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Is it bad practice to answer a question saying:

Try this in your code:

//example code here

I have been downvoted sometimes; the last time was in this answer.

This time the person at least leave their comment saying why, and was for the TRY THIS

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I would suggest expanding on why they should try this. Give an explanation of the code and why you think it would work for the user. –  bluefeet Sep 7 '13 at 23:27
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The origin is here - stackoverflow.com/questions/18678650/… - a certain "hakre" (serial) down-voted just because two answers was so unlucky to use the word "try", which hakre appearently not likes. –  davidkonrad Sep 7 '13 at 23:30
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Stackoverflow isn't CodeExchange. And code blob answers without any comments or explanations are virtually useless to the next user stumbling upon them. They're the mark of too localized questions and answers. Try this in particular also indicates guesses instead of expert knowledge. –  mario Sep 7 '13 at 23:31
    
@mario - two answers downvoted with the llame excuse of using the word "try", nothing else - and just secunds after they were posted. How could "hakre" know that the answerers was not about to elaborate their questions in the same moment? By telepathy? And you do not think the answers will be understandable for people that "stumblibg opon them"? How do you think people will stumble upon? Well, by googling a question quite similar - dont you think so? –  davidkonrad Sep 7 '13 at 23:38
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@davidkonrad It appears the downvote has been removed once the answer was improved. And encouraging improval is very very precisely what voting is for. I also kind of noticed that your comment here provides lots of reasoning. Shouldn't answers also be held accountable to contain a mediocre amount of that? –  mario Sep 7 '13 at 23:44
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@davidkonrad: I already tried to explaind to you that I did comment that I see "try" as a signal word that this is more a comment than an answer. However that must not be mistaken for the downvote reason. The downvote reason was - as I also wrote in a later comment - what the tooltip of the downvote button says. Normally when I leave a comment about the downvoting I start it with "-1" so it is clear about what this is. –  hakre Sep 7 '13 at 23:47
    
@mario all comments were remove –  Emilio Gort Sep 7 '13 at 23:50
    
@Mario, you didnt watch the development, it was ridicolous to witness - the question was given, short after two almost identical answers were published - they got downvoted immedietaly. And why? A llame excuse about the use of "try". This can certainly not be in the SO spirit. Or else I will suggest a closed SO-site for people with more than 100.000 points, with perfect skills in english - producing extremely elaborated endless answers to each other. SO is about people helping each other about coding problems - not about school teachers correcting grammar. –  davidkonrad Sep 7 '13 at 23:55
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@davidkonrad: SO is about: stackoverflow.com/about –  hakre Sep 7 '13 at 23:59
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@davidkonrad What we are discussing here isn't really the result of the wording then. It's the timing. FGITW just happens to be risky business. Of course there is a grace period for sneak editing, but drafts and quickshots are prone to early votes as well; and rightly so. –  mario Sep 8 '13 at 0:00
    
"What we are discussing here isn't really the result of the wording then" - yes we are! We are talking about the reasonable in downvoting two answers, secunds after posting, with the one argument only, that the answers using the word "try". I think everybody understands SO rules, and the backgrounds / intention with the system - but that does not make everything in that context reasonable. Hakre reached a lower limit to the destructive. This is what it is, and nothing more. –  davidkonrad Sep 8 '13 at 0:33
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In previous episodes of Why U Downvote Me... –  brasofilo Sep 8 '13 at 1:13
    
Well, at least this user threw in a "greeting" as well. :-P I'm also not surprised that that user (1-rep and unregistered) did not respond to the comment. –  Jamal Sep 8 '13 at 1:45
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@davidkonrad: "and just secunds after they were posted" - If the answer wasn't complete, it should not have been posted in the first place. You're right; no one could say what the poster was "about to say"; the vote was placed on what they did say. We can't be expected to read the mind of someone who posts an answer to know they might improve it in the future. Votes are placed on what is in the answer at that exact moment in time. If you don't want to be downvoted for a partial answer, don't post an incomplete answer - take the time to complete it. Good answer beats fast answer. –  Ken White Sep 8 '13 at 3:23

6 Answers 6

up vote 36 down vote accepted

It’s preferable to explain why you want the asker to try that and what you changed. Throwing code on people doesn’t always help, and it can be hard to translate to other situations if someone doesn’t know what’s going on.

This one may have been pretty self-explanatory, but yes, please add at least a sentence in general as a matter of good practice.

And yes, the downward spiral of comments is a bit much. Thanks for taking it to Meta.

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Plus, those "try this" answers seem written by users who try to guess the answer. The fact they don't explain what the code does seems to make that feeling more true. –  kiamlaluno Sep 8 '13 at 6:38
    
@kiamlaluno indeed, good point - it has been my frequent experience that a "try this," once tried, fails. Then it raises the question if the poster even bothered to try it him/herself before posting. Doing so without a "I haven't tried this myself, but I think it might work" warning just wastes precious work time. I concur with Rosinante's post below completely. It is really a travesty to post bad code. –  Howard Pautz Sep 22 '13 at 0:14

Code-only answers are discouraged, because they contain no searchable content. They also don't explain why they should "try this", and we make an effort here to be a resource for knowledge. Posting a block of code with no other information isn't sharing knowledge - it's just offering copy/paste code.

