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There are often questions like:

My application crashes when doing X, this is my code, can you help me?

Now, if this question is in some areas, lets say , it usually means one of two-three options, but as long as you don't get more details (such as manifest XML and stack trace), you can't know. Is it legitimate to answer at this stage and say

well I can't know for sure, but it's probably Y, if you put more code we may give a better answer

or should we wait for more info? I have seen many answers like that and it kind of bothered me (although in the past I used to give such answers like that too)

Edit: I forgot to write the second part of the question - do such answers deserve downvote?

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If an answer is wrong, downvote and comment why. If the answer is crap or overly vague and says something to the effect of "..but provide more info" flag it not an answer. –  Yuck Dec 17 '11 at 20:59
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3 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I have seen plenty of occasions where several people posted provide-more-information comments to what they considered to be a “vague” question, but which I understood just fine. I usually edit the question to clarify it for others and post an answer if I have one.

The point is that while one person may not understand the question (especially from non-native English speakers), does not mean that the question is vague or insufficient; there may be others who do understand what is being asked.

As you mentioned, in some contexts, the full question can be derived because of limited scope. Moreover, sometimes what most people think is a vague question is painfully clear to someone else who has experienced the same thing.

If you do not think the question is clear or gives enough information, then go ahead and leave a comment for clarification (though one is enough, so if there is/are already such comments, then there is no need for more).

If you do understand a question that others have nagged about being vague, then feel free to answer it if you can, and even if you cannot, feel free to edit the question to clarify it for others.

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The ultimate goal however should be to make it so that the question is worded so that everyone understands it. –  Jeff Mercado Dec 17 '11 at 21:08
    
I agree with you, but my question is about those kind of questions that may have several answers, and you can't tell until you see more details. (And about people who answer to those questions....) –  MByD Dec 17 '11 at 21:21
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Like I said, if you know what is being asked, then go ahead and edit the question to make it clear for others. If you don’t, then just wait. –  Synetech Dec 17 '11 at 21:31
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Commenting and waiting for more info is the only right way to go IMO.

Answering without knowing all the facts necessary to give a good answer is adding clutter to the site. Granted, such answers will sometimes (rather accidentally) solve the OP's problem, but more often than not, they don't.

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I generally avoid spending brain cycles (err, cells) answering incomplete questions like that. I just post a comment asking for the missing information and wait until the OP responds, so that my answer will be more likely to be useful.

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