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In what seems to be a blatant violation of Sturgeon's Law, most of the answers on StackOverflow are clear, thoughtful, polite and accurate.

This may be largely due to the self-correcting nature of StackOverflow's voting system, which encourages us to review, comment, and edit each other's answers. So, in general, our combined expertise and desire to inflict share our knowledge forces "good" answers to percolate upward and opens "not-so-good" answers to discussion and correction.

However, I've found that an unsettling number of the answers to technical questions—including "accepted" answers with a large number of upvotes—are simply incorrect. What's more alarming to me is that, despite their technical nature, many of these answers can be checked simply by cutting and pasting them into a command line.

With this in mind, I'm interested to know:

What criteria do you apply before deciding to up-vote an answer?

  • Accuracy: Do you actually check it?
  • The "James Earl Jones" effect: Does it just need to "sound" right?
  • Peer pressure: Everyone else thinks it's good, so it must be right.

What "pushes you over the edge" from liking an answer to actually voting for it?


Meta-question: is there a common term for what I've called the James Earl Jones effect: the tendency to forgo your normal verification process and accept something that sounds right? A quick search returned nothing; however this could arguably be called the Avery Brooks effect, the Obama effect, or the Why I Still Like to Wake up Next to my Spouse effect. :-)