I looked at my voting record on SO recently, and it's bad. My up votes are barely twice in number that my down votes, and almost all of my down votes are on questions.

I read these posts on Meta, which were interesting.:

What purpose does downvoting questions serve?

How do you react when someone votes down your question?

Right now, many of my down votes on questions come from the following rule: If I can find the answer in a single google search taken from copying and pasting from the title or text of the question, then I vote it down. Yes, I vote to close as a duplicated when appropriate or provide a link to the external site with the answer. I know I can use my SO voting privileges however I like, but is this a reasonable practice? Should I be concerned that I'm generating far more down votes than up votes on question


No, please no, don't

If I can find the answer in a single google search taken from copying and pasting from the title or text of the question, then I vote it down.

Stack Overflow is a place we want people to come for even simple questions and answers. Just because it's googleable, doesn't make it a bad question. Please save the question downvoting for bad questions where the OP didn't try or just failed miserably to communicate, or they showed a complete lack of effort (in the programming, not searching).

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    I guess my thought was that failing to search online showed "complete lack of effort". What if the answer is in another SO question linked on the side? Should I just vote to close as a duplicate and not vote it down? – PengOne Jun 27 '11 at 22:07
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    @PengOne, I certainly do a little googleing first, but as long as it's a good question, then it will be good or even a neutral question, then it will be good for the site. I wouldn't necessarily upvote it if I thought it was too easy. – Lance Roberts Jun 27 '11 at 22:09
  • @PengOne, yes, vote to close as a duplicate those posts that are. – Lance Roberts Jun 27 '11 at 22:10
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    @peng see blog.stackoverflow.com/2011/02/are-some-questions-too-simple and use that flowchart to guide your decisons – Jeff Atwood Jun 27 '11 at 22:23
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    I think you're right. The quality of the question is independent from the ease of finding an answer on Google. I will mend my ways. – PengOne Jun 27 '11 at 22:23

If I can find the answer in a single google search taken from copying and pasting from the title or text of the question, then I vote it down.

Brilliant! Sounds like you're doing it exactly right. Case in point.

You are clearly not downvoting out of malice, but out of quality concerns. To me, that's a good thing. Stack Overflow is there to help people learn, not to do their thinking for them.

Plus, your upvote:downvote ratio is still almost 2 to 1. I don't think you have anything to worry about.

  • But this is true for something like 20% of the questions in some of the tags I follow. That's a lot of down votes. My down vote on questions ratio is probably more like 1:1 or worse. – PengOne Jun 27 '11 at 21:59
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    @Peng still. If you feel bad about it, upvote more - but don't downvote less. You clearly are not downvoting out of malice, but to maintain some standard of quality. – Pekka Jun 27 '11 at 22:20
  • Au contraire, StackOverflow should become a one-stop answer to every question you can think of. It shouldn't matter if the answer already exists in 5000 other places on the internet. Judge on the merits of the question itself, not on the ease of finding an answer elsewhere. – Mark Ransom Jun 28 '11 at 20:22
  • @Mark so you want questions like this? Over and over and over? What are the different assignment operators in PHP, how do they differ Questions that can be trivially answered by looking at the official reference? I don't. – Pekka Jun 28 '11 at 21:30
  • @Pekka, no I don't want them over and over and over - once is enough. The facilities for flagging duplicates should be sufficient for that. Don't discount the possibility that a well written StackOverflow answer can be more easily digested than the official documentation. Even having multiple answers with different points of view can be helpful. – Mark Ransom Jun 28 '11 at 21:36
  • @Mark I see your (and @Lance's) points, but I've developed a strong hostility towards trivial questions. They are tiring, and SO has too much of a tendency of replacing independent thought and research already. I've seen people who have outsourced way too much stuff to SO that they should have learned doing by themselves. Plus flagging as a duplicate is a difficult and thankless job - there is a level of triviality at which I say, just close it, no matter whether a dupe is found or not - it usually is guaranteed to exist – Pekka Jun 28 '11 at 21:41

It's also important to keep in mind that Stack Overflow has crazy go nuts google juice at this point--so even if a question has a decent answer on the first page of search results, if you write a really good answer on SO, within a couple days that answer is likely to be the top result.

Think of it as preemptively rewarding people in the future who do the right thing and search for an answer before asking on SO.

  • Interesting observation. The questions to which I'm referring in this question are usually easily answered, and the answer hits are about as good as they come. But this is a good thing to keep in mind anyway. – PengOne Jun 27 '11 at 23:25
  • @PengOne: It's also a matter of how obviously useful the hits are--if I'm looking for a solution to something, a question on SO with a title that's pretty clearly the same as my issue is almost always exactly what I need, vs. digging through documentation that probably has the answer... somewhere. I've left a lot of answers that are little more than "let me quote the official specs/user manual/etc., and link to the exact paragraph that's relevant". – McCannot Jun 27 '11 at 23:29

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