Recently I came across an answer that I believed to be unnecessarily preachy and opinionated. Specifically, I felt this answer rubbed up against the guidelines (as enumerated in the help center) promoting objective and civil answers. I edited it to remove the strong opinions and flagged it as "rude or abusive". The result was that the OP rolled back my edit and the flag was rejected. So I settled for simply downvoting the answer, as I didn't want to get into an edit war with the OP nor re-raise a flag and potentially abuse the flagging system.

So my question is: what should I do about answers (to well-formed questions) containing strong opinions? Should I flag them, and if so what flag should I use? Or should I simply downvote and move on?


3 Answers 3


In this particular case, I declined your flag. The "rude or abusive" flag should only be used for the truly egregious cases; for posts that contain offensive language, racism, sexism or any other horrible -ism. Not for posts that simply defend a position you happen to disagree with. Even if they do so in an admittedly very opinionated and biased way.

This is, after all, a site for *nix geeks. If we were to flag every strong opinion our members expressed, we'd be left with very few posts. In this case, while I agree that the answer could be expressed in a better way, it really isn't what I would consider offensive.

So, what you should do is pretty much exactly what you did. You made an edit (which is your right), the OP rolled it back (which is theirs) and you downvoted and walked away like a responsible adult and came to ask about it on Meta. That is exactly the way to deal with it, and thank you! You could also leave a comment, if you like, but really I think what you did is best.

At the end of the day, this is a community of volunteers who are entitled to their opinions. If you disagree with the opinion stated, you can downvote. If it is an answer consisting entirely of opinion and nothing else, you can flag as not an answer. If, however, it is providing an answer but is also providing a strong dose of unsolicited opinion, downvoting is the only defense you have.

On a more general note, I've written an answer here that gives some guidelines on what flag to use when. While it is for another site, the same principles also apply here.

  • @jayhendren - what terdon says above is how I would direct you as well.
    – slm Mod
    Dec 9, 2016 at 2:43
  • 1
    I might be holding out too much hope, and certainly people are free to vote as they wish, but could we instead say to downvote answers that are less useful instead of just being an opinion you disagree with? that the post contains wrong information, is poorly researched, or fails to communicate information
    – Jeff Schaller Mod
    Dec 9, 2016 at 19:20
  • @JeffSchaller my point is that if someone's answer is based on opinion, that usually makes it less useful, sort of by definition. And I said "you can downvote", not should. As in, instead of flagging as offensive because you object to the opinin expressed, just downvote. Doing nothing is indeed another option but I doubt it would be applicable when someone finds the opinion so unpleasant as to flag as abusive and then bring it up on meta for discussion. The OP here obviously feels quite strongly about this, so a downvote is understandable.
    – terdon Mod
    Dec 10, 2016 at 11:19
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    In this particular case, I didn't really care what the opinion was (I have a chip on my shoulder for Red Hat too), but rather that I felt the strong opinions expressed in the answer not only did not contribute to the answer at all, but they actually detracted from it, and generally made UL feel like a more hostile place.
    – jayhendren
    Dec 10, 2016 at 21:06
  • I think the answer is funny (contemptuous ala tongue-in-cheek humor) and informative. I like smart rebels. "wunderkinder" - lol... spot on. Dec 22, 2016 at 19:21

I would like to respectfully write a counter opinion on moderation :-). I.e. that this post did deserve moderator attention and hence flagging. Although perhaps we need to use the "other" flag, to include specific reasoning. For such a case where the guidelines are being abraded, as opposed to being smashed through.

I don't think it is good to include dog-whistle attacks on individuals ("the best thing since pulseaudio"), which would be a huge de-rail if one tried to discuss it on the post.

I find "wunderkinder" suspicious. It's not the more common loan-word "wunderkind" (wonder-child). It's not the German orthography either. It would actually be the plural form, which makes the sentence ungrammatical. In the context above, I give it -0.5 for looking like a second veiled personal reference.

I am happy to score on points and make an ad-hoc judgement, and I think this post crosses the line for being personal and inflammatory. And the fact that that a topic is known to attract inflammatory personal attacks should make us more careful about it, not less. I do not think we should propagate this.

In the same context, I'm not keen on saying that RHEL 7 is "tainted" because it uses systemd. You can convey similar sentiments without needing to label one side of an argument by analogy to rotten food. E.g. "(We have other reasons to avoid systemd as well)", or "I think this option will still work if you ever manage to escape systemd".

Some level of technical ranting is inevitable, and I accept that.

For this question, criticizing RHEL as a (commercial) product was relatively on-topic. RedHat are the biggest OSS company; they can probably survive a little snark. I don't agree that the adoption of systemd is just about who employs the developers. But arguably a factor - fine.

The technical history implied by the answer is a bit odd. RHEL 6 already used biosdevname, this would equally rename eth0. I think the difference is that biosdevname was designed only for server systems with BIOS support, whereas systemd uses so-called "predictable" device names for all PCI network devices. (I understand PCI device order may vary between boots if your motherboard plays silly beggars though). But I would only score this a small fraction. The answer is otherwise professional enough I would interpret this as genuine annoyance, as opposed to someone bringing in emotional baggage from unrelated issues.


I tend to partially agree with both terdon and sourcejedi above: The post wasn't that blatantly rude or offensive (not at anyone's face, anyway), but I don't think the personal attacks really have a place here.

Whatever someone thinks about a certain productive gentleman from Germany or his creations, we could at least try to concentrate on commenting the code, not the person.

I'll mention here the same I did as a comment to that post: I think everyone's entitled to voicing their opinion (and everyone else is entitled to downvoting if they want to), but the post was a bit too over the top on some points.

And I took the liberty of editing it, though much less heavy-handedly as the first edit mentioned in the Q here. I honestly think I didn't misrepresent their intent too much with that edit. Given that they also rolled back only a part of my edit, it doesn't appear they disagreed completely.

  • You might have the Meta U&L site sorted by "Active" (or use the Home URL, which sorts similarly, I think) -- and sourcejedi's answer to the Question bumped it up.
    – Jeff Schaller Mod
    Mar 20, 2019 at 14:56
  • @JeffSchaller, yes, finding this meta was clear enough. I meant why the original non-meta Q came up. I actually thought Community had bumped it, but the real reason was something else. I really should have checked that more closely, since now it was my edit that actually bumped it. Well, I think I'll remember that the next time...
    – ilkkachu
    Mar 20, 2019 at 15:10

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