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Branching from the lmgtfy-question, I'm curious if sarcastic responses in general should be tolerated on Stack Overflow. This is the nasty cousin of the LMGTFY responses.

I'm afraid these types of responses (which aren't few or far between) will forum-ify the Q&A-style flow of Stack Overflow. To clarify, I'm referring to items that are more sarcasm than substance.

Should we report these?

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  • 3
    What if the answer is correct and just throws in some sarcasm for good measure? stackoverflow.com/questions/1105258
    – TJ L
    Jul 14, 2009 at 19:53
  • @tj111 - Hopefully somebody would clean it up so that it doesn't appear to be even the least bit offensive.
    – Sampson
    Jul 14, 2009 at 19:55
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    @Jonathan Sampson: This attitude toward offensiveness offends me.
    – chaos
    Jul 14, 2009 at 20:08
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    If the response gets the job done and answers the question then who cares?? Jul 14, 2009 at 21:26
  • 12
    The person being insulted cares; SO shouldn't be one of those sites people go to get treated like crap. There's enough of those sites all over the internet. Jul 15, 2009 at 0:03
  • 1
    Depending on the style of sarcasm, it makes you pay more attention to the problem and the situation. Jul 23, 2009 at 8:42

11 Answers 11

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Personally, I'd rather just vote down a response that seems to be a bit unhelpful. A little sarcasm probably isn't that bad, it shows some personality. But not at the expense of being completely unhelpful to the OP's question.

So I'd say vote it down, and flag it if it seems a bit beyond what you are comfortable with.

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    I agree with down-voting, but that doesn't work on comments.
    – Sampson
    Jul 14, 2009 at 17:53
  • 3
    Leave comments alone.
    – jjnguy
    Jul 14, 2009 at 18:02
  • 2
    Then just flag it.
    – toast
    Jul 14, 2009 at 18:03
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    For comments that are completely unhelpful, I'd flag them.
    – RSolberg
    Jul 14, 2009 at 18:08
  • 1
    Its quite possible to be sarcastic and factually accurate. Remember that not all users of the site have English as their first language, so I try to make sure that even if the sarcasm is missed the answer is still not misleading.
    – Justin
    Jan 21, 2011 at 7:13
82

Oh yeah. Sarcasm is totally acceptable.

Also good: insulting the OP's mother.

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    I think neither of those are acceptable. You have shamed yourself and your entire ancestry.
    – devinb
    Jul 14, 2009 at 18:13
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    I am totally in line with this answer. But, as sad as it is, I can't help wondering how such an answer could survive 2019. Incoming deletion in 3... 2...1...
    – dim
    Dec 8, 2019 at 8:29
  • 2
    @dim how? Because nobody noticed. Now I assume flags start to pile against it, but judging the author identity, doubt the "ordinary" site mods will handle them. Dec 8, 2019 at 12:24
  • @Shadow Yes, this is going to be interesting. Here is my stance: if it gets self-removed by shog9 himself, it means seriousness and gravity has infected everything and everyone on the network, with no hope of ever going back to playfulness.
    – dim
    Dec 8, 2019 at 12:48
  • @dim not really... if it was my post I would have deleted it now. It simply feels wrong these days. I'm not going to flag it, didn't even downvote, but meh... not something I'll post these days. It was funny and totally legit back when posted, of course. Dec 8, 2019 at 12:51
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    If I delete this answer it'll be because folks sucked all the fun out of it through over-analysis.
    – Shog9
    Dec 8, 2019 at 17:48
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    @Shog9 Isn't that the point of this place? Dec 8, 2019 at 22:05
  • Yes, @faintsignal - see: Why isn't Meta funny anymore?
    – Shog9
    Dec 9, 2019 at 16:16
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Sarcasm, unfortunately, is something that does not translate well, and may be easily misunderstood in text. While sarcasm is a form of communication, it's simply not a very good one because it relies on common assumptions and is underpinned by emotions. You can't easy convey emotions in text, and you can't assume anything about a random reader's background when they reach the site from Google.

Few things can be said sarcastically that can't also be said in a clear way and thus reach more people.

On a technical website sarcasm should be used sparingly, if ever, and only when the intent and joke is blatantly obvious to people of all backgrounds. Sarcasm should not be used to convey important technical information - even the most blatant sarcasm is often opaque to a speaker new to English.

If sarcasm appears on a question or answer, call it out in the comments, edit it (sarcasm tags work well), etc, if only for the benefit of those poor sarcastically impaired folk.

Also consider donating your excess rep to the sarcasm therapy foundation, where thousands of people are helped each day to understand, and more importantly integrate, sarcasm into their daily use of English. Just 3 rep a day can help boys like little Bartholomeus here come to terms with the subtleties of English as she is spoke:

Everyone knows learning must be serious and difficult and you must remain seated at all times. No fun allowed.

