I encountered a non-answer earlier, the essence of which was "try these particular debugging strategies to find out what's actually happening." It didn't actually attempt to answer the question, though, as the OP hadn't yet provided enough information to reliably reproduce the problem. While considering flagging or downvoting the answer, I noticed again the tooltip text for the upvote and downvote buttons:
- This answer is useful.
- This answer is not useful.
Now, perhaps the text "this answer" is supposed to restrict the applicability to actual answers (i.e., it could be read as "This is, in fact, an answer, and this answer is useful." The (non-)answer already has two upvotes, and I agree that it is useful (it may end up helping the OP find a solution to the problem), but it's not really an answer. A later user with the same problem wouldn't be able to fix the problem with this answer; they'd have to follow the same debugging process and hope to have at least as much luck as the original OP did.
What do people typically do in this case? I'm tempted to flag as "not an answer" and simultaneously upvote for the "good advice" factor (after all, it is useful), but that feels a bit weird. We should definitely be flagging, but should any voting occur? I think what this really boils down to is:
- Should we vote at all on non-answers?
- If we do vote, do we:
- vote on the content as what it is (i.e., whether it's useful in some way or not) and treat voting as orthogonal to whether it's an answer or not; or
- downvote because it's not useful as an answer to the specific question.
Note 1: If we take approach 2.1 and vote on the content as useful or not, then that's an argument for preserving upvotes during the answer to comment conversion, but that's not the topic of this question. It's discussed in Answers converted to comments should retain upvotes .
Note 2: As an aside, this is distinct from the problem mentioned in Why do people upvote obvious non-answers? where the non-answers are of the "I have this problem, too!" variety.