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In this answer, Pandya, one of the moderators, says

Though we have a policy of deleting unsourced answers after 15 days if sources are not added, we hardly delete the answers. Many unsourced answers are living on the site with post notice.

According to me, this site is great compared to other similar ones only because we have this "back it up from scriptures" rule for the answers. Otherwise, anyone can write whatever they want in answers.

Now, if users realize that their answers, despite not having sources as is necessary, are never going to get deleted then that is an incentive for them to post more such answers. Why would the users be willing do the extra hard work of finding the necessary sources if they know that they can get away by posting unsourced answers every time? Also, what difference does it make whether a banner is being added to the answer or not as long as the answers are visible to every reader browsing this site? If an answer is regarded as unfit, judging by the standard of this site, then it has to be removed. The post notice/banner's purpose must not be anything other than informing the concerned users that after the deadline is over the answers are going to be deleted.

If unsourced answers are not getting deleted then the very purpose of having the "back it up from scriptures (or other allowed sources)" rule is getting defeated.

So, I want to know the reason why these answers are not getting deleted even though the policy says otherwise?

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  • One possible reason (apart from obviously lack of mods) I see is users backfiring. Looks like there are different personal individual interpretations of back it up policy. Meta is mostly active because of this misinterpretations than main site. I am not judging whose interpretation is correct but stating the fact as I believe. – Mr_Green Jan 27 at 17:45
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    Whatever disputes you're talking about (I don't know if there are any) have to be settled before adding the banner. After the banner has been added it is final that the answer is unsourced and it has to be deleted provided its not updated. We can't have both the back it up policy and a number of undeleted unsouced answers simultaneously @Mr_Green – Rickross Jan 27 at 18:17
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There were couple of reasons behind not deleting unsourced answers:

  • We were liberal, feeling that deleting of answers to be an extreme step.
  • No perspicuous tool available to track answers to which particular post notice was added ≥ 15 days ago.
  • However we always delete those answers which are flagged again after 15 days.

Following is the workaround which we will start following soon to implement a working policy.

Time Criteria

Considering that users may need more time to find and add sources, we are extending the time duration from 15 days to 30 days. So, unsourced answers are eligible for deletion after a month counting from the day on which post-notice is added.

Exclusion Criterion

  • If a post is partially sourced and partially unsourced, then it may either be kept with post-notice or be fixed by removing the unsourced part if the unsourced claim is crucial.
  • If all answers to a questions are unsourced, then we'll wait until one of them gets improved or until the question gets at least one answer citing sources. Once a question gets an answer citing source, all other unsourced answers will become eligible for deletion with an immediate effect.

Note: It may be possible that answers to some questions may not necessarily need a citation. (In that case we don't require to add the post-notice). This point requires a separate and logical meta discussion when needed.

Deletion Approach

As said before, we do not have a straightforward tool available to track unsourced answers to which post notices were added before n number of days and to set a reminder for deletion when those answers become eligible for deletion. Few years ago we had created one chatbot called Citation-Detector with the help of Bhargav Rao, which had been used to track unsourced answers based on the comment matching pattern but is now obsolete.

However there is one SEDE query created by Glorfindel, which will be useful in tracking unsourced answer posts. Here is how you can filter and sort such posts based on "Notice Added" time:

enter image description here

Here post notice type 1 stands for "Needs citation" and type 2 for "Needs detailed answer".

Moderators will be tracking eligible answers using this tool, however users are requested to flag deletion-worthy/eligible answers whenever you find, for moderator attention.


Note:

  • This solution is currently under discussion. This answer will be marked as live or once finalized. You may share your feedback in comment or discuss at our main chat-room.

  • Old (pre-policy) unsourced answers are not subjected to deletion but they are subjected to addition of post-notice.

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  • So basically besides moderator vigilance, we too do flag it, correct? From 15 changed to 30 days for new users. What about old users? Are we making any distinction or keeping it uniform for simplicity’s sake? Also What would be your opinion for the old answers (2014 and before) similar in case they get a well sourced answer? Can we then delete those? – Archit Feb 21 at 11:04
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    "feeling that deleting of answers to be an extreme step" -- but if we preserve unsourced answers forever that is making a mockery of the rule of citing sources. People will then have no motivation to cite sources if they find that their unsourced answers are safe here. But otherwise your efforts are appreciable. – Rickross Feb 21 at 13:09
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    @Archit ideally there is no way to identify old user as such. A user may be a user from 6-7 years and hardly participated anywhere. That's why policy should be kept uniform w.r.t. users. – TheLittleNaruto Mod Feb 21 at 17:37
  • @TheLittleNaruto, exactly the objective behind asking :D – Archit Feb 21 at 17:47
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Its a grave situation indeed. They’re not getting deleted because I don’t think the moderators have a tools section or review queue to figure out how long back a banner was put on an answer.

Accordingly, everyone of us should keep a track of whatever we flag for citation and on the elapse of 15 days again flag it for deletion using the custom moderator flag: 15 days after citation please delete. This is the only plausible way as of now.

Note as per the policy mentioned it’s 15 days for newbies and a week for old users


Suggestions:
The only problem in the above is it may eat up unnecessary time to keep track. Also moderators may have to verify whether the flag was correctly raised I.e. citation banner has been up for more than 15 days.

  1. May I suggest we request the team for a way in which moderators as well as privileged users get informed about it, 15 days after the banner is added - something like the tools/ review queues thing?

  2. May I also suggest giving privileged users above say 1000 or 2000 (or as high as the team may decide) reputation to add a citation banner by voting (just like close votes or deletion votes) and be informed too about the elapse of 15 days in review queues or tools, so that they can vote to delete?

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