There is no doubt that OP is annoying, has 0% accept rate, asks unintelligeble questions, asks questions without searching first, etc.

But here's a C/C++ algorithm on Wikipedia and he needs it translated to Java, and no one was willing to help, except me. At the time of this writing, I received 5 upvotes, but also 2 unexplained downvotes. It's possible that I may have a made a critical technical mistake, but I may never know since downvoters never bothered to leave a comment.

I can only assume that downvoters did not have technical reason, and were merely showing disapproval of me helping someone who's annoying and isn't welcomed by the community. If that is the case, isn't that kind of unfair? Downvote the question if it's unclear/ill-formed, but why should my well-intentioned attempt to answer it gets the blame?

The question is now closed (thanks to a vote by me, before I had a change of heart and decided to help him any way I could). I tried to reopen it. I think there's value in seeing how a C/C++ string algorithm looks like in Java. Alas, it'll probably stay closed, and I may receive a few more downvotes along the way, but that probably wouldn't matter since the question will probably get deleted.

I guess this is mostly just a rant, but I'm just wondering where I went wrong and what I need to learn from this experience.

Please don't close this as "too localized"; I'm new but plan to stick around and I need to learn how things work so I can better serve the community.

  • 1
    You voted to close it as "not a real question" - maybe downvoters are seeing your answer as "not a real answer" May 15, 2010 at 18:58
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    @Jared: I revised the question to make it more of a real question, at least by my own standard. It may still not be good enough, though, as no one else voted to reopen. Also, to tell you the truth, my vote was more of me following gang mentality to abuse this guy, because he did annoy me too. That's when I realized that this is not such a good mentality to have, and tried to make up for it by helping him instead. May 16, 2010 at 1:37
  • This question inspired me to create this feature-request: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/50030/…. I think it would have been valuable for you to see something like "2 people down voted this answer for encouraging bad behavior", or something similar.
    – Senseful
    May 16, 2010 at 3:16

6 Answers 6


There are many who think that you shouldn't answer questions that are likely to be closed. The reasoning is that if you reward bad questions by answering them, the OP will keep coming back with more bad questions.

  • Do you not see value in the question, though? Java vs C/C++ comparison, guide in translation for people in future, etc? Should we edit the question and make it more palatable (I tried to, with my own revision of the question) instead of just ignoring/closing it? May 15, 2010 at 17:43
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    No, I don't see the value in that particular question. I can think of about 1000 examples I would use to illustrate Java/C++ conversion before that specific one. Someone searching for Java to C++ conversion techniques is very unlikely to find that question or benefit much from it. May 15, 2010 at 17:47
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    @Bill: just to clarify: and the problem is in the question itself, not in my answer? Nothing I can do to improve my answer would change your assessment? May 15, 2010 at 17:49
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    In general, though, I do greatly prefer to edit questions to make them better rather than close them or downvote them. May 15, 2010 at 17:49
  • @polygen: No, I don't see anything wrong with your answer. It answers the question and seems technically correct (but I haven't tested it either). May 15, 2010 at 17:52
  • @Bill: I actually thought the question is very valuable for learning, e.g. return "The pattern is too long!" from the original C++ code is idiomatically an IllegalArgumentException in Java, etc. You're right, though, 1000 abstract but well-crafted examples may be better than one very concrete but perhaps overly specific example. May 15, 2010 at 17:53

I've no idea why you got downvoted (it wasn't me!) but I think the lesson to learn is that some people are just not very nice. Alas.

  • 2 more downvotes soon after posting this, and a vote to close the [discussion] on a [specific-question]. I'm still not sure what went wrong. May 15, 2010 at 17:41
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    @polygenelubricants: The additional downvotes were probably attracted by visitors to this question. :)
    – user102937
    May 15, 2010 at 20:39

The OP is basically asking us to do his job. That's why it get downvoted into oblivion. And you basically did his job for free. That's why some nitpickers will downvote you as well since they are convinced that SO is the wrong place for that.

If he instead asked how to translate a specific part of the code to Java, along with a copypaste of his coding attempts and a description of expectations and occurred unexpectations, then the question would likely be left open.

