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I have a genuine problem and I am quite upset.

I have encountered many questions that are of the following type:

(a) Is this correct? (b) Which is correct and why? (c) Please help correct this.

These questions (the ones I am particularly talking about) do not mention what research they have done to solve their problem. They provide no context either. They don't say why google was not helpful, or even why similar questions in ELL or ELU were not helpful.

My problem is not with the questions or the "askers". It is reasonable for new users to ask such questions (I did too); they are not as well-informed about the help center rules as regular users are.

When I see such questions, I write comments such as the following:

(i) What do you think? (ii) Which do you think is correct and why? (iii) Did you try a dictionary? What did you find?

Note that many respected users leave comments like this too - that is how I learnt to do the same.

My intention is to get them to think. I want them to go and do some research and put some effort to try and solve their problem. I don't want to just give an answer to "Which one is correct?" or "Is this correct?" - that would be spoon-feeding!

My problem is that some users will, within minutes of OP posting the question, answer them. They can see that someone has left a comment asking OP "Which do you think is the correct answer?". This should tell the "answerer" that there is a reason why they left a comment like that and did not post an answer. Their answer completely renders these comments (or similar comments) useless and weightless. OP will not care. Its like a race - questions are answered immediately.

If we give them the answers so easily, they will not educate themselves. They will never learn to actually go and do some research on their own.

There has to be consistency. If some of us are going to maintain that "askers" need to do some research - and based on that we continue to make such comments - then other users should at least avoid posting an answer until the "asker" provides more details in the comments or edit their question to include their research effort.

This post is also a reminder to myself to not jump and answer such questions. I just found out I have done so a few times too.

Oh, well, sorry for the rant.

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    You are not alone. Here are a few related posts: Stop answering close-worthy questions!; Answering off-topic questions; DO NOT FEED THE BEARS. – Em. Oct 23 '19 at 5:09
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    I would not call this a "rant." This seems like a well-written, well-timed exhortation to the community. – J.R. Oct 23 '19 at 9:31
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    Why is answering a question quickly bad? It's either worthy of an answer or it's not. If the question is worthy of an answer, and someone wants to answer it, why impose an arbitrary waiting period? – ProfessorFluffy Oct 30 '19 at 20:58
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    @ProfessorFluffy You need to read that with the surrounding context instead of a stand-alone line. I said that if there is a quick answer (after a comment has been posted asking OP for clarification) then OP will accept that answer (which seems to happen often) and move on - OP will not care about the comment, reply to the comment clarifying what they mean, or edit their question to improve it. There is a reason why the person who left a comment asking for clarification did not write an answer (I am talking about certain types of comments posted on certain types of questions). – AIQ Oct 30 '19 at 21:09
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    @ProfessorFluffy because of Fastest Gun in the West problem... – Andrew T. Nov 4 '19 at 21:29
  • I wish I could upvote this more than once. When I was new, I used to flag such questions whenever I saw them on ELU and ELL. I didn't understand how those extremely rudimentary questions could've amassed upvotes. My flags were rejected. I know that the community and its members have evolved over time, and that some of those old posts with 20+ scores have canonical answers under them and shouldn't be removed, but the least we can do now is try to maintain a consistent quality for new q. I don't know if this has been suggested: a concerted effort to delete ancient low-quality questions on ELL. – Eddie Kal May 4 at 22:45
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I have observed this phenomenon, too. What's worse, many times these end up being low-quality answers, not much better the questions themselves.

I can see why some might rush to answer the questions you allude to. After all, it's low-hanging fruit. Question: Is this correct? Answer: No, say this instead.

I don't know how we can solve the problem, but, now that you've posted this here on meta, feel free to put a comment under those answers when you see them, and link back to this meta question so that the answerer can better understand why this practice is discouraged.

On other Stack Exchanges, I've seen folks who will occasionally downvote an answer – not because the answer is wrong, but because the voter felt like leaving an answer was wrong. I don't plan to advocate that practice, but I won't condemn it, either – particularly if the person answering has been around long enough to know better.

One cautionary note, though: I've seen questions where some members thought the question was worthy of prompt closure, while others thought it was deserving of an in-depth answer. Sometimes there are two sides to the coin. A question might be asking about a thorny issue, and, even though the question itself may not be framed as well as it could have been, it's still possible to write something that will answer the query. More importantly, though, such an answer might help other learners who visit in the future. So I admire your desire to keep this problem in check, but please avoid doing so with too much zeal.

Another helpful trick is to edit the question, particularly if it's from a new user. Your edit shouldn't make too many assumptions about what the OP is asking about, but sometimes it's possible to improve a question by improvement rather than by comment. (For example, if a quote doesn't have enough context, I'll sometimes see if I can find the source using Google, and then edit the question to include that information. That's one way we can help our newer users more quickly learn how to ask better questions. That's what I did with this edit, and I did something similar with this edit.)

One last thing: if you see a particular user doing this often, feel free to flag one of those answers to alert the mod team. If it's a recurring problem, we might step in and see if we can help rectify the situation.

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  • For a new user, it can be very hard to gain reputation points, so getting in first-and-fast is an important tool for those users. – Mike Brockington Nov 4 '19 at 16:44
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    @MikeB - I strongly disagree. I think a much better way to gain reputation is by writing a high-quality answers to high-quality questions, not by gaming the system and writing "fast" answers to schlock questions. – J.R. Nov 4 '19 at 19:56
  • I didn't say it was a good thing to do, I said that the current system encourages it – Mike Brockington Nov 5 '19 at 10:01

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