It is just something that really irks me. I'm not particularly bothered in the slightest about reputation or whatever; it's more a lack of willingness to help (because it doesn't happen on my questions).

When people post a question which is poorly formatted or in broken English (though understandable), it gets down-voted, even if it is a good question.

Why do people insist on just being lazy and downvoting instead of reformatting the question themselves? It seems ridiculous that people will come on this site to ask a decent question, they actually post their code, error and the whole 'what-have-you-tried' stuff, and get down-voted because they haven't formatted properly or can't speak English very well.

I think there should be some rules in place that stops people just posting "Reformat it, it's messy at the moment."

Also, this stops the question from getting attention, as when 3 or 4 people down-vote it, and somebody else reformats it, no one will look at it due to the -4 it now has.

  • 18
    SO gets 4,000 new questions a day. That's one reason why not every question gets reformatted. And in my experience, formatting problems are usually accompanied by more serious ones as well. I rarely see downvoting occurring when formatting is the only problem a question has. Can you show an example?
    – Pekka
    Commented Mar 16, 2012 at 12:48
  • 19
    Why do people insist on being lazy and posting barely coherent questions with broken formatting? While encouraged, it's not our duty to clean up after people who don't make an effort.
    – a cat
    Commented Mar 16, 2012 at 12:48
  • @Madmartigan Oh christ, that irks me too. For a community with such expansive knowledge, they really don't know how to look after people with a looser grasp of english or who don't know what JSFiddle is. It takes 2 seconds to paste the code over.
    – Joshua M
    Commented Mar 16, 2012 at 12:48
  • 12
    As said in my personal experience, this rarely happens. Can you show an example?
    – Pekka
    Commented Mar 16, 2012 at 12:49
  • @Pekka I understand that, but why downvote it? It's futile because the question will go unanswered and will either be reposted, or you've lost another user. I can show an example. stackoverflow.com/questions/9737264/…
    – Joshua M
    Commented Mar 16, 2012 at 12:49
  • @lunboks Sorry, I forget everyone needs to be a pro at using the site before they can post a question. If they can barely speak English, I doubt they can read it that well either. And the formatting options on SO aren't exactly the most intuitive.
    – Joshua M
    Commented Mar 16, 2012 at 12:50
  • 1
    @JoshuaM In that example, the question was terribly formatted (No language barrier issue there). Someone corrected it for the OP and there is a question to correct the formatting. Perhaps not the best example?
    – Bart
    Commented Mar 16, 2012 at 12:51
  • 10
    I don't know anything about Cocoa nor Objective-C, but your example doesn't strike me as a particularly good question - it looks like a very basic "plz debug my code for me" that many frown upon. I'd say it's not certain whether the formatting really caused the downvotes
    – Pekka
    Commented Mar 16, 2012 at 12:52
  • @Bart It had -4 I think before someone corrected it? I'm not saying that it wont be reformatted, I'm saying it takes time, gets the downvotes and is then too late for the question to be noticed. Pekka And "plz debug my code" isn't always so bad, its what most questions here are when something doesnt work? thats what we're here for right? It doesn't work and I can't fix it. Also, the only comment is based on the formatting, and it hit -4 before formatting.
    – Joshua M
    Commented Mar 16, 2012 at 12:55
  • 14
    @JoshuaM - No, we explicitly are not a "here's my code, what's wrong" debugging service.
    – cdeszaq
    Commented Mar 16, 2012 at 13:02
  • 7
    @Joshua sometimes we end up doing a one-on-one debugging session while answering a question, that's correct - you answer a question but it doesn't help the OP, you ask for details, they tell you what happens, you ask for more details, etc. Still, "my code doesn't work" requests are not welcome here, and some people (myself often included) will downvote them. That's more likely to be the reason for the voting than the formatting.
    – Pekka
    Commented Mar 16, 2012 at 13:04
  • 1
    @JoshuaM cause they are don't bother to read FAQ (that is about formatting and some necessarily things) before asking questions. Moreover there is often violations in TOS (and that is why we have questions with debug my code) that you have to read and agree before asking first question. We are here to help you (not you literally), but if you are not put effort in asking a proper question and breaking the rules, you got downvoted.
    – om-nom-nom
    Commented Mar 16, 2012 at 13:05
  • 9
    I have to agree with Pekka - this looks like "plz debug my code for me". I tend to downvote questions containing a wall of code and it has nothing to do with formatting. Narrowing down the problem before posting a question really shouldn't be too much to expect - after all, he is asking us to spend time on his problem, it is reasonable for him to spend some time on it himself first. Commented Mar 16, 2012 at 13:06
  • 6
    How can you say someone is being lazy for not doing something they weren't responsible for doing in the first friggen place?
    – user1228
    Commented Mar 16, 2012 at 14:24
  • 2
    @Won't ...because it's an opinion? :)
    – Joshua M
    Commented Mar 16, 2012 at 15:15

2 Answers 2


Personally, I only put the time and effort in to cleaning up either:

  • Posts that I find interesting
  • Posts that I find helpful
  • Posts that others seem to find helpful and seem like good questions

A good question being one where the OP clearly put in effort to solve the problem on their own, took the time to explain what they tried and what didn't work, explained what results they were expecting to get, explained why they are trying to do what they are, etc.

