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This is about the question: Obfuscated C Code Contest 2006. Please explain sykes2.c

For me it is not clear why this question has so many upvotes. I think it looks like picking some complicated/obfuscated code from somewhere and ask what it does.

  • It does not show any research effort (what the user has tried to solve it)
  • It is very localized (only valid for this very problem)

While I think it is ok that it is not closed and also answered, I would like to know why it has so many upvotes? Is it considered to be a good question format to ask like this?

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Maybe people just want to indicate their appreciation of the obfuscated code. (I don't say that this is a good way to do it.) –  chris Mar 15 '13 at 8:04
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search google, find some unreadable code and ask here.. Get upvotes and rep.. voila.. –  Krishnabhadra Mar 15 '13 at 8:05
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I fear the majority of the upvotes don't have any greater motivation than "ooh, that's pretty cool. I wonder how that works as well". –  Bart Mar 15 '13 at 8:21
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Oh hey, another one, with the exact same title-pattern. –  J. Steen Mar 15 '13 at 10:07
    
@J.Steen yes, indeed! But this question gets downvotes, as I would usually expect. –  Uooo Mar 15 '13 at 10:26
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If it makes you feel better, because almost all the votes were in a very short period of time the rep cap has gobbled up almost all of that rep. –  Servy Mar 15 '13 at 14:28
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It's also not localized. Once you've read the answer you will understand many bitwise operations more clearly, and see their value. You will also "get" shortcutting in a way you might not have before. –  Kate Gregory Mar 15 '13 at 16:51
    
@KateGregory I was thinking the same thing. Many times, the question itself is very localized. But the answer is anything but localized and can open up entirely new areas to those new to them. Those types of questions IMO, shouldn't be closed. –  Mysticial Mar 15 '13 at 16:54
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The question deserves a downvote, the answer an upvote. Popularity contests are common on SO, unfortunately it can't be helped. –  user7116 Mar 15 '13 at 17:00
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@KateGregory Just because the answer gave a very general purpose, high quality, useful answer doesn't make the question any less localized. You can find all sorts of great content/answers and copy/paste them to lots of very poor quality questions for which they answer the question very well. It doesn't improve the quality of the question at all. Any question, whether of high quality or low quality, allows for high quality answers, but encourages low quality answers. High quality questions demand high quality answers, and don't allow for low quality answers. –  Servy Mar 15 '13 at 17:08
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To play devil's advocate, I personally think that a question (good or bad) that manages to bait a great answer deserves some reward. Because without the question, there would be no great answer. –  Mysticial Mar 15 '13 at 17:21

4 Answers 4

up vote 18 down vote accepted

Great answers attract attention and upvotes, and the questions benefits from that even if they would not deserve the votes on their own. The main culprit for this is the hot questions list (and posts linked on Reddit or Hacker News), as it exposes the question to a large number of users that have the voting privilege.

Votes are of course influenced by the quality of a post, but in my experience the popularity and exposure of a post is a much more important factor. The more people (who can vote) see the post, the more votes it tends to get.

I don't think the question deserves that many votes, but voting is often not fair. The question is redeemed by the very good answer it received.

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This. I posted that question on Twitter myself for this exact reason. The answer is phenomenal. –  Bill the Lizard Mar 15 '13 at 11:47
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Also, the research was spotting one entry out of all the years of the contest, and putting together the code for it and its output. The OP may not have done much unobfuscating, but it's not like the question was "what are some interesting entries in the Obfuscated C Contest, what do they do, and how do they work?" –  Kate Gregory Mar 15 '13 at 16:50
    
