Update on Aug 18 2017:

To all who could sympathize with me, thank you very much. That is very precious.

To all who couldn't, I just wanted to make my learning process at unix.se smoother. I apologize for having made you less comfortable, which I didn't mean to, and I have my own problems to work on. I have considered to delete this post, but it was not something that I wrote when I lost my mind.

Sometimes it is hard to refrain from expressing, while sometimes it is also not easy to speak out for self without being perceived confrontational and defensive. I haven't reached a perfect balance, and I have already lost to time in this discussion.


I am here to report possible abusers of close votes (and possibly downvotes). There are patterns about the close voters. I don't personally know them. I judge them not based on how high their reputations are, how splendid their personal experiences look, how many recommendations they received on their linkedin pages. Those have little to do with how they behave on my posts. I will let you decide if there is abusing here.

Is any alias equivalent to a function? put on hold as unclear what you're asking by Mikel, Stephen Rauch, Scott, Archemar, Romeo Ninov

https://unix.stackexchange.com/q/383796/674 put on hold as too broad by Jeff Schaller, Stephen Rauch, Scott, countermode, Archemar

https://unix.stackexchange.com/q/383544/674 put on hold as off-topic by mdpc, Stephen Rauch, Scott, Anthon, Archemar

Arguments in `bash -c mycommand arg1 arg2` put on hold as off-topic by cas, Archemar, Scott, Toby Speight, Romeo Ninov

https://unix.stackexchange.com/q/383018/674 put on hold as unclear what you're asking by Jeff Schaller, Stephen Rauch, Scott, Rui F Ribeiro, Romeo Ninov

The zeroth argument to a command executed by exec put on hold as unclear what you're asking by Jeff Schaller, Scott, Rui F Ribeiro, Romeo Ninov, cas

https://unix.stackexchange.com/q/382736/674 put on hold as too broad by Rui F Ribeiro, Jeff Schaller, Stephen Rauch, Romeo Ninov, Anthon

... (I can go on and on.)

Regarding the cited closing reasons:

  • "Unclear"

    I have put efforts and cares to make my questions as clear as possible, and most of time I think I make them clear. If not, I welcome well-intentional comments, and am always happy to improve them, because I know about my limitations. On the other hand, just as I know about my limitations, the abusers of downvotes and close votes better know about theirs too. We are just a bunch of people who happen to gather here at unix.se, a place which is supposed to be free of workplace politics. Some need to improve themselves, and some are generous and willing to help. We all have different backgrounds and experiences, and therefore we are limited in different ways. If some discussion isn't clear to me, I would consider if it is because of my limitations and if the discussion is not meant for me, and if I should leave the discussion open to others rather than downvote and close it. I would give some advice : know to control self ego, be humble, know when to back off, don't use own criteria to measure others and to judge if something is worth it, .... Examples of "should have not got involved": 1, ....

  • "Too broad" and "Off topic"

    When possible, I try to ask fundamental things to break the limitation by specific examples (examples, however, may also help others understand my questions), because those fundamental things have significance to learning and understanding and to help me cope with having the same confusions and making the same mistakes over and over again. Fundamental stuffs often come with a little more abstraction and concepts in a bigger picture.

    Questions and answers can be conducted at different levels, while many here believe that questions can only be answered at one level which they are used to. So when some questions are closed due to too-broad nor off-topic, they are actually asked at a slightly abstract level or in a big picture, and expect answers at that level. It is also helpful to think the same thing across different levels and from different angles. Unfortunately, some people criticize those who ask related questions as not learning or improving.

Why close votes should be used in a more spare manner. After a post is closed,

  • there are much less space and more discourage for others to participate in the discussion.

  • It is always much harder to reopen a closed post than close a post. I have posts that have been waiting forever for more reopen votes (some just one reopen vote away), while a close vote and a bad comment would trigger other close votes and downvotes very quickly, and people are easily influenced by the behaviour of others, especially those who look reputable. The difficulty of reopening a closed question maybe comes from that the same bunch of people who closed a question decide whether to reopen the question. So it is asking the same people to admit what they did was not correct, and a battle of one versus 5~10 with the rest mostly bystanders who either don't want to get involved or follow whichever side that looks more powerful and hope to benefit from such. There is not yet any mechanism to regulate the behaviors of close voters, and to make them be responsive and responsible when needing to reopen the posts on which they cast close votes. The lack of such mechanism encourages abuse of close votes possibly as a way of personal attack, retaliation, stereotyping and discrimination or badge gaming.

