Is there a minimum length required for an answer to meet the minimum requirements for answers on this site? Two of my short answers were recently suggested to be lengthened since their length fit within the 600 character limit of a comment (see here and here). This seems like an arbitrary threshold, since we are specifically discouraged from answering questions in the comments. If there is a minimum length requirement, what is it, and if not, why is this being policed? Interactions like these discourage interaction with this site.


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I apologize that this is very likely not the answer that you were hoping to get. Please understand though, that if there's parts of this answer with which you disagree, I'm willing to discuss them with you in as much detail as you desire in the Meta chat room.

Preamble about the tone

Your comment here, combined with the next one and this Meta question, has the following undertone:

"Despite being new to this site (and network!), or having more than one account but needing to make a new one recently, I know better than you, how this site should work."

To have a constructive conversation about this, I would really appreciate a bit more modesty and perhaps some respect for the people that devoted thousands of hours towards building the site. It is rare, but once in a while we get a new user who simply thinks that they know better than everyone else, and engages in rollback wars or ranting on Meta, and if perhaps you can try to put yourself in my shoes, I believe that you will be able to see that such "challenging" of the status quo would ideally be done more respectfully.

Answer to the question

You have asked a legitimate question though, so it deserves an answer!

"Is there a minimum length required for an answer to meet the minimum requirements for answers on this site?"

On all SE sites, when an answer is flagged for being VLQ (very low quality), the peer reviewers are given a message that says "This answer has been flagged due to its length and/or content".

Therefore, answers that are too short are quite often considered VLQ.

In terms of a precise number of characters for a minimum length. For a long time I have been meaning to have a minimum length of 600 characters (the allowed amount for a comment) implemented so that users cannot click the "send" button until their answer is at least as long as a comment can be, but I haven't gotten around to that yet because I first wanted to ask the CMs for other things such as getting a shortened mirror URL (matter.stackexchange.com) and implementing other things that have been proposed in the past, but rejected by CMs who were recently fired or laid off by the Stack Exchange upper management.

This 600 character limit has been implemented "in practice" in that answers that fit in a comment are either deleted, or converted to a comment, or converted to a Community Wiki, or extended in length by the original author after a suggestion was made in a comment. I can provide a very good example of the last of these outcomes when I'm next on a desktop (I'm currently typing on a tablet). There's also a very good example of the first of these outcomes (deletion of the answer) in the thread to which you provided a link in your question here (that answer that was deleted, was also written by one of the highest-rep users on this site, so the "policing" isn't only done to new users). This paragraph also hopefully answers the second question in your question's title: "how is it enforced?

Are we being unreasonable?

Based on everything that you wrote (especially in the comments on your answers), I have the impression that you think it's unreasonable to expect those answers to be any longer. Of the 4000+ answers on MMSE though, it will be extremely rare to find answers that are as short as the three that you wrote yesterday.

We have about 4000 questions on this site, and it would be too coincidental if three of the only ones that "necessitate" the answers to be shorter than 600 characters, happen to all be the three ones that you were able to answer within one day (and the only three ones that you answered in that day).

Short answers are VLQ, but why?

I mentioned earlier that VLQ answers can be VLQ due to their length being too short, but why? I think this is a fair question, and if it is asked on Meta, I'll write an answer to it.

Policing short answers is discouraging

"Interactions like these discourage interaction with this site."

I agree. This discouragement might be a good thing though. This relates to the question "Why are short answers considered VLQ?", which might be a fair Meta question to ask if someone disagrees or can't see why they are considered VLQ.

Also, a related question that I long ago asked at QCSE.Meta, that I have been meaning to also ask here at MMSE.Meta, is "What are the goals of this site?". As the principal founder of this community, I have ideas in mind for the answer to this, but I'd also like to hear what others think the goals would ideally be. If one of the goals is to get as many people participating as possible regardless of the quality of the answers, then answers ought to be far more welcomed regardless of their length. Some users who have posted VLQ content have been driven away by the community already though, and this has almost always not been by me (I have never downvoted a single post, and when people disagree with me I tend to write long explanations like this one, to provide the reason for my views)!

What I may have done wrong

My method of communicating to people that their answers are considered too short, probably needs to change. Copying and pasting people's answers in a comment to show that the answer was so short that it fits in a comment, isn't necessary and might just piss off the authors of the answer, leading to fortified opinions against setting a minimum number of characters for answers. However, it also sends a strong signal that the answer's length is sub-standard, which is why I have been doing it. Ideally there would be a quicker/easier way to provide in comments on main-site answers, links to Meta posts; and perhaps doing that would be better than what I have been doing when I see overly short answers.

  • $\begingroup$ While writing this answer just now, I originally felt that I had sufficiently answered the question with just one line, but I managed to reach 700+ characters, and by doing so, I made the answer more informative and helpful to the user, without making it too verbose (700 is very manageable for almost every type of reader). $\endgroup$ Feb 23 at 14:53

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