I recently reviewed a question on serverfault, added a comment, and replied to the question.

Q: Installing Ubuntu 14.04 Server as Web server

I realised that the question was questionable, because the new user was asking in 75% of his questions for recommendations about products, the thought I would pass on some advice anyway:

A: Your question is asking for recommendations, which is a subjective matter and will probably attract a lot of subjective answers based on personal observations and personal preferences.

AFAIK your best bet is to just ask Google for recommendations. ....

Yes, I agree that voting a question down that does not comply with the sites rules is an option, but should people who answer these questions be voted down as well?

Or asked differently: Is it bad practise to answer questions that do not comply with the sites rules?

Thanks. I am looking forward to your answers.

  • 4
    Since you're asking about votes, I'd just like to mention that downvotes here on Meta don't mean the same as downvotes on the main site. Here, they don't affect your reputation at all, and many people just use them as a shorthand for "I don't agree with you but I don't want to write a whole answer".
    – Jenny D
    Apr 3, 2016 at 11:26
  • If you go back and check now, you'll see that the question and answer has been deleted (by the auto-cleanup scripts). If your answer had a positive score, that wouldn't have happened, and some community members (like myself) will use our votes with the SF Roomba in mind. As in "this answer is not useful because it's keeping the crappy question from being automatically deleted." Apr 18, 2016 at 18:03

2 Answers 2


I have said it frequently enough when people ask about down votes: By philosophy and design votes are anonymous and neither voting up nor voting down requires any mandatory explanation.

The tooltip that appears when your mouse pointer hoovers over the down button next to an answer states: "This answer is not useful", which is short, to the point and of course quite subjective.

The manual explains a bit more:

When should I vote down?
Use your downvotes whenever you encounter an egregiously sloppy, no-effort-expended post, or an answer that is clearly and perhaps dangerously incorrect.
You have a limited number of votes per day, and answer down-votes cost you a tiny bit of reputation on top of that; use them wisely.

In addition we don't like spam, link-only answers or answers that consist of just code/screenshots/command lines without supporting text.

Other than the above we don't have a policy on voting certain types of answers, but "crappy questions attract crappy answers" and the down votes for the both of them can go hand-in-hand.

Is it bad practise to answer questions that do not comply with the sites rules?

IMHO it is great that you are willing to share your knowledge and experience and you can answer and/or comment whatever question you feel is worth to expend the energy on.

But from the perspective of maintaining a healthy community/site rewarding "bad behaviour" is not constructive.

Your own answer already shows some of that struggle as well, you explain you don't want to outright recommend certain products and end up recommending the OP to use a search engine with certain keywords instead. Which, technically speaking, does not actually answer the question...

  • 3
    Thanks for the feedback. So instead of answering such questions I go ahead and vote down and then just leave the question unanswered.
    – John K. N.
    Apr 1, 2016 at 6:44
  • 2
    That would certainly get my vote (no pun intended). Sometimes I'll leave a breadcrumb in the comments, but any question that deserves a downvote, or close vote, doesn't also deserve a formal answer.
    – MadHatter
    Apr 1, 2016 at 10:49

Is it bad practise to answer questions that do not comply with the sites rules?

It is sub optimal, answering off topic, crappy questions implicitly encourages them.

There are procedures/policies/processes in place (down vote/vote to close/automatic deletion) that help improve the quality of Server Fault.

If a less than topical/bad question gets answered and the answers get up voted sufficiently then the automagic deletion routines fail to delete it. It gets indexed by google and this draws in more people with the same issue(s) - this is an example of broken windows theory in action.

This can clearly be seen with et al. We ruthlessly close *panel questions as off topic yet they keep coming. People even complain that SF is honey-potting cPanel via google, this couldn't be further from the truth.

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