Sometimes, when someone posts a question to Stackoverflow, the members write comments indicating that it's been taken from another web site, or is a homework question, rather than offering a solution. The main purpose of posting questions is to learn software concepts that are not clear or messy. True, the question may have been taken from another site, but it may be very complex to solve. In an effort to learn the concept, posting the question to Stackoverflow allows many good programmers to give many different solutions to the same problem, which provides more understanding than the original website.

So is it necessary to write discouraging comments or not?

  • commenting is necessary, discouraging is a matter of perspective - and occasionally irony ;-) Dec 20, 2008 at 6:23
  • It is never necessary to write a comment, any more than it is necessary to provide an answer, or even read the question. Sometimes, though, a comment can guide people - and the commentator may not want to go to the effort of writing a full answer, or may not be sure enough of their ground to do so. Dec 20, 2008 at 6:43
  • 4
    I prefer to edit unclear questions such that they become clear, making up missing details along the way. Some people find that rude. YMMV... ;-P
    – Shog9
    Dec 20, 2008 at 16:41
  • 1
    making things up != adding clarity - you should ask the OP to clarify
    – nb69307
    Jan 22, 2010 at 20:38

7 Answers 7


I tend to find comments used appropriately. I would guess that you're referring to comments that ask posters to clarify or clean up their questions.

For example, I'd recommend breaking your question above into paragraphs. Then, I'd proof read it a couple times to make sure it's mostly correct and flows well.

While I tend to agree that a question's source isn't very relevant, I'm not going to walk someone through their homework. I will however, give them tips and pointers.

If your question is: "Should commenting be discouraged", I say: No. Life before comments was worse (comments weren't on this site at first!). Before comments, the answer thread was full of clarifications and follow ups. It was crazy.

Regarding @BobbyShaftoe comment on another answer:

I believe he is asking whether or not it is good for people to leave discouraging comments to a question because of its possible source, be it from another web site or homework assignment.

I think polite comments noting that a post's source hasn't been appropriately credited is fine. Rude comments are rarely justified.

  • If he is asking whether rude comments are good, the question is a little rhetorical.
    – Greg Dean
    Dec 20, 2008 at 5:25
  • i hope that's not rude of me to say
    – Greg Dean
    Dec 20, 2008 at 5:25
  • +1 -May be there are many learners with lot of enthusiasm so rude comments should be avoided.
    – Warrior
    Dec 20, 2008 at 5:27

Usually if a person seems to be seeking to learn something rather than merely be given an answer, or has a real problem to solve, then I think people respond generously and well. In cases where a person just wants to earn reputation by asking a question from somewhere else or wants an answer to a homework problem they are too lazy to solve themselves, then people can be rightly (I think) critical of the question. That's not to say that mistakes are not made or that everyone sees things from the same perspective. We are a community, and communities do not always agree on everything.

Commenting provides a way to give feedback on the question itself rather than the problem the question addresses, as well as to provide a means of carrying on a conversation around a problem or answer. I'd have to agree with @Michael Haren that the commenting systems seems to work okay.


Comments are good for something that is not a direct answer to the question. Sometimes people need clarification before they can answer. Sometimes they want to suggest the question be changed in some manner.

  • I believe he is asking whether or not it is good for people to leave discouraging comments to a question because of its possible source, be it from another web site or homework assignment.
    – user138665
    Dec 20, 2008 at 5:15
  • I guess i don't understand the question. If people are being discouraging - thats bad. But generally I don't see a lot of abuse in the comments, unless it was justified, in some way
    – Greg Dean
    Dec 20, 2008 at 5:28

Commenting the question gives opinion about the question and doubts in the questions can be clarified so that question may be altered for easy understanding, but a good programmer will never end up with discouraging comments.

According to my view commenting is good and please don't hurt others by discouraging comments.


Going on the OP's assumption that most posters' motivation is to find information, and agreeing that SO is an excellent source of insightful gems from many different perspectives, I find that comments are useful for:

  • Requesting clarification,
  • Adding related information to the original question,
  • Clarifying, disputing, or offering caveats to other answers,
  • Adding humor or side comments that aren't directly related to the question or answers, and
  • Offering feedback, or a reason for up- or downvoting, to help the OP improve.

Note that all of the above can be (and usually are) done positively.

In the same vein, I'll often edit questions or answers to make them clearer, in the hope of encouraging more helpful (or polite) responses, rather than downvoting with a disparaging comment. It takes about the same amount of effort and, IMHO, everyone wins.

A variation of Hanlon's Razor often puts things into perspective: Never attribute to trolling anything that can be adequately explained by inexperience.

Oh, comments are welcome! :-)


To answer the main point of your question:

Should we discourage copy-paste questions?

Yes. If the post is more than X% copy-paste from some other site, then we first need to be concerned with copyright issues and plagiarism, and second with whether the person who posted it is truly interested. They could readily re-phrase it themselves if they read through it at least once.

X varies from user to user - some people don't want to see more than a short quote copied, while others are fine with most of the post copied as long as the OP has posted a line or two on what confuses them, or what steps they've tried.

But in general, when the original post is mostly a copy and paste, it simply demonstrates that the person who posted it isn't interested enough in the question to re-phrase it and specify what their specific issue is.


I have been on this site for only a little while. I think that comments are good and should be used to ask for any kind of improvement to the question. (ask for code sample or more details, etc.), but answering the question in the comment should be strongly discouraged unless the commenter immediately answers the question as well. It is especially annoying to open an "unanswered" question, only to find that it has already been "answered" in the comments.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .