Recently I have posted an answer to a questions which I considered a bit silly, and even the answer was easy and quick to write (using my everyday knowledge). To my surprise, the answer received plenty up-votes quickly and it is still growing. On the other hand, I have written some answers which were hard to write (required quite a lot of searching and distilling information), but were not voted much.

The "silly" one is Can a computer be hacked to use a connected speaker as a microphone? The difficult ones were Did the the crew of Flight 1549 (that ditched in the Hudson) do an exceptionally good job? or Are Fair Trade products guaranteed to be 'fairer'?.

I think such effect was already observed on Stackoverflow (and it probably similar to the famous bike-shed effect), but here I feel even more bitter about it, as composing answers to difficult questions here seems to take a lot more effort.

Now this question have several parts:

  • Does anyone else think such effect exist here, or is it just me?
  • Does anyone else think it would be better for the site if difficult answers would be rewarded more?
  • Is there anything we as a community can do to improve it, besides of asking shameless plug questions about our questions here on meta, like I apparently do now :) -?
  • One solution would be to not answer the question and instead vote to close. The other is to edit it into something better and/or post a good answer
    – Ivo Flipse
    Commented Aug 12, 2011 at 15:07
  • I do not think the "silly" or "easy" means necessarily offtopic. I have downvoted the question, but I did not vote to close it.
    – Suma
    Commented Aug 12, 2011 at 15:12
  • 1
    Well do we want to be like Yahoo Answers? I think clearly not, so questions should not be 'silly'
    – Ivo Flipse
    Commented Aug 12, 2011 at 15:15

2 Answers 2


I agree with everything that Borror0 says, I would like to add that the speaker question is a very straight forward question and you gave straight forward answer. The bottom line is the reader doesn't have to think very hard to find out what they want to know. Actually they only need to read the first sentence (and most people don't bother checking the references) and say "this person is right".

I also have to say that anyone who has a love of computers and grew up with them know the answer is correct. This is fairly common knowledge among geeks [citation needed]. So they read half of your sentence and click the tick.

The Fair Trade and Flight questions require detailed answers and require that they are read to be understood; thus harder to read, harder to understand and harder to agree with. This is not saying your question is in any way of lesser quality than the speaker question, it requires people to think and thinking hurts.

  • Since thinking hurts, the best way to handle those kind of questions is to do all the thinking for them: explain clearly, without too many technical terms, and cover all the angles. If they read 'til the end, they'll have no choice but to agree. TL;DR: Be thorough.
    – Borror0
    Commented Aug 13, 2011 at 4:24

I think you're merely observing the bike shed problem: questions that have a wide appeal tend to get more attention, and thus more upvotes.

Take Is it possible to fly 4 helicopters anywhere in a country without official knowledge? as an example. It got an absurd amount of votes, yet it's a complex question. What happened is that Larian wrote an answer many people are interested in reading, so the answer and the question both got heavily upvoted. See also my answer to Does a car with a hybrid engine and Lithium batteries pollute more than a car with conventional technology?. The trick to getting lots of upvotes boils down to writing amazing answers to questions many people want answered.

In my opinion, the reason that your answer to Can a computer be hacked to use a connected speaker as a microphone? got more upvotes than any answer to Did the the crew of Flight 1549 (that ditched in the Hudson) do an exceptionally good job? is because more of our users are interested in the first question.

I don't think we have a problem with users caring more about silly questions than serious ones. It's simply that many serious questions are also more obscure.

As for your answer to Are Fair Trade products guaranteed to be 'fairer'?, it suffers of a different problem: it was a late answer. Stack Exchange has no system which encourages users to check new posts, so late answers to a question tend to get less attention than early ones. That's amplified by the fact that answers are sorted by number of votes, commonly referred to as the Fastest Gun in The West problem.

But that's not all. If it was just late, but was amazing, that could probably be overcome but -the quality just isn't there. It's certainly not a bad answer - it's arguably better than Sklivvz's - but it's not enough for me to bother sharing it. It reads more like the draft of a good answer, rather than the answer itself. You have my interest, but you have not swayed me yet.

  • Attempt to make a summary of your answer: You confirm my first point, that the effect exists, but you do not agree with me this is something we should be concerned about (and therefore the third point is irrelevant for you)?
    – Suma
    Commented Aug 12, 2011 at 16:23
  • @Suma: 1) There is no such effect, but the bike shed effect can create the impression of such an effect. 2) It is imperative that complex, well-detailed, high quality answers are rewarded properly, but it is okay for the bike shed problem to over-reward easy answers to easy questions for as long as it's not too excessive. 3) Upvoting and sharing great answers with others (Twitter, Facebook, etc.).
    – Borror0
    Commented Aug 12, 2011 at 16:28

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