Question asked is stated as follows:

Is there any hard data (studies, comparisons, not-just-gut-feel analysis) on <particular subject>?

Some of the answers given are:

  • I honestly feel there is no downside... (link)
  • In summary, if you're going to pursue <particular subject> make sure you... (link)
  • We successfully use telecommuting in our team... (link)
  • we started getting a lot of inquires from our customers... (link)

Per my reading, listed answers totally ignore question part quoted above ("hard data...").

Is that OK?


4 Answers 4


Downvote the ones you don't like.

You can't flag them as "Not an Answer" because they really are answers, just not very good ones. They're not spam and they're not offensive, so you can't flag them as that. To flag them with a custom explanation, you'd have to be compelling enough to convince a mod that the answers are actively harming the site, and I don't think that's the case.

So downvoting is the appropriate action here. I downvoted the first two you linked, but not the third.

  • why didn't you downvote "the third"? don't get me wrong, I don't mean you somehow should, merely trying to learn to figure my own voting approach here
    – gnat
    May 29, 2013 at 19:12
  • It seemed to provide sufficient value to avoid a downvote from me, that's all. May 29, 2013 at 19:18
  • in case if you're interested, there's yet another problematic answer there, I updated my question with the forgotten reference (programmers.stackexchange.com/a/151227/31260)
    – gnat
    May 29, 2013 at 19:42
  • I didn't downvote. See also Tim Post's comment on the original question here. May 29, 2013 at 19:49
  • yeah, the question has a very strong smell of XY problem, couple of answers (not listed here) point to that. Answers listed picked my attention because these appear to totally ignore "hard facts" part, not because these suggest an alternative (in XY-questions, I have nothing against reasonably presented alternatives)
    – gnat
    May 29, 2013 at 19:56

I liked that question when I first read it (because generally I like it when people look for evidence instead of opinions), but the more I think about it, the question seems too broad.

The question should have narrowed the scope. "Advantageous and disadvantages" is a broad fishing expedition. Asking about affects on productivity, employee satisfaction, or retention rate would be more helpful.

It might also have helped if the request for hard data was more strongly worded, such as "I'm looking for hard data collected from scientific studies of multiple companies, not anecdotes or opinions".

As the question is, I don't feel comfortable categorically downvoting anecdotal answers. Generally StackExchange encourages sharing personal experience.

  • 1
    Generally StackExchange encourages sharing personal experience. -- Only if it leads to a definitive solution to the OP's question. Anecdotal experiences that don't solve the problem are not very useful. Jun 6, 2013 at 2:57

Statements like the one you highlighted are like adding "as a programmer" to a question. Its a weasel way to make a bad question attempt to be a borderline or good question. Everyone is going to pretend that part isn't there in most every case just like what happened.

This question isn't a good question here, its a do research for me question which is a good type of question on other sites like skeptics where the goal is providing well researched answers, this site is more about combining experience and knowledge into relevant insights to a question rather than regurgitating bits of others work. I's also say its off topic here working at home isn't unique to programmers.


(warning: I own the top-voted answer on that question - don't think it matters, but just in case.)

In my opinion, it's the sites' users responsibility to downvote answers that:

  • do not answer the question directly,
  • do not provide any added value (so as to push them away and reduce noise, and encourage their deletion by their owner),
  • are of poor quality.

Though if possible we should try to edit answers that could be valuable so they can be rescued and made more releant, and it's best to notify their author first that they're doing it wrong, because:

  • they might not know better (yet),
  • they might be typing addendums to their answers (I usually sketch mine out gradually, starting with a very basic answer and then fleshing them out as I go in the next 10mins).

So, what I usually do is:

  • directly downvote utter crap (let's call a cat a cat),
  • downvote interesting but incorrect answer, leaving a comment to their author that I will gladly cancel or even invert my -1 if they address some issue.

Now, when it comes to mods, I think they should feel happy to be proactive and to delete any answer that is a lost cause and just noise, without much warning. There are some questions that have been around a while, and some minor answers on them just often add unnecessasry noise. If there's not one bit of useful information in these, I'd suggest to delete them. If there's some useful information in these, either leave them to stand on their own or merge them into the accepted answer, if possible.

Note that I'm not saying that as a strong problem. I often see old questions getting marked as "protected" if they had good answers and someone jumps in a long time after (say, a 2010 question with already highly-voted answer and where new information is not likely to be added over time as the context may not matter).

Just my 2 cents.


Quick update on what I was saying above about adding a quick -1 to useless answers to favor their removal by their author, or to request an improvement that would warrant removing the -1 and switching it to a +1...

I couldn't remember on which questions I had used this technique, but I just did on this SO question, with good effect (you can see that if you had high privileges or mod rights): a good answer was posted, and a few seconds later a nearly identical one without added value. By upvoting the good one and downvoting the bad one, it created a shift between a +1-rater answer and a -1-rater answer. As you can imagine, the +1 quickly became +4 (even though the other one also got upvoted back to 0). I explained my logic to the one I downvoted, and he kindly removed his answer. This, to me, seems the best approach. However, this is only easy to do right at the time where questions are posted and first answers appear, and the window of opportunity is very, very small.

Afterwards, it is a bit harsh to request deletion if there's a loss of points involved or an emotional attachment to an answer (which sometimes makes me wonder if voting shouldn't be disallowed - or maybe allowed, but with hidden results - for the 10 minutes following the posting, so that early answers can be fleshed out and improved and that it's not a game of "I was first, so the timeshift is in my favor" but of "my answer is actually better, even though I posted it shortly after".

Update 2:

Though apparently, the above approach on that question I listed may have pissed off the person whose answer I downvoted (but that looks to me like it's what downvotes are for and would seem an egoistic reaction) AND may have pissed off others who feel like I was an ass for being so. Not sure, though.

  • Wasn't sure actually if that approach was good as it didn't seem well received, so asked confirmation on Meta.SO. Appears (for now) that this isn't really appreciated. My bad. I really like this approach though, as it generally works, even if it may be a bit problematic from an ego perspective.
    – haylem
    Jun 9, 2013 at 22:52
  • 1
    It's fair to say the response on meta is fairly strongly against downvotes for near-instantaneous duplication of answers, and that whilst the duplication is redundant, the downvote is unduly harsh in this case. It's not the ego that's the issue, it's the punishing an honest attempt to help when there's little to choose between two similar answers posted at more-or-less the same time.
    – AndrewC
    Jun 10, 2013 at 1:54

You must log in to answer this question.

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