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Does it makes sense that a question can get have a negative score but its answers get a positive score? If an answer is useful, that must mean the question is somewhat useful as well right?

For the sake of this discussion, let's exclude questions that are too vague or are poorly written.

Edit: I'm removing the part about the question being closed. Being closed and being downvoted are two different things.

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People answer junk all the time. Doesn't validate the question. –  random Jun 10 '11 at 16:33
@random - If it results in a useful answer, why doesn't that validate the question? Isn't the purpose of a question to get a useful answer? –  pepsi Jun 10 '11 at 16:38
You can get useful answers to most anything. e.g. Asking programmers "How do I check tyre pressure?" doesn't mean you were on topic. –  random Jun 10 '11 at 16:45
Fair enough if the question is off topic. But if the question's not on topic, then how can the answers be on topic? If the question has a negative score, the answers should either be zero or negative too. –  pepsi Jun 10 '11 at 16:50
@random: lol tyre. Say "aluminum"! –  Won't Jun 10 '11 at 17:09
@pepsi: upvotes on an answer don't necessarily dictate that the answer was on topic for the site. The tooltip indicates it was 'useful'. People could upvote it because they believe it to be the right answer and that it may be useful to the person asking the question, even if the question was off topic and didn't belong (so not useful). –  forsvarir Jun 10 '11 at 17:13
@forsvarir - That's a very interesting point. I wasn't able to find anything in the FAQ indicating that an answer vote reflects the answer's usefulness to the OP as opposed to usefulness to the SO community. But if it's true, then this would all make sense. –  pepsi Jun 10 '11 at 17:28
Why are people downvoting this question? –  pepsi Jul 13 '11 at 22:17
People are downvoting because they disagree with the "if an answer is useful, that must mean the question is somewhat useful as well right" part. Oh, and to prove a point - kind of Meta humour I guess.. –  Shadow Wizard Jul 13 '11 at 22:41
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4 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

It's different people. One person reads the question and decides to answer it. They may or may not upvote it. A second person comes along and says "what a ridiculous question! It's too broad, or too localized, or offtopic, or horribly written" or whatever. They downvote it. A third person comes along and doesn't vote on the question, but on reading a few answers thinks "yes, that's good advice, or a good point, or accurate history" or whatever so they upvote the answer. And there are a varying number of people who do each of those things.

The overall effect is the same as if one person downvoted the question, answered it, and upvoted another answer, and sure it makes no sense for one person to do that. But a group of people can be contradictory. I think the underlying reason is that we have three quaity ranges - upvote, don't vote, and downvote. Since the borders vary, some people will downvote the question but not the answers, while others will upvote the answers but not the question. The result is the apparently nonsensical score combination.

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People will answer virtually any question if they think:

  1. They know the answer.
  2. They can get reputation for it.
  3. In a crazy attempt to gain the Reversal badge (thanks @davidsleeps!)

Most people might not consider point 2. at all, but some people will.

Also when you answer a question it might not be immediately clear that it's a bad question - this might only become clear after further clarifications, edits, etc.

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It's not just that they answered it, it's also that their answers were upvoted. An upvoted answer means that someone found it useful. That answer would not be on stackoverflow had the question not been asked. –  pepsi Jul 13 '11 at 22:16
3. In a crazy attempt to gain the Reversal badge –  davidsleeps Jul 13 '11 at 22:44
For me at least, however, it's because of both 1 and 2. –  Peter O. Jul 14 '11 at 0:16
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The question is not on topic. It'd be the same as asking why Nike gave a particular name to a certain product. It may be a question that a programmer might ask, but it's not a question about programming.

More generally, no -- questions that have good answers are still off topic even if the answers are good.

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Doesn't that mean that most of these (stackoverflow.com/search?q=what+does+stand+for) are off topic then? –  pepsi Jun 10 '11 at 16:41
@pepsi Most of those concern APIs, class names, and the names themselves are functional. The example question is akin to asking "What does the "visual" in "visual studio" stand for?" There's a difference between a marketing term and a functional class, method, API, or property name. And those that don't fit the guidelines should also be closed, so having other bad examples wouldn't justify this one even if they were similarly bad. –  Adam Davis Jun 10 '11 at 16:45
@Adam: I'm not looking for justification--I'm looking for consistency. And how do you know that Sen is just a marketing term, and not an acronym for something technical? My point is that you don't know until someone answers –  pepsi Jun 10 '11 at 16:56
@pepsi: could you go through the 1.7 million questions and make sure everything is consistent? We'd appreciate that very much. Sincerely, the non-humans-with-fallible-judgement-who-are-members-here –  Won't Jun 10 '11 at 17:10
@Won't - No, I "Won't". Harhar. Ok clarification.. I'm looking for a consistent explanation, not consistency in the entire SO website –  pepsi Jun 10 '11 at 17:16
@pepsi And that's why things are done on a case by case basis. If it's a marketing term or trademark, and has nothing to do with the actual act of programming or solving a programming problem, it gets closed. Further, keep in mind that people moderate the site - thousands of users are able to vote to close topics. If you are looking for consistency, you are looking in the wrong place. However you are free to get your rep up to 3,000 and start to vote to see if you can change other people's minds about what should and shouldn't be accepted - as Jeff likes to say, Stack Overflow is run by you. –  Adam Davis Jun 10 '11 at 17:29
@Adam - Like I said, I'm just looking for a consistent explanation. I know not every single moderator is going to do the "right" thing. But they should be able to find out what the "right" thing to do is. Consistency is already a fundamental part of SO. It's why it takes five votes to close a question. It's also the reason Meta even exists. –  pepsi Jun 10 '11 at 19:27
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Since question down votes are "free" to the voter, it's easy to down vote with no affect on your own rep.

Few folk go back and evaluate the question again: it could have clarified in comments, updated, or some answerer could have read it correctly.

Or as ChrisF said...

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