@KateGregory But if that really was the question the exact same answer could have been provided, which proves the point that a very valuable high quality answer can be posted on a very low quality question. –  Servy Mar 15 '13 at 17:09
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@Servy could have been, but might not have been. The OP opened the door and the answerer stepped through it. I reward people for asking questions that give rise to great answers - it is part of the work –  Kate Gregory Mar 15 '13 at 17:53
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@KateGregory Think about the consequences of that behavior though. When someone asks a really terrible question that gets 200+ upvotes just because that question happen to have a great answer written for it then people go around asking lots of bad questions hoping for someone to write a really top notch answer for it to give them upvotes (or possibly because they just think that those are the kinds of questions the site thinks are good). If an answer is good upvote the answer, not the question unless that question was also of high quality. Vote on posts based on the post you are voting on. –  Servy Mar 15 '13 at 17:56
    
@Servy I think this is an important point and should be part of the answer. –  Uooo Mar 17 '13 at 6:55

I think the Sykes one is very different because it's a one-liner. It's short enough that we each ought to be able to figure it out. (But we can't; or can't predict the time-investment it would require, so we don't start). So it's something a great many of us would like to have asked. The fact that someone got one through the censors (so to speak) deserves my upvote.

And the accepted answer is just marvelous. (The others are good, too).

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The reason it is good is because it is a great learning experience. It may not fit our format/FAQ perfectly, but there's a ton to learn there.

The question is really upvoted in appreciation for drawing in the answers.

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Actually, you learn from the answer (which also has high votes)... but not from the posted question (as I see it). –  chris Mar 15 '13 at 8:06
    
@chris, edited. –  Lance Roberts Mar 15 '13 at 8:07
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Whatever, the question should be closed IMHO.. –  Krishnabhadra Mar 15 '13 at 8:08
    
@Krishnabhadra, don't be jealous, celebrate that such an event has happened. –  Lance Roberts Mar 15 '13 at 8:09
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@LanceRoberts Still, such events are -- like festivals, parties, holidays -- localized. –  Mark Garcia Mar 15 '13 at 8:11
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@Lance Roberts: But still there is a point to it. While you learn a lot from the answer (which is correctly indicated by the high votes), the high votes of the question do not indicate its value. I'm just saying, people are sometimes confusing +1 (for "I like that", "this looks awesome") and +1 (for "this is relevant", "this is a good question"). –  chris Mar 15 '13 at 8:12
    
@LanceRoberts haha.. no one is jealous here.. But we close many non constructive questions from new users, and having some upvotes doesn't make this question constructive.. Also closing the question will not reverse the reputation OP gained, so that doesn't make my so called jealousy happy.. And I didn't say that the question should be deleted, which is entirely different matter.. –  Krishnabhadra Mar 15 '13 at 8:13
    
And I voted to close.. –  Krishnabhadra Mar 15 '13 at 8:14
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@LanceRoberts: the question was upvoted because people don't know any better. Dilutes sorting out actual problems which need to be solved...At this point in the site's life, question votes beyond about +5 indicate popularity rather than quality. –  user7116 Mar 15 '13 at 17:07

That's indeed a problem with Stack Overflow.

I've seen that many times - people tend to close or downvote a question only because they just have no idea how to answer it. In my recent question here I've explained how Stack Overflow does encourage bad questions and bad answers flow. But that's only half of the problem: at the same time good questions being driven away.

I know, it's an unavoidable conflict between Stack Overflow policy and people's expectations. The former declares the site as a place for the quick and dirty answers, while the latter expects some enlightening too. But they can't stand against policy, and fail.

The question in question is not a usual "find-me-a-typo" one and thus cannot bring a quick rep to anyone who bothers to drop a few lines highlighting a silly typo or to refrain some cliche. So, it raises such a reluctance and tendency to close. Though this one's got lucky to get some upvotes, and (I hope) will be opened back after all the closevotes, there are many others, beaten and closed to death only because they are hard to answer.

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This does not answer my question. The question i showed is in fact an open, high-voted (but maybe bad) question. You are explaining a problem about down-voted, closed good questions. –  Uooo Mar 15 '13 at 9:30
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Can you show us one of your great answer who didn't get upvotes or enough upvotes? –  user209407 Mar 15 '13 at 10:15

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