This is a site about lifehacks.

Currently, it sounds like the definition of a lifehack is that it's an unconventional solution to a problem.

Does that mean that we should be downvoting answers that are giving the conventional solution to a problem?

For example: Someone asks how to peel an orange. Someone answers saying to use an orange peeler. That isn't really a lifehack, that's just the common method of peeling an orange. Since it's not a lifehack it should be downvoted, no?


5 Answers 5



We each have a different background, often times a different culture as well. What's conventional for you very well may not be conventional for me. Simply because that's the case does not give reason to downvote. As such, it's impossible to determine what culture (and therefore convention) a person is from, thus we cannot vote based on convention. It's impossible to determine if an answer is conventional across all cultures.

Quoting from another answer of mine,

having multiple, various cultures can actually benefit us because what's conventional for one culture may not even be thought of by another. For some problems, different cultures provide vastly different solutions. As a community we can benefit from these variances by weighing the pros and cons of each approach.

However, our definition of lifehacks (implemented in our new scope) defines lifehacks to be "creative, meaning they use materials that are on hand for uses besides their intended use." As such, while we shouldn't be downvoting answers based on convention, if the answer is not creative (as we define it) then it isn't a lifehack. With that being said, creative lifehack versions of a product made to solve the problem at hand can make for great answers.

EDIT: While I rolled this post back to a previous state, my personal view has changed to one that is more consistent and matches our new scope better than this one.

  • +1 You expressed it much better than I did Commented Dec 11, 2014 at 22:15
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    Uh? Why did you change your answer to the opposite position? That makes the voting no longer reflect agreement with your position. Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 11:39
  • Your “yes” answer contradicts the “new scope”. It defines lifehacks as ways to solve problems, not as creative writing exercises. Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 11:53
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    @Gilles A lifehack is an alternative solution, not just a solution. It has to be something people (or at least the OP) don't generally think up, thus creative. That fits entirely with our scope. If it's a solution, but it's conventional, not a creative alternative, it is not a hack, and doesn't belong on the site.
    – J. Musser
    Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 15:28
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    @Gilles If you payed attention to how we define being creative and our definition of lifehack you'd see that what you suggest is not the case. Techniques that "make one's physical life more efficient ... [using] materials that are on hand for uses besides their intended use" is not an exercise in creative writing, it's solving the problem using a lifehack instead of the conventional solution Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 15:28
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    @ZachSaucier If you're going to exclude solutions because they're too conventional (as opposed to because there's something wrong with them), then you are introducing a creative writing exercise where it doesn't belong. Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 18:14
  • @Gilles Reiterating yourself doesn't help your argument Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 18:21
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    How does one define "conventional"? What may be conventional in one culture may not be in another. For example, how do you cut meat without a knife? Maybe an unconventional solution would be to use chopsticks: one to pin the meat down, the other to slowly pry the meat apart. However, this is not unconventional at all in Asia, where it's a fairly common technique.
    – Origin
    Commented Jan 1, 2015 at 15:52
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    @ZachSaucier As a side note, please do not edit your answer to the point where it completely changes the original intent. That rule applies even to the original answerer: if the edit changes the original intent of the asker/answerer, the edit should not be performed. By changing to a "Yes" answer from a "No", you just completely invalidated the consensus of those who upvoted you before the edit. Next time (and I would strongly suggest you do it now), just post another answer up. You can have multiple answers on the same question.
    – Origin
    Commented Jan 1, 2015 at 15:56

From my perspective an orange peeler is a foreign concept and in fact I have never seen such an item before I looked it up while I was on this site. Using it is neither common nor conventional. (I use a small kitchen knife for the task)

Corncub holders are something that I have already seen once, but have never used myself. So, its still unconventional to me while it most likely is not to most people visiting this site.

Windshield covers on the other hand are so common and obvious I would never have suggested them because of their widespread use.

otoh I find using knifes to hold stuff very obvious, but as I was the only one with that suggestion it feels like other people see that different.

I fear we can't define "conventional" until we don't know about which culture we are talking.

So for your question: Downvote them as much as you like (I do the same), but don't be surprised if the idea of "conventional" gets disputed if you leave a comment explaining your downvote.

  • But, do you think a more fundamental issue there is lack of research ability? For example, if I were tired of peeling oranges, even not knowing that such an item existed, I would search for "automatic orange peeler" or something. I have quickly found dozens and dozens of tools I never knew existed by simply adding "-er" to the end of the task and searching for it on the internet. So fundamentally the issue seems to me to be that such questions lack research effort and maybe don't belong here in the first place. Commented May 31, 2015 at 17:02
  • @JasonC We want to compile a vault of knowledge on all things Lifehacks. We want that "doing research" yields a matching question here. I think "lack research" is not a problem here. Commented Jun 2, 2015 at 13:31

Are we looking for artistic or practical answers?

