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On entering this question, Stack Overflow shows me another with 33 upvotes: “How should I deal with questions from people who don't know enough to ask?”.

My question is basically the reverse of that:

How to avoid getting answers from people who haven’t read the question or don’t know the answer?

This is no rant, just a plain request for a guideline or tips. And I’m not the only one affected. When I asked two quite specific questions, SO showed me several suggestions of older (>1 year) questions about exactly the same thing, that all got nothing but wrong or misleading answers, or no answers at all.

I have already learnt not to react to such answers, because that always rapidly results in a second downvote or even more downvotes.

I don’t claim my questions are perfect. I’ve only been using this site for a short time, but so far I have only asked things here, after an intensive(!) search has failed to bring up any usable solutions. Actually I often found out of date solutions, meaning solutions that didn’t run any more; and I found incomplete manuals.

Just two examples:

  • Someone commented: ‘There is no question in the text’, and marked it. But there really was, and when I pointed that out by just quoting my question – without any other text and without attacking him — he removed his comment and my reply. By that time, though, he already had downvoted my question, and other downvotes suddenly(?) came in. It resulted in the question being deleted.

  • Someone asked me a lot of questions which were already answered in detail in my text. He just didn’t know ANYTHING about the QUITE SPECIFIC topic. That didn't stop him, and suddenly (as always) other downvoted my text.

The same thing has happened to another of my questions: I was told my question didn’t fit the StackExchange community, so I re-worded it to match the community’s specifications almost exactly – as an answer, I got a link to an old meta question about what belongs on that community site. And according to the most accepted answer (27, next answer has 13) my question is appropriate. So I just asked quite plainly: What do you mean? After that I got no more answers – but 3 downvotes so far. He simply doesn’t know the topic I asked about. Why can’t people accept that they cannot answer everything?

The question “Fastest Gun in the West Problem” has much the same background, but from the point of view of a contributor who gave up on giving long answers.

  • 3
    Link to specific examples. Don't ask us to speculate about what to do to avoid users who might actually be trying to help you improve bad questions. – Bill the Lizard Apr 17 '15 at 14:12
  • @Bill: I'm looking for general guidlines and tips. And I surely don't want to attract those people who formerly downvoted my questions because they didn't read the question or didn't understand the quite specific topic. – John Apr 17 '15 at 14:17
  • If you write questions people don't seem to read or understand, perhaps you should evaluate what it is about your questions that causes that. And if it's not your question that's at fault, there is nothing else to do. But I wouldn't exclude that possibility all that rapidly. – Bart Apr 17 '15 at 14:31
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    "Do my research for me" "Uh, no." "Y U ANSWER MY QUESTION WHEN YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND IT" – Won't Apr 17 '15 at 14:32
  • @Someone asking me to use a server side command set, when my question is about Javascript. Or my example: Someone saying "there is no question in your text" when there is one. Or someone suggesting to use postgresql when I EXPLICITLY wrote that I have to use mysql. – John Apr 17 '15 at 14:37
  • @Bart: If it is a specific topic, I have to write a long text. Else I get people flagging it for not specific enough. And if it's not in the official outdated manual (of my topic) I guess SO is the right place to ask. – John Apr 17 '15 at 14:37
  • @Won't: That's just plainly offensive without any connection to my question. And the upvote you got just is telling about the problem. – John Apr 17 '15 at 14:37
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    That ignores the point however. There is (by your own admission) something about your questions that attracts the wrong kind of attention. Rather than go "what is wrong with these people and how do I avoid them" perhaps take a look at "what is it about my formulation that causes that and how can I address it". If the answer is "the questions are perfectly fine" you don't have to answer the first question and should just ignore such people or downvote them if they post irrelevant/wrong answers. – Bart Apr 17 '15 at 14:39
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    Yes, the problem lies with everybody else. – Won't Apr 17 '15 at 14:43
  • @Bart: But that's exactly what i'm looking for: "what is it about my formulation that causes that and how can I address it". I'm looking for guidlines. - Most answers and comments on here are a perfect example for why I have asked here. - Let's see if my question gets deleted or gets as high as the linked question in my edit. :) -About downvoting: I would, instantly, if I could. And about just ignoring them, I already came to this conclusion: "I already have learned not to answer those people, because that always resulted in a fast second or even more downvotes." – John Apr 17 '15 at 14:51
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    Guidelines. Don't assume everyone reading the question is an idiot or treat them as such in the question text. If you do they won't answer your question. – Robert Longson Apr 17 '15 at 14:54
  • @John Without specific examples there really isn't anything we can say. Be more clear if you're questions are frequently being misunderstood. – Servy Apr 17 '15 at 14:55
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    Don't start bounties on your posts. Bounties tend to attract all kind of non-answers due to the "extra attention" the post receives. – Infinite Recursion Apr 17 '15 at 18:12
13

Don't try to stop people from answering your questions. You can't do anything about it.

However, if you find that your questions regularly get comments/answers from users who either don't seem to have understood the question or who seem to have skipped parts of it, you might want to have a better look at the questions you're asking. Your questions are after all what got you the responses in the first place.

So perhaps they are far too verbose? Perhaps they are only clear to you because you are on your own train of thought? Perhaps you forgot to mention important details that seem obvious to you but may not be to others? Maybe the question needs a tl;dr to help focus the attention of users?

