Most and least dangerous tags to answer (among the tags with 1000+ questions)

Turns out that MS-Access answers get a 10% chance of a downvote.

Good thing I steer clear of MS Access!

  • The same query run against SF yields utter garbage. Either that or we've got some seriously dumb answers out there....
    – squillman
    May 27, 2010 at 16:57
  • @Martin: the whole history
    – Quassnoi
    May 27, 2010 at 19:01
  • So 913 downvotes since the beginning? 2 out of the top 3 all time MS Access answerers have what I would consider quite a high ratio of downvotes to upvotes so that might explain why it's a dangerous tag to dabble in! May 27, 2010 at 19:13
  • @Quassnoi, I see that you anticipated very well an answer to the question @Martin Smith asked later. May 28, 2010 at 6:39
  • 1
    @Daniel - I deleted my original comment, apologies for any confusion! May 28, 2010 at 7:25
  • @Martin - Oops, then I should delete my recent question about this. Thanks for your clarification! May 28, 2010 at 7:26
  • @squill - It probably needs to be averaged out over the number of questions or something. There's no way DNS, PHP, apache and windows-server-2008, or in fact almost any of the SF tags, are "dangerous" tags to work in. Sep 6, 2010 at 2:24

5 Answers 5


Since I learned MS Access in the 10th grade, It's been a policy for me to steer clear of MS Access at all times.

  • 2
    These all are not your downvotes, are they?
    – Quassnoi
    May 27, 2010 at 16:47
  • No, I don't touch MS Access in any way shape or form. May 27, 2010 at 16:59
  • MS Access was a great tool during the 1990's, but got steadily worse since 2000. That would give you two passionate groups on both side of the vote. I'm with Access; it could (and still can) generate large business value with a small time investment
    – Andomar
    May 27, 2010 at 19:27
  • While I'd agree that A2000 went in a bad direction, A2007 and A2010 are really worth a new look. Sep 5, 2010 at 21:25
  • 1
    And that kind of attitude with respect to Access is exactly why so many posters deserve downvotes.
    – Tony Toews
    Sep 8, 2010 at 2:13

As someone who answers only MS-ACCESS questions (and topics related to it), I'll tell you that the reason there are so many downvotes in questions tagged MS-ACCESS is because there are SO MANY REALLY BAD ANSWERS.

These fall into three general classes:

  1. answers that show the writer doesn't understand the difference between Access and its default database engine, Jet/ACE, such as answering the question by suggesting that you shouldn't use Access, but SQL Server, or SQL Lite or MySQL, etc.; i.e., confusing the development tool for the database.

  2. answers that state that Access doesn't support multiple users, or doesn't scale, or so forth. If one reads these as being answered by people who are also making mistake #1, what they mean is that Jet/ACE doesn't support multiple users (it certainly does, and was designed to do so from the ground up, so they are simply WRONG), and that it doesn't scale to the same number of users as server-based database engines (which would be true if that was what they said, but is not the same thing as "doesn't scale" without any statement of the range). It's not the answers of this form with qualifications that get downvotes, but the ones that make categorical statements that are provably wrong.

  3. answers that provide T-SQL or PSQL or whatever SQL dialect as a solution to a Jet/ACE SQL problem. If you haven't tested your SQL solution on the database engine the question is about, DON'T POST IT. If you choose to post your answer, anyway, be sure to state that your answer is in a SQL dialect that doesn't apply to the question and that you haven't tried it on the database engine the question is about. If you include those qualifications in your answer and still feel confident that anyone cares about your answer, I'd say you're likely an arrogant bastard.

If you do any of these things you are very likely to get a downvote for your answer FROM ME or from one of the handful of other SO users who monitor MS-ACCESS questions regularly.

Personally, I am not at all reticent to spend reputation points on downvotes because I'm not grubbing for reputation -- my motivation for answering questions about MS-ACCESS on SO is in learning and in helping other people (just as I've been helped enromously in the past in other forums). This is the exact same motivation that leads me to post in all the other Access forums in which I regularly participate (and have participated going back to 1996), and none of those have reputation tracking systems.

