Consider a question where:

  1. It is clear what is being asked
  2. More information (code and/or stack traces) is needed to give anyone a realistic chance of answering the question
  3. The asker is not responding to requests for more informaiton

This has been discussed before and I used to think I knew the answer - incomplete information is not one of the multiple choice answers for the reason for closing a question so it is not a valid reason for closing and you should just downvote instead.

But recently there has been a trend for people to vote to close as "not a real question" instead.

Is this now the official (or de-facto) policy? Should we all start doing the same?

Note: this is a support question, I am not suggesting any change to the closing mechanism or penalties for those who vote to close for the wrong reasons. There are already plenty of feature requests for that.

  • 6
    How about neither downvoting nor closing it?
    – nb69307
    Feb 8 '10 at 12:23
  • 6
    Comment, asking for more information. Revisit the question if you remember and if no extra information has been provided vote to close as "not a real question".
    – ChrisF Mod
    Feb 8 '10 at 12:37

You can answer an incomplete question with a full answer. Only, part of the answer will include "... and that is all that can be said based on the data you have given us".

You can't count on the OP complimenting the question, but the content of the "incomplete answer" can be useful to other users. If the answer hints at some useful but missing information, other users with similar questions can use that as reference and ask a better question next time.

You can still have good questions with incomplete information. It could be a good seed for a discussion or an information exchange between experts. Downvoting based on data incompleteness seems shortsighted to me.

  • 4
    So you're advocating shooting in the dark just for the heck of it?
    – random
    Feb 8 '10 at 14:00
  • 2
    If people want complete answers, they should write complete questions. That's as simple. Truth is, many users just don't know what to add, and that's why comments should guide them to give missing informations. However, do NOT answer incomplete questions without knowing, just as a luck. It doesn't help anybody, because you just give random hints in the void. If you want to help these sites, help improving questions, and close the abandoned one so that someone more motivated can come and ask his question on the topic.
    – Gnoupi
    Feb 8 '10 at 14:13
  • I'm not advocating shooting in the dark. I'm advocating answering as fully as possible with the data you have and then stopping there. The best answer for a incomplete question will most likely be a incomplete answer, with a few questions being thrown back to the OP.
    – nuba
    Feb 8 '10 at 14:51
  • I often "shoot in the dark", taking a best guess at what the OP's problem was and if I know the answer, I post it. If I later discover it was wrong I delete the answer. If I attempt to answer it, I will then not downvote it or vote to close it.
    – Perpetual Motion Goat
    Feb 8 '10 at 16:21

If it's clear what's being asked, then don't close it as NARQ -- it's going to be answerable with some work by the OP. Even if the information is somewhat incomplete, the fact that the question is readily apparent indicates that it is a real question.

However, be ready to close as NARQ if the OP doesn't clarify nor provide the additional information needed. I don't know what a "reasonable" timeframe looks like there, but after a "reasonable" timeframe, bust out the close vote.

Now, as to the downvote: That is a highly personal choice. I would never tell someone when nor how to vote. As always, vote your conscience.

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