In every other web forum I have ever asked a question on, with every question I will enevitably get at least one truly unhelpful reply, telling me my whole approach is wrong, asking me why I am using my language, platform, operating system, etc. instead of their favorite, telling me I should go back to progammer's school, etc. Mind you it's not just me, everybody gets them. Anyway, I don't see those here. What happens to them and their authors? Does your cousin Guido pay them a visit :)

  • 11
    Your approach is wrong - why are you using this language / platform / operating system instead of going back to programmer's school?
    – ChssPly76
    Dec 4 '09 at 23:33
  • 10
    We're all right here on meta!
    – user27414
    Dec 4 '09 at 23:36
  • 2
    I did not ever expect to see this kind of question from this viewpoint. It is almost always the other way around.
    – Troggy
    Dec 4 '09 at 23:40
  • 6
    I would consider this is a compliment to SO.
    – Troggy
    Dec 4 '09 at 23:47
  • 2
    Did you ever consider that there might be some truth in those answers?
    – innaM
    Dec 5 '09 at 11:59
  • This [is] meant as a compliment, I wasn't complaining that I didn't see them I was pleasantly amazed that I didn't see them.
    – Ken Lange
    Dec 5 '09 at 20:07

They're around. But you see them less, since the rest of us like to delete their answers: just about anyone can "flag" a comment or answer for removal, and down-voting also helps to discourage this sort of thing and can encourage users to delete their misguided responses.

That sort of behavior is usually inappropriate... If you do encounter it, flag and ignore.

  • I agree (and upvoted), although I also think the 'gentle' nature of the SO community can also be partly attributed to its 'young' age. I've seen the trolls arriving lately (rising along with SO popularity). I hope moderation keeps working as fine as it is now. Dec 4 '09 at 23:40
  • 1
    @ChristopheD: we'll have to see if it persists; I'm already impressed by how well it appears to be scaling though. IMHO, being able to close questions as duplicate or off-topic helps a great deal in reducing the sort of newbie noise that so often drives old-timers mad on forums.
    – Shog9
    Dec 5 '09 at 0:54

Unhelpful replies will be downvoted, generally. Few people seem to do this regularly, and if they do then the moderators may well get in touch - and the same will happen if answers are flagged as offensive or spam.

The moderation system on SO seems to work remarkably well, to be honest...

  • I would say - unbelievably well. Facing real spam once a few months only. Dec 5 '09 at 19:41

There are a lot of answers saying "your approach is wrong" but they are usually done in a reasonably helpful way, with an explanation why it is wrong and suggested alternatives.

  • 1
    This. In part because you're not going to get any votes unless you explain why they're doing it wrong and suggest a better way, now are you. Dec 5 '09 at 2:09
  • 2
    I generally don't find that SO users are shy about sharing their opinion of why your question is wrong. But, they do it in a reasonable way, and they back up their opinion with some kind of evidence. That's the right way! Dec 5 '09 at 3:20

Next time you see one of those unhelpful people, thank them on behalf of all of us. Their counter-productive behavior is exactly what inspired Jeff and Joel to create Stackoverflow.

  • Thank them with a download or a flag.
    – C. Ross
    Dec 5 '09 at 15:26
  • Emm... Wasn't it expertsexchange's bad business practices which inspired them to create SO.
    – Macha
    Dec 5 '09 at 16:19

When you talk about "unhelpful people" are you talking about truly unhelpful people, or people who only seem unhelpful because the real answer is the one you weren't looking for?

The former tend to get flagged, deleted, and/or down-voted to oblivion. The community tends to deal with these types fairly quickly.

The latter sometimes get down-voted to oblivion, sometimes they end up as high rep users.


Legitimate cases of where the asker is taking the wrong approach are pointed out. The <center> cannot hold it is too late.

  • Oh, my, that's a very important link. It should be on the meme thread.
    – Rosinante
    Dec 5 '09 at 19:36

They usually embed their unhelpful/snide comment in their correct answer


My cat's breath smells like cat food.

  • That is one of my all-time favorite Ralph quotes!
    – pkaeding
    Dec 5 '09 at 9:52
  • @pkaeding: second only to, "It tastes like burning."
    – raven
    Dec 5 '09 at 14:27
  • I choo choo choose you
    – bobobobo
    Dec 5 '09 at 16:02
  • I have no idea what just happened here.
    – mmyers
    Dec 6 '09 at 6:52

They all hang out on meta.stackoverflow.com.

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