Possible Duplicates:
Technically valid answers that raise questions of morality
How far should we go in judging question ethics?

What does everyone think about a downvote for a question considered "unethical"? Who's that judge for that? I guess a question should be judged strictly on technical merit.


Stack Smashing attempt giving segfault (this one initially got downvoted)

And also another question I had about writing social networking bots, but never posted because I found a solution elsewhere.

So what should be the policy on this kind of questions?

  • 4
    Thanks for pointing that out so I could downvote it. Apr 8, 2010 at 7:16
  • 1
    The stack-smashing post doesn't have any downvotes. Apr 8, 2010 at 7:45
  • 1
    @Marc Gravell It does now. >:]
    – rlb.usa
    Apr 8, 2010 at 17:01
  • 1
    It's interesting to note the contrast between those questions, and how it affected their reception on SO: the email harvester was obviously soliciting aid in something rather dodgy, while the stack-smasher could be seen as someone merely attempting to understand an existing technique and/or learn more about system architecture. Could the former have disguised his question as the latter? Perhaps... But he didn't, and the response on SO appears to be that while we're perfectly happy to hand out guns, we don't hand them out to children.
    – Shog9
    Apr 8, 2010 at 17:35

2 Answers 2


Downvotes are just a personal decision of the user voting.. You can be downvoted because your question is bad, because your name is ugly, because it's unethical or because someone had a bad day.

They don't have to tell you the reason, and they don't have to vote on the technical merit of the question only.

  • 4
    I guess in this specific case, downvotes are a sign of agreement. :)
    – Pekka
    Apr 8, 2010 at 9:26
  • In that case, what signs are upvotes? Apr 8, 2010 at 11:13
  • "+" sign. ______
    – kennytm
    Apr 8, 2010 at 12:30
  • 1
    -1. I don't like people with 3 letter names. Apr 8, 2010 at 16:42

It's not our place to judge. For all we know, mr.e-mail-harvester had highly legitimate reasons, and even if he didn't, somebody out there will, will want to know how, come to SO, and find that he can't find out here. All of a sudden SO is no longer the font of all knowledge. That's a bad thing.

This is a Q&A trilogy. We're here to ask Qs and answer Qs with As, not judge those asking Qs.

  • 2
    I'm not going to answer someone on how to build a Unicorn terminator machine.... Apr 8, 2010 at 16:43
  • 1
    Phoshi, on your grounds, we should also answer exam and homework questions to their fullest extent. I disagree.
    – rlb.usa
    Apr 8, 2010 at 17:03
  • @rlb.usa: I don't. If it's a duplicate, close it as such, but if it isn't, it's knowledge that should be on SO.
    – Phoshi
    Apr 8, 2010 at 17:15
  • @Chacha102: Then we'll never get one! :'(
    – Phoshi
    Apr 8, 2010 at 17:16
  • If it is not our place to judge, then what is the point of up and down voting at all? How am I supposed to up or down vote something without judging the question based on some criteria. If mr.e-mail-harvester is worried about being judged then perhaps he could have asked is question better so his intentions where very clear. He chose to ask something that where the ethics where questionable. He should realize he is going to need to put in some extra effort to explain why his request is legitimate.
    – Zoredache
    Apr 8, 2010 at 20:57
  • 1
    @Zoredache: It's not our place to judge based on morality. We can judge whether the answer answers the question just fine.
    – Phoshi
    Apr 8, 2010 at 22:07
  • @Chacha: that's cool, i'll answer someone on how to build Unicorn terminators... :) Apr 10, 2010 at 17:54

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