So, in the past few minutes I saw the following questions:

PLEASE! help me someone (ajax form submit and validate within container div)

Is Dewalt Worth The Money?

Now, I'm just thankful they had nothing to do with the review queue, so I figured I'd jump in and help the first guy. Why is it so hard to do that, instead of just downvote the guy into oblivion?

See this post?

Could we please be a bit nicer to new users?

One thousand-plus upvotes. So why is it that no one can just give these guys a push in the right direction instead of beating them down? As Chris Berman would say, "C'mon, man!"

  • 7
    Hmmm... I sympathize with your broad feelings here, but I think you are asking a question based on a false premise: Pushing someone in the right direction (or not) isn't related to beating them down (or not). Either can be done individually. Also, I disagree that voting down counts as 'beating down'. Nov 22, 2013 at 21:46
  • 13
    The second question is spam. The first one simply isn't a good fit for the site and it's unlikely that the user wil be able to turn around the question. (Edit: I realize now that was asked on Meta. And you pointed the guy in the right direction. Not sure what the problem is?)
    – Pekka
    Nov 22, 2013 at 21:46
  • I get it's not a good fit, but my comment in that post was, "This isn't the right site. Here's a link to where it should be posted". I think that guy's more likely to come back than the guy who just got hit with 7 downvotes and no comments. Don't you?
    – anon
    Nov 22, 2013 at 21:49
  • 1
    He posted the question in the wrong place, and as @Sha says, he got an automated message from the system explaining what went wrong when the question was closed. Plus you jumped in with a nice comment. I don't really see the problem here. Re the absence of comments from other people who downvoted, posting helpful advice gets really old when you've done it 500 or 1000 times before, and the site makes every effort to direct people to the right place...
    – Pekka
    Nov 22, 2013 at 21:50
  • I just feel like people are more likely to downvote than to just take a sec to correct the person or point him to where he could get help. I mean, this site is about helping people, right? So why the downvotes? That's not helping anyone. It even hurts the downvoter!
    – anon
    Nov 22, 2013 at 21:53
  • 12
    Yes, I know I am more likely to downvote and closevote than comment these days. As said, "taking a sec" gets old when you do it for the one-thousandh time. Posting a programming question on Meta takes a spectacular amount of not reading anything along the way - try it out.
    – Pekka
    Nov 22, 2013 at 21:55
  • 2
    Correction about your last comment @Johnny: downvoting a question is free of any cost, it doesn't hurt the downvoter a bit. Nov 22, 2013 at 22:04
  • 7
    Also, does anyone else find this ironic? Nov 22, 2013 at 22:06
  • 1
    @ShaWizDowArd That's very ironic. Sounds like more trolling. Nov 22, 2013 at 22:08
  • @JoshC no, I think this one is for real. Nov 22, 2013 at 22:09
  • 1
    @JoshC oh crap, you were right!! Nov 22, 2013 at 22:10

3 Answers 3


The first question looks like it got a pretty reasonable response, despite 4 downvotes.

n00b resoponse

A polite comment informing the OP exactly what was wrong with the question and where it should go instead, closed almost immediately, then deleted by the OP. I think that's a great result. (Thanks for being the one to leave that comment, by the way.)

The second question, asking about a nail gun price, is just wildly off-topic. There's no reason to not downvote that. The guy isn't here to ask about Stack Exchange, and I doubt we're going to convert him into a productive member of the community.

  • The second question is likely a spam bot in training or something. See @Sha's comment in the closed question, meta.stackoverflow.com/posts/208620/revisions
    – Pekka
    Nov 22, 2013 at 21:54
  • 2
    @probablyPekka dunno about bot, these days I think those are just people who are hired to post those things. (once saw article about "spam farms" in China, thousands of people working for $1 per day to post spam around the internet) Nov 22, 2013 at 21:55
  • 4
    I'd be a terrible judge in the Turing test. I really can't tell the difference between a bad translation and a good Markov chain. Nov 22, 2013 at 21:58

There is nice big banner on such posts, visible to the OP even after deletion of the question:

Programming questions are off-topic on Meta Stack Overflow. Please refer to how to ask on Stack Overflow. See also: Why are questions no longer being accepted from my account?"

There is even "please" there. Can't be nicer than that.

Downvotes on such posts are used to make it clearer this isn't fitting to Meta. User who made innocent mistake will take the hint, delete his post and move on happily. Users who don't take the hint and keep posting their programming questions here will get the question ban hammer, as it should be.

As for this, judge for yourself:

Do you really think it's innocent new user? Do you really want us to be nice to him?!

  • "Do you really want us to be nice to him?!" I don't know, man. Maybe there's s fundamental flaw in my karma calculations, but what, exactly, do you gain from not being nice? Does it make you feel warm and fuzzy to downvote? If it's a serial spammer, then just vote to close and be done with it. The point is, spammer or not, it doesn't hurt to be nice. End of story. Nov 22, 2013 at 21:57
  • What about "pretty please"? ;) Nov 22, 2013 at 21:58
  • @JohnnyBones Who was "not nice" to that user? Nov 22, 2013 at 21:59
  • 13
    It kinda amuses me when people take the extra mile to be nice or reason with spammers. It's like watching a drunkard bump into a lamppost and apologize.
    – JJJ
    Nov 22, 2013 at 22:00
  • @JohnnyBones "Does it make you feel warm and fuzzy to downvote?" - Of course. But few of us will admit it. Personally, I try my best to hold back. But don't forget that this is the internet and there is a lot less restraint than there is in say a workplace.
    – Mysticial
    Nov 22, 2013 at 22:01
  • 9
    The point is, spammer or not, it doesn't hurt to be nice. Sorry, but that's ridiculous. Especially as we're talking about mere downvotes, not actual insults or anything. Are you nice to the person who takes a dump on your doorstep? (In the case of real, non-spammer people, especially older ones, who actually mistakenly post on SO, I agree though - niceness is appropriate.)
    – Pekka
    Nov 22, 2013 at 22:02
  • @JohnnyBones it's nothing personal. If the guy on the other end of the keyboard will personally arrive at my doorstep and ask for help in programming I'll invite him inside for a cup of coffee. Really! :) Nov 22, 2013 at 22:02
  • @probablyPekka you gotta be nice to that guy, no telling what he'll do next. JohnnyBones you make a very good point there about gaining nothing by not being nice to (real) people, that's a sentiment I'd love to see taken on board more. But I wonder why do you mention downvoting in the same breath? The two aren't really related
    – Clive
    Nov 22, 2013 at 22:07
  • @Clive this entire question is built on the premise that downvoting = not being nice. That's what I find ridiculous - the idea that we should actually post helpful comments to spammers, and not downvote them.
    – Pekka
    Nov 22, 2013 at 22:13
  • @probablyPekka Gotcha, didn't pick that up
    – Clive
    Nov 22, 2013 at 22:14
  • 3
    @probablyPekka actually this entire question is built on a boring day at work :( Nov 22, 2013 at 22:15

I think there's a point where practicality outweighs decorum. Downvotes hurt, no doubt. And I am really in the "be nice to users" camp.. but that said, there's this one quote by good ole' ben franklin:

"That which hurts, instructs"

Most netizens know that the virtual world can be rough. Well, if they don't know they'll soon find out.

The issue is that these spam & low-qual posts suck our time. Take up space. etc

So far, I think we've been OK overall about closing bad questions. We will undoubtedly improve, but that evolution is gradual. One day, the bots may politely yet sternly do all this. One day