It seems like half the questions I click on these days are full of comments or even "answers"* that don't relate to the question, but instead are complaints about the poster's other questions, demands that the user mark other questions answered, comments about the user's accept rate, etc.

This kind of active, I won't say "reputation-whoring," let's say active "playing of the reputation meta-game", in the middle of other people trying to get their programming questions answered, it bugs the shit out of me, personally. It's distracting. It's clutter. In game terms, it ruins the immersion.

But clearly these meta-comments are important to the users who make them, and some of them get a lot of up-votes too. The Stack Overflow reputation game is serious business for a lot of people, it looks like; and it being one of the major drivers of smart people posting smart answers, I'm all for it. And it's not like we can split Stack Overflow into, like, RP and PVP servers.

Is there a way both "player types" can get what they want? Can we come up with some other channel for users to express their complaints about other users' etiquette or posting style? Or is making sure those complaints get in the face of the rest of us an inseparable part of the game?

* The word "answers" originally linked to an "answer" more or less of the form: I could tell you, but since you've ignored my answer to your other question, I'm not gonna. Looks like it's since been nuked, so that's one good deed accomplished for the day...

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    Well, you've come to the right place if you want to talk about the other sites. – random Sep 16 '09 at 8:14
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    Oh nice, you have the Magic Pudding as your avatar. – random Sep 16 '09 at 8:33
  • FYI, I flagged that dodge answer, feel free to as well. – waffles Sep 16 '09 at 8:59
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    The first link you provided isn't a great example. The OP got the meta ball rolling by linking to his own prior question. The comment was just in response to that. – Bill the Lizard Sep 16 '09 at 11:52
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    i want a donut – Welbog Sep 16 '09 at 13:37
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    I want Welbog to have a donut. – gnostradamus Sep 16 '09 at 14:40
  • Its not just SO, because THE INTERNET IS SERIOUS BUSINESS! – Troggy Sep 16 '09 at 14:51
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    Jeff said himself to go crazy on flagging comments you do not like. They are auto removed once flagged so many times. – Troggy Sep 16 '09 at 14:53


  1. Meta discussion belongs on meta.stackeoverflow.com
  2. If a user does not bother accepting answers, you can simply ignore their questions
  3. If someone is posting "-1 should be wiki", this is considered abuse and should be flagged as such.
  4. If someone posts an answer along the lines of, I would answer the question but since you do not bother accepting answers, I will not answer it. It is abuse, flag it as such.
  5. If someone is flagged too often, they will be punished with -100 rep.

People need to be a bit more liberal with the flag button, it can save us from evil.

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    They'd probably be more liberal if they had more than 5 a day for comments and 10 for posts. – random Sep 16 '09 at 8:50
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    I doubt 99.99 percent of the people are hitting the limit ... can not mine it from the data dump – waffles Sep 16 '09 at 8:53
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    Comments that get flagged do not cause a rep penalty. Questions and answers that get deleted due to spam/offensive flags (6 required) will get busted with the 100 rep penalty. – TheTXI Sep 16 '09 at 12:13
  • And as I found out recently, if a daimond mod flags as spam, it is instant. As are all things. – BinaryMisfit Sep 16 '09 at 13:37
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    Isn't #3 a bit brutal? If the op changes his vote to cw and then the commenter changes his vote, it's all for the better, isn't it? – marcgg Sep 16 '09 at 15:41
  • @marcegg, see meta.stackexchange.com/questions/392/… – waffles Sep 16 '09 at 21:05
  • Regarding #2 it's worth pointing this out to newer users. If their question is good it's still worth leaving answers as well for others to find. – Alex Angas Sep 17 '09 at 10:29

For me it looks like the new accept rate feature does more harm than good. But it could be too early to decide that finally.

I can understand your complaint about the complaints, but even if you add another place for them, I doubt that someone will use it. Complaints are there to be spit in one's face, or more nicely, to place them where you are sure the other guy reads them.

