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So as I've seen this way of answering a few times since I started to use SE, I was wondering if answering a question in the form of another question is really a good thing. For example this:

image

I mean SE answers are not just a guess, it should be accurate answers that are applicable to the problem. Beginner or not, I think the OP want a precise answer.

If you don't understand exactly what the question asks, it would be better to comment on the question and ask the OP to clarify than to just write an answer that may or may not be off topic don't you think?

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That screenshot doesn't look like a question or a guess to me? –  Merlyn Morgan-Graham Nov 19 '11 at 4:43
    
Well if it's not a guess, why the "Like this?" and not "What you're looking for is: ..."? –  talnicolas Nov 19 '11 at 4:46
    
@talnicoals: Oh you're right. That bled into the question for me while I was trying to read it. I was just looking at the code :) –  Merlyn Morgan-Graham Nov 19 '11 at 4:47
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Er. Why did you blur the name? The answer is here for anyone that wants to see the question –  Michael Mrozek Nov 19 '11 at 4:47
    
@MichaelMrozek Just didn't want people to think that I was jealous not to get up-votes ;) (as I answered before him, but it's another matter) –  talnicolas Nov 19 '11 at 4:48
    
I agree with the title. But like @Merlyn Morgan-Graham says, this doesn't look like a guess. It could probably be a little better explained and less doubtful sounding but hey-ho –  Ross Drew Nov 27 '13 at 8:18

6 Answers 6

If you don't understand exactly what the question asks, it would be better to comment on the question and ask the OP to clarify than to just write an answer that may or may not be off topic don't you think?

It depends how sure you are. If you leave a comment and it turns out it was the right answer, you need to delete it and repost as an answer (losing any upvotes the comment may have had), and meanwhile other people who didn't bother to get clarification will have posted the answer ahead of you and gotten upvotes. If you're pretty sure you know what the asker wanted, just post an answer. If they comment and say it's not what they meant, it's not the end of the world; just delete the answer

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So up-votes are ruling SO, not expertise and good answers? –  talnicolas Nov 19 '11 at 4:50
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+1; The system seems to be built this way. I have lost some rep for sure by hesitating and posting the correct answer in a comment, or asking for clarification instead of just charging ahead and answering. I also have rarely been penalized for giving bad answers as other people corrected me very quickly and I simply deleted my answer, or edited my answer to fix the bad parts. –  Merlyn Morgan-Graham Nov 19 '11 at 4:52
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@talnicolas Huh? If you have the right answer then yes, getting upvotes on it is good; you deserve it for helping someone. If you don't, they'll tell you by leaving a comment and you can delete it. Why is posting an answer and getting a "no, that's not what I meant" comment worse than posting a comment and getting a "no, that's not what I meant" comment? –  Michael Mrozek Nov 19 '11 at 4:52
    
@MichaelMrozek I understand what you mean, my impression was just that SO is a place where every type of person come (every age, level, culture, countries...) and that what is really important is the precision of the answers. I mean you can be wrong when affirming something, it's ok (if you're corrected afterward of course), but I just felt like guessing was not the best way to go. –  talnicolas Nov 19 '11 at 4:57

I mean SE answers are not just a guess, it should be accurate answers that are applicable to the problem. Beginner or not, I think the OP want a precise answer.

Says who?

All the OP and perhaps future viewers want is help with the problem they're facing. Sometimes a good guess is better than nothing. And always waiting for perfect clarity would create a burden that in my opinion would be detrimental.

From your comments

So up-votes are ruling SO, not expertise and good answers?

Well yes. If you gamify a system people will play it. I'd say that on balance this has led to a much better system than the old way but not every outcome is perfect.

I just felt like guessing was not the best way to go.

You're totally right on that. An authoritative well written correct answer is much better than guessing. But we're not all Jon Skeet who always gives answers without guessing. But then again neither is he*

Finally note: There is a possibility that we're talking about language. The answerer may just be unnecessarily equivocating perhaps due to writing style. And really does being sure about something make you right?

I'm being cute here of course. His guesses are better then most peoples authoritative answers

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I'm going to play devil's advocate here. You state:

I mean SE answers are not just a guess, it should be accurate answers that are applicable to the problem. Beginner or not, I think the OP want a precise answer.

The wording of your own answer makes it sound like you're not 100% certain either:

You could concatenate your string with something like:

Why not use should instead?

The accepted answer even starts with a question:

It looks like you want something memorable for repetitive use?

You could argue the same thing.

I don't think there's anything wrong with either answer, a lot of solutions to problems come from suggestion rather than assertion, as in "here try this". I think you're being a wee bit pedantic here.

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I used to put my guesses in the comments on the grounds that I didn't want my answer to make the question look answered -- after all, I was guessing.

However, I now think guesses deserve to be answers because answers provide the best possible mechanism for the community to demonstrate that I guessed wrong -- down votes.

Giving guesses in comments began to feel like dodging down votes. Guesses in comments have to be rebutted in comments, which takes away from any conversation that might be required. A down vote makes it clear that my answer isn't The Right Answer, comments on it can explain why, and if it is so bad, it is easy for other people to delete my answer for me, if it takes me too long to do so.

Asking for more information should be a comment. A guess based on uncertainty of knowledge should be an answer, so that it can stand for judgment by the community.

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You can flag "not an answer" on answers that don't actually answer the question. Then let mods decide. I'd recommend you do this on more egregious violations, as I've gotten several mis-flags this way, but the feature is there.

If the guess is correct and is useful to the OP, then we wouldn't want to discourage people from giving such an answer. This might or might not match your scenario, but I think there are degrees and shades here that we haven't discussed.

For example, if an answer says "I think this will solve your problem, but I couldn't try it to be sure. Let me know if it doesn't and I can clarify" - would that qualify as a guess to you or an answer? (Note: I'm doing that in this answer. Right now! I'm asking for clarification while "answering")

If another answer ends up being better or more authoritative, that doesn't guess and provides explanation of why the original problem exists and how the fix solves the problem, then I would assume it would get more upvotes and may be converted to be the accepted answer.

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While I wouldn't want to encourage 'guessing' I don't think we should penalize wrong answers with a not an answer flag. They're not "not answers", they're just wrong. That means we should be downvoting them, and imo we should post why we feel they're wrong if it hasn't already been done. But a wrong answer is still an answer. I think of it as an empty string, but not null :-) (Hey I'm on Stack Overflow I can be nerdy without negative repercussions right?) –  corsiKa Nov 19 '11 at 6:12
    
@glowcoder: You don't need my permission to nerd out! So, I agree with your point. I'm not condoning inappropriate flagging. In fact I was trying to warn against it as I've tread the line and fallen on the wrong side a couple times. The example in the OP shouldn't be flagged. But I can think of examples that match the OP title that should be flagged. –  Merlyn Morgan-Graham Nov 19 '11 at 6:22

Let answer this with a question...

Should people that ask about votes they don't like get downvoted?

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Yes this answer is good because as you can probably see, this question is tagged discussion. But tell me if I'm wrong, I've never seen such a tag on SO. But thanks for the downvote, as I was stating in a previous comment I blured the the name of the person who answered because I didn't want people to think I was jealous. I was just trying to begin a discussion, but I guess meta is not the good place either. –  talnicolas Nov 19 '11 at 17:59

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