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Should we flag tiny "Have you tried this..?" type of answers?

I have been always inconsistent to this type of answers about in flagging part. Based on this example;

  • If this answer is a question (just for asking if he/she tried it or not), it should be a comment.
  • This answer could be as a comment also and it would be better as a comment. But I don't think writing it as answer is wrong because the suggestion/solution could be the right answer also.

I always feel unstable when I see answers like that.

What is the right act to this type of answers? Should I flag them?

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If you can remove "have you tried this?" from the answer and it still makes sense is there any need to flag? Personally, I really dislike these... – ben is uǝq backwards May 30 '13 at 11:24
@benisuǝqbackwards I don't like them either. I'm talking about only "have you tried this?" type answers so If I remove this part, the answer will be blank :) – Soner Gönül May 30 '13 at 11:27
Downvote them. That's what I do. – BoltClock's a Unicorn May 30 '13 at 11:34
@BoltClock'saUnicorn Hmm, yes downvoting can be another option. Also it sounds a better option than flagging. – Soner Gönül May 30 '13 at 11:40
@BoltClock'saUnicorn: I would leave a comment instead of downvoting, as I loose 1 point in downvoting. – Anoop Vaidya May 30 '13 at 11:43
@AnoopVaidya At 19K rep, you are still concerned about losing 1 point for downvoting an answer? – Yannis May 30 '13 at 12:03
I downvote and flag. Not that I matter. – SomeShinyObject May 30 '13 at 12:06
@Yannis: Yes because of revenge serial and un-serial planned downvoting, you can check even in my best of answers, i have downvotes. – Anoop Vaidya May 30 '13 at 12:07
@AnoopVaidya So what? You clearly get a lot more upvotes than downvotes, stop worrying about your reputation. It's just magic unicorn points, completely meaningless. – Yannis May 30 '13 at 12:08
@Yannis: At times I did downvote. As of now 305 upvotes and 74 downvotes. :) – Anoop Vaidya May 30 '13 at 12:14
As someone who only recently started participating in the SE community, I welcome this kind of questions and discussions ;) – Pedro Stadler May 30 '13 at 20:04
Just a point @Anoop. You've voted less than 400 times, and only 305 upvotes. This means that you've given out an absolute maximum of 3,050 reputation to others but they've given 20k reputation to you? That's not very fair to the rest of the community. I guess I'm saying that if you see a good answer or question you should consider upvoting it. There's no requirement to do so but just remember the option's there. – ben is uǝq backwards Jun 1 '13 at 9:23
@benisuǝqbackwards: Yes you are correct, I will follow your words. Yesterday Only I awarded a bounty...just to start awarding points. – Anoop Vaidya Jun 1 '13 at 9:40
up vote 3 down vote accepted

I often see these kinds of answers when there are several possible solutions to the same problem. Have you tried method X with an explanation of X, can be a perfectly acceptable answer in these cases.

Sometimes people ask how to harpoon sardines, or other tiny fish, the answer could be to aim very carefully, but the better answer would be, use a net.

People may feel rude offering a directive in cases where they are aware that there are several possible solutions, to avoid being perceived as rude they may offer their answer in the form of a question.

As in: "Have you tried using a net? This is how I use a net..." or "Is there a reason you feel that you need a harpoon? I would use a net like this..."

Rather than: "Harpooning sardines won't work, use a net instead."

Granted this is an extreme example, and the reason for using one method over the other seems obvious, but in other cases, like catching a trout, a net may work just as well as a hook and line and it comes down to a personal preference.

I think, in many cases, its just an attempt at being polite, and being polite shouldn't be flagged or down-voted or edited out.

Quote from: Is it OK to suggest the OP change his approach in order to offer a new answer to the question ?

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What you're describing is a post that answers the question, but answers it in the form of a question. For a posts such as that it becomes a trivial grammatical edit to refactor it from a suggestion in the form of a question to a suggestion in the form of a command. Rather than having an answer say, "Have you tried Fooing the Bar?" it can simply say, "Foo the Bar". Rather than flagging the post as "not an answer" (because really it is, it doesn't need to be a comment) you can either edit it yourself, or post a comment on that answer asking the OP to refactor it into a statement rather than a question.

Now in the particular case of the answer you gave as an example, it's a very low quality answer for reasons rather unrelated to the fact that it's in the form of a question. It simply has no explanation, no depth to it, and I could understand someone wanting to downvote it for that reason.

