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It seems to me that the question voting is trending lower for a lot of questions (I have noticed this particularly in C/C++ tagged questions.) It seems as if a lot of decent to good questions are getting downvoted and I am trying to understand why.

I think this is a good example of such a question (as I prepare to submit this it is rated at -1).

This question is

  1. Well formatted.
  2. Demonstrates a behavior in C that is not obvious.
  3. Was obviously thought well enough to generate substantial comments and answers.
  4. Has a clear, concise, and correct answer.

In short, I feel like this question is really at the core of what Stack Overflow and Stack Exchange is all about.

I guess my question is, if you are downvoting questions like this, why? And if you don't upvote them, why not?

EDIT -- I accepted Als' answers, but I appreciate everyone taking the time to comment on this post. There were some excellent points made. I don't think we have solved anything, but maybe there wasn't anything to solve. I hope that the Stack Overflow community tries to be diligent about duplicating questions rather than simply downvoting them, but I understand that is significantly more work.


migration rejected from Jul 3 at 22:29

This question came from our site for professional and enthusiast programmers. Votes, comments, and answers are locked due to the question being closed here, but it may be eligible for editing and reopening on the site where it originated.

closed as off-topic by Shadow Wizard, rene, Ward, Nathan Tuggy, Al E. Jul 3 at 22:29

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "This question pertains only to a specific site in the Stack Exchange Network. Questions on Meta Stack Exchange should pertain to our network or software that drives it as a whole, within the guidelines defined in the help center. You should ask this question on the meta site where your concern originated." – Shadow Wizard, rene, Ward, Nathan Tuggy, Al E.
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

It's probably because it's caused by the same ++x, ++x problem that we see many times a day on the SO website. – Mooing Duck Mar 14 '12 at 16:48
Is that really worth a downvote on the question? If it is a duplicate then shouldn't it be marked as downvoting for duplicate? – Pablitorun Mar 14 '12 at 16:49
Your example is something that by now has gathered 1 whole downvote? I'm not arguing that your question is irrelevant, but do you have any more significant examples? – Bart Mar 14 '12 at 16:51
Since it basically is a dupe, that shows little effort made by the OP to find the answer themselves. – M.Babcock Mar 14 '12 at 16:51
I mentioned an other thing, that people tend to up-vote the easy to answer questions, question which could be answered by simply reading the documentation, and down-vote the difficult question where the really skills are required. – AlexTheo Mar 14 '12 at 16:52
@AlexTheo - That is certainly different than what I've seen, and definitely different from my voting practices. – M.Babcock Mar 14 '12 at 16:54
@Bart you are right it might not be the best example. I didn't really want to get into the merits of each example though, I was trying to be more general. Let me see if I can find a better example. – Pablitorun Mar 14 '12 at 16:54
@MooingDuck Moreover, we get to correct people who say inaccurate things about these problems a lot too. There is a lot of c and c++ programing being done by almost correct rules of thumb, vague oral tradition and cargo-cult constructs. (And I admit that I did that for years before people started to get me straightened out---I still learn things from Stack Overflow on the matter.) – dmckee Mar 14 '12 at 16:54
@M.Babcock In this particular case, I think this would be a relatively hard answer to search for. I mean if you are rather experienced then you would know to question having preincrement and postincrement on the same line, but are we trying to fully exclude those without experience from the site. – Pablitorun Mar 14 '12 at 16:56
as questions can be edited, and improved, it's sometimes hard to determine if the downvotes refer to an earliest version or the one you see... – SirDarius Mar 14 '12 at 16:58
"Why is voting so harsh on stackoverflow for c/c++?" C/C++ are harsh languages and the experts have simply become what they do. – Adam Davis Mar 14 '12 at 17:13
8 total votes in 253 views; I'd say the question should be why doesn't anybody vote on stackoverflow for c/c++?... – user7116 Mar 14 '12 at 17:30
@M.Babcock… take a look here, this is a classic example where just an reading of documentation will solve his problem, take a look how many upvotes on this question, how many up-votes in answers, that I talking about. – AlexTheo Mar 14 '12 at 20:46
@AlexTheo - Based on my impression of what I've seen, SO is so big that there's actually different cultures that have formed in the groups that support each of the language tags (not much different than how the disparate SE child sites each have their own cultures). This may just be the way the C++ user group works. My previous comment was based on my experience on SO, which is primarily in the .NET tags where a question like that likely would have been closed. – M.Babcock Mar 14 '12 at 21:02
The C/C++ culture tends to lead to very warped minds and twisted social responses. – prusswan Mar 16 '12 at 12:16
up vote 25 down vote accepted

The ultimate fact is that people downvote for any reason. Maybe because they don't like the question, maybe they hate it or their dog was barking. So there is no definite reasoning really, and as long as anonymous downvoting is allowed, no one can say for sure.

