-10

Hold up!
before you click that button to report this question as a duplicate of this, consider that not only is that question 10 years old, but is also fairly non-specific, and doesn't make good use of the good subjective, bad subjective blog post in the following year. To fix a 10 year old question and expect new answers is to paint a 10 year old car and expect to sell it for MSRP.

This question is about questions that begin with "how do" or "how does", meaning questions about methodology and application. It's been a meme in most outside communities that on stack exchange the answer to the question "How do I do A" is objectively "No, don't do A, do B instead". While this may be helpful in some instances, it's at the least, very condescending.

This means this question is actually two wrapped up in eachother, and very intertwined. The first is, as above, "Is the answer "Don't do that" an acceptable response to a "how do I" question?". The second is then, following the first, "When can we assume that the person doesn't actually want to know what their question asks?" The very two are asking two parts of the same scale.

I want to throw one more subject into the ring just to make answers more concise, and cut-throat. Stack exchange isn't know for being particularly "nice". Despite the "Be nice" policy employed site wide, many users feel that they are rejected for asking questions that may be trivial to others, even if a bit ignorant. The epitome of this, in my opinion, is EE.SE, who usually refuse most (even slightly) ignorant, questions based on arbitrary guides. This has caused a huge riff in the community over the years. Going back to good subjective bad subjective, the riff appears in the professional elites, which, in a sense are the 'top 1%ers' of the site, controlling a majority of the reputation and the subjective commoners. There have been multiple people who straight up leave because the users there won't abide to said arbitrary standards, and as such the "don't so that" is said a lot there. Thus the question I want to throw in is: Does your answer support the "Be nice" policy, and will your answer have a positive effect on users if what your answer was the rule?

So let me repeat my questions: Is the answer "Don't do that" an acceptable response to a "how do I" question? When can we assume that the person doesn't actually want to know what their question asks? Does your answer support the "Be nice" policy, and will your answer have a positive effect on users if what your answer was the rule?

I encourage all to use examples of "Don't do it" answers in your answer.

  • obligitory invitation (beg) to add a comment with a downvote on how I can improve this question. – tuskiomi Jul 18 '19 at 20:24
  • So, uh, what exactly do you mean by "acceptable"? it's not like we have close reasons for answers, and answers get downvoted/upvoted for a large variety of reasons, some of which don't make much sense. Any answer can get "accepted" if it is accepted quick enough. There are no guidelines that dictate whether or not a post is useful, it's purely subjective. – user400654 Jul 18 '19 at 20:25
  • @KevinB delete votes are not common on the site, but are common in EE.se for answers. That's not what i'm talking about. I'm strictly speaking as a standard that the community should carry. – tuskiomi Jul 18 '19 at 20:27
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    Downvote was because it takes nearly 3-5 paragraphs before you even get to your question. If it's not a duplicate, you shouldn't need three paragraphs to prove that. – user400654 Jul 18 '19 at 20:27
  • Giving advice like "Don't to that" => Do this instead are perfectly fine IMO. There's no convolution I can see violating the code of conduct. – πάντα ῥεῖ Jul 18 '19 at 20:27
  • @KevinB Tldr is at the end. It's in bold. I hope that you noticed. – tuskiomi Jul 18 '19 at 20:28
  • @tuskiomi there is no standard. – user400654 Jul 18 '19 at 20:29
  • @KevinB note the use of the word "should". > standard that the community should carry. – tuskiomi Jul 18 '19 at 20:31
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    Individual stacks may have their own made-up guidelines that their elected mods enfoce, but that's an entirely separate topic and not something that would make sense discussing here. (unless of course you're talking specifically about Meta.SE) – user400654 Jul 18 '19 at 20:31
  • @KevinB I think Robert Cartaino would disagree with that. – tuskiomi Jul 18 '19 at 20:32
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    @tuskiomi Lets assume an example posted at Medical Science: Q: When I put my hand on the hot hotplate it starts to decay the skin over time, why is that. A: Don't do that. It would completely destroy your hands skin over a longer time. That seems perfectly OK. – πάντα ῥεῖ Jul 18 '19 at 20:39
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    You've got two different issues here, which are not related. The second one just sounds like sour grapes, added to the main issue. It weakens your original problem to make it sound like you're just complaining, rather than having a concrete argument. – fbueckert Jul 18 '19 at 21:05
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    Okay...but none of that relates to what I said. An appeal to authority isn't much of an argument; Robert can speak for themselves. You might feel they'd disagree, but...you've got nothing to go off of to support that. I'd suggest relying on your own arguments, instead of stating someone else would disagree. – fbueckert Jul 18 '19 at 21:22
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    Not sure how you can see the u/d votes on other questions or how you came up with your numbers, maybe this will help. Votes on this Meta are made using a different criteria from other sites, in your case it's probably the accusatory phrasing without statistics. – Rob Jul 19 '19 at 2:52
14

Don't do that

is perfectly fine as an answer (on the majority of sites) to questions that ask

How do I.

specially if it is a valid answer. It might help a bit if the advice comes with some explanation or citation so future visitors understand why somethings shouldn't be done.

So yeah, totally fine and acceptable on any site. If it is the most useful in all cases depends on context but I trust the voters in each community to judge such answers on their merit.

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  • "...is perfectly fine as an answer ... specially if it is a valid answer." that seems... circular at best. – tuskiomi Jul 19 '19 at 2:34
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    @tuskiomi No, not at all. I'm not saying it needs to be the correct or accepted answer. It might have value to have a short "Don't do that" with 10+ upvotes and an accepted -3 answer that explains how to do it. That is useful for future visitors. – rene Jul 19 '19 at 6:14
7

"Don't do that" is an acceptable answer, as long as the answerer's frame challenge is justified by something more substantive than "I don't like this" or "this is silly". Note that answers which don't involve frame challenges require proper justification all the same, lest they slide into bad-subjective, and so "don't do that" answers are entirely normal in that regard.

It's been a meme in most outside communities that on stack exchange the answer to the question "How do I do A" is objectively "No, don't do A, do B instead". While this may be helpful in some instances, it's at the least, very condescending.

Those "don't do that" answers that come across as condescending aren't problematic merely because they include a frame challenge. What goes wrong in such cases is that the answerer, for whatever reason (it can range from a simple lapse of attention, to taking an unnecessary risk on an unclear question, and to actual haughtiness), overlooks some aspect of the problem that makes the plans of the asker reasonable. That can be largely avoided by considering the question with sufficient care, and, if need be, requiring clarification from the asker before committing to the frame challenge. Again, this sort of due dilligence is no different from what is ordinarily expected from normal answers.

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