I see it most often on the sed/awk/grep/perl type questions, but it does happen pretty frequently I think. A lot of times you'll find like 4 or 5 answers on a question with 0 votes and it just boggles my mind. Personally, I wouldn't bother providing an answer to a question which I did not think worth my upvote. It seems to me that doing so is exemplary of bad citizenship, honestly.

Some examples:

  1. Text File Renaming Using Unix Script - only upvote = mine

  2. Filter Require Capital words from a file( not all capital words ) - 4 answers, 2 votes

  3. print only rows that has latest non empty cell that starts with the word “Failed” on a CSV file in Linux - 5 answers, 1 upvote (mine), 1 downvote (almost definitely jasonwryan)

I could go on, but I'd really rather not. I'm just curious about what would motivate anyone to take the time to construct an answer to a question which they do not even care to click the ^ button on?

As it seems to me, the community as a whole - the knowledge-base as a whole - is better served when a poor question is not answered - except maybe via a comment that indicates to the asker both where an answer might be found and perhaps how better to ask for it in future. It also seems to me, that, for sake of the same, good questions are both answered when possible and upvoted as such.

  • 17
    Guilty as charged, your honour...
    – jasonwryan
    Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 4:30
  • 4
    @jasonwryan - that wasn't a judgement on you - you didn't answer. As near as I can tell - and as I understand things should work - you did the right thing there. You down-voted, voted to close, and commented as to why. Which is why I said it was almost definitely you... Whether or not our votes agree shouldn't matter so much, I think, as the way we use them.
    – mikeserv
    Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 4:34
  • 3
    I took no offense; I was just happy to stand by my vote. :)
    – jasonwryan
    Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 4:37
  • 1
    @jasonwryan - in which case I am happy to have provided you that opportunity.
    – mikeserv
    Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 4:39
  • 13
    @mikeserv, the reverse case is much worser. Why ask a question when the accepted answer by the OP not worth the OP's upvote
    – Ramesh
    Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 20:38
  • 5
    I would like it noted that I upvoted your question without giving an answer.
    – Anthon
    Commented Sep 4, 2014 at 4:03
  • @Anthon - so noted.
    – mikeserv
    Commented Sep 4, 2014 at 4:42
  • @mirabilos - thanks for pax. and all of the other stuff.
    – mikeserv
    Commented Sep 5, 2014 at 16:06
  • 7
    Erm, you’re welcome. Anyway, let me extend a bit, I was a bit terse in my last comment (deleted now): I upvote good answers regularily, but I don’t upvote every question I answer on, only those I feel stand out from the masses, e.g. obscure-but-important, really good, should become a textbook example, etc. to help pick them up, or if I feel they need more attention, e.g. difficult topic, and things like that.
    – mirabilos
    Commented Sep 9, 2014 at 14:34
  • @mirabilos - thanks again.
    – mikeserv
    Commented Sep 9, 2014 at 14:50

9 Answers 9


There's a small number of questions that are really well asked, a small number that are so bad I literally can't understand them, and a huge remainder that suck, but not so much that I can't piece together what they're looking for if I try hard enough. I generally only upvote questions if I think they'll help other people, or they're unusually well-written and I appreciate them actually making an effort. Most of the questions in the "sed/awk/grep/perl" category are "write this script for me, I can't figure it out on my own"; they're of no help to anyone besides the author, so I see little reason to upvote them if they already have an answer -- nobody else needs to see it

  • 1
    So that I get - no need to upvote them if they already have an answer. But I don't get why they got the answer if they weren't worth upvoting in the first place. In any case, this question is tagged discussion and that's all I'm looking for. All honestly stated opinions are welcome. Thanks for yours.
    – mikeserv
    Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 5:00
  • 31
    @mikeserv Because I know the answer? I upvote questions that are really well-written or I think will be useful to many people. I answer questions I know the answers to. They're totally separate Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 5:05
  • 3
    understood. and that is also what @Ramesh indicated to me in chat. it just seems to me that the level of personal investiture is so much more for an answer than it is for an upvote and so I don't understand why the former is easier to come by than the latter. I guess I'm learning though. Again, though, thank you.
    – mikeserv
    Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 5:18
  • 7
    "write this script for me, I can't figure it out on my own", this. Most of the time I upvote a question is a) I find it interesting + useful 2) Is something that I meant to ask but haven't asked.
    – Braiam
    Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 14:45

At least for me the answer lies in the tooltip text for an upvote: this question shows research effort; it is useful and clear.

