The (long) story

The question is below, you don't have to read "the story" to get the question.

The more popular SE sites are the more trolls they attract. I cannot (and others too) ask civilized question without request for fairy tales, explaining half of my life, and so on.

Simplified example:

My question:

what is the hex code of html color 'red'?

So called "answers":

why would you like to use red?

red is not good, remember you are doing this on your own risk!

what browser do you use?

dude, don't use hex codes!

and so on and on and on.

From time to time I also fall for honest explanation, because I am fooled by Jeff Atwood posts, how SE teaches us all to ask proper questions.

So keeping this example, let's say I updated my question about why I would like to use red color after all.

10 minutes later, I will get posts from some trolls about my "rant" of colors, and what hater I am.

On the other hand if I add remark next to my question, with sincere begging to stick to the question I will get downvoted (guessed reason: how dare I remind somebody how to answer the question). The worst, after getting suck by trolls into discussion my post was closed as non-constructive and I was toasted -- why it is my fault that I've got not constructive questions for question?

If you need particular example, take a look (watch the dates and times): How to disable tmpfs on /media in openSUSE?

Ah, that hunger for a good tale... (honestly speaking I suspected that at the time of writing the question)

I am sick and tired of questions for questions just to feed somebody curiosity. Maybe I am naive, but for me what counts is high signal to noise ratio, this means -- answer to question if you know answer, in any other case, move on. If you really have to make the remark...

do this:

you can do this by ... but I would recommend rather ...

don't do this:

why would you like to do this?

Why? Because lifetime is limited, so it is better to show the path and show the alternate way, instead of prolonging the discussion -- because it shortens the life!


Yes, there is question -- is there any tool which would repel the trolls? Remove their questions for questions? General reminder to keep signal to noise ratio high (per question)?

Anything legal/valid which would help sticking to the question and not discussing "meaning of life". I mean it: any, even mini, feature would be helpful.

I think I kill myself, if I read "why would you like to repel trolls"?

  • 16
    why would you like to repel trolls?
    – Martin.
    Apr 7 '12 at 9:28
  • 6
    related: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/8891/…
    – balpha
    Apr 7 '12 at 9:30
  • 2
    If you had actually asked what is the hex code of html color 'red'?, I'd troll you forever... ;P
    – yannis
    Apr 7 '12 at 9:51
  • 2
    In your 2.5 hours old real life example, I don't see anything bad at all. Just a single comment asking for why, to get some context (from a 6.5k user; hardly someone who's trolling). Have things been removed?
    – Arjan
    Apr 7 '12 at 9:59
  • (@Yahoo, would you have known the RGB hex code for green too? Beware: many don't! ;-))
    – Arjan
    Apr 7 '12 at 10:22
  • 2
    @Arjan For some weird reason, I remember the one for fuchsia. I guess it's because of the symmetry. But not green, and I wouldn't troll because I expect people to remember hex codes, but because they are so extremely easy to find.
    – yannis
    Apr 7 '12 at 10:25
  • 1
    @Arjan, no at the time of writing there is full content. I keep some stuff in /media and the reason why I keep it does not change the solution at all. The solution is the same regardless if I hide some dirty pictures in there, or that I need it for backward compatibility. So, the comment is completely irrelevant (no matter how I expand the question, the answer won't change). Apr 7 '12 at 10:28
  • 3
    I very much disagree about you calling that trolling. To me, it's all about trying to help, and also about making these Q&A sites what they're intended to be: not some personal help forum, but a good reference for future visitors too. So, please respond to that comment: it might help future visitors with the same base question but with different knowledge/context to understand why their question might actually be different than yours.
    – Arjan
    Apr 7 '12 at 10:34
  • Hmmm, and how are your examples much different from your earlier "I asked a question, and somebody commented it "hey, why don't you use foo and bar?" which appears a perfect solution -- thus I would like to mark a COMMENT as THE answer"? ;-)
    – Arjan
    Apr 7 '12 at 11:12
  • 5
    +1 for Arjan: SO is primarily for the community and not for any one individual. Regarding the question: Asking for the "hex code" of red is a poor example, since it is basically inappropriate for SO ("shows no research effort"). Comments for "why do you want to do that" are actually very valuable, since many times users suffer the XY problem and end up consuming a lot of everyone else's time. Maybe that isn't the case in your one situation, but more often than not it is.
    – Kerrek SB
    Apr 7 '12 at 11:26

Answer to your question

Flag the comment. Type "I think its a troll" in the flag reason. Done.

