What is the limit between two questions which both have the form "I don't know something" but this "something" is easy to find on Google? Sometimes I see this type of question which have downvotes (and many comments like "this is not google"), and others which have a lot of upvotes.

Example of upvoting question:

Which DOM elements cannot accept an id?

Example of downvoting question:


Can anybody explain this situation to me?

3 Answers 3


This question, Which DOM elements cannot accept an id?, shows research effort. The op cites material from the spec and also explains what he's learned so far about the id attribute. He's asking for an answer that still could probably be found by google searching, but it's not so bad that I could find it in 10 seconds on Google without thinking about it. IMHO, this question is a good example of how to ask a question where the answer might not really be that complicated.

In the second question, https://stackoverflow.com/questions/8441425/php-differences-between-those-functions, the op simply asks "What is the difference between X and Y". The op gives us no indication of what research this person has already done on the two functions or what specifically the op doesn't understand about the two. Also, the PHP site has so many examples of usage that it's redundant to ask for examples of usage on StackOverflow. Instead, the question could have actually been a little better if the op first showed the two examples, found through his own research, explained what they both were doing, and then asked the community to explain what the difference is.

In short, the main difference between the two questions is simply in the amount of effort put into composing them. We don't dislike easy questions or questions that are somewhat "amateur", we just want those questions to be asked by people who respect the community's time and give us enough information to more definitively answer the question.


The upvoted example is asking for something that has a definite answer - "Which html elements cannot accept an id?" This has a clear answer that can be pointed to (the HTML specification).

The downvoted example is not so - it is asking for something much more fuzzy - the difference between two options and how to use them. This is something not as clear cut. The downvotes probabaly also originated from the original form of the question - "how I benefit from using those functions (need an example) ?" which is not very constructive.

The fact is - Stack Overflow is a community of people. Some will downvote a question that others will upvote - what you see is an aggregate of votes and perhaps a bit of luck in regards to who actually clicked through to the question.

  • Ok, maybe it is not good example of downvoting question but I can not find better at now. But What can you tell about that question which answer you can find in 5 minutes in one of the most popular site about html (w3c) get 8 upvotes? If somebody will ask question "[css] How change color of text?" I think then 5 person will downvote becouse "this is not a Google". So I actually do not understand that situation :/ Thanks for your answer :) Jun 19, 2012 at 19:36
  • 2
    @MateuszRogulski - Most likely, it came down to research effort, taking time to make the question grammatically correct and nicely formatted, explaining what the op knew first about the id attribute. All of those things help people take you more seriously and make you look less like a help vampire. For instance, if op had simply asked "What elements can 'id' not be used on?" and nothing else, then the question probably would have attracted several downvotes instead. It also would have likely been closed. Sometimes it's about telling what you do know as much as it is asking the question.
    – jmort253
    Jun 19, 2012 at 19:40
  • Hmmm... thanks but I'm little flustrated when I see question likes my upvotes example which have 8 upvotes, and my good formated, question where I make a lot of reserach to find answer, have 1 or 2. Thanks for answers :) Jun 19, 2012 at 19:49

The downvoted example is a clear RTFM. The answer can be found by reading the manual entries for both questions.

The upvoted example is not as clear. It's theoretically still trivial to look up, but you would have to look into the actual HTML spec and it's information that isn't readily compiled somewhere.

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