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How do you deal with cases where a user asks a naive question expecting a nice simple solution to a complex problem, but then isn't happy with an answer that exposes the true difficulty of the problem.

For example: How do I easily create a VS extension to do X? (let X be some non-trivial task)

Of course, there often isn't a very easy solution- the user will have to build a Visual Studio extension, implement a handful of ugly IVs* interfaces, etc.

Lets say I spend some time explaining the scope of the problem and provide resources for getting started with a pretty big task. In most cases I'll get a response back with something like "I really wanted something simple".

How do you deal with cases where people asking these sorts of questions really don't want to see an answer that will make them learn something new? The question will likely never be answered again because there just isn't a simple solution to these sorts of problems. The answer will never be accepted because the user wasn't happy with it. Nobody wins!

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Write a GUI interface in Visual Basic to track down their IP, find their home, kick down their door and demand they stop listening to Rush Limbaugh –  random Jun 29 '11 at 14:30
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close and damn the fanny pains. –  Won't Jun 29 '11 at 14:56

3 Answers 3

up vote 9 down vote accepted

You simply answer the question to the best of your ability. There really isn't a lot more that you can do. Depending on the specific situation I suppose that you could point them in a direction that would lead to them understanding the true complexity of the situation, but if they don't want to learn or can't learn then you can't force them to.

The other thing to remember is that while you are definitely trying to help the OP of the question, the StackExchange model is that you are really trying to answer the question for all the people that have never even asked it yet. So if you feel that the OP is not "getting it", just focus on all the future folks that you have helped and probably will get it.

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Yeah, I agree... it is just frustrating because it feels like the OP doesn't appreciate your time or help. –  Matt Jun 29 '11 at 14:32

If the answer is good and correct, other members will upvote it and you will get fame and reputation.

The meager 15 points or maybe 25 if the OP also upvote is nothing compared to the 100+ you can get easily from the community itself for really good answers.

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indeed the number one answer of all time is a very funny way to say "that's way harder than you think, perhaps even impossible". stackoverflow.com/questions/1732348/… Not that you should emulate it, more that it's possible to give a great answer to a horrible question, if you're up for it. –  Kate Gregory Jun 29 '11 at 15:12

If it's just not accepting answer, then don't worry about it, just answer the question. If it's popular question you will get up-votes.

IMO, much more annoying is situation, where such a user down-votes correct answers or flags them as "not real answers", while expecting someone to come up with a simple solution.

Same for "gimmi teh codez" kind of behavior. User will down-vote any answer, which doesn't contain code ready to cut'n'paste.

Frankly I don't know what can be done in such situations. As questions from such users tend to also be of not greatest quality, I tend to flag them for closing as "not a real question".

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