I ask two questions in the same day. The first question, is quite simple one, asked due to a mistake I myself did in Regex. This question is very thumbed up and was shared between people. I didn't imagine it to be even upvoted at all.

The second question deals with a far more exotic issue (GNU make) and seems to me harder to solve. Yet this second question got thumb downs and no thumb up given after I tried to improve it.

I want to have your opinion, dear veterans, on what actually happens here --- Why the first simple, allegedly trivial question is that liked compared to the scripting issue of question 2?

My only explanation is that maybe I wasn't the only one here thinking that rm -rf deals only with directories (a misconception I had as Linux freshman, until last morning).

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    By the way, the -name and -iname tests of find take shell globs, not regular expressions as I found out on this very site.
    – terdon Mod
    May 6, 2017 at 9:30
  • @Kusalananda yeah, I know but until posting the question I linked to above a few years ago, I was not entirely clear on the difference between shell globs and regular expressions and thought that -name and friends could also take regexes.
    – terdon Mod
    May 6, 2017 at 9:36

1 Answer 1


The reasons people have for voting a question up or down are many. Ideally someone voting will be voting based on objective reasoning, but I'm sure that people vote on questions from purely subjective and emotional standpoints as well. In particular, it's hard to be objective on a topic one knows little about (and one should maybe consider avoiding voting on such questions entirely because of this).

It may be that they think the question is well posed, complete and accurately describes all components in such a way that it makes it easy to answer for someone who knows a bit about the topic, or that they are intellectually intrigued by the question, or that they found the answer they were looking for while having a similar issue themselves, or that they learnt something from the question together with its answers, or simply that they understand it and are able to see a solution by themselves (and therefore up-votes it).

If the question is contrived, poorly written or lacking in information, shows that little or no effort went into researching the topic, or if someone decides that it's of very little use to anyone other than the person posting the question, some may choose to vote it down.

If the question is too specific to a particular setup or situation, or if it is far too technical for people to understand, it may be left without votes or voted down by people that are simply confused by it, or up-voted by those few that actually grasp the issue and who thinks it's worth up-voting (or down-voted because they understand that it's such a narrow use-case that it's unlikely to be of interest to anyone).

The Help Center says

Voting up a question or answer signals to the rest of the community that a post is interesting, well-researched, and useful, while voting down a post signals the opposite: that the post contains wrong information, is poorly researched, or fails to communicate information.

What's interesting and useful to the person asking may not be of general interest or use, and what's of general interest and use may definitely be debated (but probably never decided in any useful way).

In the case of these two questions in particular, it may be that the up-voted one was simply more useful to those seeing it, or just easier to understand and solve, while the second one may have been too narrow or harder to understand (it may have been, in your own words, a too "exotic" issue).

Having said that, the answers to the second question received multiple up-votes, which shows that the people reading them thought that they were good answers. A down-voted question with a few really good answers is still interesting and worth while reading (personal opinion). Unfortunately, it doesn't affect the score of the question itself.

Another contributing factor for the up-votes on the first question may be the relatively large number of views (1100+). This may be due to a well-composed title, a good choice of tags. It may also have been promoted on Twitter and/or made it into the "Hot Network Questions" list. More views equals more votes on both the question and the answers, and generally, a good question/answer receives more views, so it's a self feeding loop in a sense.

The second question has less than 100 views, and that may be because Makefiles simply isn't a "hot" or "interesting" topic. It may be more "fun" to read and answer a question about find and globbing patterns (topics that any shell user may relate to) than about Makefiles (a topic that mostly developers relate to).

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    The question made the Hot Network Questions list. That's why it got so many views and votes.
    – terdon Mod
    May 6, 2017 at 9:26
  • I humbly ask - How?...
    – user149572
    May 6, 2017 at 12:53
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    @Benia How it got into the "Hot Network Questions" list? See here: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/4766/…
    – Kusalananda Mod
    May 6, 2017 at 12:57
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    I'd offer that the 2nd question buries its own lede. It sounds like a gripe about tabs ("don't want to use tabs") in a file format that is well known to depend on tabs for syntax. But it's really a question about cross-platform server provisioning. It's a classic case of an XY problem. May 11, 2017 at 12:46
  • @ssdecontrol, indeed. On a related point, the first question also has a couple of downvotes (+11/-3).
    – ilkkachu
    May 11, 2017 at 22:54
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    @ssdecontrol, that's a good answer (to this Meta question); you should post it as such.
    – Wildcard
    May 13, 2017 at 22:19
  • @Wildcard I'm not sure it really answers the question. Feel free to work it into your own. May 14, 2017 at 0:35
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    and now this question is on the Hot Network Questions... May 16, 2017 at 0:06

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