I want to know what you do with answers on stackoverflow.com along the lines of:

Try to do xyz.

The answer has no rationale as to why trying this might solve the problem. Even if it is correct, I usually downvote them because they aren't helpful to the questioner. It's guess-coding.

What do you think about it?

  • What accepted answer? The question you linked to has no accepted answers. – Zaz Sep 14 '10 at 20:47

If I understand the idea behind stackoverflow in a nutshell, it's to help developers find a solution to their issues. If "try this" / "check this" / "whatever" solves the issue, I do not see your point. Down voting someone that solved the issue is rather pointless in my opinion. I think you would be more helpful to other developers answering questions that have no answers yet, than to waste your time to find posts that you would want to vote down.

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  • Couldn't agree more. Some people tend to believe that if they have a reasonable amount of knowledge(not a guru), some new guy(low on points) should be screwed just for fun. – DumbCoder Oct 22 '10 at 14:06
  • "than to waste your time to find posts that you would want to vote down." - sorry I have never said I do such a thing. If I spot such an answer when I read a question's thread, I will downvote it. I do't try to "find posts that I would want to vote down.". That's nonsense. "answering questions that have no answers yet" - thanks I already do that. The one does not exclude the other. – Johannes Schaub - litb Oct 24 '10 at 10:46
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    To answer your question: If the question is "Why does this not work" / "What's wrong?" and the answer is "Try xyz" - then that does not answer the question. It's suggesting some code that empirically works around it. – Johannes Schaub - litb Oct 24 '10 at 10:51
  • @Dumb sorry, your suggestion is blatantly offensive. – Johannes Schaub - litb Oct 24 '10 at 13:18
  • @JohannesSchaub-litb If the owner of a question marks a suggestion as the answer, the answer can start with whatever floats the boat of the beholder. Maybe a blank space, who knows. – neolace Oct 21 '14 at 4:31

Try to provide a better answer.

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  • What if you provide an own answer. Afterwards do you downvote it or upvote it or leave it alone? – Johannes Schaub - litb Sep 12 '10 at 20:50
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    @litb If you think the other answer doesn't help or contains incorrect information, you can downvoted it. Otherwise you can just leave it like it and move along. If your anwer is better, overtime it will gain upvote. – HoLyVieR Sep 12 '10 at 22:55
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    and yet another "Try ..." answer :-) +1 – user141148 Oct 22 '10 at 16:23

"Try XYZ" is pretty much the only way to get things fixed on Server Fault, unless the user has asked a question that's a common problem or provided precisely the right bit of config that's causing their problem.

So, when I'm trying to solve a problem and I see a Try XYZ I damn well try XYZ and if it works or gets me closer to an answer then I upvote it.

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Sometimes you know the answer, or know what is that all about because it had happened to you in the past, but you don't have the time to reproduce it ( or is not completely reproducible in first place ). In this situation it makes sense to say "I remember this could be fixed by xyz, but I'm not sure, hence: try xyz"

If the recommendation is bad, it will be downvoted or ignored. If the recommendation solved the problem, it will be upvoted and as in the post in question, accepted, it it is helpful.

I don't really see the problem with that.

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    I think that this is a bad thing to do. Why not post such suspicions as comments? After all, it's not an answer at all. It's more like a question: "Does this maybe solve it?". I usually downvote such things as they overall lower the quality of stackoverflow. – Johannes Schaub - litb Sep 13 '10 at 11:35
  • @litb: What if someone posted such a text as a comment, and that comment did solve your problem? Who's answer would you accept? – Zaz Sep 13 '10 at 15:40
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    @Josh i would accept an answer that contains that text and explains how it solves my problem. If there is no such answer, I won't accept any. – Johannes Schaub - litb Sep 13 '10 at 17:56

Stack Exchange sites work around three simple principles:

  • If it works, accept it
  • If you like it, vote it up
  • If you don't like it, vote it down

This is a community driven site, which means; feel free to vote however you like, for whatever reason you like. For what it's worth, I usually vote like this:

  • Vote up - good method of solving the problem
  • Don't vote - useful information, but is not a good method of solving the problem
  • Vote down - bad method of solving problem / adds no useful information
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  • Would you vote down such a guess answer because it's a bad method of solving a problem? – Johannes Schaub - litb Sep 14 '10 at 20:17
  • @litb: Yes. I don't consider the rational behind the answer, only the answer content itself. – Zaz Sep 14 '10 at 20:44

I disagree with the notion that "try XYZ" is necessarily guesswork. It can be a seasoned expert's tip who doesn't want to explain the same thing in detail over and over.

That said, I usually don't upvote "try XYZ" answers. I prefer answers that give a piece of background, reference links, and the likes. I also try to write such answers myself. But if a "try XYZ" answer is correct, it would be wrong to downvote it.

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  • The answerer itself may very well know the reason they proposed it. But for the questioner, if they substitute it into their code and it works, it is guess-coding for them, because it "magically" works. I think reputation is a mark for how good one answers question, but not necessarily how good one knows their area of interests. – Johannes Schaub - litb Oct 24 '10 at 13:25
  • @litb then it's up to the questioner to ask for details before upvoting or accepting. If you think it's okay to downvote correct answers because they are not detailed enough, well, that's your prerogative. I personally find it sufficient to not upvote them. – Pekka Oct 24 '10 at 15:38

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