11

When you are on our site on a daily basis, you can see very fast which question has a high probability to be a duplicate or which questions are so basic that they are closed shortly. Sometimes, depending on my mood and how much time I have, I still answer those questions although I'm fully aware that it gets closed soon. Two good examples are this and this (in the first I rewrote Nicola's answer completely).

Lets assume someone answers a questions just to give an answer and not to gain reputation points. Is it OK to write up an answer with the full knowledge, that it gets closed soon?

  • Full answer later but IMHO: yes, if: (1) your answer will be more immediately helpful to the OP than the linked duplicate, and (2) you put out effort to find the duplicate yourself and note it. Sometimes I can't find the duplicate and it's faster just to answer, but I do first look for the duplicate. I will then later come back when I have more time and search again. – Mr.Wizard Aug 23 '13 at 21:33
  • @Mr.Wizard Thanks. Honestly, I was not sure whether I was rude because I saw your link and skimmed over your answer and agreed that it is indeed a duplicate. – halirutan Aug 23 '13 at 22:04
  • Well, not surprisingly, I'd say mostly "No", unless if you're ok with the question eventually being deleted (in the case of bad questions) – rm -rf Aug 23 '13 at 22:37
  • @rm-rf I gave my full answer below, including your point. I'd appreciate your review as I value your opinion on these things. – Mr.Wizard Aug 24 '13 at 0:38
  • Hm I guess I don't like the idea of closing much. I prefer warnings about duplicates/related questions. We can even edit such warnings into a question itself, if we are afraid such a warning is going to be overlooked, imo. I think verifying and upvoting comments about duplicates is important. Also I would say the problem is silly questions, not any answers to those silly questions, as of course answers automatically get deleted if the question is deleted. If answers make it harder for a mod to delete the question, maybe it is an option to just add your opinion about deleting in your answer. – Jacob Akkerboom Aug 26 '13 at 15:07
  • @JacobAkkerboom Closing is not Deleting and usually closed duplicates which are otherwise fine will not be deleted and can be found by everyone. The only thing which cannot be done anymore is adding new answers. – halirutan Aug 26 '13 at 15:48
  • halirutan, I am aware of this. But I think closure is considered to be an important step towards deletion. Especially because closed questions with no upvoted answers get automatically deleted, as per rm rfs answer here. But I regret that it is so. I suspect the philosophy is: If a question is poor/duplicate, it should be "closed" so people will not waste their time trying to answer it. But I would prefer it if appropriate warnings were given and people could decide for themselves. I like mr.Wizards answer below. – Jacob Akkerboom Aug 27 '13 at 12:45
  • @JacobAkkerboom Ah, OK. As you can see (since the last two questions about it are mine) I'm currently quite intrigued by the community component of our site. I just have often the feeling that MrWiz or rm know so much about how this community works and how things are supposed to be handled. I'm often just clueless and decide with my guts whether something is good for our site or not. – halirutan Aug 27 '13 at 13:30
  • halirutan, gotta love the community :). These have been interesting discussions. I hope the mods wisdom can quell my dissatisfaction with the SE model insofar as that is unjustified (as well as the desire to use pretentious words) :P – Jacob Akkerboom Aug 27 '13 at 15:19
16

Extending my comment to an answer, and incorporating what rm -rf said as well:

I hold that the primary purpose of this site is to help people, and that includes those who are asking questions. (It is not limited to those who ask questions and includes those who find the site through search engines but never participate, but I refuse to accept that the search-engine-visitors are the primary benefactors; they may be the most important for the financial success of Stack Exchange Inc. but that is not my reason for being here.)

To that end I say post an answer to a question, even if it is going to be closed, if:

  1. Your answer will be immediately helpful to the question author in a way that a referenced answer will not. Example: a specific and not entirely obvious or transparent application of an earlier solution. Counterexample: simply copying, rephrasing, or recreating an existing answer.

  2. You are diligent to minimize duplicate posts, recognizing that excessive duplication only results in redundant effort and scattered information, discouraging both those who answer questions and those who seek answers. Example: make a reasonable effort to find duplicates for every post you believe may be one, including those you answer, and voting to close or commenting accordingly.

  3. You have no expectation that your answer will gain for you permanent reputation points; a question that is a duplicate or "easily found in the documentation" may be both closed and deleted, and your effort and points will go with it. Remember: you're answering this question for the immediate assistance of the OP and nothing more.

  4. Lastly, and certainly not insignificantly, you are not supporting a pattern of low quality, zero-effort, or otherwise detrimental questions that only take space and attention from better questions that have a broader audience. This is perhaps the most difficult to objectively judge; if you notice that questions you answer are rapidly closed or down-voted by others you should contemplate the possibility that you are supporting such a pattern.

  • I agree with this, so +1. If the 10k+/20k+ users regularly also reviewed and voted to delete the stuff that we close (especially the off-topic/TL/too broad/unclear ones), then everything that's needed for this to work well in practice is in place. Unfortunately, people have better things to do and would rather answer than do site maintenance. Occasionally, mods take out the trash, but it would in general be nice if there was at least 1 community vote (only the crappiest ones get the vote). – rm -rf Aug 24 '13 at 0:57
  • 1
    @rm-rf Thanks for reviewing. Regarding community delete votes I wonder if we've sent mixed messages regarding this. Certainly many duplicates should not be deleted and I've stated as much; the other ones often could be deleted, especially after a few weeks. Do you have clear guidelines for the community to follow on this? If not I think we need a new Meta question. – Mr.Wizard Aug 24 '13 at 1:00
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    I would strongly urge anyone reading this to read points 3 and 4 carefully... If you're ok with abruptly losing the points, then by all means help out the OP (usually I stick to the comments for this). belisarius is a good example of this. He doesn't mind answering poor questions with the full knowledge that I'll delete it (and I've deleted a lot), and he's ok with that. Actually, on second thoughts, he probably might have the pot boiling for toad stew... hmmm. – rm -rf Aug 24 '13 at 1:01
  • No, I don't think we've sent mixed messages... I explicitly left duplicates out in the list I mentioned. Of course, some duplicates should be deleted because the question is $SO$ CRAPPILY written that your eyes hurt. We now have the [on-hold] system, where it is first set to [on-hold] and I believe even 20k users cannot delete right away. It changes to [closed] after 5 days. I think that's a good time frame for most questions. If neither the OP nor the community is interested in improving it in those 5 days, then it probably could be deleted. – rm -rf Aug 24 '13 at 1:03
  • @rm-rf LOL re belisarius' stew; watch out there mate, I hear that guy is crafty. :^) If we do have clear guidelines for the community to follow for delete votes where are they? (Not rhetorically.) – Mr.Wizard Aug 24 '13 at 1:05
  • There's the general guidelines here are good enough, I think — "Over time, closed questions that are not useful as signpoints to other questions may also be removed, as well as questions which have no significant activity over a very long period after being asked." – rm -rf Aug 24 '13 at 1:17
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    @rm-rf I propose moving this discussion to a proper site – Dr. belisarius Aug 24 '13 at 19:48

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