In the comments on @Wil's answer in this Super User question, moderator @Diago threatens @Wil and any other user with more than 3,000 reputation with suspension if they answer "not correctly formatted or ambigous" questions or questions that "should be closed".

This is bullshit. It was a good answer to a poorly constructed but well-intentioned question. Is this official SO trilogy policy, or is @Diago overstepping his authority here?

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    The 1-click delete hammer has been swung. Wow. – John Rudy Feb 12 '10 at 21:03
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    @Koper: Since I still have most of that thread visible in another tab, I can assure you it was neither important nor on-topic nor a discussion. – balpha Feb 12 '10 at 21:15
  • sense of what is a poorly worded question diverse. A day ago one of SO moderators expressed his unsatisfaction of my massive -1s for answers to poorly worded question (which was tghought about like this by only me).. No threats though. – P Shved Feb 12 '10 at 21:16
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    @balpha - I agree, there was nothing constructive in the comments, and a lot of nonconstructive comments. All the meat of the discussion is occurring in the answers and comments to the answers. – Pollyanna Feb 12 '10 at 21:19
  • Koper, you're not going to tell us that a moderator deleted that comment of yours just now, right? – balpha Feb 12 '10 at 21:23
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    @balpha, even if he did tell us, it would likely get deleted... – perbert Feb 12 '10 at 21:32
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    gentle reminder: this is ALSO why substantive stuff, for which you desire more permanence, really should occur in an answer. – Jeff Atwood Feb 12 '10 at 21:33
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    @balpha: no i deleted it myself – Thomas Bonini Feb 12 '10 at 21:41
  • Obviously such users should simply be throttled so that they will pick and choose which questions to provide their stellar answers to. – Kevin B Feb 7 '19 at 22:18
  • @KevinB I'm confused as to why you're bumping a nine year old thread? – ceejayoz Feb 7 '19 at 22:28
  • Whoa whoa whoa, i didn't bump it – Kevin B Feb 7 '19 at 22:29
  • @KevinB Sorry, imprecise language. I got a ping about it; remain fairly confused as to why a new comment when the last activity was in 2010. – ceejayoz Feb 7 '19 at 22:30
  • yeah i was more being sarcastic, i'm not upset :p Looks like someone edited one of the answers – Kevin B Feb 7 '19 at 22:30

11 Answers 11


As have been pointed out by the community and my peers my actions in this case were wrong. I had apologized to Will as this was in no way a reflection on him and it was also the reason for me deleting my comments, both on the original question and here.

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    @Diago Fair enough... @Downvoter, perhaps you need to change your name :) – William Hilsum Feb 12 '10 at 20:53
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    Thanks for clarifying. For the record I completely support Diago, and I think it's our fault (by "our" I mean the SO team) for overworking Diago as essentially the only de-facto SU moderator for months. SU really is the wild west in a lot of ways. – Jeff Atwood Feb 12 '10 at 21:00
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    @Diago - you have my sympathy, but in the future I suggest a long walk, a glass of vino, or a massage as a better solution to deal with moderator overload. Been there, done that. – tvanfosson Feb 12 '10 at 21:13
  • As I said earlier, @Diago arguably has the most difficult task of all moderators and any help from hi-rep users is admirable. – Sampson Feb 12 '10 at 21:23
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    @Jonothan. This has been rectified since as far as the team is concerned. Both @Troggy and @Ivo has taken their moderator roles and as per Jeff I am on "SO leave" for a while. I am extremely active in various places outside of SO as well so I constantly burn the candle at both ends, and the break will give them a chance to guide the future direction of SuperUser. – BinaryMisfit Feb 12 '10 at 21:35
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    Thank you. This addresses my concern and I appreciate your posting an update. When I've got enough rep on SU, I plan to help as I currently do at SO. – ceejayoz Feb 13 '10 at 0:15
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    note that "SO leave" is only because Diago was incredibly overworked anyway, due to the SO team's (3 month!) moderator oversight. It is not necessarily about this particular incident. Burnout is not a good thing for anyone. – Jeff Atwood Feb 13 '10 at 0:47
  • @Jeff Thanks for clearing that up. The support is appreciated as always. – BinaryMisfit Feb 13 '10 at 9:15
  • What is a "SO leave" exactly? A "stackoverflow leave"? But he's never been active on stackoverflow.. Or by that you mean "the trilogy websites"? – Thomas Bonini Feb 13 '10 at 12:31
  • @Koper Moderating SU has left me very little time to be active on any of the other sites. It simply means that I will not be actively moderating, ie. I will not check every 10 minutes what is happening on the site, and only intervene if completely neccessary. I am hoping this will give me time to be more active on SO and SF. It might also give me time to start answering some questions for change. – BinaryMisfit Feb 13 '10 at 14:31
  • I see, thank you for the clarification – Thomas Bonini Feb 13 '10 at 22:30

The comments have been deleted so I'll repost them here:

alt text

Anyways, Diago, not only the FAQ doesn't say that questions need to be well formatted (or that you can't ask multiple questions at once), but it does say:

What is reputation?

