I have noticed that when people who are clearly beginners ask a question and get a very good, comprehensive answer, they tend to get lost. Probably their current level of knowledge prevents them from using such an answer. When they get a straightforward simple answer, they seem to use it easily and still learn from it.

So my question is: is it better to adjust the level of answer to asker's level or not?

It makes sense if you look from the OP's perspective and possibly from other beginners' too.

But it sort of contradicts the goal of creating a repository of knowledge. It also probably makes too simple answers too limited.

  • The asker could always comment to clarify – user234239 Dec 14 '13 at 1:53
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    That quite often tends to drag on as PO just can't get complicated ideas. – Szymon Dec 14 '13 at 1:55
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    of course it should be - if someone is clearly a beginner, why bother answering if you're just going to confuse the hell out of them? You use appropriate phraseology and examples to fit their understanding. – MattDMo Dec 14 '13 at 1:55
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    What are you trying to ask here? – hichris123 Dec 14 '13 at 1:58
  • @hichris123 whether I should adjust the level and complication of my answers for beginners – Szymon Dec 14 '13 at 1:59
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    It's OP, not PO. – michaelb958--GoFundMonica Dec 14 '13 at 1:59
  • Sometimes the answerer can't explain it in any other way – user234239 Dec 14 '13 at 2:01
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    Downvoted all the answers because I don't know what the hell any of them are saying. – BoltClock's a Unicorn Dec 14 '13 at 2:22
  • Is this question so bad to get so many downvotes? – Szymon Dec 14 '13 at 2:33
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    It's not a bad question, but a lot of people seem to dislike the idea. – BoltClock's a Unicorn Dec 14 '13 at 2:34
  • This is what is confusing about voting on meta: I had a question should it be one or the other way. I didn't really say I want it to be one way. – Szymon Dec 14 '13 at 2:59
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    @Szymon Well, you said "Should we do X". People who want X will upvote, people who don't will downvote. (I didn't downvote; I didn't really see the point. But then, I rarely downvote on meta.) Does that make more sense? :) – WendiKidd Dec 14 '13 at 3:04
  • @WendiKidd Kind of makes sense, thanks. I changed the question to make it a bit more neutral. – Szymon Dec 14 '13 at 3:10
  • Related: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/211426/… – 3ventic Dec 14 '13 at 5:04
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    @szymon Welcome to the club (of people who discover the hard way that it's basically impossible to ask a question about a controversial subject without getting downvoted, no matter how the question is tagged and no matter how neutrally it's phrased). The only upside is that if you are honestly seeking feedback, any downvotes will typically get countered by upvotes from people who (I suspect typically) think that downvoting such questions is just wrong and seek to neutralize the effect, with the net result being that you'll gain considerable rep from the whole experience. :-) – Peter Alfvin Dec 14 '13 at 8:11

I don't think that it should. The question isn't only meant for the OP, but also for the reference of any other people who come across that question looking to answer their own questions. Also, it's incredibly hard for the person answering question to judge the 'level' of the person asking the question, and also incredibly hard to judge the level of the difficulty of the answer. While the answers should be as simple and easy-to-understand as possible, there is no point in providing a subpar answer just because it's easier to understand.

If the OP doesn't like the answer given, he or she doesn't have to accept it, but in the end, an easy to understand answer with flaws is worse than a flawless somewhat harder to understand answer.


It seems to me that the level of the question is what's important, not the level of the asker (though presumably there is some correlation between the two).

If a question is basic, it generally requires a basic answer. A beginner shouldn't have any problem understanding answers.

If a question is advanced, it probably requires a complex answer. If someone's asking an advanced question, they probably know enough to understand the answers. I'm not even really sure how you'd "dumb down" answers to an advanced question and still give the OP an answer that solves their problem.

This seems like a non-issue to me, personally. As others have said, SO is about answers that will help future viewers with the same question (not just the OP). But if you know enough to ask a question at level X, you probably know enough to understand the answers. If you don't, ask for clarification... Or maybe you're not ready to ask the question.


The golden rule of StackExchange: Questions and answers are for the benefit of future visitors first and foremost, and the asker, second.

So, all answers should be understandable to those of all levels. If an answer is particularly obscure, it should be improved, or receive fewer upvotes than another, better explained answer. If an asker can't understand a terse but complete answer, then it's a learning opportunity for the asker to understand difficult information, or, perhaps the asker should improve his or her question to explain what they have trouble understanding in the first place.

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