It just might be that the overabundance of downvotes is due entirely to my downvotes, as I have registered almost as many downvotes as upvotes. I don't really care if this is not the way most people behave on SO. I feel it's necessary to downvote WRONG answers in order to police the three problems I outlined above. It seems to have worked, as the proportion of wrong MS-ACCESS answers is less than it was during the first few months after I started posting on SO in September 2008. My goal in downvoting is to make SO better by insuring that when people come to SO for answers regarding MS-ACCESS, they get good solutions to their problems. Downvoting wrong answers is one way of helping accomplish that goal.

And lest people think I'm mean and shoot first and ask questions later, for recently-posted wrong or misleading answers, I generally post a comment asking the poster to clarify or correct before I downvote. In those cases, it's only when a few days go by without a fix (or a refusal to correct) that I register my downvote. On the other hand, with answers that are entirely wrong (as opposed to wrong or misleading only in some of the details), I don't hesitate to downvote. I also am willing to reverse my downvote in cases where the original poster corrects the mistake.

If this all makes people hesitant to answer MS-ACCESS questions, I think that's A GOOD THING.

If your answer has good information to offer, you're not going to get a downvote from me or anyone else who is fairminded.

If your answer lacks that and the high likelihood of a downvote for weak or sloppy or wrong answers causes you to hesitate, it seems to me that the system is working just fine.

  • 3
    Good grief, David, looks like you account for 40% of all downvotes in ms-access. Without your votes, that tag would live in the center of the bell curve. Sep 5, 2010 at 20:41
  • 1
    Not criticizing you necessarily, just find it funny to trace all that activity to one person. If the answers deserve downvotes, go to town. Sep 5, 2010 at 20:43
  • Without my downvotes (i.e., without my participation), there wouldn't be nearly as much activity in the tag, either. Sep 5, 2010 at 21:19
  • I'd be interested to know if others would consider any significant number of my downvotes to be unfair or in error. Certainly I've had the occasional dispute over a downvote, but most of them go unremarked (though I endeavor to explain my downvotes in many if not most cases). Sep 5, 2010 at 21:19
  • My downvotes would also be significant.
    – Tony Toews
    Sep 8, 2010 at 2:11
  • With the fresh data dump we see that the number has dropped and the chance of getting an MS Access downvote is only 9.97% now. Either the quality of the answers rises, or you are losing your touch!
    – Quassnoi
    Sep 8, 2010 at 19:33
  • If I'm interpreting the results correctly, it's still the most dangerous tag, though! Sep 8, 2010 at 20:39
  • I wonder if there's a badge for having more down votes than up votes? Say for a minium of 300 votes. Or would I jsut "be booted off the island." for being a uncorrigible grouch? <smile>
    – Tony Toews
    Sep 10, 2010 at 23:48
  • I'm a lot closer to that than you are, and for a long time, my downvotes exceeded my upvotes. But I guess that was before I'd made MS-ACCESS a dangerous neighborhood to hang around in! Sep 11, 2010 at 19:18
  • 1
    David "dangeous neighbourhood" Hehehehe
    – Tony Toews
    Sep 13, 2010 at 21:42

Interesting, these are not the results I would have expected. It makes me wonder how many people downvote answers because they're wrong, and how many downvote because they don't like the topic or think the question belongs elsewhere. (ms-access, homework, math, and a lot of web-related answers getting a high proportion of downvotes makes me mildly suspicious.)

  • 2
    It's no surprise to me that rest is in there. There's a religious war afoot to decide exactly what REST means, what it can and can't do, how it should be implemented, and whether or not it's a "replacement" for SOAP. Filed under "controversial".
    – Aarobot
    May 27, 2010 at 17:28

Accounting for the -2 cost of downvotes and the +10 gain for upvotes, the least dangerous tags to answer are:

  1. subjective
  2. language-agnostic
  3. programming-languages

For kicks, I modified the query slightly to come up with a similar "Most rewarding tags to answer" list:


I find it rather disheartening that subjective is number one.

  • 1
    I modified the query to exclude wiki answers and the results are a little bit more encouraging: cloudexchange.cloudapp.net/stackoverflow/q/1464. perl rocks.
    – Quassnoi
    May 27, 2010 at 23:33
  • Nice. I also considered excluding Closed questions, but that's a little iffy since you can still earn rep by answering them before they get closed.
    – hemp
    May 28, 2010 at 0:47

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