Reputation is completely optional.

This means that a high rep user isn't forced to use their powers.

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    Thanks for posting comments -- hard to figure out the issue when the comments have been deleted. @Diago -- I think you really ought to get some official blessing from @Jeff via the SO Blog or amended FAQ before bringing out the big artillery. Last I heard suspension was reserved for offensive behavior, not answering questions. – tvanfosson Feb 12 '10 at 20:08
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    @tvan - Refusing to close a question which doesn't belong, and answering questions which don't belong separately aren't bad. But both refusing to close a question which doesn't belong, and answering it merely to gain rep is a form of gaming the system, and, to some degree, abusing the site. While bans are generally reserved for very bad offenses, consistently repeating smaller offenses may also be eligible for banning. – Pollyanna Feb 12 '10 at 20:15
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    "Answering it merely to gain rep" seems rather difficult to prove, and isn't borne out by this particular user's answer history. – ceejayoz Feb 12 '10 at 20:18
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    @Pollyanna -- how does one pro-actively determine what a mod will consider a question that ought to be closed rather than answered? What if one disagrees? Perhaps there need to be more moderators who have supernumerary powers to close and just do it instead of using threats to get others to act in accordance with their ideas. Or, maybe, just try asking nicely or leave a note indicating his preference. The whole "no soup for you" schtick doesn't jibe very well with what is an obstensibly community-run site. – tvanfosson Feb 12 '10 at 20:27
  • ... Incase you want to edit so I don't duplicate in my answer (and possibly get blamed for doing so!) here is a full (or at least later) history - i50.tinypic.com/2chuky8.jpg – William Hilsum Feb 12 '10 at 20:32
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    @Pollyanna -- now I've got a hankering for a Cuban and some Corn Salsa Soup from Her Soup Kitchen: hersoupkitchen.com – tvanfosson Feb 12 '10 at 20:47
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    +1 for mentioning no one is forced to use any of their abilities. – Troggy Feb 12 '10 at 20:50
  • @tvan - I'm wishing for thick creamy New England clam chowder. Maybe I'll have to visit Her Soup Kitchen next time I'm in Iowa. – Pollyanna Feb 12 '10 at 21:20
  • @Pollyanna -- drop me a line and we'll go together. Be forewarned, they like to change their hours, but lunch time is always a good bet. – tvanfosson Feb 12 '10 at 21:36
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    I'm totally on Diago's side here. He's trying to address what we recently talked about in another thread re the loose questions on SU and how high-rep users are not helping as much as they could: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/38391/… – Ether Feb 13 '10 at 0:44

I see both sides of this. For one thing, as Diago has mentioned, Super User is indeed a bit of a wild west zone. A lot of users there do, in fact, seem to be rep-whoring instead of taking the time to clean the site. This is extremely bad and likely very frustrating.

That said, I do think threatening users with suspension because they don't vote to close questions that they don't think should be closed is ... well ... overstepping. Like "jumping the shark" overstepping. (I think we can all agree that reasonable people may disagree about what should and should not be closed.)

I should note that Diago himself did not want to take this step initially. His earlier posts on that thread were very much against boxing high-rep users as a means of behavior modification. However, as of yesterday, it looks like he changed his mind.

I understand and respect the frustration mods on Super User are likely experiencing, but it is a completely different beast, and it's (honestly) never going to be as tight as Stack Overflow is. That's the nature of the game with "general computing" sites.

I think that this is the wrong way to approach the problem. I do agree there is a problem, and it needs some kind of approach, but I think this technique is going to cause a lot of Meta butthurt. In fact, it already is!


To put some perspective on my expletive comment to the top of the question:

I've never interacted with Diago before (as far as I remember) and I have nothing against him, and I can see that his situation on SU is somewhat difficult and frustrating.

