I've noticed that most low effort, low quality, fish begging answers are met with a deserving "what have you tried?", while low effort, low quality regex questions are rarely met with the same response. In fact, some regex questions just end blatantly with "Give me the answer".

This is quite typical: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/13513540/create-regex-expression: 5 answers but with a 2 x downvoted question.

It seems to me that regex questions breed fish begging questioners and are an easy way to gain rep for the answerer.

This kinda builds the argument for: Should correct answers to bad questions be down voted?.

So why do we turn a blind eye to Regex?

  • 4
    Easy rep....? Your question should really have been titled "Regex question" or similar to fit in. Nov 22, 2012 at 23:24
  • 3
    Yeah. Easy rep. Quickly answered. Some upvotes guaranteed. I would almost assume that our users are human. I would personally not downvote the answers (I don't like to use my downvotes for a somewhat vindictive "you should not have answered this" vote) but I would certainly go for a quick closure of the question.
    – Bart
    Nov 22, 2012 at 23:28
  • 2
    As mentioned before, "regex questions have always been sort of a special case". People don't understand that regex is a (even if tiny or meta) programming language, and can't be bothered to read a single tutorial. To them it's a magic block box solution where they always and evermore have to consult the internet on.
    – mario
    Nov 22, 2012 at 23:59
  • Agreed. The [regex] swamp is so bad I filter the tag out.
    – Raedwald
    Jun 19, 2013 at 23:14

2 Answers 2


I think there are several elements at work here:

  • Obviously the OP is looking for a solution and either can't be bothered to look it up or learn. As you point out, sometimes they appear to demand an answer, but some of the time this is down to english not being their first language.

  • The fastest gun in the west usually gets easy rep for basic regex answers - I've seen cases of the same regex being provided and each answer get the same upvotes.

  • Some users effectively wait on tags to build rep and I've seen the subject discussed on meta: 6 simple tips to get Stack Overflow reputation fast (old, but valid)

  • Regex is (or can be very localised at times) - some requiring very specific answers, yet of some complexity (or even an alien language) to beginners

  • The better answers usually include some form of reference to attempt to help the OP learn (although they are few and far between most of the time)

The more sophisticated regex questions aren't answered anywhere near as quickly...

In terms of down-voting answers to bad questions, I'n not convinced that's a constructive idea, but when you have a new user who is a bit wet behind the ears, I'd rather see accurate/good answers to poor questions than no answers at all - It would make some users even more afraid to leave the safety of the comments for the glory of the answer box.

If anything, new users are quickly scalded for the manner in which they ask a question and begin to understand etiquette and the most constructive way of asking a question (sadly not all of them!).

This is nothing but a personal view - but it's good to see experienced users attempt to educate as far as possible - an example of which I saw today by a user with 34K+ rep, only to be pwnd by someone in the comments giving the one-line answer. I'm more in favour of closure if they aren't of wider use.


I want to create regex expression of following type e.g 11111111.2222

Those are quite regular questions to parse. They consist from the I-want-something phrase that can be easily skipped and the example-to-parse that need to be found as quickly as possible and matched with regex.

If you know regex good you can answer such questions very fast, even faster than it would take to write a comment 'What have you tried'?

Why people want to answer such question? Maybe for reputation, or maybe simply for pleasure, such as solving crosswords...

OPs are downvoted for low effort, the community gets good answers... I think that the answers to duplicate posts shouldn't be upvoted if they are the duplicated too, but we can't forbid the users to upvote what they like... as far as answer is correct, of course.

  • That very last part of your answer isn't even true, unfortunately. Users are free to upvote for whatever reason they like, and sometimes that means answers that aren't at all correct get upvoted. May 22, 2013 at 8:43
  • Well yes, but if the answer is not correct, and nevertheless upvoted, you can flag it for moderator attention. May 22, 2013 at 8:44
  • Eh, I'm not sure that's correct. Moderators don't deal with the validity of answers. "Not an answer" means it's not even an attempt to answer the question (such as a request for clarification that should instead be posted as a comment), not that it doesn't correctly answer the question. May 22, 2013 at 8:49
  • +1 I must admit, I'd not considered users answering regex questions for pleasure (such as crosswords), but now that I think about it, I know a few who would! :)
    – nickhar
    Jul 4, 2013 at 22:56
  • No doubt, Regex is something that require very specific answers. It's not easy to beginners
    – user276687
    Dec 8, 2014 at 17:31

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