On the other hand, C and C++ are two of the most popular tags on Stack Overflow and the regulars there (I think I can say I am one since I earned gold badges on both tags) are fed up with repeated questions on same areas which can be easily be found as duplicates and are even prompted while one types the question. It's probably this frustration that shows up sometimes.

These questions are usually boring and without merit, they're all answered in a similar fashion: stop doing s%#^ which will break your code...if it looks bad it probably is. The rare few with true merit are upvoted and receive excellent answers. – user7116 Mar 14 '12 at 17:10
I really like your comment, but I have a question for you. Why do you go back if it is all spam and things you have heard before? Do you ever find kernels of things to learn? – Pablitorun Mar 14 '12 at 17:42
@Pablitorun: if there is nothing of value, -1 and/or vote to close. If there is something of value, do nothing or +1. You also assume that if random questions exist which I find to be boring and without merit, that I would stop visiting SO. Not sure how those relate. – user7116 Mar 14 '12 at 17:51
@Pablitorun: Once in a while some really good questions do show up which interests most of the C++ population in SO.Also,learning is a process which most C++ will keep on doing their entire lifetime/careers,answering on SO is a part but not the only means of it,Some of us answer to help people because someone helped us while when we started out too,it is a way of returning to the community(in our limited means) what the community gave to us.So being on SO and downvoting or repeated Q's are not really related IMO. – Alok Save Mar 15 '12 at 2:56
I'd say that 50% of my down votes in the C tag are 'eternal September' related. Good answer. – Tim Post Mar 16 '12 at 9:26
You forgot to mention that some downvotes happen because the voices in our head told us to. – Rosinante Mar 20 '12 at 18:18

Because they arent pluses, they're caltrops.

enter image description here

Also, C++ is a notoriously demanding language, and therefore developers who master it are notoriously demanding. And if you want to come to the C++ party then Stroustrup damnit you'd better be ready!

And any notion that C++ developers are a bunch of petulant debutantes is completely BS and won't be allowed here.

+1, will there be a petulant C/C++ debutante ball? – user7116 Mar 14 '12 at 19:36
+1 I hope I wasn't coming across as calling C++ developers petulant debutantes...that wasn't my intent. I was implying more that if you are a regular participant on SO, I think it might be expcted to not down vote reasonable but duplicate questions, but either leave them alone or duplicate them . – Pablitorun Mar 14 '12 at 19:42
@Pablitorun: Oh, dear, no. You didn't come across like that at all. I didn't mean to imply that. I was just saying that some people may say that they do come across like that. However, we smack them down immediately. Its rude to refer to other community members in that manner. – Won't Mar 14 '12 at 20:35
I think "cantankerous" is probably the adjective you're looking for :D – Benjol Mar 15 '12 at 6:06
@Benjol: I would go for 'convolutedly bloated'. – einpoklum Oct 8 '14 at 19:43

We obviously have different criteria for what is a good question. :-)

Just asking "Why doesn't this work" for

printf("%d\n", strcmp(*(--args),*(++args)));

could easily get a downvote from me. This is not good, this is silly.

Considering that this question Could anyone explain these undefined behaviors (i = i++ + ++i , i = i++, etc...) is the second entry under C FAQ, we can suspect a lack of effort.