Still, the threat of suspension for answering a question and/or not formatting it correctly is bound to get people up in arms, and rightly so. Like most SO members, I'm here to ask and answer questions. I'm happy to fix some spelling and formatting as I go along. I do so, not as much as others, but still plenty.

However, if answering questions imposes on me the obligation to clean up others' posts, and not doing so gets me reprimanded in some way, I will not feel motivated to stay around.

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    I think it depends on whether there was a history of repeated behavior. If this was the first time, then I think it was overreaction on Diago's part. But I do not follow SU. – mmyers Feb 12 '10 at 20:01
  • @Jonathan I don't see any history of you editing? If for some reason Moderators can edit without history, that is REALLY bad.... – Tyler Carter Feb 12 '10 at 20:04
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    @Chacha102 he is referring to the first comment to the question itself, not my answer. – Pekka Feb 12 '10 at 20:06
  • @Chacha No, any edit history of the questions/answers (outside the edit window of course) done by moderators can be seen by everyone just like all users can. You can see deleted content at 10k also. – Troggy Feb 12 '10 at 20:33

Jeff does not seem to agree that there's a problem:


I think we have to accept that SuperUser is a different beast than SO or SF, and as such more is expected from those that have the ability to guide it.

  • He didn't agree with the initial samples, however did agree enough to change the close screens, and continue discussing parts of it between the moderators. The one reason there is as yet not an accepted answer. – BinaryMisfit Feb 12 '10 at 19:50
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    By that logic, a police officer should be able to shoot text messaging drivers because the government passed a law intended to prevent the behaviour via fines. – ceejayoz Feb 12 '10 at 19:54
  • Superuser is, to some degree, the red-headed stepchild of the SO family and caters to a much larger, and perhaps less formal/structured, audience. I don't know that forcing the questions to be as well formed as those on SO and SF is a useful goal, even if it were attainable. – Pollyanna Feb 12 '10 at 19:56
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    @cee - No, but they do have the ability to pull them over and warn them (as @diago is doing), and upon repeat offenses have their driver's license suspended. This is exactly the process SU mods are using. You may disagree with the law, and discuss it ad nauseum here, but until it's change when you violate it, you may suffer the consequences. – Pollyanna Feb 12 '10 at 19:58
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    The law defines those as valid consequences, Pollyanna. In this case, the cop was making up the sentencing guidelines on the spot on his own initiative. – ceejayoz Feb 12 '10 at 20:02
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    @cee - No, in this case the moderator was giving people the new rules and consequences as part of their warning. He wasn't making up a sentence that was to be carried out in the current infraction, merely indicating that 1) this behavior needs to stop and 2) if it continues the consequence is banning. The only thing you can really complain about is a) you don't like the consequence (or agree that the crime is a crime) and/or b) the moderators hold the position of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches you are used to having separate so they balance each other out. – Pollyanna Feb 12 '10 at 20:07
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    And a single moderator gets to unilaterally make such a severe policy change affecting an entire community-driven site? If so, we need an impeachment system to go along with the election system. – ceejayoz Feb 12 '10 at 20:13
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    @cee - I'm sorry, you are confusing SOFU with a democracy. Please hang up and try again. – Pollyanna Feb 12 '10 at 20:17
  • @cee - but yes, a single moderator can indeed make whatever decisions they deem necessary to keeping the site on track. – Pollyanna Feb 12 '10 at 20:19
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    SU FAQ: "Remember, Super User is run by you!" I am raising an issue with a moderator's actions in the accepted manner. It would seem I'm not the only one with an issue with the policy. – ceejayoz Feb 12 '10 at 20:24
  • @cee - Which is perfectly fine. This question is about one particular infraction type and punishment. If you want to discuss whether the moderators should have the power to make up new rules and enforce them in general, whether they must be ratified by the users or Jeff, or something else regarding the "justice" process, then you should start a new discussion. – Pollyanna Feb 12 '10 at 20:29
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    I don't believe moderators should have to ratify every decision with the userbase, but I believe they should exercise some common sense and not unilaterally create a policy this extreme. – ceejayoz Feb 12 '10 at 20:38

I don't think this is going to work. SU should try to make it easier to do the right thing (close bad questions), not punish people for doing what comes naturally (answering questions).

Remember, SU is young - SO had single-vote closing/opening when it was young, and a lot of people made use of it. SO also had Jeff leading by example, while SU doesn't really have anyone with that same level of visibility and respect doing the same.