Therefore I think you have to live with them. Nothing you can do about it.

  • Thanks, random. Do you edit only to add pictures, now? – Ladybug Killer Sep 16 '09 at 8:39
  • Nope, saving edits only for pictures or more than just a typo. – random Sep 16 '09 at 8:43
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    I posted a question about whether or not the accept rate feature would do more harm than god, but I looked at it from the question asker standpoint of accepting bad stuff. I never initially thought about the fact that you just introduced a new metric for users to discriminate on. I've always been a proponent of NOT looking at a user's information (even their name) when I look at a question initially. The accept rate now makes it harder for users to do that, it seems. – TheTXI Sep 16 '09 at 12:16
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    Much harder, TheTXI. If someone has 0% accept rate it's shown in red. You have to focus on it, if you are not colour-blind. – Ladybug Killer Sep 16 '09 at 12:19

While general meta discussion belongs here, occasional comments like the ones you linked to (the second one should be a comment, not an answer) are in place, IMHO. It's clear that new or less concerned users will not check the general discussions here, but they'll read the hints given directly to them.

It's part of the game.



  1. From the point of view of the answerer, the accept rate allows people with limited time resources to spend answering on SO to prioritize which questions they should spend time/effort answering (all other things being equal). I'd rather be compensated with rep than not, given a choice.

  2. From the point of view of the questioner, this "your accept rate is low" pointing can be a valuable service.

    First of all, many of them (based on my observation of such complaints and questioner's responses to them) are actually people who did not realize you can accept answers and many are genuinely thankful for having the feature pointed out to them.

    Second, it allows them the knowledge that they would be missing valuable help/advice unless they change their habits.

    As an example, I have recently answered a question with a generic "you can do this by writing a simple script like this", but explicitly pointed out that due to low acceptance rate I was not willing to spend my VERY constrained spare time I'm able to spend on SO on actually helping him more by writing the script. As I was (and still am) the only one who had anything resembling a usable answer for that question, he has a choice of changing his ways, or going without the help I would otherwise provide him (and while I do admit to being a reputation whore, that time would be spent answering other people's questions, so the only loser is that person).

  3. To answer your specific question ("Is there a way both "player types" can get what they want?"), I'd like some clarification one who specifically the first player type is?

    If you mean "a guy asking questions on SO", then yes, they can get what they want (good answers) by being a good player and accepting answers :)

    If you mean "A guy browsing through other's questions to find the answers", they can get what they want by reading the 90% of relevant info in the answers and skip <10% of volume added on my meta-complaints (at least that was the ration I observed so far).

    if you mean some other pattern of user, I'll have a constructive suggestion in case you can clarify.

Hope this sheds some flavor on the other side of this issue.

  • I don't have a problem with (1). For (2), I submit that a direct message could serve that purpose just as well, as described. For (3), I wasn't actually considering the questioner (my bad) -- "a guy browsing through others' questions to find the answers" is closer, though it would also include "to find questions to answer." As for the ease of skipping, I refer you to "Human task switches considered harmful": joelonsoftware.com/articles/fog0000000022.html – David Moles Sep 17 '09 at 7:30
  • Oups... OK, color me a noob. I didn't realize SO had direct messaging capabilities. – DVK Sep 17 '09 at 20:37
  • The feature appears to have been declined repeatedly. meta.stackexchange.com/questions/431/… – David Moles Sep 21 '09 at 13:19

IMHO, a 'good' user accepts answers to his/her questions, generally. Of course, it can happen that no good answers are supplied. On the other hand, asking 20 questions and having a 0% accept rate can mean only two things:

  • Bad questions, never get answers
  • OK questions, OK answers, but no accepts.

Both of these two are considered negative. As DVK already pointed out: commenting "your accept rate is too low" can be genuinely helpful. I'd like to add: as long as it is not more than a comment. Downvotes, double comments, etc. are not useful (and, in the case of comments, should be flagged).

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