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So, I'm working on Stack Overflow, and I've been answering as many questions as I know how to answer. It's a website for both seasoned coders and beginning coders. So, it's expected to get some bad questions, right?

And yes, they need to work on it. But shouldn't we also try to help those people who ask bad questions? So, I guess what I'm asking is this. Why is it considered bad to answer a bad question, even if the answer is a good one?

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    How do you know that's the reason your answer got downvotes (you, the person, never got downvotes, it is only posts that get votes)?
    – Oded
    Mar 11, 2017 at 20:56
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    @Oded In the comments for my answer, they said the down votes reflecting the poor nature of the question itself. They told me it was the reason.
    – Josh Heaps
    Mar 11, 2017 at 21:00
  • @Cai, thanks for those links, they are very helpful.
    – Josh Heaps
    Mar 11, 2017 at 21:00
  • Difficult to tell what the motivation was and what was wrong with the question if you won't link to it.
    – Oded
    Mar 11, 2017 at 21:01
  • The question was deleted, so I actually can't give you a link. The OP luckily saw the answer and said it was what he was looking for first.
    – Josh Heaps
    Mar 11, 2017 at 21:05
  • I am assuming this is the question? stackoverflow.com/questions/42740264/…
    – Oded
    Mar 11, 2017 at 21:08
  • Yes, that's it. And according to your comment on your answer below, I see why the question was down voted, and why the first two down votes happened on my question where I messed up, (I should have done better on those) but I'm not sure why after I made the edit and fixed the question.
    – Josh Heaps
    Mar 11, 2017 at 21:11
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    I'm afraid that your answer would get downvotes even if the question was good. It is a set of links. If those links were broken the answer would be useless - an answer should incorporate all the information, links should be there as extras.
    – Oded
    Mar 11, 2017 at 21:13
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    The answer was a set of links because that's all that could be posted to "answer" what is essentially an unaswerable question. But whether your answer was down-voted or not is somewhat moot since the question should have been and eventually was deleted. If your answer was accepted by the original poster, then this would have made the deletion of the question potentially more difficult since it would risk not being automatically deleted by the site's software later. Mar 11, 2017 at 21:25
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    For sake of transparency: The question where to find java source of all codes was brought up in SOCVR and our regulars voted (close, delete, possible down vote) on the Q/A pair.
    – rene
    Mar 11, 2017 at 21:30
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    Close voters: just because a question here mentions SO doesn't mean it's only valid for SO. Mar 11, 2017 at 22:11

1 Answer 1

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shouldn't we also try to help those people who ask bad questions?

The purpose of Stack Exchange is to curate great questions and great answers. It is not to help individuals. The idea is to help as great a number of people as possible - and giving answer to questions that will only help one person goes against that.

Why is it considered bad to answer a bad question, even if the answer is a good one?

That entirely depends on the question and what makes it bad.

If it is a question that has been asked on the site many times before, the right thing to do is to close it as a duplicate.

If it is off-topic, it shouldn't be answered, even if you know the answer and it is a good one. It should be closed as off-topic. (this includes questions that are for resources or are polls - as every single answer would be objectively valid - that's a particular thing about our platform - we expect questions where one can give an objectively best answer).

Similarly, if the question is not one that anyone else would ask (meaning - it is entirely specific to one person), it is not something that should be answered.

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    So, this is an honest question, I'm not dissing your answer, It actually is a good answer, but I still have this question. If Stack Overflow is a coding help site, why Isn't it to help people who answer questions?
    – Josh Heaps
    Mar 11, 2017 at 21:04
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    Because it isn't a coding help site. It is a Q&A site for programmers. We are not here to teach people to code. We do not have tutorials. We are not a place to poll for resources (such as, what books to read, what hardware to buy etc...). We have tried that and it didn't turn out well, so we no longer allow such things.
    – Oded
    Mar 11, 2017 at 21:06
  • @Josh SO aims to help people, but that's only possible by trying to build useful resources without much noise. In the process, we should let some people down when we think the specific content they contribute isn't helping us build the resource.
    – M.A.R.
    Mar 12, 2017 at 21:09

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