I've followed the advice of this possible duplicate so far: Is it ok to flog people for circumventing the minimum answer size?

There may be other similar questions asked, but I've seen none that explains the rules.

Also, I'd like to know the degree of difference (if there is one) between "visible" limit-filling in order to provide a short answer like yes or no vs. injecting hidden HTML code into the answer to do the same thing; if one is "kosher" and the other is abuse of the site.

Here's an example of the HTML injection (no, he didn't invent it, he copied the idea from someone else). Is a += b more efficient than a = a + b in C?

I would also like to know as part of the answer if it's considered OK for some things (questions, comments) and not for others; if it's OK when a high-rep user or moderator does it but not when a newcomer does it in his first post.

Clarification: While there are opinions for and against, answers for or against doesn't help even if they have motivations for the opinion that help make the subject clearer.

The answers so far have helped making the subject clearer. I will add what I feel to be the solution, but I will not mark it as the answer if someone offers a better one and not if you guys explain how bad it is :)

This question definitely seems to be about polls rather than rules, but it shouldn't be that way.


4 Answers 4


Generally speaking, any answer that needs to circumvent the minimum character limit really isn't a particularly high quality answer.

This is certainly true for the case with the example you gave. It's just unfortunate that so many people voted it up instead of the answers which detail why, provide proof, or even approach the problem from a completely different perspective than was intended by the question author. Those are the valuable expert answers we want to have on the sites.

  • 4
    When I'm looking for answers, I'm looking for answers. While it's nice to have extra description, the exact specific answer is what I'd like, no matter the length. Jun 12, 2011 at 21:20
  • @Lance: I agree! There is some value to a short answer (assuming it's correct), but there is way more value in a detailed answer.
    – Jon Seigel
    Jun 13, 2011 at 1:00
  • +1 for the "the need to circumvent proves it's less useful already" which is a good point. That guides the asker, but still doesn't coach the answerer (so to speak). Unless they read your answer and agree :) Jun 14, 2011 at 10:03

It's considered not acceptable on any site, with the notable exception of as comedy on this particular site, and often it will be called out even here.

I would suggest that answers such as that be downvoted by yourself, and a comment left asking them to deliberately explain their answer even further.

Additionally you might like to note that:

<!-- this is a test answer to remind people that this is a valid answer for SEI Qs -->

is a valid answer. I know that I've seen it done on other answers elsewhere here before.

  • If you mean the StackOverflow sites, it certainly seems acceptable for stackoverflow.com? There are many examples there besides the one I linked. Jun 14, 2011 at 9:52
  • @Henrik ~ What people do does not make it acceptable. What is acceptable is what is enforced. As you see that occurring, flag it as being not acceptable. Just because some people in this society go out and get drunk and then drive home, does that make it acceptable? (Not that this discussion is even close to the same thing, just drawing a parallel of community diluting and disrupting behavior) Let's not contribute to the problem. These "circumvented answers" are just that. Circumventions. If you have to go around then you did something you were asked not to.
    – jcolebrand
    Jun 14, 2011 at 13:51

There's no problem with that as long as you give a good answer. It's a design feature to stop many of the short post problems that crop up, especially with new users.

When I'm looking for answers, I don't care how long your answer is, I just want to solve my problem. It's nice to have more descriptive answers, and they tend to get more upvotes, but I just want my problem solved.

  • 1
    The point is, answers should be verbose enough to help others with the same (or similar) question - not just you.
    – Michael
    Jun 14, 2011 at 9:17
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    @Mika, agree. It will also help non-users discover StackOverflow via search engines - if they understand the answer, it's not just an opinion and be more sure. Good answers will make more non-users join. Jun 14, 2011 at 9:54
  • @Lance, I also agree with you. But this makes the limit confusing. And when it doesn't work and Yes/No or even blank answers are allowed it's confusion squared, hence my original question. :) Jun 14, 2011 at 9:56
  • @Henrik, I don't have a problem with them having a limit, I just also don't have a problem if it needs to be worked around. Jun 14, 2011 at 14:21
  • @Mikaveli, I think the real point is that as a question asker I want an answer that works as quick as possible. It'd be nice if they left more, but that's not my purpose as a question asker. Jun 14, 2011 at 14:22
  • @Lance. Maybe so, but how much effort is involved to just supply one sentence as to why? E.g. "No. Because it's not a valid HTTP method."
    – Michael
    Jun 14, 2011 at 14:26
  • @Mikaveli, not much, and even terse me would leave at least that much. I'm mostly thinking of just links or small code snippets. I've certainly run into this problem before, sometimes the answer is just short. Jun 14, 2011 at 14:30
  • @Lance. I agree to an extent - but can you provide a valuable example?
    – Michael
    Jun 14, 2011 at 14:36
  • @Mikaveli, If I see one I'll post it here, but it's not possible to search by answer size. Jun 14, 2011 at 14:41
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    @Mikaveli, OK, this just happened to me. There was a poor vlookup question that just wanted the formula, so I tried to answer, =VLOOKUP(B2, Sheet2!A:B, 2) but it wouldn't take, so I had to insert the useless verbiage, 'Here's your answer:'. Jun 14, 2011 at 15:17
  • @Lance, actually I think your answer could have done with a sentence or two explaining the syntax, to make it clear to novices. It seems this is just an area where we disagree.
    – Michael
    Jun 14, 2011 at 15:45

In my opinion, no, it should not be allowed to use this "trick" to circumvent that limit.

Why? Because then what is the point of this limit?

If anyone can circumvent it just by adding invisible HTML, why not just dispense with the limit altogether and accept anything except the absolute empty answer?

In fact, I would hold that the detection code should filter out HTML before counting characters, specifically to avoid this circumvention.

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