Consider this example. How can we make the system more tolerant of humor? One option would be to have a joke checkbox (just like community wiki) on answers only (not questions).

Of course, if you check the box, "no rep for you."

EDIT: Just to clarify, when I asked the question, the linked answer was downvoted to -2 or -3. Now that it is back up to 0, some might construe my point as being that it should be voted higher. It wasn't. If it stayed at 0 I wouldn't have been prompted to ask the question.

Perhaps we could not allow voting on questions marked humor, and allowed those who don't want to see jokes filter them out?

  • I think the way you phrased your question "how can we be more tolerant" is not reflective of your true question... "how to deal with up-voted answers that are humorous." I think it can be taken to mean "you have to be more tolerant." – Feckmore Jul 7 '09 at 16:15
  • That answer was supposed to be a joke? – Brad Gilbert Jul 7 '09 at 23:45

12 Answers 12


I think if it is humourous then it isn't an answer, it's a comment.

We shouldn't need to 'tolerate' humour on the site, because it is not a forum, it is a question and answer site. The community has shown again and again that humour is considered noise and shouldn't be added. This is absolutely true, because if you consider SO as a repository of knowledge, then the jokes (on serious questions) don't really have a place. Funny or not, they really shouldn't get upvotes, because they aren't answers to questions and therefore aren't useful to the asker.

Even if the people mark them as community, they will not suddenly become a valuable addition to the conversation.

So, at BEST, I'd say they should be comments.

  • +1 for saying what I said but in a way that makes sense. One of these days I'll learn how to phrase my thoughts. – Welbog Jul 7 '09 at 13:46
  • +1 Couldn't agree more. Comments are the place for humour and only when it's not way too common. – cletus Jul 7 '09 at 13:53
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    Maybe they "shouldn't" get up votes, but they do. This is an interesting question from @Yishai. How to deal with humorous answers that don't really answer the question and yet still get rated up? His suggestion of a "humorous" tag might have merit. – Feckmore Jul 7 '09 at 16:12
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    @Traples, but you can't tag an answer, and you can't stop people from enjoying humour. People are governed by a gut reflex. Answers that sound right will often get more votes initially than answers that are right. Typically this comes in the form "Can I do XYZ?" A: "I don't think that's possible." Which then gets voted up. Then someone provides a way to do "XYZ" and it's usually buried near the bottom of the answers. – devinb Jul 7 '09 at 17:28
  • Really? Then how do you explain this? stackoverflow.com/questions/234075/… Inconsistencies are much of the cause of this problem. – tim Jul 23 '09 at 4:19
  • That question was from a long time ago. If someone tried to ask a question like that now, they would get shut down pretty quickly. Just keep an eye on the site on Friday afternoons. There are a lot of 'fun-offtopic' questions "just because it's friday". They get closed within minutes. – devinb Jul 23 '09 at 11:48

If you were really funny you wouldn't get voted down.

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    @TheTXI: Except I hate humour. If I even get the hint that something might be taken in a funny way, I will downvote and report it, vote to the close the question it was posted in and downvote all answers whose ID is within two posts of it. – Welbog Jul 7 '09 at 14:10
  • Ha ! – Shog9 Jul 7 '09 at 14:11
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    That's because you are Canadian. – TheTXI Jul 7 '09 at 14:12
  • @TheTXI: Canadian LIKE A FOX! – Welbog Jul 7 '09 at 14:14
  • A canadian fox with a fro from a 70's blacksploitation movie or a blank panther rally. – TheTXI Jul 7 '09 at 14:18
  • Better stay away from thunder bay then, eh? – bananakata Jul 7 '09 at 15:44

I feel sorry for people who think humor has no place in their work life. I've had to work with some of those people, and it's a sad thing.

  • Ex-IBMer ? yes, that was a joke, laugh, now – macbirdie Jul 7 '09 at 16:19

The problem with humour isn't that it is evil and must be eradicated from SO at all costs because we are robots, but because most of the time it's not helpful to solving the question - the entire point of the site.

