I've noticed that humorous responses tend to get voted down quickly and regularly. Typically software developers have a keen sense of humor, and nurture it as a survival instinct. It does not make sense to me that Stackoverflow's default group responsive behaviour causes vote downs on humour!

What is the driving force behind the peer pressure to answer seriously and in a straight-forward manner?

  • 2
    Sorry, Kieveli, but you'll have to go and ask each person who has ever down-voted a humorous post - there's no other way to know. – Shog9 Nov 21 '08 at 1:46
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    From now on, I choose to vote up all humorous posts!! Fight the power!! – Kieveli Nov 21 '08 at 1:48
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    One person against the combined might of SO - let me know how that works out for you :-). – user14860 Nov 21 '08 at 1:49
  • Thanks Kieveli. Mayhaps, we might create a more inclusive software development questions site that up-votes humor. – Mark Stock Nov 21 '08 at 1:55
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    I'm not saying up-voting humor is the key - up-voting correct answers is the key... but why down-vote humor? That's the crux. – Kieveli Nov 21 '08 at 1:56
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    The downvote popup states "This was not helpful" - some people may not consider humor helpful in solving the problem. – user14860 Nov 21 '08 at 1:58
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    I question the sanity of people who mark offensive those posts which are neither hate speech, spam nor abuse. – user14860 Nov 21 '08 at 1:59
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    Kieveli, check out my bio page - the most up-voted and most down-voted answers are both jokes. Comedy's a brutal game, sometimes you hit and sometimes... – Shog9 Nov 21 '08 at 2:00
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    Hey! Stop up-voting my fart joke! It deserved that score... ;-p – Shog9 Nov 21 '08 at 2:03
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    Humorous responses should be comments to the question. Not a true "answer" – mmcdole Nov 21 '08 at 6:39
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    You should print out a list of the offenders (the humorless misanthropes), like Jay and Silent Bob did, and fly all over beating them up like they did at the end of the Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back movie. :) – Tim Nov 26 '08 at 10:47
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    Hello meta! meta.stackoverflow.com – gnostradamus Jul 31 '09 at 4:38
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    -1 for calling us 'stackers' – Nathan Koop Nov 4 '09 at 13:33
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    During the first few months of Stack Overflow, humorous responses were consistently up-voted. What a difference a year makes. – Brad Gilbert Nov 4 '09 at 16:10
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    It's because we, collectively, are dead inside. – Pollyanna Nov 4 '09 at 16:18

19 Answers 19


There are plenty of websites you can go to if you want humor - SO is supposed to be about providing useful answers to useful questions.

That's why I also vote down the "What's your favorite data structure"-type questions.

They add little of value to SO - if they were phrased as "What's the best data structure in C++ for representing a phone directory", that would be ideal.

I think the powers that be have basically stated that a small amount of programming-related humor is acceptable but they don't want the site being swamped.

What I tend to do is look at the content of my "answer". If it provides useful information, I make an answer out of it, even if there's a little humor - see here for example. If it's all humor and not really useful, I'll either put it in as a comment (likely) or just move on (less likely, due to my personality type).

  • I wish I could upvote this 1000 times! – rp Nov 21 '08 at 2:36
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    I liked your answer and I notice people comeup with generic question to get high reps and badges. If you put up meaningless generic question like what is popular, what is worst, etc you lot of people answer and the question gets badges as well as up votes. Total useless questions. – Bhushan Bhangale Apr 22 '09 at 9:43
  • it would be nice if we had a separate site where we could do this... – Gordon Gustafson Oct 28 '09 at 1:55
  • Sounds like someone went to UNC-Chapel Hill's CompSci department for undergrad. – siride Dec 9 '10 at 15:47
  • @paxdiablo So is it fine to add humor in comments? – user274599 Nov 1 '14 at 13:39

Because none wants another Slashdot, where you have to dig around about 800 replies down before you get something useful.

