Why is calling questions "worthless" acceptable on this site?

The last instance was yesterday (when my R&A flag on such a comment was denied), but this wasn't the first nor even second time I saw such comments calling other people's questions "useless" or "worthless" and they are often allowed to stand.

How are comments like that even remotely in line with the "be nice" SE policy?

  • 12
    I'd say that it's not acceptable and would't have declined it...
    – Mithical
    Oct 22, 2017 at 10:58
  • 6
    Well worthless meaning to have “no worth” would be a valid comment if something was off-topic or provides no worth to the site. If a user feels a question adds no benefit to the site they have every right to say they think it’s worthless. It is important to remember this isn’t a place for people to throw down random thoughts they had, it’s where they come to ask questions about problems they’re having. If a question isn’t providing a benefit in that way, it is a worthless question
    – Edlothiad
    Oct 22, 2017 at 13:04
  • 7
    @Edlothiad - i'd be far more accepting if the comments were honest and said "question is not of any worth to me personally". Oct 22, 2017 at 13:05
  • 1
    How can you say they weren’t intending to imply that?
    – Edlothiad
    Oct 22, 2017 at 13:07
  • 9
    @Edlothiad - don't care what was intended to imply. Only what was actually said. Oct 22, 2017 at 13:13
  • 1
    Well you should, because of the intention isn’t rude or abusive then it shouldn’t be falsely deleted as such
    – Edlothiad
    Oct 22, 2017 at 13:17
  • 6
    @Edlothiad - there's no way to know what the intention is. Only what the actual result is. And result is rude and abusive Oct 22, 2017 at 13:19
  • 12
    @Edlothiad Wrong, because then any rude/abusive comment could be justified on the grounds of "oh, I didn't mean to be rude". We can't know for certain what someone intended (and they might lie about it), but we can know what they actually said. Plus, comments are "third-class citizens" on SE anyway. If you call me a dickhead, say, I don't care whether it's an insult or a friendly tease - that comment has no place on the site.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Oct 22, 2017 at 13:20
  • 2
    @Randal'Thor oh please. I can give you enough examples of where the R/A comment cannot be justified as “I didn’t intend to be rude” and I can give you enough examples of a “R/A” comment can be made to be clearly not rude at all and merely a fact. Secondly, your example is very different to the “rude” word we’re talking about which is “worthless”. Comments critiquing a question are relevant and if a user is informing another of their critiques of the question based on their understanding of the network philosophy, I don’t see how it can be rude. So really not “wrong” just overly generalised.
    – Edlothiad
    Oct 22, 2017 at 13:28
  • 4
    @Randal'Thor btw I’m offended by the bluntness of your comment beginning with the word “wrong”, there’s no need to be so aggressive in the discussion. You’ve just caused the discussion to become far more hostile, that’s not good practice.
    – Edlothiad
    Oct 22, 2017 at 13:29
  • 11
    In conversational English, the word "worthless" is a derogatory slur, not an objective measure of value. For something to be truly worthless, it must have absolutely no value whatsoever to anyone, anywhere, at any time. That really never happens, therefore the term is an exaggeration, and as such an emotional appeal, not a factual statement.
    – barbecue
    Oct 23, 2017 at 13:41

2 Answers 2


A comment that does nothing but call a question worthless is worthless.

But it may not be offensive.

Instead, I'd use this flag:

no longer needed This comment is obsolete, chatty, or otherwise unnecessary.

(emphasis added)

Without a specific example, I can't put it into specific context. But if it does nothing more than say "This question is worthless/pointless" and isn't actually offering constructive critique, it seems unnecessary.

The comments in question may have had more in them, but I didn't see them so I can't speak to that.

  • 6
    I don't disagree with this. Just saying "This is worthless" with zero context or explanations certainly borders on the offensive side.
    – Valorum
    Oct 23, 2017 at 19:37
  • @Valorum Yup. Hard to say without a specific quote to analyze. But I wanted to point out the comment flag options have changed recently, and that "otherwise unnecessary" now captures a lot of scenarios that the old options didn't.
    – user31178
    Oct 23, 2017 at 19:47

Per Websters;

Worthless: Having no real value or use.

If you think that a question or an answer has no real value or use, then saying so is entirely fair comment. It's possibly a little blunt and I guess you could couch your opinion in weasel-words ("I think your question is lacking in real value or use") to lessen the impact on those of a fragile disposition but the meaning would be identical and should not go unsaid.

While certain terms have been outlawed by generally common agreement ("rep-whoring" for example) I think we're all grown up enough here to cope with some honest feedback from our fellow users, even if there's the possibility that that person might not like what's they're being told.

In short;
- Don't call someone worthless. That's not nice under any circumstance
- If you think their question is worthless (and want to say so) then use the word advisedly, sparingly and carefully. It can have quite a big impact and there's a possibility they may not like it, even if it's a fair comment in your opinion.

- The above doesn't mean we should outlaw the word. If you think it's being used to attack a user, flag it and let a moderator review any usage on a case-by-case basis.

  • 14
    What you call "weasel words" other people may call "avoiding an unnecessary slur." Lacking in worth does NOT have the same connotations as "Worthless." Connotations DO matter.
    – barbecue
    Oct 23, 2017 at 13:38
  • 3
    @barbecue - Sure. Which is why context matters. But nor should we shy away from harsh criticism of any actions that actively cause a lowering of the site's quality. That includes questions of no worth.
    – Valorum
    Oct 23, 2017 at 13:57
  • 6
    @barbecue - "Be Nice" doesn't mean "tread on eggshells lest someone has a tantrum".
    – Valorum
    Oct 23, 2017 at 13:57
  • 3
    It's also worth noting the mouse-over text on the downvote icon: "This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful". This (to me) shows that the site acknowledges that a question can most definitely be worthless - have no use.
    – pipe
    Oct 23, 2017 at 18:19
  • 4
    @Valorum I never said, suggested, nor even implied that one should "tread on eggshells lest someone has a tantrum." I merely pointed out that there are more socially acceptable, less mean ways to say the same thing.
    – barbecue
    Oct 23, 2017 at 19:19
  • 9
    @Valorum Yes, we SHOULD shy away from HARSH criticism in most cases, because it's rarely helpful and usually harmful. This is not a military boot camp. If your goal is to actually make the user read, understand, and take to heart the criticism you are providing, use of polite language enhances the effectiveness of your message. If your goal is to ANGER the poster, then by all means, use words loaded with negative connotations instead of neutral or positive ones. "Weasel words" has a specific negative meaning, and is not the same thing as polite phrasing at all. Please is not a weasel word.
    – barbecue
    Oct 23, 2017 at 19:26

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