Sorry, I haven't been paying much attention to the meta-discussions here lately, so I'm not sure if this is appropriate or not, but I just had something on my mind I wanted to share with you.

Anyway, after reading a question about number of lines of code produced per day, and first voting it down for being a "bad" question, I thought a bit about it and then changed my mind to vote it up instead.

The reason for this is quite simple: even if I think the question is "bad" because it discusses a practice I don't much approve of (counting lines of code), the answers to the question may very well turn out to be "good", which again may possibly lead to someone learning something they didn't know before or getting a new perspective on a topic.

So, my question is now, did I do the "right" thing by upvoting the question, or should I have downvoted it to help increase the signal-to-noise ratio of the site? What is the "official" Stack Overflow guidelines for this, if there are any?

Oh, and feel free to vote me down if you feel this question itself is completely useless... ;)

  • I see people didn't like it. Please educate me by linking to an existing FAQ item about this, if there is one. Sep 28 '08 at 15:07
  • 1
    Anders: Just read the FAQ, no meta discussion is welcome here.
    Sep 28 '08 at 15:09
  • Yet there is a lot of it going on. There is even an unofficial FAQ consisting of "meta" questions: stackoverflow.com/questions/18557/… Sep 28 '08 at 15:13
  • @Rob: It is being downvoted. Obviously people don't agree.
    Sep 28 '08 at 15:19

10 Answers 10


If the question is bad, vote it down.

If the answers are good, vote them up.

Good answers don't make a good question.

  • 3
    Yeah, but would you even bother to read the answers to a question with -10 score? Sep 28 '08 at 15:08
  • 2
    If I was searching for it, yes. That is the very premise of this site.
    Sep 28 '08 at 15:08
  • 2
    I see. Let's hope people searching for this question will still read the answers even if the question has a negative score. ;) Sep 28 '08 at 15:11
  • @Anders: Since it is not a programming question, I highly doubt they will find it once it is off the front page. And for good reason.
    Sep 28 '08 at 15:23
  • This is another reason to favorite answers. Sep 23 '10 at 16:16

I see the down votes as being my indication that the quality of the question or if the quality of the answer is poor. Additionally, if the answer provided is incorrect then I vote that answer down. I wouldn't down vote a question simply because I disagree with the practice being discussed.


I upvote a question if I would be interested in seeing the answer.

I downvote a question under these circumstances:

  • not programming related
  • poorly written question (poor grammar, lots of misspelling, hard to understand)
  • just plain stupid or noisy (e.g., "What kind of food do you eat while programming?")

Otherwise, I leave it alone.

I don't think anyone should downvote a question because they disagree with the questioner. Downvoting should in some way indicate that the questioner didn't follow the rules or think very hard about the question.

  • 2
    Poor grammar may just be an indication that the user doesn't speak english very well. If I see such a post, I try to edit it to make it a little better. Of course you have to be a careful not to edit in meaning that the poster didn't intend. Sep 29 '08 at 2:12

I think this is a gray area and each one of us has to judge for ourselves. If you think the question is a bad question, downvote it. I thought the question was valid, and I and many other of the respondents pointed out that lines of code wasn't really a useful metric for anything. I didn't upvote it though, either. :)


my opinion: if the question is about programming, even if you disagree with it, then it's a good question. the lines-of-code-per-day question is a good example: this is nearly a useless number, but that doesn't make the question bad; others may see the answers to this question and learn something

  • 1
    That doesn't make sense. Just because they followed the rules doesn't make it 'good'.
    Sep 28 '08 at 15:11
  • 1
    it depends on how you define good. I define good as 'within the guidelines of the site'. If you think the question is flawed, answer it with an explanation of why. No one learns from drive-by downvoting ;-) Sep 29 '08 at 16:24

If you have enough reputation, it would be better to edit question, especially if it received some good answers.

This site pretends to be like Wiki - i.e. collaboratively editable.

Of course it's maybe be not fair if original author gains reputation after someone fixed his\her questions. But it's completely up to you. If you feel that quality of question is more important than personal ambitions then edit post and help community.

  • I do that, and I don't mind it, for the community's sake. But I will vent that there are certain 'newbies' who post HORRIBLE questions that I will take the time to completely overhaul. I do this, and then 5 minutes later they post another HORRIBLE question. That does get a bit tiresome.
    Sep 28 '08 at 15:22
  • If a newbie asks a bad question, I think it is a good idea to leave a civil comment. Downvoting and editing are fine, but people aren't going to learn without some sort of useful feedback. Sep 28 '08 at 16:32
  • Kristopher Johnson, IMO comments is a must, when you think that Q is not good. I try to leave comment each time I down-vote something.
    – aku
    Sep 28 '08 at 22:30
  • I don't see what would be wrong with helping other users get reputation by asking better questions. We should focus on stackoverflow being a community. Sep 29 '08 at 2:05

David Ameller,

All discussions boil down to a single thing - users morale.

Quality of questions or number/correctness of votes just mirrors the quality of SO community.

We can add tons of technical means to enforce desired behavior.

But users will be inserting useless text just to bypass these barriers.

Wise guy Seraphim of Sarov once said:

Acquire a peaceful spirit, and thousands around you will be saved.

If you want SO to be better community then YOU should become example of honesty and helpfulness.

In society where most people behave similarly, it is difficult to be white crow.

If more and more people would leave comments when they are not agree with Q/A then problem will disappear.

Don't blindly down-vote anything you don't like.

Instead of punish try to make it better.

Don't hesitate to leave a comment or even fix bad question.


I think if you believe the question is bad you should down vote it. In a few minutes it will not be on the front page anymore and only the people looking for it will be reading it at this point they will read it even if it has negative votes, maybe the negative votes will make them want to read the answers even more to know why it was such a bad question. (In case they don't find it obvious)

For the people suggesting editing the questions and incorporate answers, you can do that, but it is not officially recommended

Quoting Jeff:

I agree. IMO the only time editing posts to insert inline replies is OK is when the editor asked the original question.

  • For the record, that same post also states that "Clarification where the meaning is not changed..." is ok. Sep 29 '08 at 2:07

I think that I used the correct way to express something similar: stackoverflow.uservoice.com

In my case I have proposed that down-votes must be commented (at least must be suggested to comment why) other ways are useless.


Is there an area on the matrix of question quality against validity which isn't covered by upvoting, editing or closing for the various reasons allowed?

If it's a bad question - why is it bad?

  • If there's a nub of a good question, help rewrite it (after all the asker might not have English as a first language).
  • Is it just irrelevant? Then vote to close it.
  • Is it flamebait? Close it.
  • Should it be elsewhere? Close it and point it to meta/SF/SU/SO as appropriate.

I'm actually struggling to think of why I might down vote a question that's honestly asked and which has no reasonable cause for being closed.

If I'm not interested, then I don't vote - that's very different from down-voting.

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