Many of you have found our Community Guidelines blog series helpful. By delving deeper into some of the guidelines, we cleared up common misconceptions and misunderstandings. We focused on what you shouldn’t do, but now we want to spotlight what you should do.
The questions and answers featured on the “Best of Answers” at the top of the Answers homepage are favorites of the Answers staff and are examples of why we think the site is so great. But what makes an answer a standout?
My quest to identify the characteristics of a great answer started after watching a re-airing of the “Planet Earth” series. I was inspired to learn more and started to surf Answers in the Science & Mathematics category. I saw a question posted by Doogie asking about the history of coral reefs and current conservation practices. Val provided the following answer:
Coral reef evolution was first described by Charles Darwin. At first, a volcanic mountain erupts at a hot spot somewhere in the interior of a plate or at a plate margin. When it reaches the surface, coral animals colonize the area around it, forming a fringing reef. Later, the volcanic island begins to subside, that is, sink due to its weight. A lagoon forms between the island and the ever-growing coral. That is called a barrier reef. Finally, the volcanic island sinks completely, leaving only a central lagoon with the ring of coral around it, an atoll. The atolls found northwest of Hawaii were once part of the Hawaiian Islands, and have become atolls through a combination of subsidence and the northwestward movement of the Pacific plate…(read more).
What makes this answer great? Val provided an historical point that gave Doogie a place to start further research. She followed up with an informative account of how and where coral reefs are created. She also gave the location of a reef in case Doogie wanted to find pictures to help visualize the process. The answer was well-written, descriptive, and helpful, and it gave me a clear understanding of how coral reefs are made.
Continuing on with my perusal of the Zoology section, I saw Wiggy’s answer to a question about issues arising from the limited diets of pandas and koalas:
The Giant Panda is a very selective eater. Not only does it rely heavily on bamboo for food (not entirely, they will eat carrion and other food when available) it also seeks out the shoots rather than the tougher older parts of the plant. However, it’s not the rarity of bamboo that threatens the panda; it’s the difficulty they experience when the bamboo in their area dies back. Bamboo flowers and dies back on a cycle and each species of bamboo follows its own cycle. A panda is in trouble when this happens but some would survive by finding other bamboo species in neighbouring valleys. The problem is that pandas now have a very restricted range and may only have a small number of bamboo species available so if these die back starvation is a real risk.
Wiggy linked to a great news article that noted the history of this strict diet’s effect on pandas and what current environmental changes were doing to their dietary selections. Linking to a news article or other reliable source not only offers support for your answer but also gives readers a chance to follow up on the topic.
Finally, I saw Robert’s question regarding crocodiles in city sewers. This was a frequently argued topic among my friends, but next time the debate comes around I will have Ophilliaz’s answer to back me up:
Crocodiles and alligators thrive in tropical and sub-tropical climes, they need warmth. They are large animals and need enough food to both expend the energy to get more food and to just survive. The sewers of most major cities aren’t quite warm enough and only offer small rodents for the most part. The urban myth stems from people flushing unwanted pets down the toilet. Because most septic systems aren’t equipped to deal with large masses such animals would die and, if large enough, clog the system even if they are only very small babies…(read more).
While anyone could have posted a simple answer saying that crocodiles don’t live in this type of environment, Ophilliaz went above and beyond by first expressing her belief that this was an urban legend, and then pointing out several flawed arguments and providing backup information. By offering reasoning to her argument, she swayed the asker and several readers.
Each of these answers shows what makes Answers so great—connecting people around the world to share knowledge. So the next time you are about to tackle another question, think about what made these answers stand out above the crowd. Be clear, check your grammar and spelling, offer reasoning to support your points, and when possible, add a source to help askers do more research on their own.
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