If I come across a question that I have what I think/hope is a useful answer but not necessarily a life hack, should I post it?

I'm asking because I came across this question, and posted what I thought was a useful answer that was down voted almost instantly. I do admit that it was more of a common knowledge solution than a hack. The reason I thought it was OK was because I had seen this answer which also seemed to be a common knowledge solution.

Should I delete that answer? Is it off topic? I'm new and just looking for a little feedback on what to do.

Update: Question Part 2 ... should I have left it as a comment instead of an answer? since it's relevant but not a hack?

Update 2: Here's another question with a well received common knowledge solution.

3 Answers 3


Q: How to keep track of which earphone is left or right?

A: The ear buds that came with my phone have a raised letter for left and an indented letter for right.

It's not that there's anything inherently wrong with your answer, but at a glance it doesn't seem to fit the spirit of this site. We are always looking for those "out of the box" ideas that solve a problem without an obvious solution.

You actually do go on to explain how that might (surprisingly) solve the author's problem in an interesting way… but it is really easy to miss. I might have written the answer more like this:

If you check carefully, your earbuds might actually have raised letters or a different texture on each side. I can actually tell which earbud goes where by touch. Try it. I think you will find it much easier to get your earbuds in the right ear this way than trying to read those little letters.

That is actually very cool; I did not know that, so great answer. You basically said the same thing as I did, but the way I highlighted this as a life hack speaks a bit more clearly to this audience and the premise of this site.

I hope that helps.

  • Thanks, good to know that this is more of a clarity/wording problem than a content one. I'll work on wording it more like a hack in future. Commented Sep 24, 2015 at 18:16

Your answer was to a somewhat old post, dated 2015-01-23, with an accepted answer. This is, to me, is kind of a warning sign that reads Be wary that a new answer really contributes something new.

When reading your answer, I kind of felt that this had been said before:

All these answers came within two weeks of the original question, and they all touch in on the subject of tactile feedback as well as visual feedback.

So when you answer "... have a raised letter for left and a indented letter for right. I can tell which is which by feeling the ear bud. ... ", it didn't bring anything new to the table, and this might be one of the reason for you getting some downvotes. I do not think your issue in this answer was related to common knowledge solution (which might be an issue), but more that it had already been said.

Regarding question part 2: Yes, I would have made that a comment, if anything, to emphasize that the ear buds might already have a texture difference or other forms of tactile feedback.

But hang in there, and keep posting new answers, just make sure they are new answers not already covered in the other answers! And if covered already, give further emphasizis in a comment and up-/down-vote that answer.

  • Good point, I hadn't checked the post date. I had incorrectly assumed that because it was at the top of my active feed that it was a new question. I'll be more careful in future. Thanks for the feedback! Commented Sep 25, 2015 at 11:37

Depends how you feel about votes I guess - I've certainly posted advice, even saying its not a hack, knowing full well I'll probably get downvoted, and I am downvoted - but feeling the advice was more important to get across than worrying about the votes in some circumstances. Technically, yes, it should be a hacky answer - but it's not always possible, so in theory, an answer shouldn't be given if its not a hack.

There do appear to be a fair number of questions that don't have, or don't need, a hack answer - maybe the OP hasn't noticed something about their bit of kit (like in the earphones). If you point out what they've missed, that's technically not a hack at all - but does it mean it shouldn't be said? Technically, according to the rules of Lifehacks, yes, it does mean that - but I'd say it anyway, rightly or wrongly. If I'm interpreting the parameters of Lifehacks incorrectly, perhaps someone else will put me right.

  • I think in the future I'll post it as a comment. As for reacting to the voting, I generally use the rule of thumb that one is a fluke, two is a coincidence, and three is a consensus. If it gets to 3 downvotes, I'll take down the answer. Commented Oct 6, 2015 at 12:51
  • I often take the comment route for non lifehacky answers too, that's probably the best solution.
    – Bamboo
    Commented Oct 6, 2015 at 13:10
  • @ErinGoBragh After reading the lifehacks manifesto, especially the section about Qs and As that aren't lifehacks, I feel there is a grey area. Par example it will not always be clear at the time of asking if the question can be resolved with a lifehack. When I see such a question and feel there is only a 'standard' solution or even when a standard solution appears significantly more practical than any hack mentioned so far, I would rather create an answer than providing an answer in a comment. For one ...
    – Flint
    Commented Apr 1, 2017 at 19:05
  • ... comments only have about 600 characters. I believe an answer should always contain some background information. Also I would try to make at least implicitly clear why I think the 'standard solution' is the better way to go. But more to the point, I will make my answer available for review by the voters. Maybe someone will come up after all with a hack, but does this hack really compare to the standard solution? If it doesn't it wouldn't really qualify as a lifehack anyway. Last but not least, the SE idea is about questions and answers. An answer should go into an answer field, not a ...
    – Flint
    Commented Apr 1, 2017 at 19:23
  • ... comment field.
    – Flint
    Commented Apr 1, 2017 at 19:24
  • My experience so far has been, that when I put in the time and research to write a good answer, even if slightly off topic, the critics here are not too harsh. As @RobertCartaino pointed out in his answer, the wording makes a lot of difference. In the end of the day, for some questions it can only be established whether or not they are off topic once some attempts at answering have been made.
    – Flint
    Commented Apr 1, 2017 at 19:37

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