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Context: cheeky nonanswers that have fun at an asker's* expense.

* Not everyone is an expert in the field or a proficient English speakers, so it's very common for askers to use an incorrect word/phrase, with zero impact on the overall meaning (example below).

For the longest time my solution was to quickly correct the wording for the askers, so such cheeky nonanswers would not be posted. But after many years, surely this shouldn't be the default fix.

Now I think that taking the most pedantic and literal sense of a word chosen by a new user as an excuse to outwit them in a one-liner/paragraph answer – and more crucially blocking the ability to clarify since that answer would be invalidated – to be rude. Simply requesting clarification and voting to close should suffice.

The problem is when handling reviews or flags, it's also common to be literal about it: "It's still an answer." And they're often upvoted for their "wittiness".


Examples:

Q: If spoilers are released in flight without descending, what could happen?

A: "Without descending" means that the aircraft cannot land. Therefore it will run out of fuel. [...]

A more technical description that wouldn't have been subject to such fun-with-literalism could be: "in level flight" instead of "in flight without descending".

The question was eventually and correctly closed (not for the phrasing, but for lacking details of the problem).

Another recent example is from yesterday, which the answerer self-deleted literally 10 mins ago after I left a comment yesterday re the smart-aleck answer (it was upvoted before my comment, but ended up -1).


Searching for the topic I found and read:

  1. As a new user, what can I do to answer an unclear question?
  2. Are answers that guess at an answer, given a bad question, a good idea?
  3. Should I answer a partial question?
  4. Speculative answers discouraged through downvoting
17
  • 3
    Are they useful answers? If not, we have a button for that.
    – VLAZ
    Apr 28 at 10:56
  • 2
    @VLAZ: Oops. Yes, I forgot to mention they're often upvoted for their "wittiness".
    – ymb1
    Apr 28 at 10:58
  • Please share few example of such answers. Thanks Apr 28 at 11:39
  • 2
    @Shadow: I've added a couple.
    – ymb1
    Apr 28 at 11:50
  • 1
    I don't know anything about mechanics so for a layman the "10 minute" screenshot you included does look like an answer... If I were reviewing I'd be tempted to click Looks good. But yes, being snarky at an OP's expense degrades the site and the community (something I rarely see enforced and seems like a CoC violation depending on gravity - what bothers me are the patterns of the same users consistently getting away with it.)
    – bad_coder
    Apr 28 at 11:57
  • @bad_coder: but reviewing requires reputation, i.e. some knowledge of the local site being reviewed, right? given the answer here, that's IMO a subtle putdown answer
    – ymb1
    Apr 28 at 11:59
  • The aircraft could land without descending if it finds a nice long and flat mountain with the same height :) Apr 28 at 11:59
  • 3
    Well based on the examples, I don't think it's putdown or unfriendly. It's answering the question as-is, it is up to the question author to double check and triple check the question, and if not written correctly fix it. That's not something others should be doing anyway. Apr 28 at 12:01
  • 2
    @ymb1 I really can't evaluate (even on the smaller sites a review isn't an expertise evaluation just a "once-over nothing obvious out of place"). However, you have my support and my vote regarding snarky comments at the OP's expense - that kind of stuff just isn't nice and also bothers me.
    – bad_coder
    Apr 28 at 12:02
  • 1
    @Shadow: "answered as-is" here is done for fun, why not ask OP to clarify and VTC until they do...
    – ymb1
    Apr 28 at 12:02
  • 1
    @bad_coder: thanks, and the "once-over nothing obvious out of place" remark is a good observation.
    – ymb1
    Apr 28 at 12:04
  • 8
    @ShadowWizardSaysNoMoreWar the "without descending" answer is not at all "as is". It deliberately omits the context and answers something that was never asked. Presumably some variation of "what will happen if an airplane never descends". That's not at all what the question was nor can it be reasonably interpreted like that. It asks (more generically) "If X happened while Y was true, what is the result". I cannot see "If Y were applied to Z" as anything but a deliberate misinterpretation.
    – VLAZ
    Apr 28 at 12:06
  • 3
    Wasn't there a famous example on Stack Overflow involving using an image and printing "Hello, World!"? Even printing the image on a physical printer? Apr 28 at 15:31
  • 1
    @This_is_NOT_a_forum There was definitely a Stack Overflow question with a screenshot of code that was answered with a screenshot of code.
    – BSMP
    Apr 28 at 18:11
  • 1
    ...and more crucially blocking the ability to clarify since that answer would be invalidated... I'm not sure that's true. I've had the experience of answering what I believed to be a perfectly clear question, that question being edited by the OP to mean something different, and being told by other community members that my rollback is inappropriate because the original version was "unclear". My understanding from this is that clarifying an unclear question is always OK, even if it invalidates existing answers.
    – BSMP
    Apr 28 at 18:53

2 Answers 2

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As the code of conduct states:

Unacceptable Behavior

No subtle put-downs or unfriendly language. Even if you don’t intend it, this can have a negative impact on others.

