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Is there a policy on dangerous answers?

I sometimes see questions where people are asking how to do something that someone who knows better knows not to do (this question is the one that inspired this question).

I get torn when I see questions like this. On one hand, not giving the answer because it's really poor style seems overly paternalistic. On the other hand, giving an answer can allow less experienced developers to shoot themselves in the foot.

I'm curious how others approach this dilemma.

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migrated from stackoverflow.com Jan 30 '10 at 0:13

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marked as duplicate by Pops, ChrisF, Toon Krijthe, jonsca, animuson Sep 21 '12 at 23:55

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3 Answers 3

I think it is better to give the answer, with all the known caveats, instead of not giving any answer at all.

If the person is determined, google might eventually turn up an answer, without those caveats. At least if you yourself post an answer, you can make sure you put every effort into making sure the person asking is told exactly why this approach is a bad idea.

For instance, a google search on how to terminate a .NET thread will give you the documentation page for Thread.Abort, you won't find much information telling you that this is usually a monumentally bad idea to do.

If you answer the question, you have a chance of pointing the person asking in the right direction instead.

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My take on this is:

If they are trying to do something really dangerous or stupid, step up and tell them.

If they are asking a question that shows they're making a poor design choice, answer the question if you want to, and point out that you wouldn't do it.

I think in general, it's absolutely valid to point out mistakes or stupid choices. It's one of the advantages of getting feedback from the community. Just don't forget that someone may be in a real situation, having real problems, and couldn't care less about comments on how this and that pattern learned at Uni would have solved it way better. It's a question of individual judgement in every case, really.

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Maybe you should look from the other side, if you know what I mean. I often see questions like that being answered with things like "don't do that!" or "why? it's bad practice!" even without knowing if guy is just looking for an explanation. In fact, most of the answers I see don't give any explanation at all. It's something like "just do what I'm telling you to do".

I don't know about the other people, but I'm a guy who do asks questions to find some information other that "don't do it". And because of that, I tend to give all the information I can, trying to explain how it could be done and why it shouldn't. And I would be glad if everyone did it...

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