Every now and then I see users with 300-400 rep and a bunch of question asked, and they are still asking questions like they just got to the website. Something along the lines of:


bla bla bla
no identation
no formating
450 lines of nonsense

it brks! wat do i do? plz hple!!!!!!!!!

Usually I just go and edit it so that it's easier to read. Then I leave a comment about how to get more answers and so on.

I was wondering if at some point I shouldn't just downvote the question and be less comprehensive and nice than with pure noobs (but still polite). I'm sure the user has already had 10 people like me before editing his questions and telling him to post the error messages, the scope of his project, the part of the code breaking and so on. It's a bit rude to get people to repeat themselves over and over again.

I know that some people don't speak English very well (me first, it's not my native language), but I'm talking about basic things such as code formatting and pointing to exactly what the problem is and what they are asking for. This is just common sense, not native tongue.

In these cases, what's the best approach?

I can see these:

  1. Edit, comment

  2. Downvote, edit, comment

  3. Downvote, comment

  4. Downvote, vote for closing

I know that a downvote should be based on the question and not the user, but what else could we do if the user makes no effort to post correct questions?

  • @Rich B: I said that english is not my main language :) – marcgg Sep 16 '09 at 19:01
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    On a related note, what's StackOverflow's policy on ritualized torture? – Hilarious Comedy Pesto Sep 16 '09 at 19:06
  • @pesto: We ban the user before the rule is made, like anything else here. – GEOCHET Sep 16 '09 at 19:07
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    @Pesto: torture is one thing, but ritualized torture blurs the boundaries between church and state, and is therefore very bad. – gnostradamus Sep 16 '09 at 19:21
  • *very inappropriate and disrespectful. QQ – GEOCHET Sep 16 '09 at 19:22
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    I'm a bit surprised nobody has suggested that we kill them with fire. – ベレアー アダム Sep 16 '09 at 19:58
  • Oh yeah - we should kill them - with fire! – Shog9 Sep 16 '09 at 20:00
  • I don't know. What do you do with a drunken sailor? – Andrew Grimm Jan 9 '10 at 0:52

I always side with editing, but repeat offenders need downvotes as well. When all else fails, a question that cannot be edited might have to be closed.

Informing the mods of repeat offenders is also helpful.


Down-vote. If the question is so incomplete that it can't be answered, vote to close.

If you have time to edit, then do that. Editing is always good, but voting is crucial to helping the site prioritize questions.

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    Shouldn't you always leave a comment though? I think anonymous downvoting is a bit unfair - unless someone else has left a critical comment you agree with, in which case upvoting the comment is fine. – MarkJ Sep 16 '09 at 21:13
  • If you want to leave a comment, leave a comment. The site doesn't require you to do so, and neither do I expect you to; if you think you can write something helpful, that's great - but don't feel that you need to comment just for the sake of commenting. If the user has asked numerous low-quality questions previously, he should already have had sufficient exposure to constructive criticism to realize what's wrong - that he didn't bother taking it to heart doesn't bode well for the usefulness of any additional comments. – Shog9 Sep 16 '09 at 21:19
  • This is a situation where I'd leave a comment for the sole purpose of trying to prevent sympathy upvotes. More and more I find there's very little point to down-voting low-rep users, because for every no-comment-down-vote they seem to get two completely inappropriate up-votes. – meagar Jul 20 '11 at 15:13

Handling "Problematic" Stack Overflow participants

flag them and we will take action.


Maybe you can just downvote the question, leave a comment, and move on? If you had the ability to ignore users, maybe this type of user is one that you'd want to ignore too.

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