Also see this article what we roughly expect from questions: How to ask questions the smart way. Although I must admit that the acceptance is much higher at Stackoverflow than the average forum thanks to the reputation system and the freedom which you earn with it (see, you are youself obsessed by the reputation and are thus more prepared to give relative high quality answers, it works good ;-) ).

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    Hmm...If you hover over the downvote arrow, it says "This answer is not useful." That's the only criteria for downvoting answers that I know of. Any others are made-up reasons, including "I don't like the answer," and "You shouldn't have answered."
    – user102937
    May 15, 2010 at 20:31
  • @Robert: you have people and people.
    – user138231
    May 16, 2010 at 0:40

It's really quite simple.

You voted to close the question, and then gave an answer anyway (the close went through almost 10 minutes before the answer was submitted, so surely you saw the warning that the question was closed while you were answering). I didn't look at your answer too carefully, but from the 10 upvotes, I'm assuming there's nothing technically wrong with the answer.

If the question really was "not a real question" as was voted by yourself and 4 others, then there's no reason to give an answer to a "non-question" question. I don't think you would have been downvoted (for these "soft" reasons anyway) if you hadn't voted to close.

As Bill said, answering questions that don't meet community standards only perpetuates users to continue asking low-quality questions -- if they don't have to put in any effort and get good answers anyway, why should they put in any effort at all?

  • my vote to close was me following gang mentality to abuse this guy. I regretted it as soon as I did it, because it was such a childish behavior, and then tried to make up for it by trying to help the guy. May 16, 2010 at 1:39
  • @poly: I appreciate that, and I hope my answer didn't come off as sounding accusatory. Since we can't undo close votes, we leave a read-only trail of actions... we just have to deal with the consequences of that. You gave a good answer; that's what really matters.
    – Jon Seigel
    May 16, 2010 at 2:05

"I'm new but plan to stick around..."

Your account is two months old on meta and you've posted here many times before, so I wouldn't characterize you as new any more. Helping out in this case may be laudable, but you should know by now that votes are penary: folks don't have to explain them.

This case doesn't seem to be any different from all the other unexplained downvotes, or have a I missed something?

  • @dmckee, no I don't think this case seems any different from other unexplained downvotes. But there is another underlying problem here that I really feel must be confronted.
    – IAbstract
    May 15, 2010 at 17:47
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    I haven't had many experience with unexplained downvotes, so when I get them, I try to figure out what went wrong. Maybe I'm putting too much importance on downvotes (e.g. I myself have vowed not to downvote anymore). May 15, 2010 at 17:48
  • @dboarman: What is that underlying problem? I'm not sure if I get you. Is it me not understanding how things work? Is it the community "bullying" people away instead of patiently showing them the way? Is it something else entirely? May 15, 2010 at 18:01
  • @dboarman Drive-by downvotes are a minor annoyance, there is no problem that is screaming out to be solved and all the alleged "cures" I've seen proposed are worse than the disease. May 15, 2010 at 18:06
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    @poly: Your vow not to downvote people is well-intentioned, I'm sure, but remember that downvoting isn't an unintended, unfortunate side-effect in the trilogy. It's a tool provided by the site designers, used to motivate good questions and answers. A downvote isn't a personal attack. May 15, 2010 at 18:40
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    That said, I wouldn't have downvoted your answer. Like others here, I'd have preferred that the question not received any answers at all, for the reasons specified (we don't want to encourage undesirable behavior - garbage questions and development-by-begging). But your answer is well-written, and may be of use to someone else besides the OP. May 15, 2010 at 18:43
  • @poly, well, the big underlying problem is the acceptance rate nagging that is obvious - but I didn't want to step into polluting this question. I am trying to figure out my best approach to this and planned on putting a link in this line of comments to explain.
    – IAbstract
    May 15, 2010 at 20:11

Gimme-teh-codez questions are not welcome and many people feel that it's wrong to literally give it to them if they have showed 0 effort. This may be why you got downvotes.

Either way I think this user should be warned or something. Just look at it: https://stackoverflow.com/users/322247/davit-datuashvili

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