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    What is this... 'slashdot' of which you speak? – Kieveli Nov 21 '08 at 2:25
  • You could of course ignore tags such as: offtopic, humor, perhaps also polls and subjective. – Ola Eldøy Dec 20 '08 at 13:08
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    AFAIK, only questions are tagged, not answers. So ignoring tags doesn't help when a good, meaningful question gets 800 content-free joke answers. – Dave Sherohman Dec 26 '08 at 2:35
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    Some of us do want another slashdot :-) – Perpetual Motion Goat Nov 4 '09 at 17:51

Use comments to make Jokes :) I personally like to Joke too, but I can also understand the more serious minded that jokes are out of place in serious answers, unless you use sarcasm to Joke but present the truth, however sarcasm doesn't seem to be recognizable by many folk here... so ...

Right and Funny answers are fine IMHO

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    would like to vote up comments tho. humor has a place, but not in answers – TheSoftwareJedi Nov 21 '08 at 2:14
  • Agree. If I feel like jesting, I do it in a comment. And not just because it won't get me downvoted. ;) – bzlm Oct 15 '10 at 19:21
  1. Down vote funny responses.
  2. ??????????
  3. Profit!
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    Seems someone does not have a sense of humour :( – leppie Nov 21 '08 at 10:23
  • Or hopes to profit from downvoting funny responses. – Piskvor left the building Aug 31 '10 at 16:55

I've had a couple of "joke" answers voted up - maybe you just aren't as funny as you think you are. :-)

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    BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Nope. I'm funny. – Kieveli Nov 22 '08 at 22:49

One of the goals is for this to be a reference in place for years to come.

The jokey answer may be funny today, but will be annoying to the person looking for an answer to that question in six months.

I think downvoting is a good remedy -- the joke responses get a brief moment in the sun, then are out of the way of the helpful answers.

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    humor is timeless – Steven A. Lowe Jul 31 '09 at 6:20
  • Another reason why upvotes should be cancellable without a time limit. – Perpetual Motion Goat Nov 4 '09 at 17:53

humor does not compute

  • Hahah! ? Syntax Error – Kieveli Nov 21 '08 at 2:19
  • +1, Why was this downvoted? It's funny! – Robert Gould Nov 21 '08 at 4:29

If the only point of the post was to crack a joke, make a pun or to prove a certain level of cultural awareness, then it should be voted down.

If an otherwise solid answer was sweetened with a light touch and a whimsical reference, it should be voted up ... but then it would have been voted up anyway, because of its content.


I don't downvote humorous answers, but others do...

Should wrong but funny answers be posted?

But, I must admit, it does limit the distractions.

  • Humorous answers yes, humorous comments no. Se, that's the difference. I think they are a distraction and as such they are better suited as comments. It's also easier to follow. – John Leidegren Feb 20 '09 at 7:05

Mayhaps, an additional funny tag to the voting scheme...

+1 votes: This was helpful and funny.

+1 votes: This was helpful.

0 votes: This was not helpful, but funny.

-1 votes: This was not helpful.

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    And before you know it we have 20 buttons to choose from, just like the famous windows shutdown menu. Nope, we should keep it simple. – Gamecat Nov 21 '08 at 9:20
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    I like it, but it should be in the FAQ and not clutter the voting arrows. – Ed Guiness Nov 21 '08 at 9:23
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    +1 for the use of 'Mayhaps'. One of my favourite all-time non-words. – Kieveli Nov 22 '08 at 0:56
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    How about "Funny","Informative","Insightful","Flamebait" and "FILE_NOT_FOUND"? Of course, each combination should have a button of its own ;) – Piskvor left the building Dec 26 '08 at 1:46
  • what about those of us who like having 20 buttons on the Windows shutdown menu?? – quack quixote Dec 11 '09 at 6:15
  • quack quixote: Well, I for one like the 6 different buttons on the shutdown menu - because it's a menu I don't use too often; but when I do, I need one of the 6 options, each time I may need a different one, and it's no big hassle to spend 20 seconds once a day to choose the right one. On the other hand, I can't foresee 6 options on something I'm supposed to use very often - 20 seconds x 30 votes per day, that comes to ten minutes of time, just for casting votes. To me, that's unacceptable for an action that's supposed to be simple - in addition to the other activities here. – Piskvor left the building Nov 23 '10 at 9:52

What is the driving force behind the Stackoverflow's peer pressure to answer seriously and in a straight-forward manner?

