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I have now been reprimanded a couple of times for answering a "bad question".

How am I to know when a question can be answered, so that I can avoid the embarrassment of being reprimanded for answering a "bad question"?

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L.Dutch's answer is the correct answer, and I upvoted it

But I'm happy to give you some very specific advice.

  1. Ignoring the Title of the question, if the question is three (3) sentences long or less, there's an 85% chance it's a bad question. If the post is only one (1) sentence long, it's a bad question — period. In fact, I question any post that's just one paragraph or so long (8+ paragraphs, give or take) that it's tedious to read it.

  2. If the question posed in the title and the question posed in the body of the post are not, contextually, an exact match, it's a bad question.

  3. According to the Help Center, Questions must be (a) specific and answerable, (b) include context, and (c) include restrictions/requirements. If a question doesn't meet all three of those expectations, it's a bad question.

  4. According to the Help Center, Questions should include research. Yes, we're tolerant about this, but it's a huge red flag that obvious research (like the results of a 10-second Google search) were not considered before the question was asked.

Finally, in complete support of L.Dutch's answer, there are three Help Center pages you should simply have memorized.

and...

Every user should read those three pages regularly. They're the baseline. All other policies and issues brought up in Meta are in support of or clarification of those three pages. My perspective might be a bit ruthless, but if a question doesn't meet every expectation in those three pages, it's a bad question.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you. This actually gives sensible parameters by which to weigh the question, not subjective opinion as the others would have it. $\endgroup$
    – PcMan
    Oct 11 at 16:44
  • $\begingroup$ @PcMan I appreciate your comment, but don't simply pass on what L.Dutch said. This site has rules buried in a number of places. I'm working on a Meta post to try and summarize them all, but in the end, it's each user's responsibility to know those rules. This isn't dissimilar from real life, where all the laws are in a lot of different places and while it's nice when the government teaches people about them, it's not actually an obligation. It's each citizen's obligation to learn them. $\endgroup$ Oct 11 at 16:52
  • $\begingroup$ @JoinJBHonCodidact Until the laws are so obfuscated it's not understandable :p. But still, it's indeed important to ask oneselve once then again why and how you should do this. $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Oct 11 at 17:46
  • $\begingroup$ @Tortliena In a new Meta post, please identify any law, rule, or policy that's obfuscated. (That word means "intentionally made difficult to understand," make sure it's the word you intended....) $\endgroup$ Oct 11 at 18:20
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    $\begingroup$ @JoinJBHonCodidact I meant it more in real life, where laws can become quite complex as they're overriden/reworked by new ones. I haven't found yet meta-posts which weren't clear to me. Or I don't think I have, I could always have understand the wrong way some rules ^^". $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Oct 11 at 18:44
  • $\begingroup$ OK, I've created a concise list of "the rules". That list, while lacking any quantitative examples (such as "a single-sentence question is a bad question") contains the qualitative rules that everyone is supposed to live by. At least most of them. We and SE have tucked rules away in a lot of places. $\endgroup$ Oct 11 at 23:26
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Let's start from our help center which clearly state

Answer well-asked questions

enter image description here

This should provide already some guidance on when a question is worth being answered, and you should be using your own judgment.

Moreover, at the time you posted your answer there were already two comments pointing out that that question had issues, in particular:

  • it was doubtfully about worldbuilding, and gave no worldbuilding context
  • it gave no limits to the pool of possible answers
  • it gave no metric to evaluate or rank the answers

If despite all these red flags you still decide to write an answer and then see the question being closed, you have two options:

  1. if in hindsight you agree with the closing reasons, delete the answer
  2. if you don't agree with the closure, keep the answer and try to improve the question, if possible.

In both cases, bear the consequences of your action instead of complaining against other users.

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  • $\begingroup$ Can we have the reference question? It's always hard to follow when you don't know where it started x). $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Oct 11 at 10:12
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    $\begingroup$ @Tortliena, added $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch Mod
    Oct 11 at 10:16
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The rule was broken by the opener, why say answerer breaks a rule ?

Many peer moderators put explanations for their closure votes as comments to the question. Answerers use that information already, before they start. I would say, just close the topic, when needed. Don't bother answerers with responsablities of openers.

Some question rules are incompatible with this proposal

There exist rules for questions, that will be incompatible with judging answers. An answer would be against the rules when there are too many other answers ? or when there is no clear single answer possible ? Why should an answerer be bothered with such issues..

Fishing for ideas.. but... can't the answerer decide if he/she wants to be fished ?

It often comes up. New rules seem to be introduced on WB to prevent "idea-fishing". I think I speak for many other answerers, please keep in mind WB questions are answered voluntarily, answerers give permission to use content, according to registration conditions on SE websites. I wonder if (peer-) mods should decide for answerers, it is wrong to answer, just because someone could "profit" from their answer..

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    $\begingroup$ 1. We expect answers to work on fixing or closing questions instead of answering them to improve question quality and reduce the amount of time when low quality questions are askable. 2. Congratulations you've just described a question that is too broad. From the help center "if your question has many valid answers it's probably too broad for this site". 3. WB is built around the idea of having a structured format. We're explicitly not here to cater to every possible question or answer. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Oct 15 at 13:45
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    $\begingroup$ There're many issues with answering "bad" questions that you should address, too. The one that comes into mind is that the question should be improved, but such improvements cannot invalidate existing answers. In other words, answering puts a nail on where the question can go, potentially preventing its reopening for future answers :). $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Oct 15 at 14:13
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    $\begingroup$ There are also cases where the asker noticed their questions weren't what they looked for and is in part why the question is closed (personal thinking process and question quality are often related), and wish to forget this and go on a new topic. Putting an answer prevents the self-deletion of such questions. $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Oct 15 at 14:16

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