Whenever things like that happen, I first inspect myself to see if I did some thing bad, and most of time I refrain from talking back. But that doesn't mean that I don't have something to say. Respect is mutual, if there is little respect from one side, it takes the other side a lot to show respect back. If I ever question their votes and comments, I can only receive severe retaliation: more downvotes and close votes on the posts that are under discussion and even on older posts that are not relevant (some people like to dig my profile and history and show me their existence and influence there). It somehow shows that people are more or less opinionated, and I shouldn't expect to change their minds and waste time arguing. Some are very ready to attack and retaliate, if they don't receive much attention, are not much agreed with, or don't see everything that they ask for happen. They are bringing real-life workplace politics and personal attacks to the site, which is opposite to every bullet listed in the be nice policy and I have not seen been moderated under control.

Examples of verbal bully (non verbal bully includes many cases of floods of downvote and close votes): 1, 2, ...

Examples of support I have received: 1 , 2, ...


Re the replies and comments:

Although my voting and acceptance pattern has little to do with my post here at meta and I have more or less explained this in several comments in history, it doesn't hurt to reiterate it. It is really my personal issue, nothing against anyone else.

  • There can be multiple possibilities why I haven't accepted a reply for one specific post. It is possible that there is no satisfactory answer. But more likely, I haven't reached a point to understand the received answers, and will come back and try again some time later. Once I understand an answer and the answer addresses the questions correctly and is the best among all, I would happily accept it without hesitation. It is unethical for me to accept an answer when I don't actually understand it but just because someone requests me to. I thank again for your patience.

  • It is also my belief that the ultimate goal of stackexchange sites is not their "successful" and "innovative" mechanism for voting, accepting and rewarding, but going beyond that to promote passing knowledge among human beings, and inspiring thoughts and questions. So I feel very delighted since stackexchange sites stopped showing the acceptance rate of every user in their profiles a few years ago.

  • Nonetheless I have been upvoting the majority (99%) of the replies that I have received with appreciations.

What is wrong with asking about and quoting the bash manual?

During the first few years at Unix.SE, I asked questions when I had difficulty in practice, even though I knew the importance of RTFM. The manual has less than 200 pages, but it is not a easy read at all. I tried to read the manual but couldn't actually understand the organization of the topics and many sentences in the manual, even though I could understand every single word. There were many online materials much easier to understand, but as many other people have pointed out, most of the online materials about bash were misleading. Since misconceptions slow down my learning and understanding as I have to discover them and correct them, being misinformed makes things much harder compared to learning from the official and standard reference even if it were learning something that is completely new to me, so I realized that there was no shortcut and I had to read and learn Bash manual, with more focus on what I didn't understand.
I had never said anything about that until now, because I didn't really want to downgrade myself to argue with those endlessly mocking and discriminating against my post asking about and quoting the bash manual.

What is wrong with asking followup questions?

Yes, I have hard time understanding often times. So shall I pretend that I understand and move on (and maybe even accept someone's reply just because they ask me to), instead of what I have been doing, trying to ask a few more times before giving up for coming back sometime in the future?

Does someone else really knows better about whether I have learnt something than I do?

I am happy and grateful that I have been improving my understanding a great deal from this site. I see having new questions as part of continuously learning and thinking. If one day I stop asking questions, that will probably be because either I have been banned or I don't think and study things any more. Note that I deliberately change "learn something" to "improve understanding", because I never know. Quite often when I think I have learned something, sooner or later I will discover that it was actually some improvement on understanding, and then new thoughts and questions will follow.

