I've struggled to learn the game, Puerto Rico, and several hours of "cramming" the various posts over the internet may have hurt, rather than helped.

As a learning tool, I tried to answer my own question from two years ago. What Makes Buildings Valuable In Puerto Rico?

The key point of my answer (which I got only after several tries), was:

"But large buildings interact with other buildings or other factors, to offer additional VPs. For instance, a guild hall offers four VPs and a large indigo plant two VPs. But if you own them together, you earn an extra VP for owning the guild hall plus the indigo plant (a production building). That's a total of seven instead of six VPs."

That, to me, addressed the key point of the question (about "interaction" effects), that the other, mostly excellent answer, had left out.

It's true that the earlier versions were less clear. But the criticism from one particular user began as follows:

"are you trying to pollute BG.SE with poor quality questions and answers... Providing lots of low quality questions/answers is a very slow way to build up reputation."

In the "..." was a more conventional critique about how this post was downvoted because it was redundant, factually incorrect, etc.

As I understand it, the purpose of commenting and downvoting is to point out errors, and encourage the OP to improve. That's something I welcome because I have an honest interest in learning the game. I did my best to improve that, and other posts critiqued by this user.

But was the first part of the critique using "pollute" appropriate for the site? It seems overly harsh to me.

  • 1
    Would you prefer I address the problem with this particular answer, or the "trying to pollute BG.SE with poor quality questions and answers"?
    – user1873
    Commented Sep 25, 2013 at 2:20
  • 3
    19 of your last 30 answers have zero or negative scores. That is why I said "pollute BG.SE"
    – user1873
    Commented Sep 25, 2013 at 3:44
  • 6
    @user1873: Why are you so heavy handed? Why not say soemthing like "Your answers appear to be be counterproducitve. 19 of your last 30 answers have zero or negative scores." Instead of using words like "pollute.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Sep 25, 2013 at 16:32
  • @user1873 - Could you explain what you mean by 'an 8% degradation in quality'? I've looked at the area 51 stats you linked, but I'm not connecting the dots. Commented Sep 25, 2013 at 20:36
  • @ire_and_curses, I need to revise that calculation, it was a poor off the cuff estimate. If you look only at the surge of questions/answers since Sept 14 (which is what first alarmed me), you will find that 80% of Tom's 10 answers are "bad". This only amounts to 8/49 of all questions since Sept 14 (an 11 day period) and a degradation of about 17% "bad" answers of all answers during that time period. If you instead extrapolate the 2.6 questions at 2.3 answers all the way to April, Tom's "bad" answers only amount to about 2%.
    – user1873
    Commented Sep 26, 2013 at 1:11
  • 1
    @TomAu, pollute was the right word in this instance. ("the presence in or introduction into the environment of a substance or thing that has harmful or poisonous effects:" this isn't English.SE, but I would argue that poor quality answers are harmful to the Q&A format.) I probably overreacted though, the stack exchange model is designed specifically to account for poor quality answers. They usually appear far down the page and are therefore less harmful than I was making out.
    – user1873
    Commented Sep 26, 2013 at 1:33
  • 4
    @user1873 You've convinced me very well that you were being honest. I don't think your intent was to be mean/personal attack-y/etc., but at first glance, others definitely did. Based on that, I do think you should give more thought to the "Be nice" guideline you quote in your answer. Commented Sep 26, 2013 at 17:44
  • 2
    @user1873 Tone is very hard to judge on the internet. If that comment had been left on one of my answers, I do think I would have been offended. Comments like "You seem to have a lot of recent posts with low/negative score", and "Are you trying to pollute BG.SE with poor quality questions and answers" may not differ much in meaning or even intent, but in tone they are very different and they would probably be received very differently. Commented Sep 27, 2013 at 5:53
  • @user1873: Past comments by Tom suggests that he is trying to build the site, and in particular is attempting to build the visibility of certain tags such as bridge. This is an admirable goal. However, maybe Tom is trying a bit too hard to be active and contributory. We butt heads occasionally, but I appreciate his presence on this site as well as others. Commented Oct 4, 2013 at 3:52
  • 1
    @PieterGeerkens, I don't have any issue with Tom trying to improve visibility of the bridge tag. I only commented on his puerto-rico and Catan answers that recently I felt were lacking (and a 80%-50% bad answer rating is troubling). I have already commented that I over reacted. I do not have any issue with his presence on this site or others.
    – user1873
    Commented Oct 4, 2013 at 5:25

