Something I see quite often (especially on non-scientific SEs, such as music.SE), is questions such as:

"I use x to achieve y but ran into problem z. How can I solve this?"

I am guessing that, when somebody asks a question like this, they are determined to keep on using x, and are looking for solutions that do not require them to toss x out of the equation.

However, there will often be someone who suggests to stop using x, and start using something else for that purpose instead. While the advice can be useful (and probably will, for some people), it does not really answer the question.

How does the SE community generally feel about such answers? Should we try to avoid posting such advice as answers, or is it fine like that? Perhaps this kind of advice should be posted in comments, instead?

  • related (possibly a duplicate): What is the XY problem?
    – gnat
    Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 13:29
  • The XY problem is indeed of interest here, but not really the same thing. My question concerns answers, not questions. :)
    – Lee White
    Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 13:35
  • if answering aspect of this is important, there seem to be plenty similar questions linked to one referred above, eg Alternative instead of real answer
    – gnat
    Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 13:39

1 Answer 1


Depends on the question if OP uses x for more, or that it is just something OP introduced trying to solve the problem with y or z.

In my opinion, we shouldn't disallow this, as long as the answer itself answers the question. If OP is determined to use x, he/she should make that clear in the question.


Q: I am trying to cut an apple using a spoon, but I don't know how.

A: Use a knife, like this ...

In this case, the answer makes perfectly sense, and makes the end situation better.

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