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Have the quality standards for answers been increasing over time?

I'm not so much referring to the average quality of what gets posted as an answer (there's no stopping for new inexperienced novice members, from posting low-quality answers), and I'm not purely referring to answers that avoid being deleted or getting the "references needed" yellow text of shame, but I'm more referring to the quality standard required to accumulate a lot of upvotes, and avoid highly upvoted comments critical of the answer.

Have quality standards been increasing over time? If so, what should be done about answers with lots of upvotes that don't meet today's standards?

My current question is prompted by Is it possible to reliably examine if a girl is a virgin? , but it's something that I've suspected beforehand.

  • possible duplicate of How do we handle new data – ChrisW May 2 '15 at 15:35
  • Have you considered that the "obvious" questions whose answers get a lot of upvotes are rarer now? Then again, you ask a lot of questions, whereas I tend to answer more than ask, so, different perspectives there. – Sklivvz May 3 '15 at 0:01
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I'm not going to present data - just a personal anecdote. If someone else has done a systematic analysis, it would be a much better answer.

Are standards rising?

Here is a brief history of Skeptics.SE.

In the early days of the site, we were still exploring what our internal standards for answers should be. For example, This discussion about references shows discussions from February-August 2011.

I see a moderately sharp line around August 2011 when the modern standards started gripping. If I had to mark the watershed, I would say this guideline post from July 30, 2011 which summarised the conclusion of several debates, and which I still try to follow (and I should probably read more regularly as a reminder!)

Questions and answers grandfathered in before that date tend to be lower quality. Questions and answers after that date (that survive the regulars beating them into shape) tend to be higher quality.

That, IMHO, was the major transformation period. It is nice to think that the standards have continued to rise, monotonically, since then, but I am not sure I perceive it.

What is being done? What should be done?

I don't think there have any systematic attempts to go through the pre-August 2011 answers, and subject them to modern scrutiny.

Every now and again, I will go on a systematic jag of delete old abandoned answers which still have the citation-needed banner. (While the guidelines suggest only a week is given before an answer might be deleted, generally, by the time I get within a year of the current date, working oldest to newest, I am ready to stop.)

Sometimes an old answer will come to my attention - someone has flagged it, or someone has posted a newer answer which brings the old answer in front of our eyes, and it might get judged by the modern rules. (This arguably introduces a bias - that only offensive old answers get deleted or marked as requiring a reference, whereas inoffensive answers get by without. This is an argument for systematic clean up, rather than ad hoc.)

There's also the option of locking "historic" questions. I don't have the figures, but I think that's only happened a handful of times.

My suggestion: Let's implement this first. Then, we can have a systematic campaign to clean up old posts!

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