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I think if we're going to allow humor (which I hope it's already established that we are) a little bit of sarcasm is okay too. I think it's more important that questions get answered than how, in general. I think it's important to remember, as both a writer and a reader, that sarcasm is sometimes difficult to detect in writing. As a reader, you may be registering a false positive on your snark-o-meter.

As a moderator, I do have to draw a line somewhere, and I draw it at people directly insulting or otherwise attacking other users, personally. Short of this, as long as a question gets answered, I think we can all take a little bit of good-natured sarcasm.

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    @Telemachus: See there, I can't tell if you're being sarcastic about not being able to tell if I'm being tongue-in-cheek. :) Jul 14, 2009 at 18:14
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Quoting Jeff: "Good lord, people! Use your common sense!".

If somebody is heavily sarcastic without adding any content, downvote and consider flagging offensive.

If somebody is funnily sarcastic while adding good content, even an upvote may be warranted.

Also the target of the sarcastic comment should be considered. If it's aimed at, say, the Tooth Fairy, one shouldn't probably mark it offensive, even if it may win a downvote for lack of usefulness.

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    "If somebody is funnily sarcastic while adding good content, even an upvote may be warranted." - How do you think I made all my rep?
    – TheTXI
    Jul 14, 2009 at 18:05
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    I've always thought you did it via hacking into SO's database
    – Vinko Vrsalovic StaffMod
    Jul 14, 2009 at 18:08
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    And where are MY upvotes?
    – Vinko Vrsalovic StaffMod
    Jul 14, 2009 at 18:09
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    I assumed he was being sarcastic when he mentioned "common sense"
    – devinb
    Jul 14, 2009 at 18:13
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<sarcasm>There should be no sarcasm.</sarcasm>

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This is getting dangerously close to saying that questions and answers shouldn't contain any 'personality'.

Arrgh, I hate interacting with other humans.
See, sarcasm ;b

And yes, I know that there is a difference between 'humour/sarcasm/personality' and 'offensiveness'.
And yes, I know SO isn't a 'social' site.
That's what the moderators are for.

As seen (for real) on one of those blind date tv shows:
Q - Why would you wear metal underwear?
A - To hold back all that personality that I've got!

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I think this falls under 'offensive' as being a personal attack against someone.

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    +1, heavy sarcasm is offensive Jul 14, 2009 at 17:59
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    The asker clearly IS talking about heavy sarcasm. I quote: "To clarify, I'm referring to items that are more sarcasm than substance." Jul 14, 2009 at 20:00
  • Fair enough, I should have checked the edit history Jul 14, 2009 at 20:17
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Perhaps we could code a sarcasm detection machine and prevent the user from posting if it's detected

uhhh... A sarcasm detector - that’s a real useful invention!

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    That's a brilliant idea and completely feasible. I'm all for it.
    – mmyers
    Feb 11, 2010 at 23:07
  • This is a post which needs to be downvoted because it prevents people to show off their personality using automated and/or manual technology, yet still has a positive score.
    – EKons
    Sep 8, 2016 at 17:22
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I think we need some way to blow off steam for those 'wall-of-shame' type questions. How about a checkbox for my answers that makes them only show up for people who also want to see hilarious answers to stupid questions? Learning from others' mistakes, so to speak. Maybe make it only available to users with a certain minimum rep?

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    I agree with that option, provided it is impossible for anyone to ever enable seeing those "contributions". This way you're able to scream your ramblings into the empty void of nothingness to keep your daily sanity at bay, while having noone else be bothered by it and everyone's happy. Dec 6, 2018 at 21:26
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Sarcasm tends to be valued as a positive trait in the American culture. If you do not want Stack Overflow to be America-centric, then certainly do reevaluate this biased view.

Here's a more balanced perspective on sarcasm:

Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit. [...] Just as sarcasm is designed to make the recipient feel ridiculed, irony is designed to make the recipient feel rueful. They are thus both pathetic wit, by definition. As the word ‘pathetic’ is derived from the root ‘pathos’ – which indicates sorrow – then the giver of either sarcasm or irony wishes the recipient to feel the incipient sorrow that is endemic among humans. Sorrow is a sickness that can lead, in extreme cases, to depression and suicide ... which I would not wish upon anyone. Thus sarcasm and irony are not what I, for one, consider fun. [...] It is a subtle form of verbal abuse.

It would be greatly ironic for Stack Overflow to sanction sarcasms while enforcing forced-speech on the use of pronouns.

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    I think cherry picking is part of the American tradition as well. ;)
    – JJJ
    Dec 8, 2019 at 3:33
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    I can assure you sarcasm is valued even higher in some other cultures than the American culture. Dec 8, 2019 at 8:48
  • @PeterMortensen What would those cultures be? Dec 16, 2019 at 19:24

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