2 Answers 2


I agree that personal attacks like that are uncalled for, whether to a new user or a long established one. People should criticize the post, not the poster. If a user shows patterns of making the same mistake over and over, its fine to point that out, but I don't think there is any reason to accuse someone of intentionally providing low quality posts, regardless of what the vote totals might be.

  • 12
    @user1873 The comments about building reputation are irrelevant, unless you assume that he is adding posts solely to earn reputation. That, combined with implying that someone's contributions is intentional "pollution" constitutes a personal attack to me, since you're suggesting a lack of good faith effort which I don't think is backed up by the evidence. It looks to me like Tom is trying to contribute to the site to the best of his ability. You're welcome to comment on the quality of those contributions, but not to imply that they're intentionally poor.
    – bwarner
    Commented Sep 25, 2013 at 15:45

Appropriate behavior is covered on the help page. The proper behavior is to downvote, add comments indicating what specifically is wrong, and edit and improve the existing answer. I did everything but the last, because I didn't think the answer was salvageable.

Be honest.

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.

While you’re doing all of those things, we also require that you...

Be nice.

Civility is required at all times; rudeness will not be tolerated. Treat others with the same respect you’d want them to treat you because we’re all here to learn, together. Be tolerant of others who may not know everything you know, and bring your sense of humor.

Please note that expletives are not allowed. If you use expletives on this site, you may be issued a warning or a suspension.

As for the other criticism related to "polluting BG&CG.SE with poor quality questions and answers," it is backed up by the fact that your last 19 of 30 answers have zero positive votes or negative scores. The comment was brought on by my honest assessment of your most recent contributions. Over the last 10 days, you provided 10 answers and 8 (80%) of those answers have a zero or negative score. This rate of "bad" answers was worrisome to me. After looking into it further, I came up with the following information. Since May 2011, you have 185 Answers, 63 Answers with zero/negative score, with net vote total of 277. This gives you a "bad" answer average of 34%, and an average score per answer of approximately 1.5 votes/answer.

'11|   |   |   |   | 9 |50 | 6 |14 | 6 | 3 | 2 |10 | Total
Bad| - | - | - | - | 0 |18 | 0 | 4 | 1 | 1 | 2 | 1 |
'12| 6 | 3 | 1 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 9 | 7 | 4 | 1 | 7 | 0 | Total
Bad| 1 | 1 | 1 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 2 | 3 | 3 | 0 | 3 | 0 |
'13| 3 | 7 | 7 | 4 | 9 | 2 | 2 | 1 |12 | - | - | - |
Bad| 1 | 2 | 2 | 2 | 4 | 2 | 1 | 0 | 8 | - | - | - |

enter image description here

All that being said, I now think that this isn't a real problem that I need to discourage. The stack exchange sites are designed specifically to solve the problem of poor quality answers reducing the signal to noise ratio for people looking for answers to their questions. Poor quality answers will always (with proper voting) appear at the bottom of the list of all answers where they will do little harm. So, I retract my initial "polluting the site" with poor quality answers, please continue to provide whatever answers you think are best.

  • 1
    I have not looked at the answers referenced, but in general I do not think 0 score answers should be considered 'bad'. How different would your calculations be if you left out 0 score answers.
    – Colin D
    Commented Oct 3, 2013 at 17:49
  • @ColinD, that would drop the recent string of bad answers from 80% to 45%, which i would still find troubling. The overall rate would drop from 35% to 5%.
    – user1873
    Commented Oct 3, 2013 at 23:41

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