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I wanted to check the FAQ to see if there was a guide on giving good answers, and I couldn't find one. Am I blind? Should this be added?

What made me think of it is a common theme in bad answers I have noticed recently. Usually involving the phrase, "I'm not sure but ..." or "I think...". My thought about answers like this is: The SO community is big enough that you should never answer if you're not sure. Someone is sure, and they will answer.

It might be nice to have a guide to refer to.

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2  
stackoverflow.com/questions/how-to-answer. You should have seen this the first time you tried posting an answer. In fact, I think you have to click a checkbox that says, "I have read and understand this." –  Robert Harvey Oct 12 '11 at 17:10
    
@RobertHarvey - stackoverflow.com/questions/ask-advice is the page which you see on your first answer. It has the same content, but adds the checkbox. You can check that checkbox multiple times, if you like. –  Kevin Vermeer Oct 12 '11 at 17:16

2 Answers 2

up vote 9 down vote accepted

My thought about answers like this is: The SO community is big enough that you should never answer if you're not sure. Someone is sure, and they will answer.

This isn't necessarily true. SO is big enough that there are questions on obscure technologies or edge-cases that very few people have ever encountered, and situations that may be exceedingly difficult to reproduce.

There can be a fine line between thoughtless guessing and psychic debugging at times... That said, I agree that answers from folks who don't know what they're talking about are not ideal. "Here's a link to a MSDN topic that shares some keywords with your question, good luck..." answers are the sort of trash that makes me avoid the MSDN forums.

The solution? Down-vote them.

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I don't mind downvoting answers that are poor quality. However, many of these poor answers come from folks who are really trying to help, but are new enough to stack exchange that they may not fully understand the difference between stack exchange and a traditional forum. I agree that guidelines for what constitutes "good" answers in the FAQ would be helpful.

If my first experience at stackoverflow were downvotes, I might never have come back. However, if the comments included reasons (backed up by a pointer to some actual guidelines), I would have caught on quickly. Now that I review the occasional question, if I could point a newbie who posted a poor answer to a FAQ that explains what constitutes a good answer, and the difference between stackexchange answers and traditional forums, reviewing would be easier.

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