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I was thinking about a question I wanted to ask on the non-meta site when I ran across this issue. For clarity, I'll detail what my question would have been. Note that I'm just using this to show an example, I'm not asking the question quoted below.1

Question: What is the relationship between Shinobu and Araragi in the Monogatari series?

Summary (shortened): How are Shinobu and Araragi related? Why does Shinobu live in Araragi's shadow? Why was their relationship sour, as revealed in episode X of Nisemonogatari?

For reference, I will assume that the answer(s) to this question will be explained as I get further into the series. If this would have been a valid question (e.g. it isn't explained perfectly later in the story), just assume that it wouldn't have been.

Thus, the proper answer and response to a question like this might be something along the lines of:

This question is answered clearly at a later point in the story which you appear to have not gotten to yet. If you still don't understand, feel free to come back and ask the question again when you've caught up. If you weren't aware, the series is continued at (some website)with the name (some name).

Is there a flag or standard response to use when this scenario occurs? If not, should there be? (Has this ever even been an issue?)


TL;DR

What do we do about questions that are asked by someone who doesn't know the answer because they haven't reached the point in the story where it is answered clearly?

1Not yet and not here on meta, at least.

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I guess what you're worried about here are spoilers. This has come up at least a couple times before for me, and I'm sure also for other users.

Generally, our standards are to answer the question asked in the best way possible, even if it requires information which the asker may not be aware of. This can lead to spoilers. In answers, it's common courtesy to write such spoiler information inside spoiler tags, which you can include by typing >! at the beginning of a paragraph. The result will look like this:

This is spoiler text.

The reasoning for this is that it's more important that the answer be on the page than that the OP not be spoiled. The OP is just one person asking a question, but there can be hundreds or thousands more who reach the same question via Google and want to know the answer.

Of course, answerers don't always follow this. Even when they do, it's not hard to accidentally see things you don't want to see. So a good rule of thumb is to not ask unless you really want to know the answer, even if it means you might see some spoilers.

In some cases, if a question is very clearly answered later, it may be better to first post a comment stating that this is answered later in the series, preferably with some reference to episode/chapter number. That way the asker will know that they can just keep going forward in the series and will eventually have their answer, and they'll know that if they keep their question open and read the answers they're risking being spoiled. But so long as the question isn't deleted, it still needs to receive an accurate answer, and a comment like "this is answered in episode 8, go watch up until that point" is typically not an answer by our standards (though it is fine as a comment).

  • I think I get it: the quality and validity of a question aren't necessarily correlated with the reasoning behind why it was asked. Also, the point isn't to answer the question just for the OP alone, but for anyone who has the same question and wants to see the answer. Is that right? Sorry if my newbie is showing a bit too much. – Secret Evil Radio Dec 14 '14 at 3:49
  • @SecretEvilRadio Yeah that's the idea. It's pretty much the same as other SE sites that we're optimizing for the visitors on the page rather than just the asker, but since we're not about any sort of a technical topic that can seem weird to people I guess. – Logan M Dec 14 '14 at 3:58
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No, no, no, this is silly. The whole idea of Q&A isn't answering the question just for the original poster, but for anybody who might have that question.

The reasons why the OP doesn't know the answer may be:

  • They still haven't read to the point where it is explained because the chapter the answer is in has not yet been released. This may change anytime in the future, and then the question will be valid, but until then it may be closed as off-topic about unannounced events.
  • They didn't pay enough attention or skipped the answer for some other reason. If it's an important plot point to the story, and not something that can be easily found on google, the site allows such questions to exist. The purpose of Q&A includes answering questions to provide encyclopedic knowledge on a specific topic such as a particular anime/manga.

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