct' is a very relative term, as what one person might deem as correct/appropriate in their region/country would sound incorrect/inappropriate in another part of the world.
     

    swift

    Senior Member
    Spanish – Costa Rica (Valle Central)
    I don’t think the OP has to do with regional differences. :) And, as far as I can remember, when people sign up, there is no requirement to correct others. That’s an extra step that people can take if they feel like it. And just like nobody’s prohibited from participating in any thread, nobody’s required to correct other people’s answers.
     

    lauranazario

    Moderatrix
    Español puertorriqueño & US English
    [...] And, as far as I can remember, when people sign up, there is no requirement to correct others. That’s an extra step that people can take if they feel like it. And just like nobody’s prohibited from participating in any thread, nobody’s required to correct other people’s answers.
    May I remind you that you were the one who was complaining about something being "unproductive"? See below.
    I see there’s some expectation on the part of some mods that more knowledgeable foreros will chime in to correct blatant mistakes or erroneous, misleading statements; but that’s completely unproductive.
    .
    .

    Anyway, if anyone sees a reply that they believe is incorrect/erroneous, they have two choices:
    1. provide another alternative and explain why it's better or more appropriate than the former reply; contribute to everyone's learning experience! :)
    2. report it (a mere report does not force the moderators to delete an allegedly wrong answer; it will only compel mods to discuss the matter)
     

    Şafak

    Senior Member
    .
    .

    Anyway, if anyone sees a reply that they believe is incorrect/erroneous, they have two choices:
    1. provide another alternative and explain why it's better or more appropriate than the former reply; contribute to everyone's learning experience! :)
    2. report it (a mere report does not force the moderators to delete an allegedly wrong answer; it will only compel mods to discuss the matter)

    3. ignore the post.
     

    swift

    Senior Member
    Spanish – Costa Rica (Valle Central)
    3. ignore the post.
    Yup. That’s probably what most people will do, especially if they are unregistered visitors. In some circles out there, WRF have a reputation for having a bunch of unhelpful threads where Person A asks a straightforward question and Person B provides a completely unhelpful answer, making the thread unnecessarily long and confusing, and ultimately frustrating to skim through to finally find an answer. The Reactions feature may help a little, but since it’s not been institutionalized across all forums, especially in those where that behavior is more pervasive, many users, including learners, have an inconsistent experience. 🤷‍♂️

    Oh, and since the forums work as an extension of the dictionary entries, I am not sure the learning experience is what most people are looking for anyway. That’s an additional benefit, and a great one for that matter, but not the main mission of the forums.
     

    Kelly B

    Senior Member
    USA English
    I think there's nothing wrong with reporting instances you think are problematic. The moderators can decide what to do about it according to the norms of that forum. They can determine whether it's spam, or contribute as regular forum members themselves, or suggest that you do that, or let you know privately if they find you are over-reporting (but that would surprise me! I report lots of little things that are corrected, or not, very quietly. Nobody gets in trouble unless they're truly obnoxious.)
     
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    Kelly B

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Oh - and they're in the best position to send a friendly-but-firm private message to an enthusiastic-but-misinformed contributor, too. That can be key to stopping it at the source.
     

    indigospooky

    Senior Member
    English (UK)
    I just came on here looking for a thread about this. I use WR sporadically, but when I do, it's fairly intensive and I look at hundreds of threads over a couple of weeks. I have to say I'm pretty shocked by the sheer number of entirely wrong answers that are out there, usually written by non-native speakers, and the original poster seems not to question them in the slightest but simply messages thanks and blithely goes off to insert the nonsense into their translation (which I imagine is often a piece of work they're getting paid for).
    Many of these threads are dating back years (I've just looked at an absolute horror from 2007) so there seems little point reviving the old threads to comment but honestly, some of these replies are awful and with thread after thread, my inner voice is shrieking.
    I don't get it. I'm not sure what makes non native speakers so entirely sure of themselves that they feel the need to post on threads with such conviction when what they're posting is just plain wrong, but the original poster is equally to blame, as they clearly have no powers of critical thinking whatsoever, if they're happy to take one reply from a non native speaker of the language and go away and use it in their translation, job done. The OP to this thread is right - it's so detrimental to the credibility of the forum.
     

    Şafak

    Senior Member
    First of all, I disagree that a non-native speaker cannot provide good answers. The forum is full of very smart and fluent in more than two languages individuals. You can easily rely on their answers. I don't know how you even dare a tiny bit to criticize the OP for "not having powers of critical thinking whatsoever". This sounds harsh.

    Secondly, we must all admit (and this thought frequently occurs to me) that the forum has changed a lot. When I read a thread from, let's say, from 2008 and realize it was a totally different website: less strict rules, more chit-chat, many wrong answers (I tend to think the people wanted to help).

