I have found Stack Overflow to be very useful in finding answers to my technical questions. (Reminds me of how the Internet used to be pre-commercialization). I value its ethos and have found most answers to be on point.

However, I recently answered a question (How do you stop the XCode debugger from autocompleting without options?) with what I though was a helpful (== "useful") answer and was surprised when the original poster marked it as "not useful". I don't really care about losing the single reputation point, but I am concerned that this will make me think twice about posting answers - something I feel is counter-productive to Stack Overflow.

So, I would appreciate some comments on how experienced Stack Overflow users decide when they consider an answer to be "not useful".

Thanks in advance.

  • 3
    It's not really an answer to begin with, is it? Could have (should have?) just as well been a comment.
    – Bart
    Dec 7, 2011 at 22:02
  • Thanks for your comment. I hadn't thought of that. So then a follow up question (if this is the right way to do this): how do you know whether or not you should "answer" or "comment"?
    – mts
    Dec 7, 2011 at 22:09
  • @Bart but Martin doesn't have 50 rep Dec 7, 2011 at 22:09
  • What makes you think the original poster down voted it? Dec 7, 2011 at 22:09
  • Andrew, I just assumed that since he commented on my "answer".
    – mts
    Dec 7, 2011 at 22:10
  • 1
    @MartinStanley - I would have counted that as an "answer" - but I see that a comment on your answer says that the solution doesn't actually work in the requested situation... that might be the reason you were downvoted.
    – Taryn East
    Dec 7, 2011 at 22:12
  • @MartinStanley I don't know if the reason you got downvoted but a link to another question isn't likely to be well received see meta.stackexchange.com/questions/65277/… also meta.stackexchange.com/questions/114596/… Dec 7, 2011 at 22:14
  • @TarynEast - well, just to set the record straight the question did not provide a version. But do you think I should have used a comment?
    – mts
    Dec 7, 2011 at 22:17
  • 1
    @ConradFrix - Ahh, so instead of just providing the link I should have also described the fix?
    – mts
    Dec 7, 2011 at 22:19
  • 1
    @MartinStanley that's right usually its to combat link rot. For example what happens to your answer if the answer you linked to gets deleted. But its also a better experience for the reader Dec 7, 2011 at 22:20
  • @ConradFrix - many thanks for the help/advice.
    – mts
    Dec 7, 2011 at 22:23
  • 3
    @MartinStanley It's not always safe to assume someone voted up/down simply because it coincides with time and a comment they have made. Most down-voters don't comment, and many who leave constructive, negative comments are a bit slower to down vote. If I had to guess, I would give it 50/50 that the OP was actually your down voter. But just keep in mind for the future, it could be anyone. Dec 7, 2011 at 23:10

2 Answers 2


I edited your answer to make it more useful. Look at my edits (and feel free to roll back if you disagree), but basically what I did was quoted the answer you referred to in your answer. As kiamlaluno said in his answer, your answer was "low quality" because it was little more than a link.

Note that you might have been downvoted f=by anyone, not just the question's author. Also, read his comment:

IIRC that didn't work with the version of Xcode / gdb that was in use at the time. Thanks for the update though. – jrturton Nov 26 at 7:23

If that's true, then your answer may be wrong, and a good reason for someone to downvote. I don't know if it is or not; I use Xcode very rarely. But it is good practice to downvote wrong answers as that's what helps the right answers rise to the top.

Remember, a helpful answer !== a correct answer :-)

  • Ahh, excellent. Many thanks for the education!
    – mts
    Dec 7, 2011 at 22:39

Generally, answers that contain just a few words more than a URL are not considered answers, for the simple fact the answer is not in the same page as the question. Even in the case you are linking another question in the same Stack Exchange site, the other post could be deleted for any reason, and your "answer" would become:

Hmm, the accepted answer is kind of overkill.

How about the answer provided in: [link to a question only 10k users and moderators can see]?

That could be the reason why your answer has been down-voted: As it is, it is not quite useful.

Also, when you use the link to another question (or to an answer for another question) to answer a question, you should also check the new question is not a duplicating the existing question. It could not be a duplicate, but if the answer given for another question applies to the new question too, there is a chance the new question is a duplicate.

  • Thanks for your answer. I have a couple of follow up questions: 1) how do I tell if a specific post is visible to all users? (I could see that post) and 2) what do I do if I think a question is a duplicate?
    – mts
    Dec 7, 2011 at 22:34
  • If you can see it, and your reputation is lower than 9999, then all users can see it; if your reputation is greater than 9999, and the post is deleted, you will notice that the post has a different background. In this case, not all the users will see the post. The point is that a post could be deleted after you put a link for it in your answer; you cannot know when that happens. Since you cannot yet vote to close, you can only flag a question, and select "it doesn't belong here"; after that, the dialog box will allow you to select the reason for closing the question.
    – apaderno
    Dec 7, 2011 at 22:39
  • Ok, great. Thanks for the clarification.
    – mts
    Dec 7, 2011 at 22:41

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