I ask a question and Bob posts the following answer.

You have to close the Streams.

His answer prompts me to perform more relevant keyword searches, such as the following.

  • Java Streams
  • close Stream in Java
  • Javadoc FileInputStream

After absorbing results from each search, I immediately know what I have done wrong and how to fix it. If a future visitor to Stack Exchange sees that answer, then he/she will probably immediately leave Stack Exchange to find a better resource. These future visitors are not likely to return to Stack Exchange just to upvote Bob's answer. Does Bob's answer deserve an upvote for being indirectly useful?

The question and answer are hypothetical. Also, please note that this question is only concerned with upvoting, not with accepting an answer.

  • As it's regarding up-vote, I see no point of answering questions based on hypothetical examples.. – Bolu Mar 7 '14 at 16:36
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    @bolu: Just don't cross the streams, and you'll be alright. – user102937 Mar 7 '14 at 16:39
  • @John, your question for me needs the real context. As the actual answer could be very precise, but short, so could be well worth the vote. And on the other side, it could be just a bad answer with a vague guess may be.. And if you just provide us the hypothetical examples based on your own judgement of the answer, how could my suggestions be accurate? – Bolu Mar 7 '14 at 16:46
  • @RobertHarvey, don't really know what you mean, sorry.. – Bolu Mar 7 '14 at 16:46
  • 2
    @bolu: youtube.com/watch?v=jyaLZHiJJnE – user102937 Mar 7 '14 at 16:47
  • @John The idea here is simply that a vote is going to take so many different factors into consideration, and your hypothetical question has omitted many of the details that are going to be used. In practice, it's simply not feasible to actually make up enough information in a hypothetical to really make a proper judgement of how you would want to vote. A concrete example is the only real way to say how you'd vote. – Servy Mar 7 '14 at 16:53
  • @RobertHarvey, Many thanks for the link, I can tell it's funny, but... sigh... I probably needs to ask a question on another SE English site... – Bolu Mar 7 '14 at 16:55
  • @John The point is that none of us can tell you whether or not we would upvote. We can tell you how to determine, on your own, if you should upvote, but we cannot actually give you a yes or no answer to the question of "should I upvote". – Servy Mar 7 '14 at 17:12
  • re your comment here I see no where in any of the three answers anyone advocating voting how you feel rather than if the information was useful or correct. The response was to should you reward that answer with an up-vote. – Chad Mar 12 '14 at 21:38
  • @Rusher You asked a yes or no question. What you asked was, "Does Bob's answer deserve an upvote for being indirectly useful?" Technically speaking, none of the answers answer that directly. None of the answers specifically say whether or not the post deserves an upvote. – Servy Mar 13 '14 at 14:11

Does Bob's answer deserve an upvote for being indirectly useful?

How you spend your votes is entirely up to you. If you had been unable to find the answer because you didn't know the right keyword to search for, that answer might be just what you needed. If you already knew that you needed to close the streams but didn't know how, that answer doesn't add much.

In either case, I'd add my own answer that included my research and what actually solved the problem.

  • 5
    I spent so much time trying to define "useful" that it didn't occur to me that my own definition would suffice! Thank you for clarifying. – Rainbolt Mar 7 '14 at 16:43

The answer is to either edit Bob's post to clarify it with the new information you found, or post your own answer with the correct information.

What you do with your votes is entirely up to you.


That is entirely up to each reader to decide. If you, as a reader, feel that the answer provides enough information that it's reasonable for readers to complete the solution on their own, you may consider it helpful. If you feel that it is not providing enough information for readers to reasonably figure the rest out on their own, they you may decide not to upvote, or to downvote.

The appropriate degree of "completeness" of an answer varies widely based on the context of the question and the opinions of various readers.

Such decisions are intentionally left widely open to interpretation.


As others have said the how you vote is up to you. No one is going to take away your privilege for voting in a way that is not beneficial to the site.

That said, the community benefits most when you use your voting power to reward good questions and answers with up-votes and penalize BAD questions answers with down votes.

In this case that answer is a bad answer. If you are able to read that answer and say duh, of course I forgot to close my streams, and then fix your problem it may be a good answer. But answer that is not complete is a bad answer. You had to go search for more information so this was not a good answer.

Go somewhere else and search for X should never be an acceptable answer here. We want people coming to the SE network to find their answers. If you have to do further searching to find your answer then no it is not a good answer. This answer was not directly a go search somewhere else answer, but it might as well have been for you.

If the answer already exists here pointing them to that answer is appropriate. Linking to outside resources to provide a reference is a good thing, but the answer should also never be link only. At a bare minimum quote the pertinent information from the referenced page so should that page be moved the information still exists in our network.

In this case if you feel that the answer led you to find the right answer, then you may not want to down vote it. But I would not reward it with an up vote either. I would post a new answer with the information you found that does answer the question. In this way you can help a future reader by putting the information directly at their fingertips which is the goal of the SE network in the first place.

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