In the example you mentioned, it could have easily been a comment, a perfectly suitable place for such replies:

  • You don't get misleading/useless situations, where the top-voted answer is a particularly funny joke or XKCD comic..
  • you don't get people filling the site with joke-answers trying to gain reputation, which hopefully means they are gaining rep by actually answering questions (again, the point of the site!)
  • it's easy to find, being displayed right below the question - not burried away on some obscure meta.stackhumour.com site or something..
  • you're not misusing the community-wiki feature, which isn't a "this isn't really a suitable question/answer for this site, don't blame me!" button - it's to allow others to contribute to a post..

How about just use community wiki for humour in the first place? You won't lose rep when people downvote your obviously useless answer, and you can point out that your answer is a joke in either the comments or in some small text at the end of the answer.

A better idea would be to not post answers that are just for humour value. Humour has a place on SO, just not if humour is the only reason you're posting something. Alternatively you can keep the humour to the comments, where people are more likely to upvote things on humour value alone.

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    I think saying that humor answers will be downvoted kind of defeats the purpose. Maybe I'm in a minority, but I think SO lacks humor and that is a defect. Your solution is fine for someone who wants to get a joke out of their system, but doesn't tolerate it so that reading on SO is more fun. – Yishai Jul 7 '09 at 13:41
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    @Yishai: In my opinion, SO is fun on its own without needing to add humour. It's a Q&A site. Questions and answers should be useful, if not serious. It's OK for a useful answer to have a funny tone, or for a comment to be a nothing more than a joke. But questions and answers should have value outside of just humour. In other words, if you post a joke as an answer, it's wrong and I daresay abuse of the system. – Welbog Jul 7 '09 at 13:43

*puts on joke hat*

I do this, people seem to understand.

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    I put on my robe and wizard hat. – Welbog Jul 7 '09 at 13:40
  • i tell my jokes in the nude – Kip Jul 7 '09 at 13:58
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    @Kip: So you're saying you can't be funny without your pants off? – devinb Jul 7 '09 at 14:06
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    I think he's saying that when he takes his pants off, everybody laughs. – Paul Tomblin Jul 7 '09 at 14:10

We don't need humor on SO.com. Keep it on the meta site if you need to post it. At the very least keep it to the comments on SO.com and keep it at a low level please.

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    That might be "ideal" but it's not what really happens. Often, humorous posts get rated up fast. The question, is how to constructively deal with that situation. – Feckmore Jul 7 '09 at 16:10
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    Lighten up, Francis. – Steven A. Lowe Jul 8 '09 at 19:28

I think you can get away with a certain low level (low as in not much!) of humour if it's not the entirety of your answer. For example, you could say that my answer here starts off with a humorous comment (all right, not that humorous but you get my point), but I immediately follow it up with a fuller answer and an explanation of that comment.

Had I just left the answer as the first sentence then I would have deserved to have been heavily voted down.

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    So... It's ok to joke around, so long as you're actually funny and actually helpful. Jokes that fall flat combined with useless answers will get down-voted... – Shog9 Jul 7 '09 at 14:13
  • I've got a fever on the only prescription is more pictures of ponies. – TheTXI Jul 7 '09 at 14:28
  • @Shog9 - which is kind of my point I suppose. – ChrisF Jul 7 '09 at 14:33

There does seem to be an inconsistency at times. Posts that are genuinely hilarious get up-voted... often to the top spot. Others that might miss the mark might be penalized.

I think your suggestion to be able to mark an answer as "humor" has real merit.

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    You could just encourage people to close their jokes with, "It's funny. Laugh." – Shog9 Jul 7 '09 at 17:21

I like the humor

Sometimes critical breakthroughs happen when somebody starts a sentence "wouldn't it be funny if...."


By lightening up.

If I ask a question that gets a humourous answer I don't mind, as long as I get a real answer. It's nice to be reminded that work isn't 100% serious.

And chances are if the thread makes me laugh, I may be more likely to remember the (real) answer in future.


Humour simply does not translate on the internet or by email. You need the personal touch, to understand it.

And it's "humour". What's with the "u" shortage over the pond?

  • The British took them as part of the tax on tea. See, the internet does allow for humo(u)r ;-)) – Yishai Jul 17 '09 at 3:26
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    It's a big country; I think we have enough room for a few extra vowels. Would humaeiour suit you better? – mmyers Aug 4 '09 at 21:46

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