Answer to your situation

That's not really trolling.

you can do this by ... but I would recommend rather ...

A recommendation for an alternate method is only possible when the other party knows exactly what you want to do. So, obviously, the first question that one would ask is

why would you like to do this?

(see the "big picture" section below for more on this)

Breakup of your HTML hex example

Here's a breakup of the simplified examples you gave. First thing: these comments sound stupid, but so does the example question. So we can't use "obviously it's trolling" over here because you purposely simplified them to make a general example. So I'm focussing on the type of comment, not the content:

  • why would you like to use red?

This is actually quite necessary, as shown above. Sometimes, you're just going on the wrong path.

  • red is not good, remember you are doing this on your own risk!

Looks troll-y, but not really. There are lots of coding bad-practices which this person wants to warn you of.

  • what browser do you use?

OK, slightly irrelevant to the question. In this case, it's trolling, but remember that the question itself is oversimplified.

  • dude, don't use hex codes!

Again, bad coding practices &c.

I can't really show you the difference between trolling and not trolling unless you give nonsimplified, real, examples. You gave only one:

The SUSE example

I don't use unix, so I don't know about the /media/ directory. If it's something you're supposed to put stuff in, then that comment is trolling. Flag it.

If it's some exotic system folder thingythingy which you're not supposed to touch, then its a valid problem. He may be able to find an alternative thing for you to do.

Edit: According to @DanielFischer, the /media directory is not for everyday use. So that comment is not trolling, just a "big-picture" comment (see next section).

Always give the big picture

Remember, a solution to your big-picture problem is better than a solution to a small hurdle in your problem. It's always nice to provide detailed about the big-picture problem so that others can see what you really need. As a slightly crappy, mundane analogy: You need money. But you don't really need money, just the services that money gets you (food, etc). Money is just a hurdle in your path to getting those services. Same here. Your problem is just a hurdle in a bigger problem(usually), and it always helps to know what the big picture is. These guys just want to know what the big picture is.


I think you're getting a bit worked up about people who may be genuinely trying to help. Many times, more details are necessary for solving the problem. Some real world examples would help me analyse this better.

  • 1
    Thank you for your answer ;-) There is a problem A (red color) --> solution for problem A. Like mathematical thesis and proof for it. There is a path between A and solution. Is proof/solution for A invalid because (a) the author is insane, (b) it is risky, (c) the motives are odd (d) and so on. No. Why? Because it is binary--either solution is valid or not, anything else does not matter. So why asking for those "anything else"? It is irrelevant by definition. It is only relevant, if this is part of the problem, but then it wouldn't be "anything else". QED ;-). Apr 7 '12 at 10:22
  • 5
    @macias: Yep, but if someone asks you "What's the best rope to use for hanging oneself", surely you won't just tell him... If someone's doing something strange or illogical, it's just better to find out more first. Humans cannot be treated with logic. In fact, on Physics,SE, we don't even allow such homework-type questions where there's "a problem-->solution". Nope. We have conceptual answers only (and hints for homework). So you can't treat questions with mathematical logic :P Apr 7 '12 at 11:34
  • @greenoldman Simplistic problems like that do have a single answer. Complex development problems, on the other hand, will have any number of solutions and picking the right one often requires more information than someone new to the topic knows to include. Eg: A user is trying to store an image in a database. Nine times out of ten, it's the wrong solution to the actual problem (eg storing a photo for a shop item) but there are a few cases where it's the best option available. If we don't ask Why?, we'll be giving bad advice. See the XY Problem
    – Basic
    Aug 14 '14 at 20:38

When you are asking about something that is far from the standard way of achieving a certain goal or is about doing something that is unusual, it is fair to expect people to question it.