so my question to you is this. Is Stack Overflow a place for people of all skill levels to seek advice or a place for seasoned experts to seek out minutiae? I mean do you find questions on stack overflow that really grow your knowledge? – Pablitorun Mar 14 '12 at 17:35
I think Stack Overflow is a place for all kinds of people, but perhaps not for asking the same question every single day. It is a place where you can ask really difficult questions and get very insightful answers. I find a lot of the stuff under the C++11 tag very interesting, with questions and answers about things I haven't thought about. – Bo Persson Mar 14 '12 at 17:40
+1000 for "not for asking the same question every single day." – Matt Ball Mar 14 '12 at 17:49
@MДΓΓБДLL is that really the fault of the asker? I guess philosophically why does someone who asked the question 1 year ago get more positive feedback then someone who asked it today? Essentially the same resources to solve the problem were available. I am certainly on board with vote to close/duplicating, but I think just downvoting duplicate questions scares newer members away. – Pablitorun Mar 14 '12 at 17:56
@Pablitorun YES. The onus is on the OP to perform due diligence before posting. The site attempts to guide/assist that process by providing a list of questions which look similar, as the OP is composing the question, but it's never going to be 100% accurate. That's why we have the "Close as Dup" process. Still, it's extremely frustrating to face the never-ending flow of duplicate questions, and downvoting is one of the expressions of that frustration. – Matt Ball Mar 14 '12 at 18:24
@MДΓΓБДLL I recognize your frustration and feel that it is valid. (I am more of an occasional visitor so I don't feel it, although I recently asked my own stinker of a question....this isn't about me though, that honestly wasn't that great of a question.) I just don't think downvoting is a constructive expression of that frustration. – Pablitorun Mar 14 '12 at 18:27
To be fair, I tried looking for that question under the C++ FAQ and couldn't find it. I had to re-read this post to see that it's under the C FAQ. In all, it took like 10 min. And I knew what I was looking for. I can easily see why a newbie who knows little C/C++ can miss that question - especially if they're unfamiliar with the site itself. – Mysticial Mar 14 '12 at 18:35
@Mystical - I knew it was under the C faq, because I have been looking for it almost every day. Guess why! – Bo Persson Mar 14 '12 at 19:12
I have it bookmarked. :) So I don't even need to search for it. Every time I see such a question, I vote as dupe and move on... Same with the all the floating-point questions... – Mysticial Mar 14 '12 at 19:16

I didn't downvote it, because I rarely do this, but I also didn't vote close it, what I often do. I probably didn't even look into it :)

In addition to Bo's answer, the poster is not even asking a question, there.

To summarize:

  • some bogus code of really bad style
  • no precise question, but basically a request for code review

perfect reason for me to vote for closing a "question".

To clarify this is not my question, I am not THAT dumb. j/k actually I am. – Pablitorun Mar 14 '12 at 17:33
@Pablitorun, I edited now. And my intent was not to suggest that the OP would be dump, just a bit impertinent. – Jens Gustedt Mar 14 '12 at 19:37

if you are downvoting questions like this, why?

It is really annoying IMO when people downvote without explaining why.
I don't see any comment on the link you provided on why it was downvoted (actually someone also upvoted since it is not -1).
For your specific question you give as an example, it indeed has an example code and is well formatted etc but has 1 thing that "annoys" me.

printf("%d\n", strcmp(*(--args),*(++args)));//this gives me a seg fault

This line which is the problem is annoying.
The reason is that the code shows a person that has knowledge on C and pointer usage but has stubbled upon a specific problem of undefined behavior (side-effects of operations on function arguments during function calls) that it could be solved by just googling.
The code was simple enough, you knew the exact problem and you could figure out broadly how to start searching.

Of course only the downvoter can say the reason.

Since you claim "it could be solved by just googling", can you give an example of a Google query that produces an answer? Pretend you don't know the answer, because there's no point in googling when you know it already... – R. Martinho Fernandes Mar 14 '12 at 16:59
@R.MartinhoFernandes:@Bo saved me the time for this…. Also… – user155461 Mar 14 '12 at 17:00
That's not a Google query. How would I find that question without knowing about it beforehand? It is my belief that this is next to impossible to Google, but I'd be very happy to be proven wrong. – R. Martinho Fernandes Mar 14 '12 at 17:01
I sometimes wish we could vote down only if we leave a comment explaining the vote. – Franck Dernoncourt Mar 14 '12 at 17:02
@R.MartinhoFernandes:I put in google: "c modify parameter during function calls" and got the following link in the first page of the results…. And this is in 5 seconds without even starting to look for proper terms – user155461 Mar 14 '12 at 17:02
How would the OP know the problem is about "modify[ing] parameters during function calls"? – R. Martinho Fernandes Mar 14 '12 at 17:03
People explain their downvotes until someone gets indignant, starts an argument with them, and/or goes on a revenge downvoting spree, at which point they conclude that it's not worth the trouble. – Robert Harvey Mar 14 '12 at 17:05
@user155461 if the user knows to google for that he already has the answer to the question. Pretend you are relatively new at c coding. This is a problem that is hard to search for. – Pablitorun Mar 14 '12 at 17:05
@R.MartinhoFernandes:This is what he is doing in the line that does not work.He also seems to know C well enough to understand how to proceed in debugging.What anyone would have done is try this line without modifying the paramaters which obviously it works.Then the problem is IMHO obviously something with the fact that the parameters are modified during function call. – user155461 Mar 14 '12 at 17:05
@Pablitorun:The OP doesn't say that he is a beginner.And from the posted code I can not say that he is.Had he said from the beginning: "Guys please help I am a noob in C, then that would make a difference".Also note that I am NOT saying that the post should have been downvoted.I am just giving a point of view.I would not have downvoted the post – user155461 Mar 14 '12 at 17:08
@user155461 I upvoted your answer. I understand what you are trying to say. Should he have known this? probably. Could he have figured it out on his own, probably. I guess I just don't understand the rationale for "punishing" a user if they ask a question. – Pablitorun Mar 14 '12 at 17:11
@Pablitorun:IMHO it is 1)rude 2)inconstructive to downvote without explaining why.But perhaps Robert Harvey knows better.You must understand though that there are people who need help badly on really serious and importand problems.When the SO is "polluted" with "trivial questions" or questions that 2 min search in Google is enough then time is wasted on these questions when it could be invested in helping friends that REALLY need help – user155461 Mar 14 '12 at 17:15
@Pablitorun - the warning in that example gives the tools to find the answer. The top hit from searching for the content of the warning is an exact match[c] – Flexo Mar 14 '12 at 17:28
@user - I either downvote or comment, never both. The risk of a long "chat session" makes it not worth the effort. – Bo Persson Mar 14 '12 at 17:29
I didn't notice the question in question actually mentioned GCC's warning. I withdraw all my arguments about non-googleability. Sorry about that. – R. Martinho Fernandes Mar 14 '12 at 17:54

