A user with reputation on a different Stack Exchange asked a (not very good) first question on SO. See Why might it appear that two memory locations are altered after using malloc() & free()?.

A very high reputation user wrote a very short, rather cryptic but completely accurate comment. Just 9 words, and one might say not all that helpful to a new user.

Said user complained. I got involved because I know how easy it is to see the problems in a question and offer a comment rather than settling down to a good answer, but debating such things in the comments really doesn't work.

So my question is (being careful not to impugn the actual behaviour of anyone involved): Is it better for experienced users to leave some kind of comment, even if necessarily short and perhaps cryptic, or is it better to stand aside and wait for others to provide more substantial questions and answers? Does it make a difference if the question is from a new user?

[Yes, I looked for duplicates but couldn't find any. My apologies if this has been asked and answered.]

  • 1
    In the case of the question you linked, I don't find the comment that cryptic. It doesn't provide an answer to the question - although it might be related, but it provides accurate feedback. If said user is interested in it, they can google (that is what I did), or ask for clarification.
    – Sumurai8
    Apr 5 '14 at 13:14
  • If no-one were to answer or comment, would that be better? That should answer your question. Apr 5 '14 at 14:13
  • I am the OP for the linked question. I realize that I was a bit over the top on my handling of that... It was late, and I need to get more sleep! In any event, how might I edit the question for it to be better? If I fix the issues in the code in the question, then there wouldn't be any question to ask. So would it be better to answer my own question with the edited code and output? I'm not trying to disrupt the community here... Apr 5 '14 at 17:32
  • @KurtE.Clothier: Etiquette on SO can be a subtle thing, as I am still learning as I close in on 2K. Meta SO is a better place to get the 10K+ crowd to provide words of wisdom, rather than debating in the comments. I think Rosinante pretty much nailed it.
    – david.pfx
    Apr 5 '14 at 23:14
  • On a related note, what cause is there to downvote the question? It is on topic, and might serve to help someone else down the road who also lacks an understanding of the topic at hand. Apr 6 '14 at 1:54

I don't see how a short comment, incisive, could possibly be worse than none.

It might not help the OP if she or he the lacks the background to understand it. It might. It might help someone else who happens upon the question.

The following is a fairly common pattern, which I will state in the first person:

  1. I encounter a question that has some substantial incorrect assumptions or lacking background.
  2. I decide that I don't have the time to construct the five-page answer that would unpack all the issues.
  3. I leave a short comment pointing the OP in (my view of) the right direction.

So long as a comment isn't flaggably bad, I stick to my first line.

  • This was my interpretation of what happened here. The OP didn't like it. I thought here would be a better place to spell this out, rather than debating in the comments. Thanks.
    – david.pfx
    Apr 5 '14 at 23:08

"Said user complained."

Which? There are two and you do not specify which one. This entire thread is different depending on which way you read it.

Having said that, I can understand that some would read it both ways (viz. read it twice, once each way (or more)) to understand it ((sorry about the nested parentheses)) from an egalitarian viewpoint and then have better upvotes for the sake of pleasing the ruling body of SO (read: stackoverflow (noobs)).

  • 3
    A) follow the link to see who, if anyone, complained. B) I see nothing here that actually answers the question. Apr 5 '14 at 23:10
  • @KateGregory: It might serve as a comment, minus the slight rant.
    – Jamal
    Apr 5 '14 at 23:24
  • 2
    @KateGregory: this person has been trolling before, take a look here. Apr 5 '14 at 23:36

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