When a user asks a question which has been answered quite a few times on SO and on other sites without any research efforts, why do people keep answering the question? Isn't it a bad approach to answer and get the reputation? I would personally not answer such a question and will help the peer by writing something in the comments which would guide him in the right direction.

I am attaching an image of the question from SO Please don't take it personally (if you're the asker or an answerer) as my question's purpose is fair and not to point out someone.

Question: Show or hide a field using jQuery or Ajax

  • 3
    You could just link to the question instead of the screenshot. :)
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Commented Feb 12, 2012 at 3:52
  • @AnnaLear ok i thought it will hurt please see the link stackoverflow.com/questions/9246150/…
    – Devjosh
    Commented Feb 12, 2012 at 3:53
  • @yoda it has got enough answers from answer enthusiasts :)
    – Devjosh
    Commented Feb 12, 2012 at 4:08
  • i added the link to the question
    – Devjosh
    Commented Feb 12, 2012 at 4:13
  • 3
    Yes, people ask bad questions. Yes, people answer bad questions. Now that we've all agreed these two things happen, what's your question? Commented Feb 12, 2012 at 4:14
  • thats cool downvotes started coming on this too :) but i think this is not the question which is asked so many times in the past and not very easy to answer atleast for me
    – Devjosh
    Commented Feb 12, 2012 at 4:14
  • @AnthonyPegram i mean is it's so easy to earn reputation on such questions and thats why people answers and my question was is it a good way to get reputation on such questions
    – Devjosh
    Commented Feb 12, 2012 at 4:25
  • does that hurt/affect you? lol
    – ddacot
    Commented Feb 12, 2012 at 8:01
  • After all, isn't reputation a rough estimate? Anyway I am not convinced that doing so pays in reputation in the long run.
    – user174958
    Commented Feb 12, 2012 at 8:13
  • 1
    The system sort of encourages answering bad questions through the reversal badge. (Although getting it is pretty rare; it has only been awarded 93 times so far)
    – hammar
    Commented Feb 12, 2012 at 8:27
  • 1
    It gets even worse when the one who asks the question is not even capable of accepting the best answer. That hurts, because it lowers Stack Overflow's quality as knowledge base. Commented Feb 12, 2012 at 11:07
  • @GertArnold i do agree with your opinion and it matches with mine :)
    – Devjosh
    Commented Feb 12, 2012 at 11:57
  • @ddacot that does not hurt me but the thing was that Gert said and i treat this one Q/A site as my place and in most of the cases question gets a good verdict.
    – Devjosh
    Commented Feb 12, 2012 at 11:59
  • @GertArnold - I wonder how many of these questions get mod'd into an alternate reality plasmodic void, otherwise known as Deleteville? Commented Feb 12, 2012 at 12:09
  • 2
    @JaredFarrish I hope they will. The rep and vote mechanism is impressively self-healing, that's for sure! Commented Feb 12, 2012 at 12:20

6 Answers 6


Here is the breakdown for you. (CSI style)

  • At 03:20 Fayde asked the question
  • At 03:22 a regular old Joe saw a user in distress and answered his question
  • A few seconds Joe immediately realized the question tags are wrong! (Joe is such a good guy) Joe fixes the tags
  • At 03:23 nevayeshirazi answers as well to see if he can help the user in distress. nevayeshirazi may have seen the question at 03:20 but could have been editing for the last two minutes
  • At 3:24 SpYk3HH answered

Not with out the SE unicorn court order or taking the OP's computer I cannot see the timestamps for down votes. But using my CSI-enhance on your photo https://i.sstatic.net/DYxbC.png there were -5 votes after 11 minutes.

So for the sake of everything always works out in the end on CSI, let's just say the down votes occurred after all three users answered based on the FGITW syndrome. I think you are seeing it in a bad light but from my super cool investigating skills you will see that you are mistaken.

