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The bike shed problem and SO

Sometimes I come across trivial questions that get up-voted for no particular reason. (Not to imply that I am an authority on what a good reason for voting a question up might be.) This makes me uneasy and my question is two-fold:

Is it alright to down-vote a question simply because I think it gets too much attention? Is the attitude of "trivial questions should not get any attention" appropriate for SO?

  • Is it alright to down-vote a question simply I think it gets too much attention? No. Is the attitude of "trivial questions should not get any attention" appropriate for SO? No. Some sounds-like trivial questions requires not so trivial answer to adequately explain it.
    – nhahtdh
    Commented Oct 13, 2012 at 7:43
  • Related: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/96584/… Commented Oct 13, 2012 at 7:45

2 Answers 2


There may be members of the committee who might fail to distinguish between asbestos and galvanized iron, but every man there knows about coffee – what it is, how it should be made, where it should be bought – and whether indeed it should be bought at all. This item on the agenda will occupy the members for an hour and a quarter, and they will end by asking the Secretary to procure further information, leaving the matter to be decided at the next meeting.

From Parkinson's Law, and Other Studies in Administration, by C. Northcote Parkinson.

Parkinson's Law of Triviality (the bikeshedding effect) argues that trivial questions are naturally more popular: A lot more people can understand them, and, perhaps more importantly, a lot more people can answer them.

Although each and every one of us will have a slightly different definition of what trivial means, if you honestly feel that the question does not show any research effort, feel free to downvote it. But downvoting it because you feel it received more attention than it should have sounds a bit... vindictive.

  • Yes. It does, doesn't it. No, I'll try not to down-vote out of spite. Nice reference. Thanks! Commented Oct 13, 2012 at 7:55
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    @ЯрославРахматуллин It seems to me that a lot of users are mistaking question score for rating. It's not rating, there's no comparison, a +100 question is not necessarily better than a +2 one, the +100 one might just be way older and/or trivial (in which case the law of triviality applies). I have seen vindictive behaviours before, and although I had no reason to believe that you'd vote out of spite, I thought of including the last sentence for everyone out there that might potentially read this.
    – yannis
    Commented Oct 13, 2012 at 10:48

No, don't downvote a question because it gets too much attention. (Whatever "too much attention" means anyway) Downvote it because it's bad or in any way not a good question.

There may be many reasons for attention and subsequent upvotes. Some might find it easy but interesting. It might be seemingly simple, but deceptively so. Perhaps it was shared on some social media platform and a lot of visitors drop by indirectly. There can be any number of reasons. If anything, if the question is trivial to you, add an answer.

The level of attention a question receives however should have no effect on your voting behavior. Evaluate it on its own merits as a question.

Note: This all assumes the question asked is a fair one and does not fall under any of the typical poorly researched, off-topic, duplicate, not a real question, or other scenarios.

  • I don't think a "stupid" question such as "how do I set the classpath" or "how do I get the two next to last lines of a file" merit anything at all as questions. They are just lazy, dull and boring questions. Given my opinion on the matter, is it alright to vote questions like that down? Commented Oct 13, 2012 at 7:53
  • @Ярослав Рахматуллин If by "lazy" you mean "doesn't show any effort", then yes, downvote, that's exactly what downvoting is for. Dull and boring is... just your opinion, and you shouldn't express it with your votes.
    – yannis
    Commented Oct 13, 2012 at 7:55
  • Ultimately you are free to do with your votes whatever you wish. If you feel you need to downvote something because the weather outside is frightful, (but the fire is so...yeah) by all means go ahead. The ultimate decider is if you can justify the downvote to yourself. The examples you list in your comment don't sound all that bad as a reason, especially if the answers are easily found or if there are many duplicates already. My point is mostly related to questions which we would consider to be appropriate for SO/SE. Not those which would be dupes, not a real question, too localized, etc.
    – Bart
    Commented Oct 13, 2012 at 7:55
  • @bart A sparrow just flew in my bedroom (true story)! Free upvotes for everyone!
    – yannis
    Commented Oct 13, 2012 at 7:58
  • @YannisRizos A pigeon just flew against my window. True story. Gave you an upvote anyway.
    – Bart
    Commented Oct 13, 2012 at 7:59

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