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There are many examples of questions opened in SO that are not in their best forms when asked. Considering the OP is open for suggestions, how do we point the right directions?

For example, in a recent question (not sure if a question shows up after the OP deleted it, but here goes) (https://stackoverflow.com/questions/55226866/in-c-how-to-find-length-of-dynamic-object-property) , the OP assumed the best way to access a property from a "dynamic" class would be "dynamically", reflection-checking if said property existed, then using it.

The issue OP opened was the reason for which ["To"] didn't seem to work in a dynamic variable.

Another user commented that the best way would be implementing interfaces and abstract classes, but... in a hostile way (LMGTFY).

Before I answered the post and suggested using the appropriate way of solving said problem, however, OP deleted the post.

How can we point the user to the right directions while not sounding condescending?

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    If the comment was hostile, it should be flagged. LMGTFY is almost always condescending, so that should be flagged. Beyond that, if the asker deletes their question, you can vote to undelete if you have 10K, but unsure what other actions should be attempted. – fbueckert Mar 18 at 17:54
  • We have a standard process for this: put the question on hold, leave an extra comment for how the question needs to be improved before it can be answers (if the closure reason isn’t specific enough already), then await edits from the OP. If and when he improves the post, vote to reopen and answer. Ultimately, the onus for asking a good question is on the OP; it’s the price of a ticket for entry. This is the only we a site as big as SE can load balance and scale. – Dan Bron Mar 18 at 18:01
  • I don't see any hostile comments there. Certainly not LMGTFY unless that is now deleted. – rene Mar 18 at 18:37
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How can we point the user to the right directions while not sounding condescending?

Write a positive and supportive comment offering to assist them, once the OP is chased off and deletes their own question there isn't much you can do, if you have the ability to undelete the question it won't help them much if they aren't coming back.

If the question has redeeming points and is worth answering then simply answer it as it is asked, or write a comment suggesting an improvement.

You can offer an answer suggesting that solving the problem in a different way is better, but you run the risk of the XY Problem.

You can suggest that they write their questions in the sandbox (Feature allowing SO to execute code snippets in a sandbox and produce useful results) and you will help them to improve their question and revise it. You can also try to ping them in chat, but it's unlikely that a new user has ever visited and is pingable.

I've answered questions that weren't phrased correctly, made incorrect assumptions, and had close votes coming in fast. You have to answer correctly and quickly, and the OP needs to be able to take the heat for a few minutes, then you can be the only one whom gets to answer a question that gets closed - scoring a chosen answer and some upvotes while everyone awaits to see if it gets reopened.

Comment positively or upvote to show early support, it's preferable that the question be worthy of an upvote before you give one. A welcoming comment offering assistance is better than nothing, or one snarky comment and a few downvotes.

  • Amusingly, as I read it, the person asking the question already has an XY problem, and the alternate solution would help. – Journeyman Geek Mar 19 at 5:36
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    I guess if you reread it you'll see that's not a given, for some there's no help. Rather than making it a source for your amusement the supportive approach is to offer something constructive. – Rob Mar 19 at 12:25
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If a comment is hostile, absolutely flag for moderator attention. If you are certain that the question could be a good fit for the site with a few edits, you might consider raising a custom flag explaining what's going on.

If the comment was condescending without actually being hostile (yeah, I know there's a fine line of difference), and you are sure that the question is a great fit for the site, you might consider responding directly to the OP. Something along the lines of,

Hey, welcome to the site! Like @hostile-user said,* this post could use some [editing] to clarify / make more specific / whatever-the-post-needs. However, it is a good, on-topic question which has not been asked before, so after having edited, feel free to undelete it. Thanks!

*The "like @hostile-user said" would depend on the level of condescending behaviour.

Please do make sure, however, that the question really is a good fit for the site before posting a comment saying that it is. Otherwise, it just results in new users being misdirected again, and increases the overall entropy reigning in the post.

The bottom line is that as a non-moderator, you can't properly deal with a high level of hostility without running a fairly significant risk of starting an argument. A user who is willing to be hostile to a new user knowing that it's against the rules is a user who will likely have no scruples about taking you to task, knowing that you don't have any power over them. The SO moderators, on the other hand, have tools available to them to privately message users about bad behaviour, and even at need to suspend them.

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