  • 10
    I do not appreciate being accused of "abuse" ahead of a discussion. As you said, we are just a bunch of people here to discuss U&L. I beg to differ with your conclusion on "If some discussion isn't clear to me ... I would leave the discussion open to others rather than downvote and close". See my post below for more details, but if nobody tended to the site through the established up/down/close vote mechanisms, how would we encourage quality questions and answers amidst the wide range of stuff that comes through the front door?
    – Jeff Schaller Mod
    Aug 4, 2017 at 17:35
  • 1
    Ahh, here's the (stronger) case that I was reminded of, in regards to voting (tending to the site): unix.meta.stackexchange.com/a/4322/117549 - linking to: lesswrong.com/lw/c1/wellkept_gardens_die_by_pacifism
    – Jeff Schaller Mod
    Aug 4, 2017 at 17:38
  • 5
    I'm disappointed I wasn't called out for abuse...
    – jasonwryan
    Aug 4, 2017 at 23:04
  • 2
    Re: your recent edit about the site's goal, I would point out that U&L's stated purpose, right on the front door, is: Unix & Linux Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for users of Linux, FreeBSD and other Un*x-like operating systems. It's built and run by you as part of the Stack Exchange network of Q&A sites. With your help, we're working together to build a library of detailed answers to every question about Unix or Linux.. The questions page even has two dedicated "Unanswered" links for those seeking to provide answers.
    – Jeff Schaller Mod
    Aug 5, 2017 at 18:24
  • 9
    Sounds like you'll be busy catching up on your 431 unaccepted Questions for a while, but in the meantime, is there anything about my voting (detailed in my Answer), or anyone else's that you see as abuse? I'm afraid you've set me off on the wrong foot, and possibly the ten other members of the site, by leading off with "abuse" accusations instead of individual replies on the closed posts.
    – Jeff Schaller Mod
    Aug 5, 2017 at 18:27
  • 3
    Because I was curious (had to learn some more SQL): data.stackexchange.com/unix/query/705302/…
    – Jeff Schaller Mod
    Aug 5, 2017 at 18:30
  • 10
    I completely ignore your posts as a general rule as they are almost invariably a complete waste of time. If one turns up in a review queue, I may look at it for long enough to decide whether I agree that it should be closed. If I've read a significant part of one of your questions before realising it's another of your time-wasters, I may vote to close if it's a particularly bad instance of one of your posts, but mostly I just ignore it and move on (it's not even worth the effort to read enough of the Q to be able to decide if it's off-topic, a dupe, too broad, whatever).
    – cas
    Aug 7, 2017 at 4:14
  • 8
    Fortunately, most of your questions are easy to detect and ignore because they start with a huge slab of yellow quoted text. If SE had the ability to ignore posts by particular users, you'd be first on my ignore list.
    – cas
    Aug 7, 2017 at 4:15
  • 3
    I think your primary error is in expecting the Bash man page to fully make sense. It just doesn't. You have to learn to live with that. Bash itself is useful. But the man page can NOT be read in isolation. In other words, it's not a set of specifications. It's an often-confusing description of how Bash works. I've run into this confusion myself; see unix.stackexchange.com/q/339506/135943 which got a decently good reception by the community. (Though plenty of "what's the point?" questions in chat which I fully answered.)
    – Wildcard
    Aug 9, 2017 at 5:07
  • 3
    In a fit of irony, I cast a Vote to Close as Opinion-Based on this Question, as I'm still waiting for evidence to support the claim that I abuse votes for "personal attack, retaliation, stereotyping and discrimination or badge gaming" or for "endlessly mocking and discriminating". I'm also not sure why you're intentionally misspelling cas' username as "mas or sas" -- are you not sure how it's spelled, or are you not Being Nice?
    – Jeff Schaller Mod
    Aug 17, 2017 at 11:03
  • Please note that I have deleted the examples of rudeness directed at you which you had cited in your question. You are quite right, those were not cool and not acceptable. Next time, do please flag them as abusive so we can see and delete them faster.
    – terdon Mod
    Nov 19, 2018 at 16:42
  • For reference, Tim has posted a similar complaint to Stack Overflow Meta (currently deleted, 10K users only).
    – halfer
    May 27, 2019 at 10:17

4 Answers 4


Pattern of Abuse. Or maybe just a pattern of reviewing?

So as one of the top candidates in the potential review abuse department, I will put in my two cents. I think the pattern you are seeing may simply be that the names that keep recurring are the same names that appear in the list of those who are taking the time to do the reviews in the first place.

Here is a list of all of the reviewers who appeared more than once in your list of seven closed questions. All of the questions were in the last week, so I looked up the reviewer stats in the Close Vote review queue for the last week, and got:

Mentions  Reviewer       Recent Reviews
  6x      Scott            97 week
  5x      Stephen Rauch    131 week
  5x      Romeo Ninov      40 week
  4x      Archemar         74 week
  4x      Jeff Schaller    56 week
  3x      Rui F Ribeiro    57 week
  2x      Anthon           59 week
  2x      cas              21 week

This is 535 reviews in a week by only 8 people. I am not a 10k user on this site, so I cannot see all of the history, but I am going to imagine that 535 reviews is a significant fraction of the Close Vote reviews in the last week.

