Spurred by the avalanche of comments and chat discussion on Is it acceptable to use pirated software on the job?, Are questions that boil down to simply stating common sense "bad" by default?

More specifically, do we as a community want to allow these questions now and in the future?

5 Answers 5


That question wasn't bad because it's asking for common sense.

That question is bad because:

  1. It has no audience/scope (acceptable to whom?)
  2. It's a legal question ("I wonder will this ultimately get you into legal trouble?")
  3. It's two totally different questions ("Is it acceptable?" AND "Will I get in trouble?")
  4. Most of the question is "This is really easy and hasn't been a problem".

Of all the problems with the question, common sense is the least significant.

Questions asking for common sense are fine, bad questions are not.

  • +1 for Questions asking for common sense are fine, bad questions are not. Something can seem like common sense to one person, but is not to someone else. Everyone was new once, and I'm sure we've all asked common-sense questions at some point in our careers. Sometimes we just need someone to show us the right way to look at things.
    – Rachel
    Apr 20, 2012 at 12:29

I would be inclined to say "yes" because providing and repeating the correct answers to these question is how "common sense" becomes and remains "common."

  • 1
    My feeling as well, good to know I'm not that insane :-)
    – voretaq7
    Apr 19, 2012 at 19:45
  • 1
    No, not really. Repeating a common sense answer is what several users tend to do in order to get some cheap rep, and it goes against Stack Exchange's philosophy and format. Most of the 14 answers are completely useless to anyone but the answerers, as they just iterate what earlier answers say. The answerers should have just upvoted the earlier answers they agree with.
    – yannis
    Apr 19, 2012 at 19:57
  • @Yannis: Is it Stack Exchange's philosophy to blame the questioner for bad answers?
    – Martin F
    Mar 25, 2014 at 5:52

I feel like one of a very small number of voices supporting this question (and its common-sense "NO! DON'T DO THAT! Here's why." answers) as on-topic/constructive.

Stack Exchange sites attract users of widely varied experience levels.
The answer to this question is obvious to anyone who has ever worked in a professional environment, but the 16 year old high school student with zero professional experience who just landed an internship may well be naïve enough to need this pointed out to them.

The general case of "Is it acceptable to do insert stupid/generally illegal thing here?" questions are IMHO "good subjective" -- they can be answered definitively in the context of any responsible professional environment (and we as a community should not be encouraging irresponsible environments).

Full disclosure - I do have a close vote on this question to stop the avalanche of truly awful answers, but I would much rather see it locked than closed...

  • The answer to this question is obvious to anyone who has ever worked in a professional environment - The end.
    – yannis
    Apr 19, 2012 at 20:03
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    @YannisRizos This site is NOT just for people who have been working in professional environments for 20 years and already know everything -- It is also for the 16 year old high school student who just landed their first summer job, and needs these things explained, preferably before they screw up and get themselves or their employer in deep trouble. If we're throwing out that entire portion of our audience I don't see the point of this site at all.
    – voretaq7
    Apr 20, 2012 at 15:16
  • If the question was I'm 16 and about to start my first internship, is it ok to use pirated software at work? I'd probably upvote it. You are assuming too much, and that's the problem with extremely vague questions, everyone reads them a different way. We can solve that problem by sticking to questions that are about actual practical problems that the OP is facing, and ban hypotheticals, rhetoricals and everything else as vague. We are not here to guess who the question might be useful to, but help solve actual problems.
    – yannis
    Apr 20, 2012 at 15:27
  • 1
    @YannisRizos And if they were an exceptionally stupid 40 year old getting their first job would you still upvote it, or is there a double standard? I'm making no assumption other than The asker does not know this is not OK (because they asked the question). The question is "Is it OK to use pirated software in a professional environment?" (practical question, though stupid) - the answer is "No" (Single, simple, factual answer).
    – voretaq7
    Apr 20, 2012 at 15:42
  • It is a practical question, but it's not an actual problem the OP is facing. The question is crap not because it's trivial, but because it's a conversation starter and not a real question.
    – yannis
    Apr 20, 2012 at 15:48
  • I agree with everything you said -- at the Q concerned and here -- except with "I do have a close vote on this question to stop the avalanche of truly awful answers, but I would much rather see it locked than closed" and your actual part in the close. I must admit that i don't fully understand the mechanism of close voting vs lock voting, but i'm absolutely astonished that anyone would vote to close what they argue is a good question. If it needs locking, vote for that. Please clarify in your answer, thanks.
    – Martin F
    Mar 25, 2014 at 5:46
  • @martinf The point of closure (placing something "On Hold" in the new parlance) is to allow the question to be improved (so it stops attracting crap answers). Locking (specifically, locking for off-topic comments) is a moderator action which prevents any further commenting until the lock is removed. For this question, both actions would have been appropriate for different reasons. (There is also "protection", which prevents answers by users with < 10 reputation, but "10" is such a pathetically low bar that protection is kinda useless.)
    – voretaq7
    Mar 25, 2014 at 15:20

Well, i just wrote the answer (probably i was first or second) and came back in the morning to see the flood! I was surprised to be on top - and even more so by so much activity.

Yes indeed there is something very BASIC about this question. And as i was writing it, i actually wanted to add an elaborate situation i had been to. But then i deleted that, just because i really lacked context to explain that.

To give you background, out there in India, where even though maximum export is still software, the piracy is highest. And i have (actually) worked with organization where sysad will come and install software and i could recognize that he is actually installing the crack. I had myself done enough of it in past. Yet, if you do the same thing they will come and yell. Why? on the other hand if you do stuff, and don't tell anyone - it was ACTUALLY fine! By the time i moved to senior managing positions -i was made to realized that at best it can actually put many things in trouble. And again - while most people agree- (i wanted to elaborate but didn't) - these are not the ethics class of troubles.

When i read the question, i saw myself about a decade a go. And while most answers took more of "Obviously not" - let me tell you most folks haven't been to situations i have been to. My answer to the question was still "NO" like most others - but i think i wasn't assuming all that simplistic scenario. Piracy is actually more than a reality.

Yes, i agree that question was naive. Which is why, as i said i couldn't elaborate. But most of the answers were much poor quality than the question itself really. The sheer problem was about how we respond to this.

here is my view point:

  1. If we find that there is a troll. Instead of waiting for 4/5 close votes, mods should actually force stop it.

  2. Indicate very clearly tell the OP to improvise, make it specific or ask him to elaborate what is the point of context that drew him to that stage.

  3. To me, it was more of incomplete and elementary question. What if i would have asked "Everyone is already using the pirated software but they dont' tell this to admin. Should i do this too?" - I think this would have de-cluttered many "me too" answers than it's current form.

  4. Try and save the question to bring that quality.

  5. Punish answers equally that are simple copy. May be you asked, should i do this? - answer is NO. Now, once i have been through the list of couple of answers which already says what i have to say - why do i need to repeat a "NO" in any other language?

I have had this opinion (which i am sure is worthy of lot of down votes in meta) and i do share more for the other sites as well,

  • tell people what is bad - and to the point they understand rather than putting up an FAQ link.

  • tell people how a someone would have asked the same question better rather than just putting a close flag.

  • at least give example of good questions of equivalent or similar subject that makes op realize what is wrong.

  • Good points -- except for the long-winded introduction.
    – Martin F
    Mar 25, 2014 at 5:50

Yes, we should allow workplace questions that help thousands of folks in the workplace -- no matter how "obvious" the answer may seem to some.

If there is a flood of bad comments or answers, lock the question!

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