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Today I answered a question and the user was not satisfied with my answer because I didn't fix his problem exactly.

I taught him the way and what to do, like: "go this way and you'll find the solution here." I didn't just send him a link, but showed how I would go about it with a sample code of mine and he was complaining, "that's not what I wanted, I don't see my img tag or my div tag."

I know this is a Q&A but what should I do about people asking for complete solutions and not wanting to understand the ideas?

Should I ignore him? Or should I report him? Or should I just tell him that I gave only directions and he can find his solution on his own?

I'm not saying that he must be punished, I just want to know what is the best way to deal with this kind of user.

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Someone recently managed to find my email address (I assume they had to go through my SO profile page to my website) and email me their question when I failed to answer it satisfactorily for them! I just ignored them, as I (and others) had already explained what is expected in a good question. –  James Allardice Jul 17 '12 at 21:03
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You're volunteering your time, you're not beholden to that guy. If you don't feel like helping anymore, walk away. –  Pops Jul 17 '12 at 21:03
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What @Pop just wrote should be an answer. –  Shog9 Jul 17 '12 at 21:04
    
Mrozek already said it under another question; I'm searching for that other question. EDIT: ah, here it is. Turns out it wasn't a duplicate. –  Pops Jul 17 '12 at 21:05
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related: How to deal with “debug my homework” questions? –  gnat Jul 17 '12 at 21:54
    
two things, 1st how do you know the poster was a man/guy and 2nd close as too localized is always an option. –  bestsss Jul 17 '12 at 22:39
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@bestss i can't call someone "it" and other user edited my question to fix my bad english. So I believe the terms he/she or him/her is up to the editor who fixed it. And about your second point, I didn't understand your question. What do you mean with "too localized"? –  Nicos Karalis Jul 18 '12 at 2:05
    
"too localized" is a closure type. I think it was 2k reputation when you can cast close votes and you can opt to close as 'too localized' –  bestsss Jul 21 '12 at 17:20
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4 Answers

up vote 16 down vote accepted

It is your answer and it is up to you how much you want to give the user without them making an effort.

Personally, when answering a question I try to judge the level in which to answer based on the level of the question. I will not normally give a "full" and complete answer but enough of one that will show the OP the way forward. After all, we try to teach people here (give a man a fish and all that...).

Sometimes, if asked nicely, I will add more detail, in particular if my answer could be construed as vague or is lacking in details that I assumed would be self evident.

Frankly, if the OP is rude (i.e. demands that I chew his food for him, now), I have been known to delete my answer.

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At first I liked the karmic solution of deleting your answer, but on second thought it's a little over the top. Consider the Googlers! –  Mark Ransom Jul 17 '12 at 21:18
    
@Oded what do you mean by "OP"? And thanks for your answer but I don't care about removing the answer, like Mark said. I'm also a googler. And sometimes is very hard to find an answer. –  Nicos Karalis Jul 18 '12 at 2:09
    
@NicosKaralis, "OP" is a term used to denote the "original post" or "original poster" in a threaded discussion. While SO isn't a threaded discussion forum, the term can still apply to the question or the person that asked the question. –  Charles Jul 18 '12 at 4:33
    
@MarkRansom - Extreme measures. It is not something I normally do, but if someone starts being abusive... –  Oded Jul 18 '12 at 8:42
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Don't Skimp on Code

Abstract questions often elicit abstract answers. I think it's usually best to actually solve someone's code problem if it's focused enough, rather than hand-wave an explanation. Likewise, code without explanation is rarely the right thing to do, even if the code is technically correct.

You Aren't Paid to Write Their Code

Rewriting someone's wall of code, or trying to answer a question that requires a bazillion LOC to answer properly, is certainly not a reasonable expectation. Plus, "do it for me" questions are usually poor-quality questions in other regards, and should be treated accordingly.

For example, if a question has no code samples, test corpus, or sample output, I usually do the following:

  1. Ask them to post some code, some samples to test against, or the expected output. In some cases, they really need to post all three to have a valid question.

  2. If they don't clarify their question in a reasonable period of time, then I'll downvote the post for not being clear. New users get more slack in this regard; folks with 500-1000+ rep ought to know better.

  3. If they don't improve their post after another interval, I vote to close. In this case, "Not a Real Question" is often appropriate, but it's certainly something I look at on a case-by-case basis.

I prefer to give people a chance to improve their posts first, but some posts are intuitively lost causes from the beginning. In the end, it's your vote and your judgment call.

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I would just calmly explain exactly why you did not specify the exact answer. This will probably be something along the lines that the question is relatively basic and he or she will learn more by searching with guidance. The old "teach someone to fish instead of giving him a fish" is also a nice illustration.

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If it is a question that won't help future visitors because his problem is very specific:

  • downvote it because it is not useful to the site
  • don't post an answer because he will keep asking similar questions

But, in the case the question can help future visitors:

  • write an answer if you know the answer and have the time
  • try to look for a reason to edit the question, if there are enough things to edit, make the edit and try to disguise the keywords that are making that question an obvious "gimme teh codez"

Also, I don't know if it is just me, but the less research or attempt to solve the problem prior to posting it, the less I feel like writing complete answers. In these cases I usually just list the steps to follow and let him do the rest.

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