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  • Sometimes we get questions where the problem can't be reproduced given the information OP mentioned.

  • Sometimes we get questions where OP posts code and asks why the code doesn't work where in fact the code does work.

Here is one recent example I just ran into in the edit queue. However, we've all seen them.

In the example rekire answered the question basically saying "When using your code in an isolated environment it works. This is not the first or tenth time I've seen these sort of answer.

Should users post these sort of answers? Are they useful for the site? Why?

Note: This is not about whether or not to close such questions. I think that's clear.

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    Another example that I'd say I wasted time on: stackoverflow.com/questions/17155269/… – Joe Frambach Jun 18 '13 at 20:38
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    Uh a meta question about one of my answers. That is new for me^^ – rekire Jun 18 '13 at 20:41
  • @rekire I'm genuinely curios how the community feels about this :) If you'd like to argue why you felt posting the answer was the correct thing that could be nice :) – Benjamin Gruenbaum Jun 18 '13 at 20:43
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You should post a comment if you can't reproduce the problem the OP states. You could even close the question as "Not a real question" (soon to be changed to "unclear what you're asking") because the question is incomplete and can't be answered as it currently stands.

By answering the question you're essentially saying that everything is working just fine, and the OP is crazy and thinks they have a problem when they don't. Such a question wouldn't be useful to anyone else; it's the definition of "too localized".

By closing (soon to be putting on hold) the question you're assuming that there really is a problem in there somewhere, you just can't figure out what is is because you don't have enough information. Once you get that information you will then be able to reopen the question and post a proper solution to the OP's problem.

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  • I think one man's "unclear" is another man's "learning opportunity". If SO can be considered a playground of people trying to help each other get up the rope ladder, that is. On the other hand, some questions are just ridiculous. I would only caution, try not to be too judicious with the "Not a real question" stuff. – AMayes Jun 18 '13 at 23:56
  • @AMayes The entire point of my answer is not that you wouldn't help someone. The point is that trying to answer a question when there isn't enough information to actually answer it is actually harmful. You increase the odds of getting an answer by closing the question, ensuring the clarifying questions are asked and answered such that the question becomes answerable, and then reopening it and providing an answer. Leaving incomplete questions open results in people posting low quality answers that don't actually answer the question. – Servy Jun 19 '13 at 13:52
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I've had opportunity to do this quite a few times, and I always post it as a comment. Most times, someone will come by and post (basically) my comment as an answer. That is frustrating.

I would say no, posting such answers is not acceptable. They ought to be comments, as it does not answer the question.

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  • I see where you're coming from. That is frustrating. I was frustrated by this once but I've come to understand it's really not a big issue since these sort of questions get deleted anyway. – Benjamin Gruenbaum Jun 18 '13 at 21:11
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This question doesn't make sense in a perfect world.

Is an example of about how helpful a similar answer for a coding question is.

At best, the statement should be a comment. At worst, the question should be removed (if the asker refuses to clarify).

It's in the ilk of responses with "Works on my machine". Obviously there is something else going on, and the question requires further clarification on the poster's part.

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An answer which should be a comment would be in the form of "It works on my machine!".

However, rekire's answer contains a link to a demo, and a brief piece of text explaining an aspect of the question. I don't see it as a bad answer so much as making the best of a subpar situation and at least trying to put something helpful up there for the OP. Reproductions often help people who are learning.

Really, the OP in this question is confused. They think that javascript:... will execute inside of an anchor tag when added to the DOM which just isn't the case. Who knows how they managed to execute a script alerting without managing to force an anchor tag to not alert when clicked. The question clearly lacks a lot of information and understanding.

The question should be closed as it stands, but posting an answer which is at least somewhat constructive doesn't seem unacceptable.

