If I have a particular problem with an answer that was accepted for a question that I did not ask, is it acceptable for me to identify problems with that answer?

An example of this situation is below:

Q: How do I make a cup of tea?

✓ A: You pour the milk in the cup, add hot water then put in a teabag.

My comment on the answer after it was accepted: Actually, you tend to scald the milk if you do it that way.

Is it acceptable to point this out to people who may happen upon the page from a Google search? Should I perhaps start a new question with a more explicit premise such as: How do I make a cup of tea without scalding my milk? Would that be considered a duplicate?

  • 10
    This is exactly the right context in which to make a comment. Is there some factor that's leading you to believe otherwise?
    – jonsca
    Jul 29 '12 at 3:24
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    Yes, the following exchange makes me uncertain. stackoverflow.com/questions/6238805/…
    – user191837
    Jul 29 '12 at 3:25
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    "But that messes up the line height of my content" (emphasis mine). If your situation is even slightly different than that of the OP, you are technically asking about a different problem. Is it against the rules? No. It's not going to get you the help that you need, though. I would phrase your response to it more like jmort suggests.
    – jonsca
    Jul 29 '12 at 3:31
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    Related: skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/9609/…
    – Mat
    Jul 29 '12 at 4:58

Comments from the answer you cite:

But that messes up the line height of my content. – Geoist yesterday

@Geoist This answers the OP's question. You should ask a new question since you seem to have different requirements. – melhosseiny yesterday

Thanks for the suggestion, but I'm intelligent enough to solve my own problems. The comment is only for the consideration of future users who are less experienced and wondering why the solution isn't working for them. – Geoist 18 mins ago

Geoist, the difference between the two scenarios is that you say "this messes up the line height of my content." The way you said it makes it sound like you're another user with a similar but different problem, which oftentimes happens to new users that don't yet understand that comments and answers are not intended to ask new questions.

Perhaps this answer doesn't mess up the op's line height and is a solid answer for that particular problem, but you're implying that it messes up yours.

In this case, it sounds like the answer answered the op's question, and I suspect the other user was suggesting you ask a new question because he/she thought you were confused.

Consider a comment along these lines:

One thing to be careful of is that this doesn't mess up your line height. It might work in this specific case, but it might not solve every problem.

In conclusion, polite, constructive comments that help improve an answer or question are always encouraged. Hope this helps!

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    I'd like to mention, as Ernest Friedman-Hill points out, that the 2nd comment left by Geoist that you quoted is unacceptably rude. It certainly doesn't qualify as "polite, constructive comments." +1 to your answer. Jul 29 '12 at 5:04

My contribution to this discussion is in regard to the bolded passage in the comment here:

Thanks for the suggestion, but I'm intelligent enough to solve my own problems. The comment is only for the consideration of future users who are less experienced and wondering why the solution isn't working for them. – Geoist 18 mins ago

I see you've edited your comment since this was posted, so perhaps you've already realized this, but: this comment is not cool. You're implying that folks who do ask questions are less intelligent, somehow. This is not only nasty, but untrue; knowing what you don't know, and need to ask about, is the mark of a highly intelligent person. Don't be dissing all the question-askers on StackExchange, or you'll find yourself being treated as persona non grata PDQ.

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    Not to beat a dead horse, but this is a great point to make Ernest. Without questions, there could be no answers. We should always strive to treat question askers like gold, without lowering our standards, of course :)
    – jmort253
    Jul 29 '12 at 5:09

It is fine if you do that, as long as your comment is pertinent with what asked from the OP, and you say that nicely. If you just say, for example, "this didn't work for me," that is not much helpful.
You can warn the future readers the answer could cause some issues, or it is applicable in specific contexts, in the same way you can comment saying the answer is not actual anymore, and there is a better way to resolve the issue, or do what the OP asked.

In the latter case, you could also add a new answer; if you don't have time for that, or you cannot provide more information in that right moment, you can also write a comment.


An accepted answer is not sacred. At the moment of accepting it best answers the question in OP's opinion. Both time and person are relevant.

I've seen several times that the first answer given was accepted within a minute after posting. It is possible that the question is so straightforward that there is an obvious and perfect answer, but most of the time different points of view are possible. I have told OP on different occasions that it may be better to wait with accepting until there are a few more answers, or at least a day or so. Questions with an accepted answer attract less new answers.

Then OP may find it the best answer, but I've seen accepted answers with a net -3 in votes. For such answers I may ask OP to reconsider his accept.

So if an accepted answer doesn't work for you, you can downvote it as "not useful", and please leave a comment to the answerer why, so he gets the chance to fix it. If it looks unlikely that the accepted or any of the other answers will solve it for you, ask a new question, and also refer to the other one, to avoid getting the same answers.

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