Because it's a long-winded "help me fix my code" non-question that's more suitable for a forum. There's also little or no research effort demonstrated. It's also too localised — that is, it's just someone's personal coding problem, and it's thus never going to help anyone else.

Simply put, it is just not a question about a programming language.

Stack Overflow is infested with this rubbish at the moment.

Thanks for making me aware of this question; I can now go and downvote it.

I'm not sure I like your answer. It doesn't really agree with the statements present in the faq – Pablitorun Mar 20 '12 at 18:03
@Pablitorun: It does. The problem is that the FAQ is not specific enough, because it's only through growth that SO has turned into a place that people are treating as a personal debugging emporium; the FAQ has lagged behind this relatively new trend. – Lightness Races in Orbit Mar 20 '12 at 18:04
I guess the larger question is what is SO. I guess I just don't understand why it can't be both. – Pablitorun Mar 20 '12 at 18:09
@Pablitorun: It could be, in the same way that I could convert my car into a tricycle if I wanted to. But my car is not a tricycle. There are already plenty of dead-end dumps on the net where every Tom, Dick and Harry can post whatever mundane "i haz segfault" debugging failure they came up with whilst doing their homework without bothering to do any prior research; this is not that. – Lightness Races in Orbit Mar 20 '12 at 18:11
I also agree that the wall of code with a why doesn't this work is incredibly irritating, but this particular question was at least well formatted and condensed with the major points broken out for analysis. The problem is they won't get answered on those dead end sites :) – Pablitorun Mar 20 '12 at 18:12
@Pablitorun: (a) Yes, it was well-presented, which is a plus. (b) That it wouldn't get answered elsewhere doesn't magically make it appropriate here. If I were to go into a Catholic church and find that nobody could tell me the Jewish story, would that make it appropriate for me to try asking in a Mosque? – Lightness Races in Orbit Mar 20 '12 at 18:14
I really don't understand how your analogy is relevant to the discussion... I am really not trying to advocate one position or the other, although, my question phrasing was certainly leading. I really am hardly ever on SO so I have no desire to make it into what I think it should be....I was just surprised at the response to some questions on the site. – Pablitorun Mar 20 '12 at 18:20
@Pablitorun: The analogy was in response to your comment the problem is they won't get answered on those dead end sites, and was designed to sugar-coat the response "that's not our problem". It's what the Muslims in the mosque would tell me when I said "but the Christians wouldn't answer my question! so please tell me the Jewish story!" – Lightness Races in Orbit Mar 20 '12 at 18:35
That was my initial understanding, but I think it breaks down a little on my closer inspection. I think I am thinking about it too much...I agree that it is not your problem, but that they get answered is why they come here. SO almost needs a multiple ranking system. IE rankings on general question worthiness and ranking on uniqueness and interesting characteristics.... – Pablitorun Mar 20 '12 at 18:45
@Pablitorun: that they get answered is why they come here That's absolutely correct. That's why it's so sad that people keep answering such "questions". SO is not – Lightness Races in Orbit Mar 20 '12 at 18:57
Everyone wants points! I heard you could trade them in for a tshirt. – Pablitorun Mar 20 '12 at 18:59

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