Nevertheless, users should not answer questions that are highly negatively voted or are just asking for the kittycatcodez. If these happen, vote to close (if you have the privilege, if not flag) as not a real question because based on the votes the user has not taken initiative to research his problem. If majority of the community believes so by down voting the user's question then it's not a real question and should be closing it. Some users learn their lesson from votes but others need the swift click of overzealous moderators to drop whooping.

  • 9
    Have you been taking writing lessons from @random?
    – user102937
    Commented Feb 12, 2012 at 7:08
  • -1 for “users should not answer questions that are highly negatively voted”. There's even a badge for that! Close-worthy questions should not be answered. But downvoted questions that shouldn't be closed should be answered. Commented Feb 12, 2012 at 11:37
  • i flagged that @phwd because the asker never tried to see the solution and the user was not that new that he does not know the q/a format guidelines
    – Devjosh
    Commented Feb 12, 2012 at 11:43
  • partially agree but not on this one @JaredFarrish
    – Devjosh
    Commented Feb 12, 2012 at 11:54
  • 2
    hai!! i hav big project due by monday so plzzz send my the gui in vb to enhance. thanx my email is [email protected] Commented Feb 12, 2012 at 13:47

There are many possible reasons. The answeree (respondee? respondent? magic healer?)...

  • ... is a newer user unfamiliar with the "way it's supposed to work"
  • ... is relatively inexperienced but knows enough to answer a question most experienced users would throw RTFM you derelict swine at (an alternative to this crew is the LMGTFY, you lazy excuse for a human, because manuals are so passé)
  • ... is answering before most of the downvotes come in
  • ... sympathizes
  • ... just wants to help
  • ... is having a good day and at that moment is feeling generous/charitable
  • ... began writing the answer before the downvotes started flowing, hence missing the warning
  • ... doesn't care about the downvotes (the Fascists! argument)
  • ... is answering because of the downvotes (the B#st#rds! argument)
  • ... mistakes the answer field for a comment field (see #1 and #2 above)
  • ... is coming from a different point of view and considers the downvotes as meaningless commentary re: the question
  • ... feels they understand what the question is really after
  • ... doesn't subscribe to your doctrine/belief system/Sports Illustrated
  • ... has bad intentions
  • ... didn't take a shower this morning
  • ... didn't read this question
  • ... was late to class
  • ... swallowed a bug
  • ... has never seen Deer Hunter
  • ... has seen the "Needs More Cowbell" skit (but doesn't get it)
  • ... [fill in the blank, but don't taze me bro!]

I think it's also useful to think about the reasons a person (I assume they're people, guess they could be... something else) downvotes a question. I don't have a list ready for that side of it, but I do think there are many different reasons (claiming reason always plays into the decision to downvote is something I don't believe) it happens. So it can go both ways, with multiple competing viewpoints, personalities, objectives, grudges, bad moods, lack of [fill in the blank], too much (chutzpah? nerve? bad breath?), etc.

I suspect (but can't prove) I have seen questions that suffered from drive-by pile-ons, where an initial perception of the question caused several (probably "well-meaning") downvotes to be given, with several loud and highly visible comments possibly influencing some members negatively, leading some (nameless, faceless) users to exercise their finger without exercising their brain.

I've done it myself, but I know (know) I'm not the only one who's done this (and I admit it was a mistake on my part a few times, other times the question was sufficiently modified quickly enough to eliminate the problem). If you've downvoted more than a few questions, and especially if you frequently downvote questions, but still think this doesn't apply to you ("Who, me?" Yes, you.), I propose you have not been considering or paying enough attention.

It's not illegal/immoral/extra-judicial to answer a question in which "some people" (they will remain unnamed) felt confident enough to downvote, no matter what we see in the question itself indicating the questioner's intentions ("r u codez? hw 2 bild $$ mkng app. answr wcode plz" is not always the case).

Personally, I don't let it get it to me, although sometimes I'm miffed at it too. C'est la vie!

Just my two cents. You have change for a dollar?