The questions I edit also often get an upvote from me as well, since I find them useful.

I do also engage in "drive-by-downvoting" if:

  • The OP clearly didn't try to put together a clear question
  • The OP is just looking for someone to do their work for them for free
  • Someone else has already commented on what the issue is
  • The OP clearly didn't do any sort of "self-help", even as basic as a google search, prior to posting
  • The post is too chaotic for me to have any reasonable understanding of what the OP is after
  • The OP has posted similar crap before (yes, I do look at profiles from time to time to determine my behavior)

Depending on what mood I'm in, it might take only one of these criteria, or it might take a number of them, but in most cases, questions that I "drive-by-downvote" are simply not good questions.

I typically will leave a comment explaining the issue, but I tend not to if I'm in a foul mood.

  • 12
    Moreover, even if it will cost to OP to spend another 10 minutes to clarify the answer, he will save about an hour of other developers time (assuming 1 minute to look at the question and with average of about 60 views).
    – om-nom-nom
    Commented Mar 16, 2012 at 13:15
  • @om-nom-nom, Yes, that's a very good point.
    – cdeszaq
    Commented Mar 16, 2012 at 13:16
  • Now that's fair enough. Like I say, it irks me personally, was just voicing the opinion because this is the place to do it!
    – Joshua M
    Commented Mar 16, 2012 at 15:12
  • @JoshuaM, and I was, likewise, responding with my opinion to help you with your frustration and perhaps give another perspective. Isn't the Internet great!
    – cdeszaq
    Commented Mar 16, 2012 at 15:14
  • @cdeszaq, it is indeed a source of a fantastic range of people and opinions.
    – Joshua M
    Commented Mar 16, 2012 at 15:16

To stay strictly on-topic:

Why do people insist on just being lazy and downvoting instead of reformatting the question themselves?

If the formatting is clearly due to a misunderstanding of how to highlight code in markdown, and all I have to do is highlight it and hit CTRL+K or remove some inline backticks, then I will gladly do so. I will not downvote for this. If any combination of the following are true:

  • The code is still unreadable after I highlight it
  • Tons of unnecessary spaces in the code
  • Lots of code that is clearly irrelevant to the question
  • I feel obligated to also fix several spelling and grammar errors, tags, title, etc.
  • The user experienced enough on SO that they should know how to format a question by now
  • I've noticed a trend of poor questions from the user

Then I will probably downvote. I don't consider downvoting "lazy", and I don't feel that anyone should be obligated to edit someone else's post. I do think it's lazy to post a question that looks like crap because you didn't bother to use the preview or look at your post after it went live.

  • 3
    The point about not looking at the preview or at what you just posted is critical.
    – cdeszaq
    Commented Mar 16, 2012 at 13:38
  • I see where you're coming from, but I can't get on board with this. It seems wrong to downvote for spelling mistakes after you correct them. If there's something intrinsically wrong with the question (e.g. it's a plzsendtehcodez), then fine, but you didn't mention that.
    – Pops
    Commented Mar 16, 2012 at 15:00
  • 4
    @PopularDemand: I almost edited to clarify that: Spelling or grammar related to language differences is not what I mean, it's stuff like no punctuation, ALL CAPS, txtspeak like "smth", "u", "btw", things that clearly show a lack of effort, not knowledge: and still, that alone is not enough to warrant a DV. I hope you understand.
    – user159834
    Commented Mar 16, 2012 at 15:02
  • 1
    I don't see the difference... a post's score is supposed to indicate its quality, not the author's behavior. Therefore, if a post gets fixed up, downvoting for its past problems is semantically wrong. That said, I have given out "good job learning to use the site, new user!" upvotes and "by 5000 rep you should know not to ask plzsendtehcodez questions" downvotes, but only on questions that deserved them or were borderline to begin with.
    – Pops
    Commented Mar 16, 2012 at 15:14
  • @PopularDemand: I think that's fair and I agree. I can't see any reason to downvote a quality post after the title, tags, spelling, grammar, and formatting has been corrected, I suppose I was just firing off a list of things that annoy me, which was rather off-topic. Of course, these things usually aren't associated with otherwise good quality questions.
    – user159834
    Commented Mar 16, 2012 at 15:19

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