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Sometimes, questions are ill-posed, such as this one.

When they are, is it okay for us to answer by assuming the OP's actual question as G Tony Jacobs claims to have done?

Or should we, as the first few comments show, attempt to correct the OP's question, particularly without the OP's consent, given enough agreement amongst other users?

Or should we, as amWhy seems to suggest, make suggestions and wait for the OP to affirm rather than bicker among ourselves?

Or perhaps none of the above?

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    $\begingroup$ Definitely case-by-case judgement is called for. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Sep 11 '17 at 18:50
  • $\begingroup$ Hm, okay. Then I wonder how one qualifies these cases and corresponding judgements. @JyrkiLahtonen $\endgroup$ – Simply Beautiful Art Sep 11 '17 at 18:51
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    $\begingroup$ Public service announcement: The mod team is playing more than a bit short handed with Arthur and Daniel on vacation, and me having a vector calculus course to ramp up. My moderator actions will be blunt and even less well thought out than usual. Also, I'm a bit irritable now. So if those rollback wars don't stop. Like, Immediately. I will apply random peace-forcing measures. Somebody else can then judge who was actually guilty of what. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Sep 11 '17 at 18:53
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    $\begingroup$ Strange place for a public announcement @JyrkiLahtonen $\endgroup$ – Simply Beautiful Art Sep 11 '17 at 18:58
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    $\begingroup$ @JyrkiLahtonen Chill. I'd hardly say there has been any rollback wars on this case. In my first edit, my edit was just an edit of tags. My second edit changed nothing of the update (edit), except to add (below that edit) an acknowledgement about what the original question asked, since there were at least two answers to the original question. After than, nil. When I look at the review history, I see nothing whatsoever in the way of an edit war between anyone. So there is no urgent need for a mod to address this meta question now at this moment. $\endgroup$ – amWhy Sep 11 '17 at 19:20
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    $\begingroup$ Well, it depends. The most natural (and least popular, for some obscure reason) reaction would be to ask a clarifying question. Yes, I know that doesn't always work, but it's worth a try. The most frequent reaction is not to ask, though, but tacitly vote for closing the question, because "it's unclear what the OP is asking". That's in full agreement with the official policy of the site: there is a "be nice" rule, but there isn't a "be sincere" rule. So... I'm afraid I know why some people are somewhat.... irritated. $\endgroup$ – Professor Vector Sep 11 '17 at 20:50
  • $\begingroup$ That's a very biased point of view, (and not applicable to many of us) but at least you own your comment, @ProfessorVector, as far as what it means when users give up asking after previously asked comments (to the asker) which seek clarification of the question remain unanswered or unaddressed. After that, one can "sincerely" decide to vote to put on hold, not repeating what has already been repeated of a question for clarification from the asker. I consider such votes to be more sincere than those who fail to vote one way or the other. $\endgroup$ – amWhy Sep 11 '17 at 20:53
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    $\begingroup$ @amWhy You're right, that's my personal opinion, so it's necessarily biased. I have to admit: yes, I'm partisan, I'm on my side. :) $\endgroup$ – Professor Vector Sep 11 '17 at 21:01
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    $\begingroup$ Let a thousand flowers bloom. Those who think they can decode and answer the question, should answer the question. Those who think they can improve the question, should edit the question. Those who think OP should clarify the question, should suggest OP calrify the question. Those who think there are better ways to spend their time, should go somewhere else. All can be helpful. $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson Sep 11 '17 at 22:10
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    $\begingroup$ @ProfessorVector If it is not unclear what the OP is asking then why is there a need for a clarifying question? If it is unclear what the OP is asking then what is not sincere about expressing this? $\endgroup$ – quid Sep 11 '17 at 22:14
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    $\begingroup$ @GerryMyerson What do you propose to do in a case of somebody believing they should answer one interpretation, somebody else believes they should answer another interpretation, and somebody else thinks they should edit it to a third version? While superficially what you suggest seems to avoid conflicts, it actually can very well have the opposite effect. (This is not a hypothetical but happens with some frequency. Maybe not with three competing version but two is not uncommon.) $\endgroup$ – quid Sep 11 '17 at 22:19
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    $\begingroup$ @GerryMyerson how long do you use this site already? ;-) $\endgroup$ – quid Sep 11 '17 at 22:29
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    $\begingroup$ In the same vein, we must "Let a thousand fools wilt," @GerryMyerson $\endgroup$ – amWhy Sep 11 '17 at 23:01
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    $\begingroup$ The reason I continued my studies in mathematics was the constant support of my professors. I certainly asked plenty of ill-formed questions, but they understood my "age" and position and helped me to learn how to express myself correctly. No one called me an ass or a fool. I was lucky that the internet wasn't common back then, I guess. $\endgroup$ – Randall Sep 12 '17 at 0:42
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    $\begingroup$ With enough reputation the question can be edited, adding a suggestion to OP to roll back if new edit is not suitable or does not convey his problem. $\endgroup$ – Narasimham Sep 13 '17 at 1:00
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If the question is significantly unclear, ask for clarification.

If none occurs in a reasonable amount of time, close as "unclear what you're asking."

In cases where the ambiguity is low, it is perhaps permissible to risk an assumption in your solution, stating clearly that is what you're doing. With luck you'll have read their mind and everyone is happy.

But making large assumptions in behalf of the user is a recipe for off topic solutions if the user corrects his/herself later, and supplying clarifications for the user with edits is usually a bad idea.

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    $\begingroup$ This "stating clearly that is what you're doing" is a really important point in my opinion. Thanks for having highlighted it. $\endgroup$ – quid Sep 11 '17 at 22:23

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