This could be classified as such, and if you feel that this is the case, you should flag a post. If a moderator disagrees with you there are a few options:

  • Make a Meta post about it, either on the local meta where you encountered the behaviour, or here as this type of behaviour might be applicable to multiple sites
  • If you feel the flag was handled incorrectly then you could contact the Community Management team through the contact link in the footer of the page and state your case there. The CM's specifically deal with reviewing moderator actions as per Who is on the Community Management Team, and what does it do?

They review moderator actions, offer advice, resolve disputes.

But in the end we're all humans, and honest mistakes can be made. Not everyone is a native speaker or has a good understanding of the English language. It is unavoidable that honest mistakes are made. If people take these honest mistakes and turn them into down-putting answers that's when things start to get problematic for me.

3

I see nothing wrong with the question as asked, and neither did two others who answered.

Your example:

"Q: If spoilers are released in flight without descending, what could happen?

A: "Without descending" means that the aircraft cannot land. Therefore it will run out of fuel. [...]".

is missing the crucial component:

"... fuel. In an attempt to avoid descending, it will slow and eventually stall. At this point, the conditions of the question, no descent, are violated.
 
As asked, the question is unanswerable.".

If you check the Timeline you will see that a moderator deleted and then undeleted the answer; clearing any review votes, and probably clearing any flags manually - allowing the answer to stand, with two downvotes showing.

That means that there was a moderator action on the answer.

Different sites have different policies about humorous answers; and such is received differently also. Without clear evidence of rudeness the answer stands, that was the moderator's decision - taking issue with that decision would be done on Aircraft.SE's meta, not here.

The person asking is entitled to write their question, and if clarification is sought people are allowed to ask for it.

Similarly, answers should be taken as-is. You are allowed to flag or vote as you see fit, even comment (as was done) - all must be within the policies of Stack Exchange.

I think you are in need of a different example, or more of them; to support a complaint of clear wrongdoing.

As you can see with this answer on a different site:

"There are a couple of text-book situations where speed brakes / spoilers / airbrakes may be used mid-air:
  ...
 
2. Flap Deployment / Landing Gear Deployment
 
Various reasons may cause you to be way above your Flap operation speed or Gear deployment speed when you really need to deploy flaps or lower the gear. 2 options here, cut the throttle and wait for the speed to wash out which may take a long time if the air is thin and / or the outside air temperature (ambient) is too high. Raising the spoilers partially helps drop the speed quickly.".

There is one answer offered to the question where it is explained that you can both deploy the spoilers and maintain level flight, slowing the aircraft.

"So if you are on autopilot and do not increase power(thrust), the A/P would increase AOA to increase lift sufficiently to maintain level flight, (further increasing drag), and the aircraft would start slowing down.
 
If you were flying manually, you would probably manually increase back pressure to increase AOA and lift to maintain level flight and increase power to maintain airspeed. This would be necessary to prevent a descent.".

My answer is somewhat echoed in this comment, though certainly more terse:

"Well based on the examples, I don't think it's putdown or unfriendly. It's answering the question as-is, it is up to the question author to double check and triple check the question, and if not written correctly fix it. That's not something others should be doing anyway.".

The complaint in your question has already been resolved on the site, and there is no question about it raised on that site's meta. Your appeal here is premature, and probably unfounded; that there was a breach of Stack Exchange's CoC or the site's tolerance for either humor or an incorrect answer.

It's not so much a case of that answer denying further edits to the question, the answer is at best incorrect; if they needed clarification before answering it was on them to ask for it, or vote to close it for lacking details.

Two moderators have answered here: "Author's edit right in on-hold question vs invalidating existing answers" and another moderator here: "What should I do when clarifying updates to a question invalidate my first answer?" All answers say that sometimes it's necessary to edit the question regardless, and that subsequent fixes to the answers may be necessary; one assumes such risk when answering prematurely.

3
  • Just as a quick clarification: no premature or otherwise complaint is being made here, just a question in general; it *was* raised on the local meta, but the local mods are often accused of being "dictators", which I do not agree with at all, as one mod responded to said meta post, so I deleted it not to cause any fuss, and long story short, decided to ask here.
    – ymb1
    Apr 30 at 8:16
  • 1
    You wrote "is missing the crucial component": but haven't said why it is crucial; assuming it's a "humorous answer" (which on Aviation purely humorous answers are deleted but that's besides the point), it actually amounts to a "VTC comment", not an answer at all, and subtle put-downs *can be* unintentional, per the CoC. // "a moderator deleted and then undeleted the answer": nice observation, but the actions are *three* hours apart, interesting...
    – ymb1
    Apr 30 at 8:42
  • @ymb1, as to your first comment I hope my last two paragraphs address the first part of your first sentence. --- As to your second comment, it's crucial because it changes the context; and since it's not linked we need the complete quote.
    – Rob
    Apr 30 at 10:00

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