A common response to a question that I see on Ask Ubuntu and elsewhere on Stack Exchange (and pretty much any help forum) is for someone to say "you can write a script to do this".

I really dislike this response for the following reasons:

  • It assumes that the OP knows what a script is and how to write one
  • It gives no indication to the OP on how to write the script specifically for that task/software
  • It doesn't mention what language to write the script in
  • It assumes the OP didn't already consider writing a script

Furthermore, practically anything can be solved by writing a script. A whole operating system is built on scripts! If the OP could indeed write scripts wouldn't they already try that? So, this answer just strikes me as redundant.

In situations like this on Ask Ubuntu and on other sites is there a copy/paste response we can give to encourage the question answerer to give more information and to discourage them from giving that type of answer in the future?

  • 2
    "Write a script" is not answer, if it does not include a working script and an answer useless should be flagged as not an answer. I have not seen this as an answer, only comments, which can just be ignored. It would be good if you could give examples of this gor clarity.
    – Mark Kirby
    Jan 26, 2018 at 10:38
  • This is the most recent example. facebook.com/groups/NatronNation/permalink/928251254009110/… it's on facebook but I still see it around Jan 26, 2018 at 11:06
  • @MarkKirby but even if it's left as a comment is there a way to educate the poster about how to not give such an answer and suggest a better way to answer? Jan 26, 2018 at 11:07
  • 6
    What people write on facebook is not relevant here. The whole point of SE is to be more useful than other sites for getting help with specific questions. If you can give any actual examples of worthless answers on Ask Ubuntu, please link them so we can downvote them and comment on them and vote to delete them. For comments see Please stop posting half answers and dumb advice as comments
    – Zanna Mod
    Jan 26, 2018 at 12:21
  • Ok, I'll link to examples from SE as I come across them. FWIW I do downvote them when I see them. I think the link you posted about posting dumb advice answers this question ;-) Jan 26, 2018 at 15:34

1 Answer 1


I have used these words 7 times before, but never without further explanation.

There are some answers where the problem is so broad and a solution so complex that even just a high-level explanation of a solution is better than nothing. I'm not thinking of situations that can be done in a few lines of Bash. I'm thinking of things that would take hours or days to complete.

  • Yes, they might not be able to follow those instructions.
  • It should include an outline of what it'd do (if not part of a larger answer).
  • Language? If it's relevant, I'd have mentioned it. (eg "Write an R script that ...")
  • They might have thought of it before; they should have mentioned it.

But ultimately, we're here to help people as much as we like. We're not slaves.
For me, that translates to stopping short of doing actual work unless I enjoy what I'm doing, or I can derive transferable learning outcomes from it (I've gone full-geek before). We're not here to write applications and full manuals for people.

And as such, I repeat, I think that in some situations, my contributions that might have suggested the OP writing a script —without actually giving them full code— is still more useful to them and others than if I'd written nothing at all. And to be clear, that's what the alternative would have been.

Feel free to cite examples where I've said this and it hasn't done more good than nothing at all.

Just to reiterate, an answer that is just "write a script" isn't an answer at all. It's 1 character short of a comment. I'm answering this question based on my personal threshold for what constitutes an answer. You still have to tell them what to do, even if you don't give all the steps.

Your Facebook example isn't an answer.

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