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I posted an answer to this question. My answer received a downvote, and when I asked them to justify it, another user commented that they guessed it was "based on belief that no one should waste their time and energy to answer these types of questions".

I don't understand why people would think like this - I gave what I thought to be a well written, complete answer to a question which, in my eyes, has a slightly tricky twist to it - it involved noting that we can write $1=\frac{n-f}{n-f}$

Is it normal practice here to downvote answers like mine based on the fact that the original question poster provided a poor question (it was missing any sort of input on their behalf)? Is it just me who thinks a well-written answer to a question is better than leaving the question answerless - we are meant to be here to help, after all.

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    $\begingroup$ This question has essentially been asked before, but has no answer there. The comment by Najib Idrissi might come close to a true answer, though. $\endgroup$ – Glorfindel Jul 11 '17 at 14:43
  • $\begingroup$ @Glorfindel Thanks, didn't come across that question when looking on here. $\endgroup$ – lioness99a Jul 11 '17 at 15:03
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    $\begingroup$ @Glorfindel I wouldn't refer to such an extremely biased comment as a "true answer". This issue is quite complex if one desires to keep this website one for mathematics at *all levels" (which is its charter). $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Jul 11 '17 at 15:39
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    $\begingroup$ I did not mean that I agree with that comment (though I think it has some merit) but it expresses why some people downvote these kind of answers. $\endgroup$ – Glorfindel Jul 11 '17 at 15:45
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    $\begingroup$ @Glorfindel I see no merit whatsoever in that nonsensical rant. One should not highlight such divisive ramblings. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Jul 11 '17 at 15:55
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    $\begingroup$ @BillDubuque it's a rant, but I disagree it's nonsensical. It looks like a heavily frustrated caretaker. $\endgroup$ – Glorfindel Jul 11 '17 at 16:02
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    $\begingroup$ Tangentially, I do not see "it involved noting that we can write $1=\frac{n-f}{n-f}$". Isn't it just adding/subtracting fractions, which yeah involves introducing a common denominator. But really there was nothing to note there. It's straightforward applications of rules of arithmetic with fractions. $\endgroup$ – quid Jul 11 '17 at 16:36
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    $\begingroup$ Note that you also answered another of the OP's question, both posted within a short period of time. Both questions were heavily downvoted, both questions from the user dennis have been closed, and both questions from this user have since been deleted. If you don't like having your answers deleted, given the closure and deletion of a question you answered, which could have easily been predicted, based on the (lack of) quality of the question, learn to consider whether answering such questions are really worth your time. If you can't refrain on principle, maybe it takes pragmatics to alert you $\endgroup$ – Namaste Jul 11 '17 at 22:38
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    $\begingroup$ To add another facet to Glorfindel's comment about the "care taker", we can't forget to also point out the the "repwhores" who answer everything they can (or can't).. And, the point over which caretakers and rep-whores disagree over are the "help vampires" who flood the site with bad/duplicate questions who only want their question answered and care nothing for the site." $\endgroup$ – Namaste Jul 11 '17 at 23:02
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    $\begingroup$ @amWhy I'm not interested in the rep for the most part (I can't imagine anyone can say they're completely disinterested in the rep), as I said in my comment on kingW3's answer, I know from a personal viewpoint (as someone studying Maths at university) that I sometimes need to see an example worked through from start to finish before the concept 'clicks' in my head, which is why I occasionally answer some of the 'bad' questions. I also never said I didn't like having my answer deleted, I just wanted to know why it was downvoted... $\endgroup$ – lioness99a Jul 12 '17 at 8:05
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Downvoting answers just because they are posted on a poor question is a bad practice.

However when you hover over the downvote arrow it says This answer is not useful, one could argue that the question can only help the OP and that your answer doesn't help the OP because:

  • If the OP didn't put effort into solving the question, then you're just helping him copy homework without him learning anything which is usually frowned upon.
  • If the OP did put effort into solving the question but failed to provide it, one could argue that your answer doesn't help the OP understand the underlying concept from which his confusion comes.
  • Answering bad questions makes the OP think that his questions aren't bad which will result in him getting post banned sooner instead of realizing that he needs to improve his questions to get (good) answers.

That's why a lot of people here tend to write hints to such questions which guide the OP to the answer. In this particular case I don't think one could post a good hint to this question.

Also the three points I've made are subjective as is the up vote/down vote system, so one could argue that both down voting and not down voting are good options.

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for your answer. Still not sure I agree with downvoting answers to 'bad' questions, but I see why some people might. I know from a personal viewpoint (as someone studying Maths at university) that I somtimes need to see an example worked through from start to finish before the concept 'clicks' in my head, which is why I occasionally answer some of the 'bad' questions $\endgroup$ – lioness99a Jul 11 '17 at 16:54
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    $\begingroup$ I'd suggest, @kingW3, that it is sometimes, and oftentimes, NOT at all, a bad practice. There are pros and cons to doing so, and the particular contexts in which answers are downvoted, are based on many factors, depending largely on the nature of the question. This is not a question with a blanket answer: such as "Absolutely don't ever downvote any answers that..." or " Absolutely DO always downvote answers that ... $\endgroup$ – Namaste Jul 11 '17 at 18:07
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    $\begingroup$ @amWhy I agree that there is no blanket answer that's why I posted the last paragraph. The emphasis in my first sentence is on the just, that's why I proceeded to list the reasons for which one could down vote answers to poor questions, I would say that answers to bad questions adhere to different rules but I would never down vote a useful answer and I don't think anyone should just because it's posted on a poor question. $\endgroup$ – kingW3 Jul 11 '17 at 18:33

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