I saw this question on basketball, Basketball "climbing" foul, with an edited answer that stated:

It was downvoted because this site is somewhat of a joke in voting in that they would rather see something wrong with documentation than the right answer.


Despite the obvious disgust, I was confused when I saw the top-rated question not have documentation itself.

So, my question, to make clear my understanding on the matter: What is the policy on rules questions? Do these questions need rule citations, officiating experience, or both?

2 Answers 2


First of all: I have removed the quoted text from the answer as it was unnecessarily aggressive and not in line with our Code of Conduct. Feel free to flag any similar kind of language for moderator attention and we'll deal with it.

Onto the more general question: there is no specific policy per se on rules questions, but the general Stack Exchange guidance applies in that the best answers are supported by evidence, and the community will tend to vote this way. For a lot of rules questions, this can be a quote from the official rules or guidance of whatever game it is; see for example this excellent and highly voted answer which includes definitive quotes to support the assertions made. Now compare with this answer to the same question which may also be right, but has been downvoted by the community, almost certainly due to the lack of evidence.

This isn't to say that every rules question must have a quote from an official source for the community to consider it a good answer, but if an answer is making an assertion of fact (as opposed to judgement) and doesn't provide evidence to support that assertion, it's pretty likely the community will vote it down, and that's what happened to the original short version of the answer (scroll to the bottom). The revised answer is a better answer as it now includes references to the rules, and the logic which is applied to those rules to get to the conclusion asserted; however, the combination of the early version of the answer and the tone may well mean that the answer languishes in negative territory.


On Rule Citations

  • Rule citations are always helpful when a question asks what is or is not allowed, or on what basis a decision was or would be made.

  • Rule citations are virtually required when the question regards exact text or direct interpretations. Answers that don't refer to explicit rules or regulations are not answering the question.

  • Officiating experience, particularly in the sport or sport family, tends to be more helpful than a bare rule citation, even when it refers obliquely to a rule (e.g. "the hand-ball rule" in association football) or only implies its existence (e.g. "the rules say that it's not called as offside if the attackers all retreat and let the defender have the puck" in ice hockey.

  • Ideally, an answer provides both the pertinent text of any rule or regulation, and explains how that rule or regulation applies in the way the answer concludes, based on experience and familiarity with the situation in the question.

On Meta Commentary

  • Meta commentary in a question or answer is never appropriate. It belongs in a comment on the appropriate post, or in chat, at best.

  • Commentary that is impolite, rude or abusive (as per your example) belongs nowhere on Stack Exchange. Proposing an edit is often helpful, and the post can be flagged for moderator attention in case further action is needed. Experienced users will sometimes edit to remove it directly (I have done so occasionally, especially in the case of new users who may receive more overt negative feedback and become disengaged from further time here).

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