Most questions simply don't show any research effort at all. Many questions demonstrate that the author didn't even bother to do obvious things like using a search engine or to have a look at wikipedia. Not to mention the terrible burden of reading a manual page.

As to why do I answer those questions occasionally, in most cases I believe the question (and the answer) could have a broader audience.

  • I see that side, but, I guess my point is, if the question does not show research effort and is neither useful nor clear - should it have a broader audience?
    – mikeserv
    Commented Sep 3, 2014 at 10:16
  • 9
    Possibly yes. I think by giving a good answer you can turn it in that direction. My (limited) experience on SE so far is that any good answer eventually finds an audience. Commented Sep 3, 2014 at 10:20
  • 2
    I think this deserves more votes.
    – mikeserv
    Commented Sep 8, 2014 at 19:36

There is a difference between a poor question and a poorly asked question. A poor question would be one where there is insufficient detail to answer, it is an X-Y problem or is otherwise just a wreck.

A poorly asked question, which it seems the ones you linked to mostly represent (excluding the final one, naturally), have at their kernel a problem that can be solved (hence the answers), but show little effort in their construction (or are just downright lazy) and so are not worthy of an upvote, ie., do not "show research effort" or are "useful and clear".

I agree that, as the site continues to grow, we will likely see more drive-by questions designed to solicit some code that can be cut and pasted into an assignment. Most should probably be closed but if some do provide a platform for people to show off the range of solutions that awk, cut, perl, sed et al can provide then some script golf is not a bad way to feed the ravenous maws of search bots...


For myself. I answer questions I know the answer to (that are not homework). But I upvote questions that I want to know the answer to (because it got me thinking, or because I have that issue as well). Rarely do I upvote and answer. Only if the question is one that I think supports many people, is really well written, and I also know the answer to.

Now as to not answering questions that I don't upvote, I feel that it's better to help someone out by answering their question, then to go out of my way (down vote, flag, and comment) to mark the question as a poor question. I think marking average questions as poor questions is really close to that "old school" Linux community of "I smarter then you because I know this, but I'm not going to tell you because your not worth the time." We, as a community, have mostly gotten over this, and I don't see a reason to go back.

An Example, out side of stack exchange:
Q: How do I get to Wal-Mart from here?
A: Left in two lights, then a right. It's on the left.

That's better then, buy a map, or use your GPS. But the question doesn't really invoke any "good question" feelings.

Q: When should you switch to a "older mileage" oil in a 2003 Dodge?
A: ????

That question I would upvote, because I also want to know.

Q: How much is parking at the airport, for the overnight lot? A: $10 a day.

That question I would upvote, and answer, because I wanted to know too last time I flew, but I now have the answer.

I hope that helps clarify my stance at least.

  • Very good answer. I will say, though, that, in my opinion, How do I get to WalMart from here? is an excellent question. That's useful stuff, man. My GPS is always trying to sell me something anyway. Oh - and go synthetic.
    – mikeserv
    Commented Sep 3, 2014 at 15:50
  • 3
    Please don't do that. A question deserves your upvote if it is 1) clear and well written and 2) shows some effort on the part of the asked. Whether it is interesting to you personally or not is completely irrelevant. Upvoting good questions (according to the above criteria) is essential for educating new users on what a good question is.
    – terdon Mod
    Commented Sep 8, 2014 at 14:13
  • 1
    Marking a question as a favourite enables updates on the relevant profile page. This seems more appropriate if you want to know the answer to a question.
    – l0b0
    Commented Sep 11, 2014 at 8:23
  • @l0b0 I guess you mean, so long as you have Favourites sorted by "Activity". That's an interesting idea, I never thought of using that.
    – sourcejedi
    Commented May 25, 2019 at 9:59

Because we're nice. I answer questions to help the person asking (and sometimes, ok, "because I know the answer":-), but I vote based on question quality and interest. These are two different things.


