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I've seen a question that was lacking information, but I think I guessed the OP^s problem.

Should I answer it anyway?
Should I wait for the OP to make the question better? (What if it never happens?)

Isn't it also somewhat risky?

You answer the partial question with what you think is the problem (and the appropriate solution). But later on, the OP edits the question and, well, you guessed wrong, making your answer totally irrelevant.

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Just ask the OP to clarify the question and answer when you're sure. There is no hurry. If you want to be the fastest, go ahead, but you might end up paying. –  Bart Oct 16 '12 at 19:52
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related: Speculative answers discouraged through downvoting –  Yannis Oct 16 '12 at 19:52
    
What if the OP never clarify? –  Kraz Oct 16 '12 at 20:34
    
@Kraz Then they don't get help with their problem. If it's clear that the question can't be answered without more info, and they won't give the "more info" then you could potentially close the question as "not a real question". –  Servy Oct 16 '12 at 21:03

2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Most of the time a simple comment asking for clarification is the best solution.

Sometimes I comment with things like "It sounds like XXXXX. Can you confirm this?" and typically I get a response from the OP. If positive, I can post my answer. If negative, I'll edit the question to include that information.

There are other times when I'm fairly positive I understand the problem and can provide a solution, even though the OP was a little unclear and I might be mistaken, so I'll post my answer anyways. In these cases I'll begin with something like "It sounds like you're trying to do xxxxx, so... " to be clear that my answer is based on a specific scenario. Often I'll also finish with something like "If this is not the case.... " and include an alternative solution for other scenarios if I can as well.

For me, the whole point of answering is to help people with problems. If my answer helps the OP, I've accomplished my goal. If I'm wrong with my guess, chances are someone will come along with a similar problem that matches my guess, and I end up helping someone else, also achieving this goal.

I guess the whole point is, if you have a good answer and are reasonably sure you know what the OP is asking, post your answer. Just be clear the answer is only valid for X situation.

If you're not sure, simply ask for clarification in a comment instead.

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It's fine to post an answer to a vague question, as long as you explain how you got there.

But I think from that moment on you have the responsibility to keep track of question development. If on further consideration the answer indeed is partial: expand. And when the answer deems not to be relevant: delete it.

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