# Is it acceptable to answer a poor quality question?

I recently came across this question posted by a new user which has no context and shows no effort. I left a comment suggesting the user show their work and add context. I also down voted the question and flagged to add it to the close/open queue.

I also posted an answer to the question. Was it bad practice to answer the question? Should I have done something differently?

• Why would you answer a question that you downvoted and flagged? This makes no sense to me. Oct 26, 2017 at 6:18
• Taking an action to put a question "on hold" means that the users believes that the question could or should not be answered (in the current form). The main point of putting a question "on hold" is to enforce that no answer be given before the question was not made suitable for the site. Looking at it like this it seems clear that one usually cannot reasonably take an action to induce closure and at the same time answer the question. Basically in doing this you first do what you then prevent everybody else from doing. This is poor behavior. Please do not do this.
– quid Mod
Oct 26, 2017 at 8:29
• You might as well ask people in Israel if there should be public transportation on the Sabbath... Couldn't you pick a more divisive issue? :p
– Asaf Karagila Mod
Oct 26, 2017 at 9:37
• @Qudit Not exactly the same, but at least somewhat related discussion: About not upvoted, answered questions. (Although I certainly agree that if somebody answers a question and downvotes it is much more unusual that answering question without upvoting it.) Oct 26, 2017 at 9:47
• @quid I was not aware that's what a question being on hold meant, I will not do that again as it clearly looks like I'm trying to claim "exclusive rights" to the question. Should I delete the answer considering it has 0 votes and is not accepted? Oct 26, 2017 at 12:13
• No problem. In any case, it is good that you asked about it. I think you can also leave it around. However, chances are the question will be deleted down the road, so it will fall victim to that.
– quid Mod
Oct 26, 2017 at 13:42
• @quid " one usually cannot reasonably take an action to induce closure and at the same time answer". I can see one exception (probably included in the "usually"): If one answers a question and then someone else vote to close as a duplicate, then it may make sense to not delete the answer (especially if it differs from those in the dupe) and vote to close. However, I admit that this situation is not that of OP.
– Surb
Oct 26, 2017 at 17:45
• I'm curious what an upvote to this question means, and vice-versa, what a downvote means. upvote: approval of the behavior? or because the asker was conscientious in trying to learn whether the behavior is or is not appropriate. Similarly, a downvote might mean? Disapproval of the behavior, or disapproval of the question? I think the asker has clearly been honest here, had mixed feelings about down-vote plus flag to close & answering, and is looking for feedback about this. I think all and all the question here, and its honesty is commendable! Oct 26, 2017 at 18:51
• @Surb if the situation changes significantly after one has given the answer, as in the case you describe, then I'd agree that it may be acceptable. I would still recommend to be extra careful in this case.
– quid Mod
Oct 26, 2017 at 21:02
• @amWhy Why would the up-/down-vote be about anything other than the question? An up-vote of this (meta) question should just mean that you think it's a good question regardless of your stance on the OP's behavior or conscientiousness. Oct 28, 2017 at 8:07
• That's not the case @Derek, on meta. Oct 28, 2017 at 18:06
• The question is honest, and I upvoted the question because I am glad the asker asked, before continuing to act in the manner described, indefinitely. But since it asks whether the behavior is appropriate, downvotes likely mean: no it is not. Unlike main, votes on meta reflect agreement or disagreement with the question, depending on the tag. So my comment was meant to bring attention, and mainly to the asker, that downvotes likely do not mean the question is bad; rather, that the downvoters were communicating that they disapprove of the behavior. Cheers, @DerekElkins Oct 28, 2017 at 18:19
• @amWhy Okay, I didn't realize that and that surprises me. Thanks for informing me. Oct 28, 2017 at 22:16
• No problem @Derek... I just try and point that out for askers who may be confused what the downvotes mean, because frankly, sometimes it's not clear to them the difference between downvotes here, vs. on the main site. Oct 29, 2017 at 17:52

Strictly speaking, to provide an answer to a question with bad formatting / lack of context does not break any rule. If you suggested such user to improve his/her question you did the right thing. The same applies to the downvote / closing vote, if you thought that was the right course of action.

But.

We all like MSE to be populated by good questions and great answers, and it is a duty of the whole community to grant a certain level of overall quality. So, even if answering a bad question is not a capital sin, in the long run it might contribute to lower the overall quality, by spreading the wrong idea that it is fine to dump a homework or a bad question on MSE, since, context or not, it will be answered anyway. Long story short: it is a judgement call, but it is probably better$^{(*)}$ to wait for the OP to improve his/her question, to give a hand if you like it, then to answer.

$(*)$ I would be a hypocrite in being too hard on you, since I behaved in the exact same way in many past occasions, especially during my long hunt for reputation. Then someone pointed out my behaviour was probably running against the interest of the community, and I have to share that she was probably right.

• This is a good answer. I would only add that the community norm seems to frown very much on answering a question while casting a closure vote on the same question. I think that flagging for closure should be viewed similarly, although flags aren't as public as closure votes.
– user296602
Oct 26, 2017 at 1:45
• Note the rare gold Reversal badge. Oct 26, 2017 at 2:01
• I was also just like you, and now I am getting over the bad habit. Oct 27, 2017 at 1:52
• +1 for the honest admission about hunt for reputation. I have also fallen into this trap a few times.
– Paramanand Singh Mod
Nov 4, 2017 at 20:01

Also: If you answer a poor quality question (for example, a homework type problem that shows no effort), there are users who may downvote your good answer for that reason. Perhaps it is a vain effort to train over-eager answerers not to do that.

• Are these downvotes ok with the rules of this site? If so, are they encouraged? Since the down-vote-privilege states Use your downvotes whenever you encounter an egregiously sloppy, no-effort-expended post, or an answer that is clearly and perhaps dangerously incorrect. Oct 27, 2017 at 8:14
• The rules? Downvotes may be given for any reason, or no reason. But of course downvoting for this particular reason does little good unless accompanied with a comment explaining the reason. Oct 27, 2017 at 11:54
• @GEdgar, there are users who receive comments on every one of their first twenty, or forty, or 100 posts which answer PSQ questions that lack any context whatsoever. Yet they continue to repeat the behavior. hundreds of times, and more. At such a point, I stop wasting my breath to explain for the 305th time; but I will still downvote the answer. Usually I stop trying to explain downvotes when the answerer becomes abusive or offensive in their responses to such comments. Oct 28, 2017 at 18:25
• @GEdgar And in any case, unless upvoters of such answers (or upvoters of such questions, for that matter) are held accountable to explaining their upvotes in a comment, nor should downvoters be held accountable or be expected to explain their downvotes? More downvoters explain their downvotes, than do upvoters explain upvotes. Oct 28, 2017 at 18:28