What is meta? ×
Meta Stack Exchange is where users like you discuss bugs, features, and support issues that affect the software powering all 131 Stack Exchange communities.

Earlier I answered this question which later got closed because it is "too localized". I can see that argument (nobody else will ever run into the same SyntaxError ever again) so I am OK with that. My question is whether or not I should have answered at all.

I answer questions on SO because I like to be helpful. Not answering seems almost un-human, but I do understand that we don't want to reward users for asking questions that are too localized ... Thoughts?

(I suppose this question could be asked about any question which is likely to be closed, but it seems particularly applicable to the overly-localized questions).

share|improve this question
3  
It's OK to answer. –  nhahtdh Aug 28 '12 at 1:37
    
related: Why do high rep users answer bad questions? –  gnat Aug 28 '12 at 20:05

2 Answers 2

up vote 13 down vote accepted

Pros of answering obviously problematic questions:

  • You helped the OP solve their problem.

Cons of answering obviously problematic questions:

  • Closed questions are on a path to deletion, and your answer will go down with it if the question is eventually removed.
  • OP got what they were looking for without much effort, and may not realize that they need to put a little bit more effort in solving their own problems / asking better questions in the future.
  • Your answer offers a false sense of legitimacy to the question (the "how can it be not a real question if someone answered it" argument)

Personally I avoid answering obviously problematic questions, unless of course I can improve them before answering. I'll usually post a comment that can be anything from a full answer to just a hint towards the right direction, and then flag / vote to close (whichever applies).

That said, the worst thing that can happen if you decide to go for it and post an answer is the OP coming to Meta and posting a feverous rant about the closure, and how you "got it" while the evil close voters didn't. Well, I promise we won't hold it against you ;)

share|improve this answer
3  
Incidentally, this answer verbatim could apply to a question about answering homework questions. –  Tim Post Aug 29 '12 at 4:55
    
@TimPost -- Are all homework questions "on the path to deletion"? Also, when I see a question tagged as homework, my answers tend to look very different. Is that not the purpose of the homework tag? –  mgilson Aug 29 '12 at 11:54
    
Alright, nearly verbatim. But yes, quite a few [homework] questions find their way into that giant overly localized question archive in the sky. –  Tim Post Aug 29 '12 at 12:00

If you know the answer and want to help the user out by answering them, post your answer then vote to close. It would also be helpful to explain in a comment why you voted to close too.

This way the OP is left with a good impression of the site, and is much more likely to return and spend more time here. They'll probably also be more understanding about their question being closed too.

We're a site of volunteers, and I think its important to keep in mind that any new user could one day become a highly valued member of the community.

By simply closing the question without an answer, the OP will likely be unhappy that they didn't get an answer, and will be left feeling unwelcome or like such a site isn't for them, and there's a good chance they'll go elsewhere on the internet seeking answers. Of course, such things can't really be helped if the problem is localized enough that nobody can answer it, but in this situation that is not that case.

share|improve this answer
    
By simply closing the question without an answer, the OP will likely be unhappy that they didn't get an answer, and will be left feeling unwelcome or like such a site isn't for them, and there's a good chance they'll go elsewhere on the internet seeking answers. You say that like it's a bad thing ;P –  Yannis Aug 29 '12 at 4:38
    
On a more serious note, a few times I followed your approach I was barked at for "being dishonest" (rep whoring with an answer while voting to close) - But I usually don't follow your approach, my data set is very small and my experiences might be way off the norm. –  Yannis Aug 29 '12 at 4:41
1  
If the answer is easy to give, I'll give an answer to a question that is likely to be closed, especially when the asker is a newcomer, simply so that the user gets some positive impressions from the site. I'll also write comments about how the question should be improved, and I'll vote to close too. If that's rep-whoring, I'm a rep-whore. –  Jonathan Leffler Aug 29 '12 at 5:50

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .