There are a lot of answers that only provide a one to three line commands and nothing else.

Sometimes this is enough since the question was asked in a way that the answer is only one command.

In other cases these one command line answers are solving the problem, but in my opinion should explain what the command does and why it is needed.

These answers provide help, but shouldn't they be edited so you don't need to first read the man pages of the used commands.

Often enough these answers are flagged with "it is very low quality".

So now my questions what should be done with such answers?

  • Do such answers have a low quality and should be flagged?
  • Should they even be deleted?
  • Should they be down voted for poor quality?
  • Should they be as they are as long as they are not wrong?

Sometimes a question basically asks, "I think there is a command that does X, but I don't remember which one. Which is it?" In that case, an answer consisting of the command is a full answer to the question. Maybe it could be improved by a usage example, common flags, etc., but the answer is still fine. A comment (suggesting how the author can make the answer better) or edit would seem appropriate here.

Other times, the question is how to accomplish some task. The asker doesn't know of a command that'll accomplish it. Here, an answer including at least a short usage summary and/or example would be appreciated by the OP.

If it's a non-trivial use of the command (extreme example, question about a particular text processing task, answer "you can use perl to do this.") then that's downvote and/or delete material. It's not useful.

If it's a trivial use of the command (example q: how do I copy a file? a: cp) then I suggest that's only delete material if there is already a better answer. Especially if the better answer came first (yes, people do this). You can, as always, leave a comment suggesting how to improve the answer. You could also make it a better answer via editing.

Also, take a look at the question. Sometimes bad questions draw bad answers. You can edit the question to improve it, or if unsalvageable downvote and/or close.

I don't think there can be a blanket rule about command-only answers. Some judgment is required. Will the answer will be useful to the OP and to random people who stumble upon the question e.g., via Google? Or is it just noise?


People can read man pages. Sometimes all you need is to be pointed to the right command and see an example, and then you can read up on the command and learn what you need. That's at least helpful and no way should it be downvoted or deleted.

It's more helpful of course if people provide more guidance, but most people aren't going to do better than a man page anyway. Otherwise maybe their energy would be better spent improving the man page ;) That would have wider impact.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .