This is a question that speaks to the long-term usefulness of the site, and it helps me as a reality check. It applies primarily to questions asked by less experienced designers, and was prompted by this recent question, although that's just one example out of several I've seen in the last few months.
Answers to a question mustn't be wrong, of course, but they can be couched in such precisely-detailed technical terms that only another expert (who probably already knows the answer) will "get" it. That's great for peer accolades, maybe, but if the asker is clearly a less-experienced or beginning user, then it might not be at all helpful to that user.
Example: Someone asks why her print provider is having problems with her PDF, and is clearly inexperienced. Is it more useful to give a long and detailed explanation of PDF formats and RIPs, or to simply say, "The type of PDF you're sending is the source of the problem. Instead of 'High Quality Print' you should use 'PDF/X-1a,' and you'll not have a problem. And, by the way, it's always best to talk to your printer beforehand to find out what they need."
Another example: The person asking doesn't know the precisely correct terminology, or because of inexperience hasn't grasped what the real problem is, and so asks the "wrong question." It's clear, though, what they're trying to accomplish. Is it better to answer the exact question asked, or to answer with instructions on how to get the product they're going for?
The latter is what I call "answering the questioner" as opposed to just "answering the question," and is what I try for in my own answers. That doesn't mean it's always the right approach; I just happen to feel that way.
So do we answer as close as we can to the level of expertise of the asker, even if it means a simplified answer that skips many of the fine details, or with careful precision at our own level of expertise, even if it might be hard for the questioner to grasp (i.e., won't actually be helpful)?
Does helpfulness trump precision, or is it the other way around? In the long term, which approach will make for a better site?