  • Also, isn't the audience on SU not completely different from SO? I think it's safe to say the trilogy's concept has proven to work excellently for programmers. It doesn't necessarily have to work as well for a general group of people with computer questions. – Pekka Feb 12 '10 at 20:04
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    @Pekka: Well, that's actually why I think SU is doomed... But that wasn't my point here; I don't think anyone naturally looks at a question and thinks, "I wish no one could answer that". It's something that has to be taught. You can teach with a carrot, or teach with a stick... But the carrot is better. Carrots are delicious. And you can beat people with them if they disagree. – Shog9 Feb 12 '10 at 20:08
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    I've never thought about carrots that way. Good thinking! – Pekka Feb 12 '10 at 20:10
  • That would have to be a whopping big carrot to substitute it effectively for a stick. – tvanfosson Feb 12 '10 at 21:05
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    +1 for mentioning the carrot/stick example and SO history. Good points to bring up. Talking about food though is making me hungry. – Troggy Feb 12 '10 at 21:51
  • I disagree that there aren't users leading by example. The questions that are giving a problem are only a small fraction of all questions on SU. Claiming that this fraction is the benchmark for the entire site is plain wrong – Ivo Flipse Feb 13 '10 at 18:10
  • @Ivo: I didn't say there aren't users Doing The Right Thing; I said there weren't users with the same sort of influence over the SU community as Atwood has on SO. That said, I freely admit that I'm not terribly involved in SU; if, say, The HowTo Geek is running around closing OT questions in a visible way, then I retract my claim. – Shog9 Feb 13 '10 at 18:33

In our previous discussion, the problem was duplicate questions getting answers they shouldn't get.

This is a bad question getting an answer it (probably) shouldn't get.

I do not think these are the same thing.

I guess my question is, what is the harm in allowing these answers to bad questions? So what if a few people get a little extra rep trying to answer people's questions in good faith? I really can't see a problem there.

Now if the answering is not done in good faith (as with some of the duplicates, where it appears that users may know about the dupes but answer anyway with almost straight copy/paste) then that is an entirely different matter.

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    Broken windows, Jeff, broken windows... – Ether Feb 13 '10 at 0:47
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    @ether this isn't broken, just a mild hairline fracture at the edge. And in no case do we want to be victimizing users who a) have good, honest intentions and b) provide quality answers – Jeff Atwood Feb 13 '10 at 0:50

This is why I am not a fan of the idea of mixing suspension with question/answer practices outside of spam/crap posts. It is just too extreme of an action to be used to "attempt to solve" overall content and appropriate question/answer issues. I stated similar concern and commented on an answer in the SU high rep users discussion.

Though Diago's intentions were known, this was not a good way to approach this and this is a perfect example.

Rep-Whoring answer like posts are extremely hard to prove. It is similar to trying to prove people's "intentions" behind posts on any of the sites. Look at any of the legal and moral question/answer discussions on meta.

We need to try every positive enforcement before any negative enforcement, let alone suspension. On the other side though, it would be nice to see more involvement from any high rep user on SU (and this could go for any of the sites) to help maintain and improve a site they love so much. I want to believe that they would like to help improve a site they visit often. It is not explicitly stated that you have to use your rep level earned abilities though, so we can't always expect it.


He may be tired of closing all questions himself.

I'm not a SU user, but I hear it's a no man's land, full of duplicated questions and rep hungry users.

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    If he doesn't want to close questions, he shouldn't be a volunteer moderator. People don't have to vote to close if they don't want to, especially as people disagree on closures enough for there to be a "reopen" option. – ceejayoz Feb 12 '10 at 19:34
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    @Diago probably has the most difficult job of all moderators in all honesty. Some help from the hi-rep users would sincerely be a nice gesture. – Sampson Feb 12 '10 at 19:42
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    It's not a "nice gesture" when forced by threat of suspension. – ceejayoz Feb 12 '10 at 19:47
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    @ceejayoz - when the high rep users not only refuse to help, but use the questions as spring boards to gain rep, then they are abusing their position. He is only warning those who both refuse to clean up and take advantage of the situation. He's not knocking on the doors of all the high rep users and telling them they'd better get busy, or move out. If you don't want to close, fine. But don't refuse to close and rep-whore. – Pollyanna Feb 12 '10 at 20:10
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    What in @Wil's answer history points to rep-whoring? – ceejayoz Feb 12 '10 at 20:19

(Original comments here - http://i50.tinypic.com/2chuky8.jpg)

Whilst this doesn't exactly answer the question, it is far too much to write in comments and as I am mentioned in the question, I hope no one minds.

