Recently, I encountered this question where a user had posted a challenge to make an ArrayList and manipulate it in certain ways, very basically.

This poster obviously did not understand the site, nor had they seem to have encountered Stack Overflow, where the question should have been posted, even if in another format.

My main question is not whether we should direct them to Stack Overflow, as we did, but rather should we downvote this poster? The question received four downvotes quite quickly - downvoting can be taken quite personally to new users (I remember that time - single tear), and it may discourage them from seeking advice elsewhere on the site, a positive for the site and them. On the other hand, it does discourage using this site for general questions, which helps us specifically.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Downvoting has the feature of "hiding" the post from the main page, once it reaches low enough. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 13, 2016 at 19:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TimmyD So does closing a question - you don't need to downvote it. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 13, 2016 at 19:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sorry, I meant "while it's still in process of being closed yet hasn't reached the close vote threshold." Users that are helping to admin the site, but don't have close-vote privileges -- I could see them using that feature. ... I've no stake in this one way or another, I was just pointing out a feature of the environment. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 13, 2016 at 20:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TimmyD Oh, alright. But then users who think it should be closed can flag it, right? \$\endgroup\$ Jan 13, 2016 at 20:03

2 Answers 2


The tooltip for the downvote button says

This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful.

It is an excellent description of the question you link.

Does not show any research effort

The particular example linked looks like a "Do my homework" question, and does not show any evidence of effort beyond a poor transcription.

But in general, Stack Overflow-type questions on this site betray a lack of basic research effort in that it doesn't take much lurking to realise that that isn't what this site is about. If the poster had bothered to look for a FAQ it would have been very clear that they had the wrong site.

In my opinion, the basic netiquette breach of failing to lurk and have a vague idea of what's on topic before you post automatically qualifies as lack of research effort.

It is unclear

Even if the question had been on topic, it would have drawn 5 close votes as unclear very quickly.

It is not useful

Again, leaving aside the fact that it's blatantly not on topic for this site, who would benefit from the question being answered? No-one. Not even the poster, who's supposed to be learning how to program and instead would only learn that there's a sucker born every minute.

When you interpret useful in the context of PPCG, this counts doubly: to be useful on this site, a question should provide an interesting challenge.

In summary

Few questions are more deserving of a downvote.


Note that both the tooltip and the summary say question(s), not poster(s). The voting tools are intended to be used on questions. If you worry that people might not be able to differentiate a downvote on their question from a downvote on their personal worth, add a comment, but don't let it stop you voting. We all need to distinguish criticism of our actions/products/outputs from personal criticism, and those who haven't already learnt to do so will benefit from learning earlier rather than later.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for the last bit, even if I didn't agree with the rest (which I did). \$\endgroup\$
    – Geobits
    Jan 21, 2016 at 16:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ This particular question was not downvoted enough \$\endgroup\$
    – edc65
    Jan 27, 2016 at 15:59

If the challenge is a homework question in disguise, or otherwise looks like an attempt to get this community to do someone else's work for them, then I would downvote it. I would certainly not direct them to Stack Overflow.

If the post is a regular programming question and is suitable for Stack Overflow, then I would refrain from voting and leave a helpful comment directing them to Stack Overflow.

If the post is a regular programming question and is not suitable for Stack Overflow, then I would refrain from voting and leave a helpful comment telling them to improve their question and then post on Stack Overflow.


You must log in to answer this question.

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