The “new scope” defines a lifehack as

a technique that can be implemented quickly and is used to make one's physical life more efficient when a more standard approach

This implies that we are looking for practical answers. Therefore, what matters about an answer is whether it works and whether it is convenient. The following are valid reasons to downvote:

  • It requires expensive materials or devices.
  • It requires objects that one would not ordinarily have at hand.
  • It requires a lot of time to carry out.

But “it isn't creative enough” is not a valid reason to downvote. If the best way to solve a problem is the obvious way, so be it.

Excluding the obvious way would be a recipe for mediocrity. Sometimes the best way to skin a cat is a cat-skinner¹. We should encourage voting for good ways to solve the problem, without arbitrarily excluding ways for being too square. Otherwise, this site would turn into a collection of second-best answers only.

This goes in line with encouraging (while not requiring) questions to specify what was tried. If the “obvious” solution is unsuitable, the question should mention why. If that's not the case, then maybe the obvious solution isn't so obvious, or maybe there just is no other reasonable way to solve this problem, and either way, the obvious answer is a perfectly valid answer.

Keep in mind that the vast majority of people who'll read Lifehacks.SE threads are not participants — they're visitors who found the site in a web search. These people don't care about the site name. They aren't looking for “lifehacks” — they're looking for a solution to their problem. If the question describes a problem which has a “conventional” answer, it's vital that this answer be given as much consideration as “unconventional” answers: otherwise we would be polluting search results with irrelevant answers, and thus making the Internet a worse place.

¹ Note to cat lovers lacking a sense of humor: this example is obviously fictional.

  • If the obvious answer is not a lifehack then it is not a valid answer on our site about lifehacks. Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 15:37
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    On one hand, I agree with Gilles that it seems silly to punish non-hack answers, particularly when they're actually better answers than hacky solutions. On the other hand, encouraging and rewarding non-hack answers makes this site about lifehacks pointless. My fundamental problem with this site is that it seems like you have to punish common sense answers to make it viable. You need the assumption that people are asking a question here not because they want the best answer to their problem, but the best hacky answer to their problem.
    – Sterno
    Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 15:45
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    Which to me says you either need to make that leap that conventional answers are not okay and not what people who ask here are looking for, or else we just need to close this place down.
    – Sterno
    Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 15:52
  • @Sterno I think preventing non-hack answers (even useful ones) is an acceptable loss. Those answers can be found on other sites like Cooking, DIY, or some other site depending on the subject of the question. Lifehacks is here to see if there are any creative alternatives that are better or at least helpful in times when the non-hack answer(s) are unavailable - at times there might not be good lifehack alternatives Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 15:55
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    @Sterno On the contrary, we either need to accept conventional answers or close this place down. A site that pretends to be about practical solutions but excludes the best answer is pointless. Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 18:13
  • @Gilles Then maybe the answer is simply that we close this place down. If conventional, practical answers are in scope, how exactly does Lifehacks.SE distinguish itself from HowToDoRandomThings.SE? Here's a related meta
    – Sterno
    Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 19:49
  • While I agree with most of your answer, I struggle with your assertion that we must care a great deal about passing web traffic. I care about building a community that enjoys answering questions in a certain way. If transient users find the question, that's fine. But if they can't figure out that they're on a site dedicated to life hacks, then that's their problem. We are offering them the best solution to their problem, but working within some constraints. Commented Feb 5, 2015 at 8:38

No, we should be downvoting the question, and probably closing it. If a problem can be solved acceptably with a conventional method, the question should quite clearly state why that method is inadequate, and if an answer simply repeats a solution described and rejected in the question, it should be downvoted as any other non-helpful answer.



There are two questions that we should ask ourselves when evaluating answers:

  1. "Does it fit our definition of a lifehack?"
  2. "Is the lifehack offered as a solution useful?"

Our definition of lifehacks (implemented in our new scope) defines lifehacks to be "creative, meaning they use materials that are on hand for uses besides their intended use." Therefore, if the answer is not creative (as we define it) then it isn't a lifehack. As such, they do not answer the question being asked because questions are implicitly seeking lifehack answers. In all cases that I can come up with, the conventional solution is by definition not creative.

With that being said, creative lifehack versions of a conventional solution can make for great answers!

  • Please see my updated answer, and also my answer to the scope post. An important point which I hadn't made clearly before is that the vast majority of viewers are people who found one thread in a web search — they don't care about the scope of the site, they only care about finding a solution to their problem. That's why excluding certain classes of solutions is harmful. Commented Jan 12, 2015 at 0:22

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