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I just stumbled across this question about jqgrid, which is clearly a question showing neither research effort nor code and failed attempts.

Now i left a comment for the OP to improve his question, and someone else provided an answer in the meantime. This answer might very well be a good solution, and is thus in itself not bad.

But this answering behaviour promotes asking 3-Line-Questions, without improving them in any way.


Should such Questions as above (and i know there are too many of them on SO) be answered, even if they are obviously not well asked, or should they be commented / flagged for NARQ (missing a good other term for that...) and not be answered to make OP improve the question?.

Of course there are questions, that may describe a Problem in 3 Lines, but I think they are extremely seldom.

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There are new close reasons which somewhat fulfills the role played by NARQ, e.g. "describe the specific problem — and include valid code" and "must demonstrate a minimal understanding of the problem being solved" – Old Checkmark Aug 21 '13 at 10:26
and how do you call it now?? also, what shall i do with these questions, if they are salvageable and asked by new users? i feel Downvote, Comment and flag are not the right way to go about this, but comment and wait for reactions... What to do if someone answers this question now?? – Vogel612's Shadow Aug 21 '13 at 10:31
You can find those predefined reasons under "off-topic" when you flag a question. Flag/voting-to-close is not the end of the road, OP is free to (and encouraged to) improved the question even if it is closed/put on hold. And just because someone answers a question, it doesn't mean that question shouldn't be flagged/closed if it is indeed a bad question. – Old Checkmark Aug 21 '13 at 10:34
@OldCheckmark i think you kinda miss my point. Even if such a question is closed, with an already given answer to solve the problem, these questions will most likely not be edited by OP, but left to be closed, as OP has "no benefit" from putting additional effort into his question – Vogel612's Shadow Aug 21 '13 at 10:37
If we don't close bad questions though, it would send the wrong message to users and visitors, saying that these kind of questions are okay and acceptable on SO. – Old Checkmark Aug 21 '13 at 10:40
@OldCheckmark that is correct, but the problem is a different for me. Should Answers be Allowed on Questions flagged "NARQ"? (again beacuse i miss a useful anagram) – Vogel612's Shadow Aug 21 '13 at 10:42
Personally, I would refrain from answering a problematic question e.g. when the question is unclear or OP doesn't show any attempt to solve the problem. I would flag the question instead. – Old Checkmark Aug 21 '13 at 10:51
@OldCheckmark The problem is other users do not refrain from answering such questions and then they need to be closed, because noone feels responsible anymore... – Vogel612's Shadow Aug 21 '13 at 10:52
up vote 5 down vote accepted

One of the most important aspects of closing a question is that it prevents answers being added. You can certainly say that "this question should be closed" and "this question should not be answered" are equivalent statements. In the old NARQ case, the question also could not be definitively answered, that's what NARQ meant - not answerable. Eg "Why is there a car outside my house?" or "which is better, dark or milk chocolate?"

If you're asking "should I answer a question that I think should be closed?" it's a tautology to say no, you shouldn't. Similarly, "should a person answer a question that same person thinks should be closed?" is a clear no. However, "should a person answer a question I think should be closed" is a horse of a different colour.

If you think a question needs to be closed, flag or vote to close. If you think an edit would improve the question, edit it. If you think a comment might move the asker to improve the question, leave a comment. If you think the question shouldn't be answered, don't answer it. Some people might join you in any of those actions. Others, for various reasons, might not. They might even go so far as to answer. That happens. Don't use up your energy worrying about that choice.

If you think the answer depends on an assumption that is not supported in the question, go ahead and comment on the answer, eg "that might work with Clang but what if the asker is using Visual Studio?" or a similar comment to indicate the answerer has made an assumption. Do not downvote a useful answer, or leave a snarky comment, when your only motivation is "we don't want to reward crappy questions by helping the people who ask them." That doesn't make the internet better. Go ahead and focus on improving the question. That does make the internet better.

One final trick: when a horrible question is nonetheless left open and psychically answered by someone who managed to figure out what was being asked, and the asker either accepts or otherwise indicates (comments, edits to question etc) that the answer is right, you can edit the question to match the answer, and leave a good answer/question pair for posterity.

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