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If there's a question with a reply (I noticed Stack Overflow calls replies "answers"), but the reply is silly and many comments point out its flaws. Also it has 0 votes. (I can't down vote yet.)

Then, there's another reply, this one is useful, it's not an answer and doesn't pretend to be an answer, but it's useful. Should it be given a vote?

I don't want to give the impression that it's an answer, but I don't think it should carry equal weight to the silly reply/"answer", which has 0 votes.

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+1 because I like that you're asking about these situations despite being unable to access so much of the site's features yet. You're on the right track to being part of the community, and that should be rewarded. – Super Long Names are Hilarious Jul 10 '10 at 9:01
"Replies" are called answers because that's what they are (or should be). Stack Overflow is a Question and Answer site. If you've got a problem you post the question and people provide answers. If they are useful they get up-voted. – ChrisF Jul 12 '10 at 13:18
I suppose if it is written as an answer, then it is either an answer, or pretending to be an answer. and so if it's not an answer.. then as pekka says, a comment should say so.. and especially if a vote is given for its usefulness. And really, if it's only useful and not an answer, then it should be a comment. I suppose! – barlop Jul 13 '10 at 21:37
up vote 5 down vote accepted

I usually upvote with a comment stating that it's not an answer to the OP's question, and a short explanation why I think it's either a good alternative or a superior approach - whatever applies.

If it's totally off-topic (as in, plain wrong in regards to the question asked), I don't think it is wise to upvote even if it's good in itself.

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There was no need for me or anybody to point out that it wasn't an answer. It was put as an "Answer", perhaps rightly, because it was too big to be a comment, and Stack Overflow doesn't seem to offer another option. And comments can't have new lines so while it was really a comment, the comment system wasn't so good for it. – barlop Jul 10 '10 at 12:00
@barlop: well my impression has been that size is never a good excuse to post something that really should be a comment into an answer. You can split "logical comments" over multiple "physical comments" if needed (or better yet, just shorten them). When someone posts an "Answer" that absolutely does not answer the question in any form, I usually downvote it (even if it's helpful!), and say "this should be a comment." But that's rare. A lot of times people post partial answers, or answers to a slightly different question that are still useful suggestions to try, and those are OK. – David Z Jul 10 '10 at 17:51
@David Zaslavsky very good response, ta. – barlop Jul 13 '10 at 21:50

I don't think it should carry equal weight to the silly reply/"answer"

I am with you there; I always try to make sure that the better answer (even if it's not THE perfect answer) always has higher votes than mediocre/useless one. That is the whole point of the voting system (that and to make you hit F5 every five minutes).

As Pekka said, it'd be a good idea to leave a comment stating your point.

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and the reply is silly.. and many comments point out its flaws.

If an answer is wrong or unhelpful, even if it attempts to tackle the question, it should be downvoted or commented. Assume good-faith, but try to help the answerer by adding comments about what they did incorrectly.

Then, there's another reply, this one is useful, it's not an answer and doesn't pretend to be an answer, but it's useful. Should it be given a vote?

If it is "Useful", then you should absolutely give it an upvote. Unless they are specifically ignoring facets of the question. (I.e. Q: I'm using Windows, with a problem XYZ. A: Switch to Linux and use ABC) If the answer could be useful to the poster, then you should upvote it.

This, however, is a fine line that I've clashed with the community about before. If the answer does not answer the question, then it should have to meet a much higher standard to be upvoted. Mostly because it is incredibly frustrating for a poster to watch as unhelpful "answer" gets upvoted, and no useful answers appear.

But, if you like the answer, then you upvote it! That's how you show your approval until you get more privileges to show it in other ways.

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my wording was wrong when I said useful.. you describe a really interesting scenario.. I guess when a reply specifies a different tool, that reply should be a comment.. Well, in this case, the answer wasn't even useful like that. It was just a fairly high standard of research, that confirmed something the questioner was already sure of for reasons he had given! The reseacher just found some lower level(in comp terms!), goings on that confirmed what was clear to the poster anyway. – barlop Jul 13 '10 at 11:17
I would not have upvoted it at all, except for the fact that there was a really dumb reply and I didn't want them both getting zero votes! I think I was wrong to upvote it and I was wrong to think that 2 questions with 0 votes is an indication of equal worthlessness! I tried to downvote it to cancel my upvote but it didn't work 'cos lacked rep. – barlop Jul 13 '10 at 11:17
I guess an answer that is useful but not helpful. i.e. does the function but not with the tool the question asked. That answer should be a comment, or if it involves a lot of work, it should be posted as an answer to a new different question written specifically for it. but 0 is fine or 1 vote won't hurt if there are better ones! – barlop Jul 13 '10 at 21:33
very thought provoking answer devinb – barlop Jul 13 '10 at 21:43

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