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I found When does a question..., but it seems to focus mainly on how to determine when a question is worthy of a close vote for lack of context, inciting only guesses.

My curiosity is with the answers to these questions:

How should "guesstimated" answers be treated when the OP has not given enough context for educated answers?

I'm not talking about "guesstimations" to questions that check the right boxes but not enough facts exist to not add opinions/estimations to the answer.

What I'm referencing is a question like this one what were never edited to provide more context. While the most popular answer is a plausible and likely one, I feel that answers should not be provided for incomplete/non-compliant questions. Am I wrong in thinking this?

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    It seems pretty clear to me. OPs edit their questions very infrequently. You can always vote to close for being unclear. Whether someone else should answer it is mostly irrelevant until you figure out how to control people who believe differently than you do; they will answer. This has been discussed many times before. – anongoodnurse Jan 31 '17 at 22:43
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    @medica Actually, Hank (having less than 3k rep) can't vote to close, although flags are available. It is always worth commenting, asking for clarification on the particular point which is necessary for an answer. – Andrew Leach Feb 1 '17 at 0:25
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    Of course, it was only a matter of time, and now Hank can vote to close. Enjoy the privilege! The close dialog path is very similar to the flag dialog path. – Andrew Leach Feb 11 '17 at 14:36
  • @AndrewLeach Thanks! The large number grayed out on my reviews page has been bugging my OCD ever since I joined so I've been hitting max so that I can hopefully get it down lol – Hank Feb 11 '17 at 16:05
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You are certainly not alone in your thinking; many people feel that rewarding a poorly-framed question with a thoughtful and detailed answer is not only futile, but in fact is actively detrimental to the site because it grants legitimacy to the poor question and encourages other questioners to let fly with whatever idle wondering crosses their mind, instead of putting some effort, consideration, and research into the asking process.

Indeed, some feel that not only do such questions deserve a close vote, but answers to them (generally answers from higher-rep people who "should know better") deserve a downvote.

My recommendation, though, is not to judge the answer on the quality of the question. If the answerer has made sense of a question phrased so poorly that you could not tease meaning out of it, good for them; if you can then understand how they arrived at that understanding, all the better; and if they have given a solid answer to what they think the question is, better still.

Then too, if the answerer had to make some assumptions in order to come up with a potential answer, as long as they have spelled out those assumptions and encouraged the asker to confirm or invalidate them, I see no reason to downvote.

Only if the quality of the answer itself is questionable, due to unstated assumptions, or to addressing an issue that I cannot find in the actual question, or to simply being wrong in some way, would I consider applying a downvote to it.

In either case, our ultimate hope is not that "poor questions get closed and deleted", but that "poor questions get improved and answered". If the "answer" part comes before the "improvement" part occasionally, it may help guide whoever ends up improving the question.

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Questions (especially from new users) often lack the required details to help us narrow down the list of possible answers.

What I'd normally do is vote to close as "unclear what you're asking", and also, if I have the time, leave comments to guide the new user, or upvote other constructive comments. I might also suggest a few possible answers (without enough references) in the comments section under the question, as that may help the OP in their research.

If a new user attempts to answer it, I'd welcome them to the site, but also inform them that such "unclear" questions often get closed and eventually deleted, and that their effort might go to waste.

If a user with a high reputation attempts to hazard a guess and answer it, I'll probably assume that they have a better understanding of the question than I do, and that they know the possible outcomes of their actions. I'll most likely just let it be.

  • What about to question that I linked? The answer is provided by someone who isn't a new user but I also don't think he would classify as "high reputation". I commented on it, possibly with the wrong wording, and all I got was opposition. – Hank Feb 1 '17 at 15:11
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    @Hank Well, in that case, better "let it be". The "unclear" question will probably get closed soon. Closed questions get deleted eventually depending on certain algorithms. Deletion of a question implies losing all it's answers too. – NVZ Feb 1 '17 at 15:14

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