It's important to remember when answering questions at StackExchange sites (especially at highly technical sites like StackOverflow) that the purpose of the site isn't mainly to solve the asker's immediate problem, but to build a knowledge base of information that is useful to other people in the future.

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I love people who understand that the real purpose behind these sites is to be a useful repository for knowledge - not just a Help site. –  Andrew Barber Sep 8 '13 at 0:50

In my view, an answer isn't an answer unless the person posting it knows that it is a solution to the problem at hand. If the poster wants to help the user debug and diagnose, they should offer this advice in comments. If the answerer guesses or suspects that a particular recipe might cure the problem, they should again stick to comments or find another question to answer.

If someone posts an actual explanation, at some length, of the form, 'your symptoms are similar to problem X, and if you have problem X, the solution is definitely Y', I have some sympathy. But just throwing some code up there with 'try this'? Nope.

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Note that "your symptoms are similar to problem X, and if you have problem X, the solution is definitely Y" is very useful to googlers that do have X. Of course, only time will tell how many googlers will find Y helpful. –  Jan Dvorak Sep 8 '13 at 2:54
    
+1 Please note my comment to @ kiamlaluno in @ minitech's answer - I couldn't agree more. –  Howard Pautz Sep 22 '13 at 0:15

The question clearly asked about the OP in the role being a tester of some web applications and that he was disturbed by the auto-complete functionality of his browser, namely Safari.

This was obviously a browser usage-question but then it turned out it's not - but only after the OP did clarify (quite some many minutes later despite comments asking back earlier).

That can happen so also there can be downvotes just because the context of the question was not clear for someone (I mean nobody is free of that, right?) and then there downvotes were given under the impression that the wrong question is being answered.

Apart from that as others have already commented, it's always good to repeat what the understanding of the question was in your own words (so to repeat it), giving the solution (e.g. in form of code) and explaining why. Most answers didn't do that either.

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In my opinion, is better explain than downvote, I got the idea now..I learn the lection, You have to keep in mind that there are many non-English speakers –  Emilio Gort Sep 7 '13 at 23:52
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Explanation is awesome, @Emilio. But it's a bonus. Voting is important, core to SO's mission of cultivating quality content. Something that's not always clear: downvoting isn't an unfortunate side-effect of the site, like the cold virus or flat tires: it's a feature that SO devs implemented on purpose, intending for it to be used. –  Michael Petrotta Sep 8 '13 at 0:07
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@EmilioGort: "Try this" without an explanation is a poor answer, and poor answers should be downvoted. It's how StackOverflow is designed to work. Good questions and answers get upvotes, and poor questions and answers get downvotes. It's the entire basis for how almost every single StackExchange site works. You can visit the help page of every single SE site, or the tour page in general, and that is made very clear. –  Ken White Sep 8 '13 at 0:32
    
@KenWhite it is good to know –  Emilio Gort Sep 8 '13 at 0:35

Round 2 eh? :P

I just wanted to chip in because I agreed with most people at the time of commenting on the question, that the downvote for "try this" was a bit harsh.

However after some thought, I remember votes are used for numerous things, including downvote on badly worded questions and answers to entice improvements, and up votes on good questions and answers to promote decent content. Of which everyone benefits from, when you think about the result of the aforementioned system.
To make this work well, you have to be strict and stick to it, and when it seems a bit harsh and "swallowed the rule book" remember it's not about that, it's about the strive for quality, and she's a strict mistress (don't Google that..).

I commented on that question there should be some consideration given to the fact "try this" is commonly used slang to be an offering of good standing, and not necessarily something offered on a test basis.
But "try this" also appears as a suggestion, with potential uncertainty towards it being an actual solution or answer.

Therefore, as there are two options to think about - "is this slang and so an actual answer?" and "is this is a suggestion?" - it causes confusion and uncertainty, and Stack wants solid sure "Here's what you need it will work" answers. Thinking about it, so do I...

Which means it was correct to downvote in order to prompt for a better answer.

I suppose people, myself included, tend to stray to the nice side and this was a simple question and answer scenario so was fine on this occasion.
However, this stops the quality seeping through. Others coming from a search or link, as the question matches theirs, want to see "This is what you need", and not have to think if they meant "this might work" or not.

So I would agree that being precise (and eating the rule book) is needed to keep things on track. One should only answer if you know it answers the question, and therefore can comfortably say "this will fix it" - "this is your answer".

@hakre, I see your point now :) And good job this isn't medieval times, as this Meta discussion would instead have been the stocks...

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The answer you wrote was likely downvoted not because you had the words "try this" in it, but because you didn't explain to the user why your code would work. Initially you simply dropped in an example of a form (albeit that had the correct attribute within it).

The answer that was Accepted was shorter, but it did simply highlight which attribute to use in the form ie "Here is your exact issue" and the OP can understand very quickly what he needs.

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Both answers get downvoted. –  davidkonrad Sep 7 '13 at 23:33
    
The only comment I can see about "try this" was from hakre and wasn't even posted on your answer? –  Fluffeh Sep 7 '13 at 23:39
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All comments were remove –  Emilio Gort Sep 7 '13 at 23:40

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