Please don't take this as a personal attack if you've done this before. I think the "Calvin and Hobbes" thing is sort-of-funny too. I just don't think it's an appropriate response to off-topic questions.

There is a new (to me) tendency for people to post irrelevant "answers" to off-topic programming questions that are asked here on Meta, usually in the form of a "Calvin and Hobbes" comic strip with a brief sentence above it.

This already has a "Many Memes of Meta" entry and a script on Stack Apps to make it easier to do.

To me, this breaks the general rule that one should assume people have good intentions until one has definitive proof otherwise. I'm sure many people posting programming questions on Meta are question-banned on SO and trying to get around it. But we can't know for sure unless they say so (even mods don't know when someone's under a question ban).

Some of these askers are just legitimately mistaken, and to those people I'm sure this is a bit embarrassing (or downright harsh). Especially coming from high-rep users.

The programming questions cause little disruption. They are almost immediately downvoted off the front page (score of -8), closed, and deleted. Rarely, if ever, is Meta "cluttered with offtopic programming questions" (quote from the Stack Apps description). The most recent occurrence I noticed (10k link) actually elicited an inappropriate comment from the OP after the comic was posted. That's certainly not what we want.

Can we, as a community, please just quit doing this? There's no need to make a spectacle of these questions. They are quickly taken care of, and warrant no additional response. There is no need to put a funny hat on trash that needs to go in the garbage.

What do you all think? Should the comic-strip-answers stay, or go?

  • 1
    I always check whether users who post a programming question here have a SO account with many very low-quality questions. If they do, it is extremely likely that they got question-banned, and in those cases, I feel that posting a Calvin & Hobbes answer is perfectly justified - they go in the bin along with the question. One argument one could make is that adding the answer pushes the question back on top another time, though
    – Pekka
    Commented Jun 25, 2012 at 15:23
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    @DiscountGucciHandbags And I completely appreciate that logic. I'm just still uncomfortable with the assumption of bad-faith, when there is no positive side to posting the comic. Also, I get that the answer goes away (so the noise does too), but the OP still ends up having a negative experience. Commented Jun 25, 2012 at 15:25
  • @DiscountGucciHandbags Sorry, I missed your last sentence. I actually didn't make the that argument because of the rapid-fire downvoting that tends to happen with these. Generally the extra bump is not too much of a problem =) Commented Jun 25, 2012 at 15:35
  • Yeah, I see where you're coming from. Another point to consider though: we will tire of this meme eventually - it going away is just a question of time. :)
    – Pekka
    Commented Jun 25, 2012 at 15:35
  • @DiscountGucciHandbags Sure about that? I still see red circles, unicorns, and downvotes due to answers lacking a certain popular JavaScript framework all over this place. Commented Jun 25, 2012 at 15:40
  • But these questions are making the Internet worse! We must be vigilant to protect the Internet from these bad questions, and further pollution from possible answers!
    – JohnMcG
    Commented Jun 25, 2012 at 15:44
  • @JohnMcG I agree they are bad (usually) and are definitely in the wrong place. But there are plenty of (automated) checks already in place to keep bad askers out. Commented Jun 25, 2012 at 15:53
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    Calvin and Hobbes just "sort-of-funny"? Shame on you good Sir! But if we like to keep the meme around, perhaps the sentence before it should be updated to at least link to relevant information (the FAQ for example). Then it's helpful and fun.
    – Bart
    Commented Jun 25, 2012 at 16:16
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    @Bart that's a cool idea. A "seriously though, this question is off-topic here. Click here to..." addition underneath might work
    – Pekka
    Commented Jun 25, 2012 at 16:18
  • @Bart All of that (including a link to Calvin and Hobbes) seems like it would be very appropriate to place into the "Add Comment" box below the off-topic question =) Commented Jun 25, 2012 at 16:22
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    And force me to actually click a link? If I get Carpal Tunnel Syndrome I hold you responsible. But yeah, I won't fight the possible stop of the C&H meme. I see where you're coming from. It's good fun to us, but perhaps not so much to those who've never been here. I wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of another unicode middle finger. ;)
    – Bart
    Commented Jun 25, 2012 at 16:25

2 Answers 2


I know many disagree, but still for the record:

I feel they should go, but not as I feel they are harsh, but because I'm afraid they might make few people (the OP or other readers) feel that posting irrelevant responses is okay.

  • And, yes, I know how voting works here, so by all means please down vote if you think I'm being silly!
    – Arjan
    Commented Jun 25, 2012 at 18:02
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    +1, that's another valid point that I passed over. Commented Jun 25, 2012 at 18:03
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    no, I totally agree with you. Commented Jun 25, 2012 at 19:29

Strictly speaking, the Calvin and Hobbes answers should be down voted and flagged as "not an answer". Down vote them if you want, but please don't flag them, albeit technically being flag worthy, our moderators are already overworked as it is, and the Calvin and Hobbes answers go away quickly, deleted with the questions.

I'm confident that both users who started the meme checked the askers' profile to see hints of a question ban before posting the strips. Regardless, I don't find the answers rude, as I wrote in a comment, we are software developers, ready, at any given time, to shed blood over tabs vs spaces. The Calvin and Hobbes strips are pretty innocent comparing, and Stack Overflow / Exchange are by far the friendliest online communities I know of.

That said, I also can't think of any good reason, other my own amusement, for the Calvin and Hobbes answers to stay. I really don't want to encourage a culture of irrelevant answers, and, unfortunately, if we keep posting them it's only a matter of time before someone thinks it's ok to post something that's not as innocent and funny. And it will only go downhill from there.

I won't be down voting the answers if they keep appearing, but I'd like to ask people to refrain from posting them.

  • Your third paragraph makes very good points that I haven't thought about yet. The reason why I'm not terribly worried about the meme is because I think it'll run its course and we will tire of it eventually. If it'd spread too far, I agree it could become a problem.
    – Pekka
    Commented Jun 25, 2012 at 18:25
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    @DiscountGucciHandbags Memes get out of hand pretty easily, and I have to agree with OP's "especially coming from high-rep users" argument, people will soon start imitating the meme in one form or another, and even more quickly if they think it's sanctioned by high-rep users.
    – yannis
    Commented Jun 25, 2012 at 18:27
  • Fair enough, it's hard to argue against that. I think I'll be limiting by C&H activities even more to especially egregious, and actively ignorant, OPs from now on.
    – Pekka
    Commented Jun 25, 2012 at 18:31

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