There are two distinct issues at play here:

  • Is it a good question?
    Yes? Then upvote it.

  • Is it something I would like to answer?
    Yes? Then write an answer?

Those issues are not equivalent nor exactly related.

On the good side, a question could be well written and about a good subject. Related to the site goals and writing an answer to it will improve the site. Those questions are worth an upvote.

There are questions that are so poorly written that are even almost impossible to understand. Those should not be upvoted.

There are a lot of questions that have a valid subject but not so well written, those may be worth an up-vote, sometimes. But answering this queries may be a one time solution. Something that apply to a particular problem that doesn't have a general solution. Nor will add to the general knowledge of the site. Many of them are not worth an answer.

There are some questions that, even if not so well written, have a clear, simple, answer. One that when a reader read them goes: "but of course!". Those deserve an answer. Those answers are generally well voted. This is generally how knowledge is given, from someone who knows to the rest of us, learners.

There are other questions that contain queries about something that we may want to explore as well. Not knowing before hand the exact nature of what an answer should look like, those might generate complex or difficult answers. But that's how the majority of the answers are generated: something worth exploring. Those answers may get up-votes, sometimes. But that is how knowledge is developed, by contrasting several solutions, by competing to get "the right answer". Worth reading if one is interested in the general field of the subject in the question.


There are some questions that are well written and which clearly define the subject queried, those deserve an upvote. Even if what is being queried is not "liked".

There are some questions for which one might have a simple, clear answer, those should probably be upvoted and clearly deserve an answer. Write it, even if you don't upvote the question.

There are others that are somewhat fuzzy, not so clear, but which trigger "the "search for knowledge", upvote those, and answer them if you could.

So, to answer your question:

Why answer a question not worth your upvote?

Even if a question might be unclear, is about a subject worth exploring.

Those questions will get my answer even if I choose to not up-vote them.


There are no stupid questions, but quite a few inquisitive idiots.

And I once was young and very green too. That which is trivial for me now, was not always
the past.

I answer more questions than I ask and rarely upvote on questions.

Some of the ones I answer fall in the category, where the asker simply does not know the correct jargon and I feel a comment of: Just search on "jargon term". is a bit too short. Not stellar questions, no upvote, but also ones I would also expect the junior colleagues I mentor not to immediately know the answer to either. So I answer those as I would answer them e.g. "the correct jargon term but with some context."

Others are in the category where somebody is trying to achieve something and gets stuck halfway through and I feel their whole approach is wrong. Rather than answering their actual question or letting them struggle I suggest an alternate solution.


I sometimes do not upvote if I feel there is a missing detail which should be added to the question. In particular, I sometimes comment that the question should specify the exact distribution and version it was observed on. Even though I may have a plausible answer to write as well.

I think it's a good point to think about. So if I don't feel very inclined to give a vote to the question, I aim to ask myself how the question could be improved.

  • yes, perhaps the exact distribution is a gainful specification. such is a people problem... evidence of specifics failing generally. shite happens. i asked this because i tended to observe negatively accrued vote totals accompanied by multiple specific answers. creeped me out.
    – mikeserv
    Commented Oct 5, 2018 at 4:58

Ideally, for upvotes to have a useful meaning, we would all follow a similar standard. The tooltip text is a good indicator of what that standard should be:

This question shows research effort; it is useful and clear.

I think most people follow this to some degree, but often members here interpret "it is useful" as "it is useful to me", rather than "it is useful to the general community". There is bound to be very little overlap between people who answer and people who upvote using the standard of "useful to me". I'd argue "useful to me" is not the best standard. If it's important for developers to know the answer, it's a useful question. If it's clear, shows some effort, and is important for developers to know the answer, it should be upvoted.

There does seem to be a number of members that use an entirely different standard, upvoting only questions that produces the internal dialogue "Oh! What a good question!", reserving their upvotes for exceptional questions worth a special journey to read. I don't think that's helpful to anyone.

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