I often see questions, like this one that should be closed as they are very, very poor questions.

And because I expect this one to be closed or deleted, here are the question and comments so far:

A Bad question

Despite this obviously being a poor question, I see people post answers to bad questions like this all the time. On this thread, the answer answers the question in exactly the way we do not want encourage these questions to be answered. The answerer wrote a short script.

My take is the answerer sees a possible set of free reputation points, but the truth is we have not seen a benefit to either the original poster, nor the community.

I have in a few cases downvoted the answers, (it costs me reputation points, but it might help in the long run). But what is the best way to handle these answers to questions that should not be on Super User or really any Stack Exchange sites?

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    It may not be the answerer's fault the question sucks, but if the question is off topic, poorly written, has a non-descriptive title, and shows a lack of basic research, then the person answering person should be encouraging better questions not giving an answer, it seems to me Commented Aug 31, 2013 at 23:45
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    I flagged it to be moved to Stack Overflow, so the answers would move too. just my 2 cents.. But no, don't downvote the one who helps. you are penaltizing someone for helping others.
    – Gizmo
    Commented Sep 1, 2013 at 15:08
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    I answered (well, commented) in the ways of the old Chinese proverb: "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, give him a fishing pole and you feed him for life". Usually when I see questions like this, I try to direct them to resources that will ultimately help him answer himself, rather than giving a straight answer. I think these questions should ultimately be closed (or deleted, if nothing that fixes the question happens). Then again, the community moves the site... Commented Sep 1, 2013 at 17:28
  • @DoktoroReichard and thats exactly what I think we should see, direction but not answers to those types of questions. Commented Sep 1, 2013 at 18:00
  • I asked a similar question (specifically about answering dupes) a couple of years ago on meta.SO: meta.stackexchange.com/q/96965. Might be worth checking out. Commented Sep 2, 2013 at 13:44
  • I believe this is the controlling discussion from Meta Stack Exchange: Should one downvote answers to off-topic questions?
    – jww
    Commented Jun 1, 2018 at 18:22

4 Answers 4


I think if an answer helps solve a problem in a way that might be useful to future visitors, is worded clearly and is easy to understand, then it's a good answer.

If a question sucks, it's not the answer's problem. But those who answer such questions must be aware that their answers might be deleted along with the question. Sometimes it's a shame to lose a good answer to a bad question, but that's how SE sites work. Answer posters may or may not be able to save their good answers and repost them to a better phrased question Q&A style.

About the rep part: if you're on a brink of losing the 2 rep points that are required to maintain access to a certain user privilege, like reviews or instant edits, with which you can contribute to the site much more than by downvoting a single question, consider not downvoting, so as to not lose that ability. But I see you have a ton of rep on the main SU site, so why not downvote some bad questions? :) You can always come back and remove or change your vote if the question is edited (by you or somebody else).

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    Since you moved this to an answer, I will paste here: It may not be the answerer's fault the question sucks, but if the question is off topic, poorly written, has a non-descriptive title, and shows a lack of basic research, then the person answering person should be encouraging better questions not giving an answer, it seems to me. And though I do downvote bad questions, I would also like to see others not respond to them with easy answers to bad questions. Commented Sep 1, 2013 at 0:42
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    @AthomSfere Downvote in itself is a very poor mean of communication. If you want to convey your position to the answer poster, better do it by posting a comment, explicitly saying what you think is wring with their actions. Also, if you think there is an SE site which the question would fit better, and the question in its current form sucks beyond repair, maybe post a good question along with the compilation of good answers to that site, Q&A style. There are so many ways to contribute to SE sites :) Commented Sep 1, 2013 at 1:08
  • Down voting questions does not have any rep penalty for the person who casts the vote
    – slhck
    Commented Sep 1, 2013 at 6:47
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    @slhck but this is about downvoting answers to very poor questions. Commented Sep 1, 2013 at 14:38

I take issue with your premise that questions should not be asked. They can be asked, if they fulfill the requirements listed in https://superuser.com/help/on-topic and https://superuser.com/help/dont-ask.

If the question or answer are outside the scope of SU or a duplicate or otherwise questionable, flag. Then the answer will be deleted or likely downvoted anyway. The problem ends here (most of the time).

Now you have a question that is within the scope. In spite of this, you think that a question should not have been asked. Because maybe it goes against your impulse that someone should have shown a bit of research effort. (I share that impulse, BTW.) Or you have some other beef with it.

You read the answer. What do you do?

Here are some options:

Good and useful answer

If the answer is good, vote it up. No matter how much the question sucks. Somebody made an effort to turn something trivial into something useful. Show your appreciation. (Or don't, if you think they've wasted their time.) You can always spice up the question by editing it to make it more relevant. This also raises the value of a good answer. Of course you need to respect the OP, but if the question is greatly improved, I don't see how anyone could object.

Bad answer

If you have the time: Edit to improve. If you disagree or find a different solution, post your own answer. If you find the answer valid but poorly researched and if you don't have the time or inclination to edit: leave a comment or downvote. If you can't be bothered to do any of that, then don't. Move on to something more interesting. Ignoring something is also a way of punishing it.

Some further musings (skip if already bored)

I've been on this site for a while now and the general consensus on stupid questions and answers is to have some kind of serenity about them. And about people who ask them and who can't be bothered to use Google. Further reading on MSO: Embrace the non-Googlers and Is LMGTFY frowned upon?.

You have to know your own limits; you need to decide where to draw the line. There is a lively debate in the comments and in similar questions that is never going to end on MSO, if you read the linked MSO questions to the link above. There appear to be 2 camps: those who say "let them ask and answer as long as it's useful to someone", and the others who say "don't waste my time with trivial stuff" and who will punish you if you go against it.

The general rule is to help as much as you can, even though there is no immediate reward and it may not be obvious to you why it might be necessary to answer the question. Remain polite at all times.

On the other hand, downvoting someone - who has shown no research effort or has done a poor job of explaining something worded - is perfectly legit. It actually says so when you hover over the downvote button.

enter image description here

It's similar to democracy: If you like something, vote for it. If not, downvote. (I'm Swiss, we do a lot of voting here.) The vote may not go the way you wanted it to go, but there was a vote. Accept the result. What you like or dislike is not for us to decide.

  • How can you have a good answer to some really bad questions though. For example, H3lp me with Batch, possibly a better SO question, but I am ok with those, but with a long list of wants for a script.The answers then, are generally easy answers, but if the comments and downvotes are already there stating this is a bad question I would hope people would refrain from easy answers. Easy answers by themselves, again are OK. But easy answers to bad questions encourage bad questions... Commented Sep 1, 2013 at 15:04
  • @AthomSfere ´help me with batch´ would fall under too localized and should be closed or deleted. No answer necessary here. I was thinking about questions that are too easy. Commented Sep 1, 2013 at 19:34
  • Yes, the question should be closed, but for more than that one reason. But how to deal with the answers on these same questions in extremely bad cases like the one above. I feel rewarding the answer with points for a bad question, that will undoubtedly be closed should have some way to prevent these answers. Down-votes might help... Commented Sep 2, 2013 at 0:35
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    @AthomSfere - I am not sure I agree with your concern about people who answer bad questions with a good answer just for the answer. Because that good answer is not upvoted by the person who asked the bad question ( they can't because of a lack of reputation more then likely ) but other people who can and found it help. I suppose a solution to your concern is reputation on answers from a closed question should not be counted at all. Protected questions would still count of course.
    – Ramhound
    Commented Sep 3, 2013 at 17:33
  • @Ramhound There is a grey area here, as some closed questions do have good answers. Some questions are good questions, but off topic and a good answer should get points. But I am looking at horrendously bad questions that still get OK answers, where any answer should be discouraged because the questions are really that bad. Commented Sep 3, 2013 at 18:42
  • I don't disagree
    – Ramhound
    Commented Sep 3, 2013 at 19:46

I have seen what you are referring to and have often wondered how to handle the same thing. In a lot of cases the person answering doesn't know better. Then again, I've seen some with high reputations do the same thing.

IMO, the fact someone answered the question is relevant. In that case, if it's a good answer, we should be looking at how to improve the question to be useful in the community. If it isn't possible to salvage the answer, then it may unavoidably be closes.

As far as those answers which are not appropriate, as in your example, we should use those as teaching opportunities to improve the answerer by use of comments. If you down vote an answer, at least have the integrity to leave a comment why. That is the only way people will understand.

  • This was sort of my thought, but I never see these downvoted and wondered if there was precedent or a popular opinion with this approach. Commented Sep 10, 2013 at 20:44
  • Judging by the answers and comments here, there is plenty of opinion on this topic. There just doesn't appear to be a precedent.
    – CharlieRB
    Commented Sep 11, 2013 at 20:02

I'd say there's a reason why the Reversal Badge exists. Actually, I think there should be a corresponding bronze or silver badge with somewhat reduced requirements (maybe taking a -3 question and giving a +15 answer, or something like that; Reversal is +20 answer to -5 question, which is pretty close to question deletion territory), but that's a different issue.

That particular question has seen a reversal from -3 to +1 (+5/-4) since you posted this meta question and while closed as "too broad" (it might be, although it almost certainly could be reworded to not be too broad to be answered while staying within what the OP likely wants to know) certainly feels to be within the scope of SuperUser. Yes, it's basic, and somewhat poorly worded, but there are many such questions on the Stack Exchange network which can gather good answers anyway.

Why penalize the answerers for what feels to me to be like the person asking the question not being a native-level English writer? "I understand the lowest level, but with more complicated things have problems" to me reads because of the second half of the sentence not as "I have an understanding of the intricate details of the technology" but rather "I have a basic understanding of the technology".

No, I don't think it's appropriate to downvote answers because the question is poorly worded, off topic, clearly shows no research effort, or whatever the reason might be. Put the votes to use on what your problem is. Even if the question isn't perfectly written, answers can still be useful. If you have the time, go in and fix up at least the language. (I did that just the other day on a question which was subsequently closed and apparently deleted; at least, I can't seem to find it.)

A wonderful question can have a total crap answer; you probably wouldn't downvote the question because of that, so why should you downvote an answer because you feel the question is bad?

And whenever you downvote, try to leave a comment explaining why. I've received some downvotes (particularly on answers) and it is always frustrating that someone thought something about it was wrong, but didn't bother to say what. It makes it practically impossible to improve the part of the answer the voter had issues with, and hence, nobody benefits; it costs rep for both people involved, and the community is really next to no better off for it.

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