This occurred on my very first day of trying to help people on StackExchange.

A user had a problem with a mount failing on their system.

Rebooting caused "mount: wrong fs type, bad option, bad superblock"

I offered a suggestion for trouble-shooting a problem with the mount. Though the suggestion was reasonable, would have caused no harm, and would have been very easy to do, I was down-voted by a very experienced StackExchange participant. At least an explanation was given, along the lines of "according to theory, this could not possibly be the cause". Definitely "famous last words" in any trouble-shooting situation. I then offered a reasonable "why not try" response, but the person that down-voted me did not respond, nor did the user.

While StackExchange does give vague admonitions to "be gentle", perhaps they should be strengthened such as

  • When it is reasonable for a response to made, then respond.
  • If you do not wish to follow a particular response, have the courtesy to at least thank the responder for the suggestion, and possibly explain why you went another way.
  • Overall, be cautious with down-voting. People here are trying to help. It should be made clear that down-voting should only be used to prevent truly going in the wrong direction, not to demonstrate superior knowledge with regards to the answer.
  • Be courteous. With every letter you type, be courteous.

I notice that as a result, responders tend to answer in comments, in order to avoid being down-voted in an Answer. I am sure that this is not the pattern that StackExchange intends.

StackExchange would do well to emphasize quality of experience for all, rather than just quality of answers.

| |

I gave you the general rationale for why downvotes are anonymous in my answer to your other question. I should also point out that neither moderators nor anyone else can review downvotes since we do not know who cast them. Mods have no access to this information, no more than you do. As for the specific answer you mention here, you were answering a question about this error message:

mount: /backups: special device /dev/sda1 does not exist.

Your answer was:

You might check under /dev if there is still an sda1 entry. If not you can create one.

cd /dev
ls -l sda* 

I'm afraid the downvotes you received were perfectly reasonable. First of all, the SE sites are not forums. This is a bit of an obsession around these parts: we are not a forum, we are a Q&A site. This means that every post must be either a question or an answer. Suggestions for troubleshooting aren't providing an answer. The right place to post those is as a comment to the question.

Now, I completely understand that that might feel like a catch-22 situation for a new user since we also have a minimum reputation requirement for posting comments, and you can't post a comment if you have less than 50 rep. This is to avoid spam comments (and yes, those would be a big problem, we get a lot of spam).

Getting 50 rep, however, is just a matter of getting 5 upvotes on a question or answer. It's a pretty low bar and one you can reach very quickly if you just participate on the site for a bit. So, until you have that, please only post answers on questions where you can provide a full, working solution. Once you have 50 rep, then you can leave comments with troubleshooting tips that can give you the information you need to post a complete answer.

So, leaving a comment asking whether /dev/sda1 exists might have been understandable, but then we already know it doesn't exist. That's what the error message is telling us. The problem would never be about whether /dev/sda1 exists on the filesystem, the question provides us with a wealth of information that clearly shows there is an issue with the disk. So really looking at /dev/sda1 on the filesystem is just completely irrelevant.

That said, there are a few stylistic issues too since you don't need to cd into /dev to see if there is a /dev/sda1 file, you can just do ls /dev/sda1 and running ls sda* will show you all filenames starting with sda, not the specific one we're looking for. But OK, those are minor.

In summary, your answer ignored most of the information provided in the question and gave a mostly irrelevant command that wouldn't help anyone who is trying to solve this problem. So the downvotes here are exactly what you ask for: they are being used to "prevent truly going in the wrong direction".

You mention rudeness, but I don't see any evidence of that whatsoever. These are the comments under your answer:

screenshot of comments section

None of those are remotely rude. On the contrary, I see two users who took the time to point out issues with your answer, exactly what you are asking for! As for people not responding, that's because they never knew you answered. You need to ping the user with @username in order for them to be notified. Your comments did not, so the people you were answering had no idea you had answered them.

More importantly, you completely ignored the points the comments raised. You didn't include an example or flesh out your answer and you didn't address the complete absence of any command or even rationale one could use to create /dev/sda1, which is what your answer is suggesting.

In conclusion, you really shouldn't take downvotes personally. They're not about you, they're about your answer. Our objective here is to build a library of useful questions and answers that can still be useful years from now when someone else has the same problem. Everything that happens on SE sites should be seen through that lens. It is not about the users, it's about the content.

| |
  • Thanks. I see that my answer was not good, and I will use the @username tag to request a response. But I feel the questioner should have replied to my offer to delete the answer. My concern was, that it would be shown as having been answered, which might cause people to skip over it. – orylis Jun 6 at 14:51
  • 2
    @orylis the asker was probably not even aware of your comment, for the reasons mentioned. And it isn't up to them to tell you to delete! That said, personally I would delete the answer, yes, since as explained it doesn't really answer the question. As for being answered, don't worry, a question is only considered answered if it has an upvoted answer. – terdon Jun 6 at 14:53
  • 1
    @orylis and a question being considered answered is no deterrent to posting a different answer. It's perfectly fine to post an answer that tackles the same problem in a different way, or an updated way, or the same way but explained differently... sometimes years after the question was originally posted. – muru Jun 7 at 13:49
  • @muru Good to know. I had been looking only at questions without any posted answers, but I see it would be good to read the others also. – orylis Jun 9 at 12:16

You must log in to answer this question.

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