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I answered Who is the creator of Yu Yu Hakusho? because I knew the answer off the top of my head and it took me ten seconds to write it. I knew it was not a very good question; I would have known even without seeing the numerous downvotes and the comment telling the OP to just Google it.

Ever since then, it's been haunting me. Did I do the right thing? I'm obviously not going to harvest loads of reputation for that answer, but does answering questions like this encourage people to post more of them? We're flooded with awful identification requests, but some of these awful identification requests do actually get answered, against all odds, and that could encourage others to post their own awful identification requests. I know what I did isn't against the rules (just as the question, as bad as it was, wasn't against the rules and therefore couldn't be closed), but, in the opinion of the community, is it against some kind of moral guideline for maintaining the quality of our site?

15

There is no "moral guideline" for answering questions here. If you want to answer the question, answer it; if the community thinks it's bad enough that it shouldn't be answered, then it will be put on hold.

On larger sites like Stack Overflow, I often see people getting belittled for answering "simple", "obvious", or "bad" questions (whether they have close votes or not). To me, this goes against the spirit of a Q&A site.

Does it "encourage" more bad questions? Jury's out on this one, since we can't survey people to see what they'd ask before and after they see a "bad" question on our site. That said, there will always be people who ask bad questions, whether we answer them or not.

My opinion: If you want to answer the question, answer it. You helped someone find the information they were looking for when no one else would. A+, my friend.

  • Thanks for your answer. I guess my internal SO user was belittling me for answering such an obvious question. And you're right, even closing the bad id requests hasn't stemmed their tide at all, so realistically, not answering them shouldn't make any difference. – Torisuda May 3 '15 at 2:46
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To cultivate a welcoming site for first-time visitors, it makes sense to answer easy and basic questions. In order to graduate, we need a corpus of repeat users, so if answering a new user's simple question helps more new users become interested in SE in the first place (instead of feeling like the site is only for experts and get deterred from getting involved), that's a good thing.

Repeat and long-term users wouldn't normally ask such easy questions here, so once a newbie gets used to the SE format and the Anime and Manga SE's specific guidelines, they likely will naturally become less interested in asking basic questions that they could find at the top of the first page of Google search results in 10 seconds. I don't think answering such questions would generally lead to more of them being asked by the same person. If each new user asked a couple of such questions but then a fair percentage of those users felt encouraged to get more involved and start asking more interesting questions, and a percentage of those folks became long-term staples of the community, it would benefit the site.

When I answer a question that seems silly, or extremely beginner-level, or simple, I do my best to make my answer educational by expanding on the question (if we simply closed such a question for being remedial, incorrect assumptions and unfounded rumors would spread further... and then more people in the future might ask the same question). If we flesh out the answer beyond a single sentence or yes/no, the OP gets the question answered, but anyone else who looks at it afterward might also learn something useful from it. For the question "Who is the creator of Yu Yu Hakusho?," Torisuda did not only provide Togashi's name but filled out the answer with some general info: he also is well-known for HUNTER x HUNTER, how he came up with Yuu Yuu Hakusho, and that he is married to another very famous mangaka. That is value added content that makes reading the answer contribute to the informative aspect of the site and could pique a rookie's interest in exploring more and thereby becoming more knowledgeable over time ("Oh, he wrote HUNTER x HUNTER too? I've heard of that, maybe I should check it out").

StackOverflow has a somewhat different situation: it is a Q&A site open to anyone but it aims to be extremely useful to professionals working in the field. The Anime and Manga SE is not primarily comprised of nor targeting as its user base 1) professional mangaka, animation directors, and animators in Japan, 2) translators and professionals in the licensing business, or 3) manga and anime scholars conducting academic research in universities inside and outside of Japan, so it is not primarily aiming to answer the sort of specialized questions that those demographics would be more likely to ask (such users and such questions would certainly be welcome and on-topic here, but they would likely ask/answer niche or hard-to-find information that the pros can't even easily get ahold of in Japanese publications and news sources). At this point, this SE is primarily aiming to be a resource for non-industry anime and manga enthusiasts, and thereby belittling people or looking down on them for being green is counter-intuitive. A goal is to foster a fan culture of better-informed viewers and readers.

  • 1
    This turned out to be an extremely helpful answer. I've adopted the philosophy from your third paragraph even on Stack Overflow--rather than just downvote questions which are based on false premises, I try to figure out what misconceptions the questioner has that led them to ask the question, and correct those in my answer. If the question is extremely basic, I try to "teach them to fish" and point to resources in a friendly way, while also answering their question. It's not a popular thing to do on SO, but it seems like a better way to address inexperienced users than getting annoyed. – Torisuda Aug 19 '15 at 19:39
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You should totally answer it. The quality of the question does not determine the quality of your answer. Even if the question is bad and closed, your answer can still help people. And if you want to improve the question, but for some reason it's not possible, post your own version of the question with your own answer, eve if that means it will be closed as a dupe of the original one. SE guidelines are just that. Do what makes sense and preserve the best parts.

  • +1 because this makes a lot of sense in general, although in my particular case I don't think the question could be improved. – Torisuda May 5 '15 at 3:21

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