  • "didn't take a shower this morning"... You smelly programmer!
    – Lix
    Commented Feb 12, 2012 at 11:27
  • 1
    you've got excellent convincing skills @jared farrish
    – Devjosh
    Commented Feb 12, 2012 at 11:49

Stack Overflow is a very generous community in that the reputation system (and of course, the presence of helpful people) makes answering easy and profitable. While battling low-quality questions like the one you show is a noble and important fight, and I agree that the right thing would be to point the asker to the documentation, it will occasionally happen that lazy people get an answer they don't really deserve. It's nothing to worry about IMO - just leave a comment pointing out the OP should have Googled or read the documentation, closevote, and downvote. In my experience, many OPs will change their ways after getting such feedback repeatedly, even if they get an answer to copypaste at the same time.

  • +1 for "I agree that the right thing would be to point the asker to the documentation" some of our friends did that but has no impact on the answerers
    – Devjosh
    Commented Feb 12, 2012 at 11:48
  • @Dev yeah. It's no big deal though IMO... If you feel the answers are absolutely terrible rep-whoring, you can always downvote them too.
    – Pekka
    Commented Feb 12, 2012 at 11:50
  • i would neither upvote nor downvote the answers on such answers in such conditions and i am not worried about their(answerer's) repu changes @pekka :)
    – Devjosh
    Commented Feb 12, 2012 at 11:56
  • 5
    The answerers that get me, Pekka, are the Saintly Seagulls, or the ones who swoop in on (often uncontroversial but not always well-spec'd) questions that have a comment that contains part or all of a potential answer, taking that comment and putting it into an answer as their own, and then getting upvotes and possibly marked as the answer. I mean, the gall. And nary a mention. The bottom-trawlers of the membership, these especially get me because I have a tendency to flesh questions out in comments, and have lost many votes to this cellar-dwelling johnny-come-tuesday. Commented Feb 12, 2012 at 11:58
  • @Jared yeah, I agree. Nicely put. :) Those really deserve downvoting whenever encountered
    – Pekka
    Commented Feb 12, 2012 at 12:00
  • 1
    There have been times when the OP saw what was happening and refused to give that person a vote and/or mark their answer as the answer. These questions then get a blind rep-building upvote on my behalf, even if it's not me on the other end, unless there's some other extenuating circumstance. Commented Feb 12, 2012 at 12:05

It's not just about new users. There's even a badge for posting to highly downvoted questions, take a look here, two users got a badge for these answers. Jon Skeet have done this, too

  • that isn't mean that you answer any downvoted question you search SO and will find high number of similar question with number of upvotes and looks promising and again the user was no that new :)
    – Devjosh
    Commented Feb 12, 2012 at 12:04
  • 1
    @Devjosh nor Jon Skeet is new, and he answered as well. Why do you think we've got this badge here?
    – Martin.
    Commented Feb 12, 2012 at 12:24
  • i am not meaning with the answerers here "the user was not that new" but with the user who asked the question and i think in one year(stackoverflow.com/users/576155/fayde) you browse a number of questions on SE sites and get a little idea that if this question is valid to ask or better i search for existing Post
    – Devjosh
    Commented Feb 12, 2012 at 12:30

For me, when I see a simple question like that, I simply find it more fun to write out some code that answers it, than go searching for a duplicate / docs. In a perfect world we'd just link to the docs and tell OP to try something first, but we are all coders here, right?

Having said that, as Pekka said, don't worry about it. If the question is low quality, then it likely won't get many upvotes, and won't be highly visible. If it's really bad, the score might even go sufficiently negative and drop off the front page.

Finally, this user is probably brand new to programming. Maybe writing out something rudimentary like this will get him started, and he'll be back with better questions next week.

  • he is on SO about a year now
    – Devjosh
    Commented Feb 18, 2012 at 6:12

Even if a question is badly formulated and is downvoted, it can be legitimate. Moreover, I do not have to agree with the downvoters.

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