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Have you tried posting a meta on the subject?

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I just couldn't resist the temptation... ;-) – Shai May 30 '13 at 15:06
-1. We hate fun. – djechlin May 30 '13 at 15:07
@djechlin - I can see that... – Shai May 30 '13 at 15:11
so people around here do have a sense of humor :-) – Shai May 30 '13 at 20:18
-1 + FNAA. Just testing Aschratt's answer ;) – Danubian Sailor May 31 '13 at 5:16
@ŁukaszLech what's FNAA? – Shai May 31 '13 at 6:05
Flag as not an answer, oh, I've forgot 1st point: "Edit it to improve the quality. " – Danubian Sailor May 31 '13 at 6:39
@ŁukaszLech - so how is it going with the flag? – Shai May 31 '13 at 6:43
@Shai: Neither could I. – BoltClock's a Unicorn May 31 '13 at 6:56
@BoltClock'saUnicorn - Thanks! – Shai May 31 '13 at 8:30

Depending on the quality of those answers you have three options:

  • Edit it to improve the quality.
  • Flag it, if you think the answer barely constructive.
  • Downvote it, if the statement of the answer is wrong and does not solve the question.

A good answer should not only provide a solution for a problem, it should also describe this solution. The example you pointed out does neither describe the problem that should be solved, nor the way it can be solved. This is a good indicator for low quality - and thus, I would flag it!

This was posted as an answer, but it does not attempt to answer the question. It should possibly be an edit, a comment, another question, or deleted altogether.

I can't see any attempt to form a quality answer like described above.

Also: How can a counter-question answer a question?

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"How can a counter-question answer a question?" Did you consider that the "question" might be a rhetorical question like this one and actually contain the answer? – Wooble May 30 '13 at 11:56
"How can a counter-question answer a question?" - errm, was that a counter-question? – Roger Rowland May 30 '13 at 11:57
@RogerRowland: Okay, you got me :D I've assumed the "counter-question" hasn't any rhetorical character. ;) – Aschratt May 30 '13 at 12:00

Usually, the answer, should give a solution (or try to give one). When a user posts an "Have you tried this?", maybe he/she's just trying to make it more visible than a comment.

I do agree with you with the fact that answers and comments should be differentiated in their using, but that also means OP's should acknowledge who gave the correct solution even in comments, wait for the solutor to post the answer and finally accept it; this doesn't happen all the times. And, by the way, it could be just a question so easy to answer that the user feels like "how can it be so simple? I need to post fast and correct, before anyone else, i need those rep points!" :)

So, what about flagging this kind of answers? Well, i think we have to check each case in its context. Regarding the question you linked, for example, we can see it could be a correct solution, so we could just edit the answer to make it look less like a question, for example in this way:

"You should use $V{PAGE_NUMBER}<2. Let us know if it helped you".

This way, it will not be an answer (and it doesn't make you unstable ;-) ), but still asks for some feedback from the OP.

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Answers don't need phrases like, "Let us know if it helped you." all answers are assumed to expect feedback, you don't need to say that on any of them. People will provide feedback (generally in the form of voting) on any posts that they want to. Such content is just noise and adds no value. You shouldn't be editing that into posts; in fact you should be editing it out of any posts that you see. – Servy May 30 '13 at 13:37
I do not completely agree. At least, we can't have a rule for that, since it always depends on many factors. At least, editing to remove the "implicit question" could be more useful, for certain posts, than flagging or down-voting a (possibly correct) answer. – Erenor Paz May 30 '13 at 13:41
I didn't disagree with that point at all. I did not suggest flagging or downvoting such answers. – Servy May 30 '13 at 13:42

For me "Have you tried" means that someone tries to be helpful, but is not sure if the solution will work or not.

On SE this doesn't belong to answer, it should be a comment. You answer only if you are sure that something should work, if you are not sure and you want to give a hint, post a comment.

The cited answer comes from new user, who probably was raised by PHPBB3 fora, and for him answer has the meaning of response. Flagging post and commenting would be the most appropriate. We think that the difference between comment or answer should be obvious, but obviously it isn't so for everyone.

Another possibility is that someone has made mistake and made an answer instead of comment. So it's best to wait a few minutes to give a chance to repair that mistake before locking answer by commenting or voting.

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