Demanding that people stay "on-topic", when they don't understand why one is requesting things that are out of the norm instead of adding the relevant information is simply not constructive.

I don't really know what "tool" you could use apart from flagging comments and answers as not relevant (though the moderators may disagree).

The best way to "repel" trolls is to give a full description of your issue, including motivation for when you are doing things very differently than expected.

  • 1
    I already explained, that it is actually worse -- because I spend more time writing, and in return I give more "hooks" for further questions. I already tried it, and it is better IMHO to post as dry question as possible, because there is only one "hook" somebody can use -- "why would like you to do this?". I am also surprised by "it is fair to expect people to question it". From mankind I expect anything, but why making this valid on SE? Is this question-for-question forum? If the question is odd, I simply move on to the next. And I am looking for method to enforce it. Apr 7 '12 at 9:50
  • 2
    @macias - If you don't give complete information, people can't give an answer that will suit the requirements. If you post a question about "driving on the sidewalk", you don't think it fair that people ask why do you want to do that?
    – Oded
    Apr 7 '12 at 9:51
  • 1
    honestly, no. My principle is -- don't for the others what you wouldn't like to get from the others. And I don't want to bother the other people, because I would like the other people would not bother me -- as the result I don't share my wisdom (don't do this, why...) pretending it is an answer for some question. There is really a difference between question-answer and discussion. Apr 7 '12 at 9:57
  • 5
    @macias - Not everyone has your sensibilities. If I see someone about to shoot themselves in the foot, I will try to avert it. If I see someone concatenating SQL, I will shout "SQL Injection".
    – Oded
    Apr 7 '12 at 10:01
  • 1
    And I covered this also (see my post). Apr 7 '12 at 10:13

Before outlining the answers, let's look at your question first:

What is the hex code of html color 'red'?

  1. You are asking for a HEX code, so you should understand how HEX works.

  2. You are asking for a HTML color, so you should understand what HTML colors work.

  3. If you would know that, you wouldn't be asking such question.

As a logical consequence, the answers you provided in you example don't represent anything because the problem lies with the question, not with the answers...

So keeping this example, let's say I updated my question about why I would like to use red color after all.

Skipping the fact that your homework was not done and that the question is rherotical, defending a detail is not really the way to go in your question. Consider not mentioning red at all.

On your particular example, you are indirectly mentioning in your question that you are putting files in tmpfs, so that is a perfect valid query for more informaiton, and is not trolling at all.

I can easily turn your quote around

Why? Because lifetime is limited, so if your question is rhetorical or requires more explanation then you better hurry to provide it, otherwise you would most likely not get your answers.

Yes, there is question -- is there any tool which would repel the trolls?

Why are they trolls? You didn't mention that.

Remove their questions for questions?

What defines a "question for question", this is rather vague.

General reminder to keep signal to noise ratio high (per question)? Anything legal/valid which would help sticking to the question and not discussing "meaning of life". I mean it: any, even mini, feature would be helpful.

Even more text? They barely read it now anyway, as you mentioned yourself.

I think I kill myself, if I read "why would you like to repel trolls"?

Why would you like to repel trolls? You don't, they are there to help you write better questions.

  • 1
    I can only say, "God, save me from friends, with enemies I can handle by myself". I HONESTLY wish you a spouse and children who will constantly "answer" your questions with questions in return, all for good cause of helping you asking better questions! Apr 7 '12 at 10:32
  • 7
    @macias: You're just being ignorant here; yeah right, we're all trolling you... Get over it. Consider that the problem lies with your questions, not with people trying to get clarification because you made it lack. Apr 7 '12 at 10:34

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .