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Two samples from the last 24h:

  • I read a question about a android beginner (his background was PHP) and he asked a question about the order of methods in Java/Android (showing no knowledge of OOP)
  • Read a question where someone described his problem in a way that it was very clear for me that he has near none basic knowledge of what he was trying to do (missing basic knowledge by lack of correct terminology)

I tried once or twice pointing out the missing knowledge and that they should start by learning some basics.

Result was basically that my answer was either ignored or got downvoted. So I deleted it because it's, of course, not a real answer to the question (so visitors will not find the answer they were looking for)...

If I provided a real answer, the result is mostly the same: a lot of follow up questions in the comments that only shows that I was right and the basics aren't there...

So my short question: How can I (or the community) handle such questions? Ignore them? Point them to a tutorial? Tell them directly that they need some knowledge about keyword?

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up vote 12 down vote accepted

Just walk away.

You are under no obligation to provide an answer, nor do you have to comment.

I've had this a few times where I provided a basic answer and/or comment to such a question and the OP kept coming back for more. Eventually you just have to stop and ignore them - which is hard.

So now if I think the question requires a major investment in time I simply don't bother at all. There are plenty of other good questions that are answerable.

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+1 for walk away. Maybe comment if you feel it's worth it – Pëkka Feb 17 '11 at 12:22
@Warren - I didn't mean to say that. I do answer basic questions where the question is specific and clear. It's questions of the type you mention that I don't answer. – ChrisF Feb 17 '11 at 12:32
@Warren Where does ChrisF say that he doesn't answer basic questions? (Edit: Ah, ChrisF beat me to the punch) – Pëkka Feb 17 '11 at 12:33
ok, I thought twice about that but still missunderstood you, sorry (wasn't what I expected from you :) ) @Pekka: I guess my english understanding is the reason for the missunderstanding :/ still learning – WarrenFaith Feb 17 '11 at 12:34

Well, you can give correct answer and also point to some tutorials in your answer. If you do not want to give an answer and just suggest the OP to learn basics, then you can put it in a comment instead of answer.

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facepalm, right... I didn't consider to do both... anyway, I am interested in the way you or other handle those cases... thanks – WarrenFaith Feb 17 '11 at 12:16
@WarrebFaith - In some cases, I have left comment to OP to suggest, he ought to understand what he is asking, but generally if its easy to answer, I just add correct answer or give some hints so that OP can find the answer. Ofcourse I give links to tutors too. :) – Sachin Shanbhag Feb 17 '11 at 12:19
@WarrenFaith - Finally it all depends really on question. Some question which you think is very easy for you, could just be difficult for OP and hence he has asked. In some cases, OP is just lazy to search and asks easy questions. – Sachin Shanbhag Feb 17 '11 at 12:20
could just be difficult for OP and hence he has asked those guys mostly create good questions with code and explanations. the later one mostly just asked with one line... so I decide on the effort of the OP if its worth the time to create a good answer. Thanks for your input! – WarrenFaith Feb 17 '11 at 12:25
@WarrenFaith - yes, if OP does not bother about constructing proper question, neither should you bother to give proper answer. @ChrisF has some good points in his answer too. But again, I feel like doing it. Its left to users ;) – Sachin Shanbhag Feb 17 '11 at 12:28

Remember that this user may not be the only one looking for this information. Even though the subject and your answer may be too much for the asker right now, others who are more experienced may happen across your answer later when searching for the same thing. Even the asker may come back later, after they've learned more about the subject, although this is unlikely.

I tend to answer the question, or at least its spirit, even if I think the asker won't understand what I'm talking about, and then follow up with a link to some entry-level tutorials. I've personally benefited from extremely detailed answers that others have left to which were beyond the experience level of the asker.

For example, this question was clearly asked by someone just getting started with the iPhone, but I gave a more technical answer. The original asker probably didn't fully grasp what I was talking about, but others found it useful (although many of those votes were in sympathy for the answer originally being downvoted).

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interesting point, thank you for sharing – WarrenFaith Feb 17 '11 at 16:35

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