So, when it comes to bad questions I usually just comment, downvote and close vote. But every now and then, don't ask me why, I just feel "nice" and give them the answer they want. Not for the rep, just because I guess I remember what it was like starting out (sometimes it backfires but whatever).

Is this practice bad? Should I not answer bad questions even if they don't close?

Example: How to visit selected link from drop-down list on click of a button?


Answering bad questions is a problem, mainly because it encourages users (not just the OP) to ask more similarly bad questions. And on a site like SO this becomes incredibly troublesome due to the amount of questions that get asked there. And it has happened many times that a user would complain on Meta asking "Why was mine closed but this other one that is similar was not?"

Now, not all bad questions deserve to be just closed. Not sure about that example you linked to because I don't use SO, but some questions can be easily fixed and improved, sometimes it's the wording that is not working well. So if you think that's doable, you can go ahead and edit. But if you think the question is bad no matter what, then it's better to close it.

If all else fails, you can still help that person on chat, nothing denies you from doing so.

  • There's often an issue, I know from my own experience and from reading others', that the OP is so far from understanding his problem, that he doesn't know quite how to classify it, and the resulting Q is "bad". It's all very well ignoring or commenting but declining to answer these questions for fear of encouraging more bad questions - but we do this at the risk of discouraging all future questions, and the OPs progress in that area too. – OJFord Mar 30 '14 at 17:12

We can't tell you what you should do. You are free to answer just like you're free to vote.

Some people try to help bad questions by supplying answers in the comments, but decline to actually answer.

Some people go ahead and answer, and also downvote the question.

Some people downvote answers to bad questions to discourage the practice.

Some people paint themselves blue and run around the parking lot.

Depending on your patience, the thickness of your skin, and the contents of your makeup cabinet, you'll make your own decision.

  • 3
    "We can't tell you what you should do." Why couldn't communities establish rules? (Note that posting an answer might, for one, disable the auto-deletion of bad questions.) – Arjan Mar 30 '14 at 11:32
  • 1
    @Arjan I think we can express an opinion as to what people should do, but you talk about "rules". There are very little rules that concern the legitimacy of a vote (just like we are talking about the legitimacy of answering bad questions here). The only rule that comes to my mind is if you engage in mass voting or downvoting. Now, surely we can express an opinion about what judicious voting should be but we can't compel someone to vote this way. Same with answering bad question. – Louis Mar 30 '14 at 11:57
  • Another rule, @Louis, is that we delete 30 days old questions that have been downvoted and did not get any answer. Heck, we automated that rule. Agreed, maybe "rule" is too strong a word. But no matter what name, in a question tagged "discussion" I feel it's perfectly fine if the community expresses what it feels people should do. (And in this case, I very much agree with Alenanno's answer.) – Arjan Mar 30 '14 at 14:27
  • @Arjan, that rule is not about the legitimacy of votes. – Louis Mar 30 '14 at 14:29
  • True, @Louis, but let's assume the premise of this very Meta question is valid, and that the one who's answering feels that the question they're about to answer is bad and should be closed? – Arjan Mar 30 '14 at 14:32
  • 'Rules' are things which, if you break them, the team might ban you, either from the site or from some activity. The point of my humor was that this question is not in the area of rules. – Rosinante Mar 30 '14 at 14:40
  • @Arjan I do not dispute that answering a bad question results in a less-than-ideal outcome. – Louis Mar 30 '14 at 14:52

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