    On the one hand, yes, to some extent, wrong answers are indeed detrimental to the credibility of the forum unless they are pointed out by either native speakers or more proficient non-native speakers. Alas, back in the day it was not a thing, so we are sure to keep stumbling upon tons of good questions with ridiculous answers that didn't clarify what had been indeed asked in the first place.
     

    indigospooky

    Senior Member
    English (UK)
    I take your point that it's not necessarily non-native speakers who are giving the nonsense answers. There are certainly plenty of native speakers who do that too. I think what I'm criticising, really, is the NNS (or indeed the NS) who jumps in with such 100% conviction and not a doubt in their head about what they're saying, when it is in fact plain wrong.

    I do stand by my opinion, though, that it's incumbent upon the person who asked the question to stop for a minute, think about the answer they've been given and try to exercise some judgment on whether or not it's a good answer before they jump in and use it. Since I wrote my post, I've had to look at 7 or 8 threads and over and over again it's the OP just giving a cheerful "Thanks, that sounds great!!! I'll use that" when the answer is not even English. I cringe when I think of the translations that must have been submitted on that basis. I do feel that a bit more critical thinking (ironically, I'm translating a book on critical thinking at the moment which is what put this into my head) wouldn't be a bad thing on the part of the OP.

    Interesting point that the site has improved since those early days; that hadn't occurred to me. Perhaps then it was just a chat forum and now it's more of a serious resource like proz. I will keep an eye out to see how more recent threads look.

    Anyway, it's an interesting discussion to have and a good diversion from this translation I'm grappling with today!
     

    Kelly B

    Senior Member
    USA English
    I just came on here looking for a thread about this. I use WR sporadically, but when I do, it's fairly intensive and I look at hundreds of threads over a couple of weeks. I have to say I'm pretty shocked by the sheer number of entirely wrong answers that are out there, usually written by non-native speakers, and the original poster seems not to question them in the slightest but simply messages thanks and blithely goes off to insert the nonsense into their translation (which I imagine is often a piece of work they're getting paid for).
    Many of these threads are dating back years (I've just looked at an absolute horror from 2007) so there seems little point reviving the old threads to comment but honestly, some of these replies are awful and with thread after thread, my inner voice is shrieking.
    I don't get it. I'm not sure what makes non native speakers so entirely sure of themselves that they feel the need to post on threads with such conviction when what they're posting is just plain wrong, but the original poster is equally to blame, as they clearly have no powers of critical thinking whatsoever, if they're happy to take one reply from a non native speaker of the language and go away and use it in their translation, job done. The OP to this thread is right - it's so detrimental to the credibility of the forum.
    Jennifer Weiss is right that the atmosphere was a lot more free-wheeling at the time. And in some forums back then, there were so few members that a question might go unanswered, at least for a while. Sometimes we'd remind each other to wait until the natives on the relevant continent were awake. ;) But people who weren't sure might give it a try, thinking it was worth starting off the conversation. Then we had the frantic helper types who thought something they pulled off Babelfish (Google Translate didn't exist yet) would actually be useful...

    Anyway, there's absolutely no taboo against resurrecting old threads to add an answer - if you found the thread, there's a good chance someone else will too, someday, and benefit from your response. That said, if you'd simply rather not, that's perfectly fine. In that case, I suggest reporting the bad answer (well, in either case, really). The mods can handle it, or not, as they prefer. Nobody's going to be offended at this point if they delete a terrible answer offered in 2007.
     

    indigospooky

    Senior Member
    English (UK)
    Thank you, Kelly. That's really helpful and an interesting take. I'm laughing at the "frantic helper types" ;) One day if I have a spare few hours I might do a minesweep of a few dozen ancient threads and chime in with "THIS is how you want to translate that..."
     

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    I can't really comment much about poor translations, because I moderate primarily in English Only where we don't deal with them. However, on the problem of incorrect answers generally, it is true to say that there have been instances of members answering above their level of competence in the language, and they're not confined to non-native speakers - although I think it's true to say that those are probably more noticeable. We are fortunate in having non-native speakers who have near-native proficiency, who pretty consistently give good reliable answers, but I'm not sure it's realistic to expect an OP to be able to tell the difference in quite the way that "no powers of critical thinking" might suggest. One of the driving forces behind the introduction of "agree" reactions was to try and provide a way of seeing at a glance which answers meet with general endorsement.

    There is indeed a huge legacy of old threads dating back to when the forums were in their infancy and the rules were somewhat different to those which apply now. My advice is to simply report anything which looks as if it's pretty useless, rather than try and resurrect it, and in all probability we would just completely remove a 14 year-old thread rather than try and salvage anything useful from it.
     
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