"This is a place for questions that can be answered!" << This.

Iff you answer the question that was asked, and answer it correctly and specifically, then it's time for other features, e.g. humor.

Else, it's not really a good answer, therefore is unhelpful, therefore should be downvoted.

Comments, apparently, do not have these requirements.


Maybe we should ask for a humor tag to mark answers, so those that don't want humor can filter them out, and those that like humor can enjoy themselves. After all Humor is the highest (requires most knowledge and empathy) form of human communication ;)

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    You're clearly a DB Administrator right? - yeah thought so – Harry Nov 21 '08 at 2:59

I brought my sense of humor here, but no one laughed.

  • I did. FIGHT THE POWER!!! Up-voted! – Kieveli Nov 21 '08 at 2:24
  • That was quite funny, bring on some sense of humour i say – Harry Nov 21 '08 at 2:59
  • Upvoted. :) ... – Anthony Mills Nov 4 '09 at 14:13
  • I did :) Very funny. – user274599 Nov 2 '14 at 15:52

Humorous responses tend to get voted down quickly and regularly... if humor (or at least attempted humor) is the primary point of the response. This is as it should be, because humor does not help to resolve technical issues nor to answer most questions of the sort that SO is intended to deal with.

If, OTOH, the reponse is a solid, meaningful, and helpful answer to the question which just happens to have some humor mixed in with the solid, meaningful, and helpful information, then I've seen no tendency for such to be downvoted.

The problem is merely that useful content and humorous content tend to be inversely proportional. SO doesn't downvote humor, it downvotes non-helpful answers.


If an attempt at humor within an answer is otherwise not valuable, and if the question is otherwise serious, and if the answer is distracting, then I think downvoting is justified.

These sorts of "humorous" answers are akin to some jack-ass making jokes or throwing pies at someone trying to change a tire. Humor is fine as a complement to getting things done, when it gets in the way of work, then it becomes a problem. Because, to be honest, a lot of this "humor" isn't as funny as the posters think it is.

As someone above pointed out, valuing humor as highly as concrete help is a recipe for a rapidly diminishing signal to noise ratio, as seen on slashdot and elsewhere.

If you want to make a joke in a serious topic, put it in a comment.

If the entire Q&A thread is humorous, then downvoting isn't justified (unless the joke isn't funny, live by the sword, etc.)

Edit: keep in mind this is coming from someone who posted a funny answer to the (now deleted) "How to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich" question. Humor is good, but you have to be careful from letting it get out of control.


I've noticed that humorous responses tend to get voted down quickly and regularly.

I have noticed that they are sort of OK as long as the question is in the vague/subjective/social/whats-your-favorite-colour category. This humorous but useless answer of mine is currently at +3.

So, IMHO it depends on the question. Humorous answers to precise technical questions are annoying; to vague questions, they might not be.


May be the moderators or Whoever wrote the FAQ should be more clear when thy say " Bring your sense of humour, But not when a serious question is asked"..or something like that..


People can downvote, but if there is little downvotable posts, normal but not strictly programming related posts get downvoted easily too. That includes humorous posts but also posts that don't seem to be programming related even if they are at least somewhat.

  • -1 Because you told me to. – GEOCHET Oct 28 '09 at 14:17
  • @Rich B: I didn't tell you to downvote, I just told how things are. – Silvercode Oct 28 '09 at 14:35

I don't know if what you're saying is exactly true, down votes aren't consistent for humorous responses. In fact the highest voted answer on Stack Overflow is funny (see here) as it still answers the question, conveys a message and everyone loves it.

Sometimes people are funny enough to get away without answering the question, and in that case the up votes will generally outweigh the down votes. I generally try to go by what the alt tag says for the image "This answer is not useful", and base my up/down votes around that. If you can reply with a clear answer and add in some humour, everybody wins, but if you have nothing constructive to say add it as a comment.

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