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    The very definition of closing is saying that you don't think the question ought to be answered. If you feel a question ought to be answered then you don't think that it should be closed. If you think that the answer given was helpful, despite not being a proper answer, my response is "why couldn't it have been a comment"? He could have included enough of the important information in a comment (thanks to the fiddle link) without needing to post an answer. If it eventually transformed into an answer with further clarifications from the OP, then great. – Servy Jun 18 '13 at 20:57
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    @Servy Related Why do some answer and close. – Benjamin Gruenbaum Jun 18 '13 at 21:02
  • @BenjaminGruenbaum - Thanks, I was looking for that post. Pretty much what that says. Sometimes it is at least polite to post a simple answer while closing so the OP has some idea. Could it have been a comment? Probably, I usually leave something along the lines of "I could not duplicate your problem: jsfiddle.net link". – Travis J Jun 18 '13 at 21:05
  • @BenjaminGruenbaum Note the date on that post. The site was much less strict at that point in time. There were fewer very low quality questions (especially in proportion to those of acceptable/high quality) and simply as a matter of scale, at that point in time answering an inappropriate question didn't have the problems it does when the site has reached this scale. – Servy Jun 18 '13 at 21:05
  • @TravisJ That should be a comment. It's not an answer, it doesn't answer the question, it doesn't meet the site's quality standards, and there's no problem with posting it as a comment. – Servy Jun 18 '13 at 21:06
  • @Servy Perhaps, but this is the still the closest thing I've found that relates to a consensus about answering and close voting. If you have any other sources on how the community feels about it I'd love to see them. (Personally, I agree with your opinion on this by the way). – Benjamin Gruenbaum Jun 18 '13 at 21:20
  • @BenjaminGruenbaum This question has just demonstrated a consensus. Notice how the answers here that have proposed not answering and just commenting have been very positively received, while the answers that assert that providing these types of answers is appropriate have not been. That is showing a consensus. – Servy Jun 19 '13 at 13:59
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I answered that question because I wanted to know if there is some interplay between the javascript protocol and the return value of the onclick listener. Anyway this question will be closed soon without any edits. I just wanted to give the OP the advice that it works like I personally would expect it.

In general my answer should be better a comment, but at the beginning I wanted to extend my answer to a proper answer. However due the lack of informations I could not do that yet.


Finally the question was updated and I could answer the question in a proper way. Hopfully everybody is happy now.

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    1) If your goal is to get information, and not to give information, you shouldn't be posting an answer. An answer should be The End of the dialog. Nothing else should need to be said. 2) If you feel that a question should be closed you shouldn't answer it. It sounds like even you knew you shouldn't have posted the answer... – Servy Jun 18 '13 at 20:46
  • In general I agree with you but while I was writing the answer I thought that more informations would follow, where I could extend my answer to make it to a real answer. – rekire Jun 18 '13 at 20:50
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    If an answer isn't an answer then you shouldn't post it. Either wait until you have enough information to make it a proper answer, or post it as a comment and then re-post it as an answer if/when you are able to get a real answer out of it. That you plan to add more information later doesn't make posting a non-answer as an answer appropriate. Also, it's been half an hour. Clearly you didn't add the information you had expected to to make it a real answer. Why didn't you delete your non-answer when you were able to determine that you couldn't edit it into a proper answer? – Servy Jun 18 '13 at 20:51
  • In this case I normaly wait for feedback if I get a downvote for a half answer or better non proper answer I'll delete my answer. Should I delete now my answer? I mean this would break the conversation in some way for users with less then 10k rep. – rekire Jun 18 '13 at 20:57
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    As I indicated in my first comment, if you're requiring the OP to respond to your answer to transform it into a proper answer it means that it's not an answer; it should be a comment. That's exactly what comments are for. I would personally delete the answer if it were mine; I don't think the exact specifics are so vitally important to this question that it needs to stick around. If someone cares that much, it could be quoted, or another example found. – Servy Jun 18 '13 at 21:02
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    However due that hole feedback I deleted my answer. You are clearly right. – rekire Jun 18 '13 at 21:05
  • @rekire Consider adding a link to that fiddle as a comment. I think that as a comment it's very useful, especially to other users of StackOverflow who'll go do the exact same thing when they read the question - go to jsfiddle and copy-paste OP's code, fixing syntax errors etc. – Benjamin Gruenbaum Jun 18 '13 at 21:08
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    Thanks again for the feedback done. – rekire Jun 18 '13 at 21:11
  • Now the question was updated and I could improve my answer :-) – rekire Jun 19 '13 at 16:33

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