Patient: It hurts when I bang my head against the wall.
Doctor 1: The reason for that is [lengthy technical discussion]. But try again at 5pm on a Tuesday.
Doctor 2: Don't bang your head on the wall.

Imagine there is no

Doctor 3: Use my HeadPad-O-Matic and hurt the wall.

Is Doctor 1's answer a useful one given Patient's question?

My answer is, it's fair to say, a mess. Expansion, handling a comment part-way through, and a revision correcting unsupported assumptions mean that it flows poorly. It does, however, complement the other answer.

So, I'd like to solicit opinions on:

  • Do I owe it to the questioner to redraft?
    • It's no Doctor 3 answer and Doctor 2 is much more helpful.
  • Do I owe to to the community/myself to redraft?
    • Someone may find it helpful to know reasons behind the question.
  • Should I cut my losses and just learn to write better answers?

The second answer is slightly miss-characterized by the Doctor 2 analogy.​​​​​​​​

  • At the moment you have +2/-0, if you want to edit your question to be more concise, go for it. Remember that sometimes the best answers are very short, and look out for TL;DR. – gunr2171 Apr 11 '14 at 21:14
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    FWIW, it's certainly useful to know why banging your head against the wall hurts. That information could be used to say: diagnose that banging your head on the wall is the reason that your head hurts. – Mysticial Apr 11 '14 at 21:14
  • Right. Because some future user is going to say "My head hurts. I've been running in circles for 3 hours and banging my head on the wall." and blame the running. – Ben Voigt Apr 11 '14 at 22:16
  • well, I'm sure this guy is a programmer and not a doctor. – Mhmd Apr 12 '14 at 11:06

Doctor 1 definitely adds useful information. If Doctor 1 further says "there is nothing you can do, you must keep banging your head against the wall," I would probably add a sharp comment and downvote. But ideally, she would remain agnostic on this... and just provide useful information. If you personally are Doctor 1, I would append to your post something like, "You probably should do X though, see Doctor 2's answer for details."

Essentially I'm saying that usually information on SO functions additively. At the end of the day readers have full onus to not, say, copy and paste code they see on SO and run it, all the more so when someone else may learn something nifty from, say, a shortcut that creates unclear or unsafe code but is interesting or useful. So I err on the side of more information is good, but often add qualifiers and even downvote if the answerer is hubristically confident.

I'd also really hope Doctor 2 has more upvotes and is accepted. If Doctor 1 is accepted I would comment dissuading the OP. I might also add a bounty to add attention to Doctor 2.

Right now, it looks like Doctor 2 has more upvotes, so I would say everything is working wonderfully.

  • When I first thought to ask this question, Doctor 2 was less well recognized. You are right in that a bounty would have been a good way to assuage my guilt; I'll think of that next time. – francescalus Apr 11 '14 at 21:28
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    @francescalus now that I realize you personally are Doctor 1, I would have edited your post to say "Doing X is probably better, see Doctor 2's answer." Edited my answer here to include that. (May or may not be worth the clutter now that it's not the #1 answer.) – djechlin Apr 12 '14 at 5:48

As they stand none of the answers are definitive.

To start providing an answer the doctor will have to ask(ie in comments) firstly "Why do you want/need to bang the wall with your head?". The answer to this could lead to a definitive answer or another question from doctor.

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