Whatever the problem may be, try to find it in the questions you're asking. And if they are perfectly fine, don't worry about the contributions from users who seem to have missed the point. There is no point in arguing with them. And if they provide poor answers, you can leave a comment or even downvote them.

  • Like I already wrote in the comments above: That's quite exactly what I was asking for. - But look at all the other answers. Most of them are perfect examples of what I want to avoid. - Someone even says I would assume everyone who reads my questions in an idiot. I wouldn't upvote people then, would I? - I just see I can't upvote you, as my rep is below 15. The downvotes on my question and most of the answers just show how valid my question is. – John Apr 17 '15 at 15:03
  • I accepted your answer. In the hope further people will understand then what I was asking for. – John Apr 17 '15 at 15:13
9

If someone posts an answer that doesn't answer the question, downvote it. It's exactly what downvotes are for. You can optionally comment to explain their misunderstanding, if you want.

  • I can't downvote with 35 rep. The examples show, I always tried to answer questions. And what should I explain to someone who actually wrote something along 'I don't know about that topic.' If I had enough reputation I would instantly use it for a bounty, and that would work. But sadly I'm a bit away from that. And see the comment from Bill the Lizard: He asks for an example, when I absolutly clearly asked if there are guidelines or tips. – John Apr 17 '15 at 14:13
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    Then earn enough rep to downvote the posts. If you don't know how to explain to the user what's wrong with their post, then don't comment. – Servy Apr 17 '15 at 14:16
  • That's already in my question: "I already have learned not to answer those people, because that always resulted in a fast second or even more downvotes." See, my last question was "too broad" when I acutally just put everything into so the reader didn't have to guess. I now boiled it down to two lines. Good for me, as I will get more likely an answer. But bad for SO as others who will come across the question now will not get a full working example, but just a few lines of code without any connection to working code. – John Apr 17 '15 at 14:25
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    Your last question is 10 separate questions. 5 sites 2 questions per site which is likely why it was downvoted and closed as too broad. It also shows no research given that those sites have detailed instructions as to what to do provided you search them for it. – Robert Longson Apr 17 '15 at 14:26
  • @John That, or the user just felt the question was too broad despite understanding the question. It's easier to just assume people don't understand what you're saying than to admit you may have done something wrong. – Servy Apr 17 '15 at 14:27
  • Don't worry John, you may not be able to vote yet, but others do. – Sterling Archer Apr 17 '15 at 14:38
  • @RobertLongson You didn't answer my search for guidlines or tips. About my not linked question:The answer is very likely in many(!) programers' code who had to do exactly this. The solution will likely be two arrays, maximum 15 lines of code, very likely in one chunk. You say the answers are in the SDKs of those sites. To find the CORRECT answers there I would either have to search through 100k lines altogether. Or I would have to monitor the network traffic. (Which I can't currently here. Now you know.) So you didn't read that question or didn't understand it, & you gave a wrong answer to it. – John Apr 17 '15 at 14:47
  • Sure I understood the question, I even implemented it in the past for twitter by following the instructions that twitter provided, it was straightforward and comprehensive as I recall. – Robert Longson Apr 17 '15 at 14:50
  • @RobertLongson I could save much time, if someone gave me an answer that would take him only 1 minute. And he does it voluntarily. No begging from me. I give IF I have time and knowledge and I want to. Absolutely voluntarily. But answers from people who can't or don't want to help just don't lead anywhere and are reducing the site's quality. As said: SO suggested on my older texts questions with no answers or bad answers. The thread starters never came back to SO.- All I'm asking for here is a guidline how to avoid people from answering who don't read the question or don't understand it. – John Apr 17 '15 at 14:57
  • @RobertLongson I don't want to reply on your unfriendly comment above. There is no sense in it. But I have a question how you see SO: About the topic you said you could answer, when going by the number of old questions and upvotes and answers on them there seems to be huge demand for answers on that. Wouldn't it improve SO to have 15 lines of code for the most important social networks? - Another thing that can't hit me, is when you say I would be lazy: What's about all the mentioned upvoters and the threadstarters then? – John Apr 17 '15 at 15:11
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    When I read your more recent SO question, it came across as arrogant. That's not what you were going for and that's your problem. My comment is not meant to be unfriendly, it's meant to be helpful. Lose the attitude when writing your questions, take 10 minutes, get a cup of tea, relax and make sure you've completely forgotten all those people who you think didn't understand your previous questions, at the moment it's colouring everything you're writing and it's not getting you anywhere. You're too prescriptive in the answer format you want (maximum 15 lines) which is also off putting. – Robert Longson Apr 17 '15 at 15:20
  • @RobertLongson "15 lines" I edited onto the text because of the "too broad" flag. - You said you have a solution for twitter. Then you will know that what I'm asking for is actually only 15 lines - for all 5 sites. (Admittetly I would count prescriptive code as answer, too, instead of valid javascript.) - Nobody called me arrogant for a long time. - And about my long text: I did it so everyone reading it will not have to ask back for something I forgot. - As you already know about the topic, for you the two questions at top would be absolutly clear. But just see the answer on the long version. – John Apr 17 '15 at 15:36

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