I'm taking about this answer which is essentially pedantry about two variable names, which seems to be meant as a funny remark.

I mentioned (in the first comment) that such an answer contributes far less than the other answers, even though variables names are important, especially for the code's future maintainer; yet, the community upvotes it to the #2 answer. I don't particularly care about that, but rather the fact that the answer would be much better suited as a comment.

Should this kind of pedantry be discouraged? Does it really contribute much to the Q/A as an answer, and should such answers really be comments?

  • \$\begingroup\$ I'd like to discourage the sort you're exhibiting — although it is kind of funny if you think about it. \$\endgroup\$
    – martineau
    Feb 16, 2016 at 9:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @martineau I guess I don't really understand what you mean - are you saying that I'm being pedantic by pointing out pedantry? If so, that's a fairly useless comment and you sound insulting i making it. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 16, 2016 at 16:44

4 Answers 4


The answer that you are referring to has been voted up quite a bit. I'd like to point out that we cannot really predict or influence how the votes go. People tend to upvote stuff that they find funny. People tend to upvote stuff that is short and easy to understand. Answers that take five minutes to read and ten minutes to understand usually don't get that popular, even if they are excellent thorough treatments of the subject.

If, by "discouraged", you mean that we should refrain from upvoting such answers, then I would say that you're welcome to do so yourself. Good luck convincing other voters to adopt your voting criteria, though.

As for whether this answer should have been a comment instead — absolutely not. It is a concrete suggestion for improving the code. It is not an invitation to modify the question.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree that we can't influence voting patters nor do I want to; I was just curious as to whether or not, when I see an answer of similar kind to the one in question, if I should leave a comment actually discouraging posting such as an answer instead of a comment. I particularly think it is a terrible idea to upvote such answers as they shadow more complete ones, merely for 'being funny'. This is the problem at hand, and what I wanted to discuss. But, based on the other Meta question you linked it seems like such an answer is acceptable, so I'll leave it be next time. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 3, 2016 at 19:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ "People tend to upvote stuff that they find funny" I can attest to that ;) \$\endgroup\$
    – J Atkin
    Feb 13, 2016 at 22:06

That answer is .... a little special

For what it's worth, pedantry is explicitly encouraged on Code Review. It helps find problems in code and makes it easier to maintain.

To enjoy writing answers here, IMO a little pedantry is a necessity.

yet, the community upvotes it to the #2 answer

No that's not quite the case.
That answer is a little overvoted for its content. This is attributable to the fact that the question went "hot" and got a significant surge of traffic across the network (maybe a mod can provide details)

As such I think in general pedantry is a good thing for Code Review. This specific case is a "bad" example though, and has accumulated disproportionately many votes for its content.
Alas such is the fate of Hot Network Questions and their answers.

Nothing much we can do here, since it's a valid and useful answer that just got a little more views than other similarly useful answers

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    \$\begingroup\$ "That answer is a little overvoted for it's content." That's the major problem here I'd say. There's nothing wrong with being pedantic during a review, but what happened here can't be the intent of the system. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mast Mod
    Feb 3, 2016 at 17:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mast that's a known flaw / drawback / [...] of the HNQ system. There's not much to do against it besides removing HNQ completely. That has significant drawbacks, though. I'd say a few overvalued answers now and then are the price to pay for network wide exposure of the site. And I personally am more than willing to pay that price \$\endgroup\$
    – Vogel612
    Feb 3, 2016 at 17:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ "pedantry is explicitly encouraged on Code Review"? Where? \$\endgroup\$ Feb 3, 2016 at 17:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ "criticise any and all aspects" - if that's not pedantry then I may have misunderstood that @SimonForsberg \$\endgroup\$
    – Vogel612
    Feb 3, 2016 at 17:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Vogel612 Criticise any and all aspects is about being open to different kinds of improvements - in contrast to SO's specific programming problem/question. I don't see what Pedantry has to with that. Also related: Can we ask reviewers to not focus on something? \$\endgroup\$ Feb 3, 2016 at 20:02


IMO, the only useful criteria for answers is Is it a net improvement? (however small).

That answer is useful, not by a huge amount, but still an improvement.

The moment you start saying "Answers should meet some minimum standard of "worthiness" (defined by who, exactly?)" is the moment the site becomes elitist and we drive away most of the user base, especially potential new reviewers.

It's humourous, witty and (a little) useful. It caught HNQ and some cultural zeitgeist and got upvoted beyond what might be considered "fair" based on its' contribution.

That is always going to happen, there is nothing you can do about it.

Que sera, sera.


Yes it should.

When I look at a CR answer I want it to address as many problems in the code as possible. What I am not interested in seeing is a bunch of remarks on naming or formatting without anything else to it. If that's all there is to say about it then alright, so be it. If not (as is the case here) I expect it to be a part of a larger review.

For people (non-asker, non-answerer) reading the question, coming across such an answer simply indicates amateurism. Sure, not everyone knows everything in that specific language but if that's all you can contribute then you're not fit to do a review of that language yet. I expect thorough reviews and not pedantry just for the sake of it (even if this is humorously intended).
I am aware that naming and formatting is important but I am certainly not interested in seeing it reiterated as a standalone answer all the time. This benefits the asker and the answerer (easy rep) but is a turn-off to me as an outsider. The vast majority of questions gets answered on CR, there's no reason it can't be a part of any of the more substantial answers.

The argument in this specific scenario is even more pedantic than any other naming/formatting mentions: the entire code-base refers to it as drops -- everybody who handles it will understand what it means.

Note that I am perfectly aware very little people on CR share my view on this -- I'm merely providing the counter-argument.

  • \$\begingroup\$ "coming across such an answer simply indicates amateurism" - The problem here is ... whose amateurism? IMO that's definitely the askers amateurism. If such an answer is valid and useful (as in this case - yea, I am polarizing) then the asker is the amateur and the answerer is mostly wasting their time. \$\endgroup\$
    – Vogel612
    Feb 3, 2016 at 18:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree with this completely, which is why I asked the question in the first place because it seems like an unpopular opinion. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 3, 2016 at 18:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ There's no law against having multiple answers on the same question. It's actually encouraged. If you don't know the language good enough to make any remarks but about the naming, why not go for it? Saves the next guy from having to write about that part in his answer as well. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mast Mod
    Feb 3, 2016 at 21:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ There are good reasons why so many people on CR disagree with you. If we followed your advice, we'd be chasing away potential reviewers by trying to make them prove their chops in a language before posting, instead of letting anyone post and then accumulate downvotes and/or negative comments if they're wrong. We'd also chase them away by insisting on a time-consuming full review, instead of allowing and encouraging partial answers. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 4, 2016 at 3:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ I actually wasn't impressed with the particular answer we're discussing, but I think it's very important that we not set a high bar for answers. Far, far better to let a silly answer like that exist than to chase away people who don't have the time for a long review, or who aren't as confident of their skills and expertise as they should be, or who have a good-but-not-comprehensive insight. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 4, 2016 at 3:37

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