I just want to add in a few things here... I wrote them as a comment to Diago's answer, but it seems to have been deleted.

I love working with a computer and go to Superuser.com to help people and answer questions. I find it a good outlet between phone calls and emails etc. I really dislike Diago's comments about me having to vote - The FAQ says:

Amass enough reputation points and Super User will allow you to go beyond simply asking and answering questions:


10000 Delete closed questions, access to moderation tools

† you can always comment on your questions and answers, and any answers to questions you've asked, even with 1 rep.

At the high end of this reputation spectrum there is little difference between users with high reputation and moderators. That is very much intentional. We don't run Super User. The community does.

At no point does it say that I have to "moderate", I do not want to sound bad or unappreciative for the tools - I do flag and delete/close from time to time, but at no time did I ever say I want to be a moderator - I am happy to do this when it comes up, but I am here to help people and answer questions.

I don't mean any disrespect moderators, but if you don't want to do it either (or it is starting to annoy you), perhaps you shouldn't be moderators?... And more importantly, if it became required to moderate at over 3k, I would probably create a new account every time I reached 2,999!

(I cannot say enough, in the last two paragraphs, I do not mean to be unappreciative, disrespectful or offensive in any way. I love this site - but it is a bit hard to write the above without sounding like an a$$.)

As for duplicates, I have flagged quite a few, BUT If you are the first, it becomes really hard to try and find them. In the question that Diago linked to, I was responsible for one question that was a CW and another which I voted to close then answered.

In the first - I had no idea it was a duplicate, I didn't post any questions in the original. In the second - I voted to close and I am sorry, but, I did not see any harm in giving someone an answer that can help them. If that was wrong, I am very sorry.

Anyway - I like Jeff's answer. I have voted to close questions when they are so bad, you can't read - this one however, it just sounded like he was overexcited and asking a lot of related questions, which I was happy to help with. (Maybe his Enter/Return key was broken!). Also, look at all my - and ..., I am not the best at punctuation!

Lastly, on the subject of duplicates, do I really have to search the entire site for a duplicate before I answer any question? Once I posted an answer and then someone voted as duplicate to something I answered - I just don't remember even posting it... It can be hard enough to remember items I have posted, let alone other users!

(I had a bit more I wanted to say, or change slightly, but I need to go out... I will either edit or respond to comments when I get back ~2-3 hours.)

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    I just want to make it clear. This was not directly at you personally. The samples linked in the previous questions, were straight out of the list of closed questions, and also included almost every one of the Top 10 SU users. As far as my comments are concerned, a few users on SU including myself believed the site needed to be one par higher then the rest, and the moderators can't see every single question, the comments was away of building awareness, which in retrospect does not work. I will be stepping back from SU for a while and tonight's incident will not be repeated in future. – BinaryMisfit Feb 12 '10 at 21:09
  • @Diago - I'm happy with how it has turned out in the end (apart from you taking a step back... I appreciate all the work you do and am very sorry if doing this directly because of me)... I was confused about the warning I got on the Twitter question as I had no idea the FAQ had been updated to exclude website/service support, but what you wrote here just came out of the blue and was like a serious WTF. I thought the question had a slight chance of closing, but I certainly did not see any harm in answering it. Anyway, still following you on Twitter and like your blog posts! All cool with me. – William Hilsum Feb 13 '10 at 0:22
  • I don't think you should necessarily have to moderate, but you shouldn't make things worse by encouraging (by asking, voting on or answering) bad or inappropriate questions, and IMHO Diago is totally justified in calling you out on that (maybe not his wording though). Perhaps you would be interested in weighing in on his original thread about the SU problems: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/38391/… – Ether Feb 13 '10 at 1:07
  • Though we moderators like the top users to participate more actively in moderating, they are still top users for a reason and generally provide a lot of quality answers. It's just unfortunate that this particular case lead to such a discussion... – Ivo Flipse Feb 13 '10 at 18:24

I believe that users should not be punished for attempting to answer poorly worded questions, even if they may be closed. The whole point of the site is to give answer to people who have questions, and even if the question is closed a useful bit of information may have been given that the OP can use.

Generally, though, if you believe a question is going to be closed, it's highly recommended that you wiki your post, or put a shorter answer as a comment so you do not appear to be rep-whoring for a question which obviously doe not fit the site requirements.

Keep in mind that if you don't, and the question is eventually deleted, you will lose the rep you gained when your rep is recalculated. If you do this frequently then you may be in for a shock when you find out how much of your rep was founded on poor questions.

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