So I respectfully suggest that maybe the same names keep appearing because these are the same people who are performing many of the reviews.


Since I've been named as a possible abuser of close votes (and since voting-to-close is fresh in my head), I'm happy to speak to my votes. I am not shy about voting my opinion on Questions and Answers, because ever since finding this site only 2 years ago, I have found it valuable and rewarding (and often confusing), and I am still (at my slow pace) getting used to how the site works.

Regarding upvotes and downvotes, as of this past Sunday's Data Explorer dump, I am 2nd in votes-per-day, and 6th in total votes cast on this site (not counting Community♦). I have voted over 7,000 times in order to improve the quality of the site, both to signal interesting/useful questions/answers and to signal poor questions/answers. I admit to some curiosity regarding your own voting patterns; after nearly 7 years of membership on this site, you have cast ~1200 votes. OK; voting and editing (and answering) aren't what you're here for. You like to ask questions. I personally find many of your questions interesting, as I can tell that you're interested in understanding concepts in a wide range of Unix tools, and I too like understanding how things work. I can appreciate that you want to be careful with your understanding, and while you say you're "a slow learner; thanks for your enlightenment!", I also have to ask; why do so many of your 700+ questions not have accepted answers? Are you not getting satisfactory answers?

Generally regarding votes-to-close, I'm sure you're right that most Questions that get closed are not re-opened. I only have my one vote (if I happen to visit the site while voting would be available for the question), so I would only add that a closed question is an indication that something was wrong, and to try again differently. After all, what do visitors to this site want, except answers to questions; how do we get answers to questions? We build a community of people that want to answer them. How can they answer questions? By asking answerable ones! What makes them answerable? The decisions of the people who would answer them!

Speaking of trying again differently, a vote-to-close is just that: a signal that some number of people thought that the question "needs additional work or that is not a good fit for this site". The question then goes on-hold for a period of time, for editing. If the future comments and edits to the question don't convince five more people to reopen it, then the "community" has spoken and then the question is closed. I hope I got the mechanics of that right, and that you already understood it.

First question: Which of the following operations does shell perform when "reading a complete line of input" and when "executing any of the commands in the line"?. I cast the first vote to close as "too broad" and without any comment. I see eight question marks of your own in that question. In your question that you link to from here, How can I show the results after Bash reads one complete line of input but before executing any of the commands on that line?, notice that it is shorter, has one question mark in it, and three upvoted answers. In this case, the stock text says it well enough for me: "limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer". I would only add here that the individual questions in this Question sound broad and don't give me any sense for where your understanding starts:

  • What do reading a complete line of input and executing any of the commands mean respectively?

  • What steps in the following quote belong to "reading" in the above quote?

  • What steps in the following quote belong to "execution" in the above quote?

  • If there are steps that don't belong to "reading" or "execution", then what do they belong to?

What you seem (to me) to be asking is for us to interpret the bash manual author's words. If it was me, I would find an example that demonstrated bash behavior that was surprising to me, so that I could dig in and try to figure out what part I had misunderstood. From How do I ask a good question?,

  • Have you thoroughly searched for an answer before asking your question?
  • Be specific
  • Make it relevant to others

Second question: Do environment variables apply to all kinds of commands?. I cast the first vote to close as "unclear what you were asking" after reading:

  • What kinds of commands, when they are executed in a shell, do environment variables apply to?

and commenting: "every quoted part of your question talks about the environment; what part is unclear?" I then did my very best to guess at what you were actually asking about, to which you responded, including "Could you please cast close votes with more objectivity", and I left my final comment. I see that you have edited the question to add in your one clarifying comment. I still believe that the question has a large amount of distraction around what you're really asking, which seems to be buried at the bottom of the post. If you're wondering about functions, don't make the rest of the question about other things. Above and beyond all of that, this is entirely a documentation question. Can you motivate it with a real-world example that tripped you up?

Third question: The zeroth argument to a command executed by exec. I cast the first vote to close as "unclear", along with a comment. I got different output from you, and so I wondered what might be different in our environments. If I can't reproduce the problem, then something is amiss somewhere. I see that you've already improved the wording at my confusion regarding the phrase "what is the zeroth argument passed to command like" -- thank you! I see also that Celada answered the question, not without some confusion of her own, and included strace output that shows how you (could have) demonstrated the behavior to yourself. That's indeed why I asked about strace in my comment; I didn't know what kind of answer would increase your understanding, since again your questions were generic -- "What is the purpose of ...?" The purpose is to do the things they say in the manual. Can you show where you used them and were surprised?

Fourth question: Can the scope of a variable be changed?. I cast the second vote to close, and can't recall or find what my close-reason was, whether it was "too broad" or "unclear". This question seems almost answerable to me, since you show a possibly-confusing example of a variable with the same name both globally and local to a function. Does that motivate your question? Are you trying to change the scope of a variable and failing? What I don't understand about your question is the use case -- can you demonstrate (with shell commands) cases where you want to change the scope?

  • 5
    Upvoted, but way to much effort expended on justifying decisions that stand on their own merit.
    – jasonwryan
    Aug 4, 2017 at 23:01
  • 9
    Indeed, with most of Tim's questions, I get the distinct impression that the question wants us to restate the manual in a different way, but most times I haven't the faintest idea where Tim's mental model is going wrong, so no matter what I write, I can't be sure it will cover whatever it is Tim has in mind.
    – muru
    Aug 5, 2017 at 8:10
  • 14
    The problem with Tim's posts is that he never makes any effort to figure things out himself. He just posts a slab of text from a man page or some other documentation and demands "interpret this for me". Sometimes he includes his own misinterpretations. He doesn't seem to ever learn from any answers (in fact, they often just spur several trivial variants of the same question) or even use basic language comprehension skills. IMO his questions, especially the frequency and sheer mind-boggling vacuity of them, are an abuse of U&L.
    – cas
    Aug 7, 2017 at 4:30
  • 5
    This is the main reason I ignore his questions - there's no point answering them if he's not going to learn anything from the answer. And if there's no point answering them, then there's no reason to waste time reading them.
    – cas
    Aug 7, 2017 at 4:35
  • 5
    @cas - that's been my experience as well.
    – slm Mod
    Aug 7, 2017 at 12:43

Glad you put it.

I came to U&L (and whole stackexchange site) to learn, and I learn more than I answer question.

understanding U&L

The difficult mission of U&L is to mix plain english question and technical one. My first question here was about "encrypted password that look like $6$sds.." (plain english), had I asked about "sha512 hash" (technical) I would have find an answer without asking.

Your questions

I can understand you need of explanation and details, yet I see two trends among your many questions :

  1. Re-explain in other english word what's already in manual.

(If a user can't differenciate return code and output, no matter how we phrase it, how long we explain, he will still make mistake)

  1. Why don't unix bend to my understanding ?

(I think of a question where a user was doing scp /path/a path.com (with no :) and asked "I did scp, why is scp behaving like cp ? scp should guess remote host)

Now, about your questions :

IMHO understanding unix come with writing, testing, using and debugging scripts, not by (many) theorical questions about shell.

If and when you came to particular problem (like I did with ssh), it is time to ask question and broaden your uderstanding.

my Vote To Close

I close when questions are unlikely to help other, either not a practical case (your questions) or very specific (most of kali linux question, very specific and fuzzy text processing).

I leave open if question can be reused (like cutting third column, merging file, etc ...).

Boundary is thin, I also skip sometime.

As a final note, I try not to close too many of your question (no more than one per day).


I don't remember having read one of Tims questions and intentionally didn't read the linked ones. But I took the time to read the question, the answers and the comments. Thus, my following observations and thoughts are only from this discussion, without all that background some of you are referring to:

  • I realized that the strategy of learning technical things, asking questions, answering and using this site is even broader than I thought it was. Like in real life, this mixture can be a source of annoyance, which is something we have to deal with. Or it can be a source of misunderstanding assumptions, which should be avoided, I think. "Abusage" is such an assumption, "not spending any effort" is another. If the other person was like me, I could interpret his actions in that way. But he is different, so I can't tell the real motivation for his actions.
  • The correlation between the total close votes and the close votes on Tim's questions seems plausible. On the other hand, I sense a tendency to be biased on Tim's postings. This is only human (I myself have to keep myself from rejecting a minor edit just because it comes from someone flooding the queue with useless edits). Tim, there is a way prove or disprove that: Create a different account and for your next dozends of questions, through a coin with which account you are posting it. You will see whether the questions posted from the new account will get rejected significantly less.
  • My personal strategy is to say my opinion clearly, but follow the rules of the majority if I can't convince them and I can avoid an ongoing conflict. One must not follow this principle.

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